RC drift racing has exploded in popularity in recent years as a highly technical motorsport that allows modelers to push the limits of control. While the perfectly tuned chassis and drivetrain are crucial, fitting the RC car with the right set of drift tires is what makes drifting possible in the first place. In this guide, we’ll dive into the science and art of RC drift tires. We’ll learn why they are designed and composed the way they are, the step-by-step process of fabricating them, and how to properly test and refine them to achieve maximum sideway slide action. Whether you’re looking to maximize the drift performance of your RC, or interested in the creation process, this guide will provide the complete details on designing and constructing custom RC drift tires.

1. RC Drift Cars and Drift Tires

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

RC (radio controlled) drift cars are model cars specially designed for drifting. Drifting is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers and loses traction in the rear wheels while maintaining vehicle control and high speeds through turns.

Drift tires are essential components of RC drift cars. They allow the cars to slide smoothly and make controlled drifts around corners. Unlike normal RC car tires which maximize traction, drift tires are made to lose grip in a progressive and predictable way.

2. Special Properties of Drift Tires

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Drift tires have some unique properties that set them apart from standard RC tires:

  • Softer rubber compounds – This gives them low traction and makes them easier to break loose.
  • Minimal tread patterns – Slick surfaces promote slippage and smooth sideways slides. Intricate tread patterns are avoided.
  • Lower air pressure – Partially deflating the tires causes the contact patch to expand and reduces grip.
  • Larger rear tires – Bigger tires at the back further reduce traction and increase the drift effect.

By tuning these properties correctly, drift tires provide the right amount of slip and spin for drifting without completely losing control.

3. Why Drift Tires Are Essential

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Drifting Requires Low Traction

The fundamental aim of drifting is to break traction at the rear wheels so the car slides sideways through corners. This is only possible if the tires have low grip. Standard RC car tires are designed for maximum traction and acceleration. They grip the road firmly, making it very difficult to induce and sustain drifts.

Drift tires are purposely made to reduce traction. Their properties allow them to lose grip progressively as the car moves through a turn. This makes drifting controllable.

Precise Loss of Traction

An optimal drift tire doesn’t just have poor traction – it finely balances many factors to lose grip in a precise way. Traction needs to be shed at the right rate to hold a steady slide. An abrupt or unpredictable loss of control will cause a spin-out and interrupt the drift.

Factors like tire tread, rubber compound, inflation pressure and size are carefully tailored in drift tires to create this balanced low traction. They slide in a smooth, progressive way right up to the limit before breaking away entirely.

Long Lasting Low Traction

Drifting subjects the rear tires to a lot of abrasion and friction as they slide sideways on the road. The tires get very hot and wear down rapidly. Standard tires would lose their tread pattern quickly, become bald, and regain traction.

Drift tires are designed with durable compounds and minimal tread that can withstand the extreme drifting conditions. They maintain consistent low traction even after heating up and wearing down during heavy drift sessions.

Enables Learning and Control

The predictable breakaway and sustained low traction of drift tires allows RC drivers to learn and control drifting. Without them, it’s nearly impossible to induce and maintain drifts for any meaningful duration or distance. Good drift tires transform RC cars from grip racers to precision drifting machines.

4. Drift Tire Materials

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Rubber Compounds

The rubber compound used in drift tires has a huge impact on traction levels. Softer compounds provide less grip and are easier to break loose. They also allow the contact patch to deform more, which expands it and further reduces traction.

Many drift tires use soft PVC or TPU compounds. They offer the right balance of pliability and durability for drift use. Rubbers like natural gum and butyl rubber can also be used. The compounds are typically 20-35A durometer which is very soft.

Tread Patterns

Minimal tread patterns are best for drift tires. Large open blocks and sipes lead to unpredictable changes in grip across the contact patch. At most, small multi-directional tread blocks are incorporated to aid heat dissipation and tire cleaning.

Completely slick tires are sometimes used but these can overheat quickly. Shallow, tightly spaced diagonal grooves are a good compromise to minimize tread while allowing ventilation and heat relief.

Reinforcement Materials

The carcass and structure of drift tires also affects performance. Radial tire constructions are commonly used as they have more flex and deform easier, expanding the contact patch.

Nylon, rayon, polyester and steel mesh are used to reinforce drift tire sidewalls. This gives them enough rigidity to hold their shape without restricting flex and traction loss. A thin sidewall also promotes traction loss.

Size and Aspect Ratio

Wider tires with a lower aspect ratio profile are favored for drifting. Wider tires expand the contact patch and reduce pressure. The short sidewalls allow more rapid response and sidewall deflection for better slip angles.

Common sizes for 1/10 scale drift tires are around 62-65mm diameter with a 20-30mm width. Larger 70mm rear tires paired with narrower front tires are also popular. A low profile sidewall of around 25mm is typical.

5. Drift Tire Design Considerations

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Tread Pattern and Shape

The tread pattern is a key design factor for drift tires. As mentioned earlier, minimal tread is best to promote slippage. At most, small multi-directional blocks can be incorporated to aid heat dissipation.

The overall shape of the tread should be flat with no crown curvature. This places equal pressure across the tread for an even contact patch. A rounded crown causes uneven weight distribution and grip.

Rubber Softness and Grip

The rubber compound hardness is critical. It must be soft enough to easily break traction, but not so soft that it wears out too quickly or lacks stability. Durometers from 20A to 35A are commonly used.

Grip levels need to be tailored to the track surface. More grip may be required on polished concrete than rough asphalt. Tire chemistry and rubber blends are optimized through testing on different surfaces.

Tire Size and Dimensions

Wider tires reduce ground pressure and promote slippage. But excessive width becomes unresponsive and reduces drift precision. Aspect ratio is also important – short sidewalls around 25mm flex easier to boost slip angles.

Diameter, width and sidewall height must be balanced to match the car’s weight and power. Larger rear tires paired with narrower fronts is a common configuration.

Weight and Rotational Inertia

A lighter tire requires less force to break traction and responds quicker. But adequate thickness is needed for durability and stiffness. Rotation inertia also affects responsiveness – a lighter tread reduces gyroscopic forces.

Tire construction, materials and tread thickness optimization help minimize unnecessary mass and rotational inertia.

Inflation Pressure

Lower inflation pressure causes the contact patch to increase, reducing grip. But too little pressure can make the tire unstable, unresponsive and prone to rolling over the sidewalls.

Testing different pressures to find the optimum balance of traction loss versus stability and control is key. 10-20psi less than standard tires is typical.

6. Making Drift Tires

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Creating the Tire Blank

The first step is creating a tire blank to make the basic tire structure. This is done by molding the tire material, usually a soft PVC or rubber compound, into the correct shape.

First, a tire mold is needed. This is made of aluminum or a durable material that can withstand the curing temperatures. The mold has the precise inner dimensions of the tire.

The raw tire compound, in sheet form, is cut to the required size and pressed into the mold. It is then cured at 140°F – 210°F which chemically bonds the material into the final tire blank shape.

Applying the Tread

Once cured and removed from the mold, the tire blank has the correct overall size and sidewall shape, but is still slick with no tread pattern.

To add the tread pattern, liquid rubber compounds are brushed or poured onto the blank. A thin uniform layer is added to the contact surface. While still wet, a tread stamp is pressed into the rubber, imprinting the pattern.

The tread layer is then allowed to cure and bond to the tire blank. This creates the finished tire with molded tread.

Sculpting Tire Tread

An alternate technique is to sculpt the tread by hand rather than use a tread stamp. The tire blank is mounted on a lathe to allow it to spin.

A cutting tool is then used to carve diagonal grooves and sipes into the tire surface by hand. This allows creating a completely custom tread pattern specific to the tire size and rubber compound.

The width, spacing and depth of the grooves can be tuned precisely. No tread stamp is required. The finished sculpted tire is then allowed to cure fully before use.

7. Mounting Drift Tires to Wheels

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Preparing the Wheel

Before mounting, the wheel needs to be cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt or oil. This allows the tire to adhere cleanly.

The wheel should also be inspected for any imperfections or protrusions that could puncture or damage the tire during mounting. Smoothing out the wheel surface may be required.

Applying Adhesive

For the tire to stay fixed on the wheel, adhesive needs to be applied. Cyanoacrylate superglue or rubber cement are common choices. The adhesive must be compatible with the tire material.

A thin uniform layer is brushed around the wheel surface where the tire will make contact. Avoid getting glue on the outer visible sidewall area. The adhesive should only be applied to the bead area that mounts inside the wheel.

Mounting the Tire

Once adhesive is applied, the tire can be mounted by pressing it onto the wheel. Start on one side and work around the circumference, pressing the tire bead against the wheel to adhere it.

Some tension will need to be applied to stretch the tire over the wheel without damaging the tire. Take care not to twist or distort the tire shape.

Allow the adhesive to cure fully before inflating or using the mounted tire. The curing time can range from 10 minutes to overnight depending on the glue type.

Checking Fitment

After curing, inspect the fitment quality. The tire should be consistently seated against the wheel with no gaps or bulges. Spin the wheel to check for wobbles or eccentricity.

If needed, carefully pry and reseat any sections that aren’t adhering cleanly. Add additional adhesive to reinforce the bond if required before use.

8. Testing and Refining Drift Tires

How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car?

Test Conditions

Newly created drift tires need to be tested to assess their performance and identify any required improvements. Testing should simulate actual drift conditions on various surfaces.

Dedicated drift pads provide ideal controlled test environments. The surfaces can range from polished concrete to rough asphalt. Surfaces with moderate grip are good for initial testing.

Gathering Data

As the tires are tested, observations and measurements should be taken to quantify performance:

  • Slide initiation time – how quickly/easily the tires break traction
  • Slide angle – the angle of the slide during drifts
  • Slide consistency – whether the drift arc is steady
  • Tire wear – checking tread wear after test sessions

Videos and sensors can also be used to capture test data for in-depth analysis of the tire dynamics.

Making Adjustments

Based on the test results, the tread pattern, rubber compound and inflation pressure can be adjusted to refine the tire performance.

For example, lack of traction may require a softer compound or reduced inflation pressure. Too much slide instability might need smaller/more tread grooves. Insufficient wear life could indicate harder rubber is needed.

Iteratively modifying and retesting the tires leads to the optimal balance of slide control and consistency.

Matching to Surfaces

Once tuned on moderate grip surfaces, the tires can be further tailored to match different drift environments. Fine tuning the rubber and tread specifically for polished concrete or aggressive asphalt maximizes their drift potential.

Final Thoughts

Drifting RC cars is an immensely rewarding hobby and competitive sport that allows drivers to showcase car control skills. While a properly set up chassis and powertrain are essential, it is the drift tires that ultimately enable floating sideways around corners at high speeds. As we’ve covered, purpose-built RC drift tires require carefully engineered compounds, treads, and dimensions to provide precise traction loss. Skilled fabrication and iterative testing helps dial in tire performance for different surfaces. With this guide, you should now have a complete understanding of the science and methodology behind forming high performance RC drift tires. Whether you want to create your own customized tires for competition or experimentation, or simply get the most from pre-made drift rubber, the knowledge of proper design considerations and tuning techniques will help you extract maximum drifting excitement from your RC.

Enjoyed this guide of How To Make Drift Tires For RC Car? Then be sure to check out our other RC Rating guides.