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8/21/2007 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2007 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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Set your starter box up for perfect starts every time

To get your nitro-breathing buggy or truggy up and running, you’re more than likely going to need a starter box of some type. Configuring a starter box to your particular chassis will take some time, especially if you are upgrading a ready-to-run with a new engine. Losi and Dymanite starter boxesTo get everything set up, you’ll need some basic tools, a marker, possibly a rotary tool, your car or truck, and your starter box.

Get the right box for your vehicle

When getting set up with a starter box, one of the first things you’ll need to do is figure out which configuration you’re going to need. 1/8-scale buggies and truggies require a different box configuration than a 1/10-scale stadium truck or shaft-drive nitro sedan. Once you have determined if you need an inline or offset starter box, it’s time to make sure your chassis is properly configured to work with a starter box.

Chassis Alignment

This step is considerably easier if you are starting with a kit or Race Roller than an RTR, but that in no way means that you cannot use a starter box with an RTR; it just takes a few more steps.


The first thing you’ll need to do when setting up your starter box is to set the peg location. Where you locate the pegs on your starter box is crucial to ensuring that the flywheel on your engine is properly aligned with the wheel on your starter box. If you position your chassis too far forward or aft, the starter wheel could possibly drag on your chassis, damaging your starter wheel.

When you’re working with a kit, it’s easiest to work with a bare chassis that has not yet been assembled. With a bare chassis you won’t have to deal with A-arms flopping around, an obstructed view of the flywheel opening, or other annoyances. Place the chassis on the starter box, making sure the flywheel opening is aligned with the starter wheel. From here, slide the starter box pegs into a position that will hold the chassis in that approximate orientation. Don’t tighten the pegs all the way down quite yet as you’ll need to make some finite adjustments to account for the slight change in the angle of the starter box top that occurs as it is pressed down to activate the motor. Once this is done you may begin assembling your vehicle.


You have a few more steps to go through to get an RTR ready to use with a starter box. If your RTR was originally equipped with some sort of starting system, such as a pull start or motorized starting mechanism, you’ll need to replace several engine components. To accommodate a pull-start mechanism or other starting system that bolted to your back plate, RTRs include taller engine mounts than what you would use with a car and engine that have been configured for use with a starter box. These taller engine mounts provide additional clearance for the starting mechanisms but can prevent a starter wheel from being able to make contact with an engine’s flywheel when the time comes to start the engine. What you need to do is replace the existing starting mechanism with an eliminator back plate and install lowered engine mounts onto the engine itself. These two items will make it possible to use a starter box with your RTR. Once the lowered engine mounts and the eliminator back plate are both installed you can follow the same basic steps to line your chassis up with a starter box that someone with a kit would use. You may find it beneficial to remove a few other items from the chassis to improve your view of the flywheel opening, such as the fuel tank or the radio tray, but it’s not totally necessary.

Final Preparations

Now that you feel everything is properly aligned for solid contact between your starter box and the flywheel, you may want to double-check that the starter wheel will not drag or rub on your chassis around the flywheel opening. While more of an issue with RTR chassis than kits, beveling the edges of the flywheel opening can prevent premature wear and tear on your starter wheel. This is easiest to check before you install the engine onto the chassis. With the chassis setting securely on the starter box’s pegs, push down on the box simulating what you would do when attempting to start an engine. If you see that the wheel does not completely clear the chassis, you’ve got some filing to do. You can use a file or a rotary tool to remove excess material from around the flywheel opening, but make sure that you wear some sort of protective eye wear while doing so to prevent metal filings from getting into your eyes. Remove a little material at a time, frequently checking the clearance on your box. Once you have the proper clearance around the flywheel opening, you’re ready to install your engine on the chassis.

Detail shot of the 8ight RTR Chassis and the anodized 8ight Kit. Detail of the suggested starter wheel clearance

Powering your starter box

Depending on what starter box you select, it might require anywhere from 7.2 volts up to 14.4 volts to power your starter box, and you have a number of power options. The most common method is to utilize standard 6-cell sub-C stick packs to power a starter box. If your box only requires 7.2 volts, then a single stick pack will do it. For 14.4-volt starter boxes you simply need two stick packs. One thing to remember is that, while you can save a few dollars by going with a lower capacity pack, a higher capacity battery will provide more starts per charger.

A second option is to use Li-Po battery packs. Li-Po battery packs are ultra-lightweight yet have superior voltage and capacity compared to their Ni-Cd or Ni-MH counterparts. The downside to Li-Po batteries is that they are more expensive and require Li-Po-specific chargers. It’s very important to note that using a non-Li-Po safe charger can lead to severe damage to the battery, including having the battery catch on fire. With the proper safety methods in place, however, you can use a 2-cell Li-Po pack in starter boxes that require 7.2 volts, two 2-cell Li-Po packs in a starter that requires 14.4 volts, or a 4-cell Li-Po pack in a starter that requires 14.4 volts.

A third option would be to use a 12-volt lead acid battery. Picture of starter battery optionsLead acid batteries have been around for many years and are a proven and inexpensive way to power your starter.Lead acid batteries can also deliver high amounts of current for short periods of time when necessary. Lead acid batteries can be found in a variety of different sizes, including ones small enough to fit inside most starter boxes. The main downside to lead acid batteries is their weight; a lead acid battery can weigh more than your starter box alone. Another issue with lead acid batteries can be charging. Much like a Li-Po battery, a lead acid battery requires a very specific type of charger.