Build Your Own RC Snow
As a kid owning my first RC buggies,
I looked forward to snow, thinking I'd be able
to rip around at great speed in it
was massively disappointed!
Fast forward several years, as an
adult (kind of), I thought of owning a "big
wheeler" - a Wild Willy 2 - would overcome
the problem of getting stuck every 30cm or so
- but, sadly, no.
Making & fitting your own snow
chains will improve things on a suitable (read
as "big wheels & high ground clearance")
- but don't expect them to let you drive any RC
car in any depth of snow.
In best Blue Peter tradition
- here's some I made earlier..
Things you'll need:
- Two pairs
of radio pliers (aka needle nose pliers) or
similar for bending links
- Small cable ties (aka zip ties,
tube ties) - the tiny ones that come with servos
- Cutters of some sort (aviation
- Chain (more on that later)
- A suitable car to fit the chains
to - buggies, truggies and rally cars just don't
have the ground clearance - so we're really
talking about Tamiya "big wheel" vehicles
- the Lunchbox, Midnight Pumpkin, Wild Willy
(more the so WW2), Blackfoot, Monster Beetle,
- Time - allow at least 3 hours
for the 1st wheel, reducing to about an hour
for 2nd & subsequent sets as you get more
- And, ideally, some snow!
The first thing to work out is the
quantity of chain needed - it'll probably be more
than you think.
Work out where you want the chain
to fall on the sidewall - on the VLB/Pumpkin/WW2
tyre there's a moulded line half way between the
rim & the outside edge of the tyre - for this
set of chains, I'm going to aim for half way between
the rim and that line - 32.5mm from the wheel
Circumference = diameter x Pi, so the figure I
want is 32.5 x 2 x 3.142 = 204.23mm. I need twice
that - 410mm with rounding - to do the sidewalls
on one wheel.
The next aspect is a judgement call
as to how many cross tyre chains your set is going
to have - I'll be going for 12 on this set of
Measure the distance over the tread
of the tyre from where the sidewall chain will
be on one side, to the corresponding point on
the other sidewall. I got a figure of 95mm, but
I know from past experience that you need to add
a little more to take into account the thickness
of the chain (about 10 percent), so I'll call
that dimension 105mm. 105mm x 12 = 1260mm, meaning
I need 1260mm + 410mm = 1670mm (or 1.67m) per
Count the number of wheels you want
to chain up - I'd only bother with driven wheels,
freewheeling corners won't benefit from having
chains. So, 1.67m x 2 wheels = 3.34m, I'd also
add 5-10 percent on top for wastage, accidents,
and links not falling exactly where you want them,
Furthermore, as there's a strong possibility of
the first attempt going so badly wrong that little
of the chain is salvageable for a second attempt,
I'd add a further 50% - so I need to go shopping
for at least 5.4 meters of chain.
The second big thing is to actually
get a supply of chain
I've yet to find a
"perfect" chain for the job, so can't
give any specific recommendations, other than
to say the best place I've found is the "ubiquitous
auction site" Dare I say it quickly.. ebay.
Chain sold as "jack chain" or "hydroponic
lamp chain" (usually a figure eight with
a ninety degree twist) is not suitable; "clock
chain" is comparatively expensive, especially
the stainless variety, but it is tough - good
in actual use, but it's tough to work with.
I'd suggest looking for bulk jewellery making
chain - it's cheap, easy to work, and is available
in lots of sizes and colours - including pink,
red, blue, black, or even purple anodised if that's
Make sure you check the size of
the links - the bigger the links, the more functional
& easy to construct your snow chains will
be (though I wouldn't want a maximum dimension
of more than 10mm) - but on the other hand, the
smaller the links, the more scale the look - and
the fewer clearance issues you'll have (something
to consider, especially on the motor side of the
VLB and Pumpkin).
The gold chain on the pics above
is 9mm x 6.5mm - it works well, was easy to build
but it's not subtle, and it's certainly
This time around, I bought 20 meters
of "silver" light chain with 7mm x 3mm
links for just over £12.. Bling!
I like to start
by making up the sidewall loops. Going back to
the measurements I made earlier, I know I need
sidewall chains with a length of just over 204mm.
Measuring chain from the inside of the first link,
I can see I need 43 links.
Work out which will be the
final link to get the right length of chain -
then open it up with the two pairs of pliers,
pass that link through the other end link, then
close up the loop..
Depending on the type of chain and
size of link, you might find it possible to do
the bending by hand - but remember, you'll need
to do it over a hundred times for a pair of VLB
sized wheels - your fingers won't thank you by
Work out where you need to put the
tread chains for even placement - my sidewall
chains are 43 links long
Clearly 43 isn't
wholly divisible by 12, so I'll have to join the
twelve tread chains to the sidewall chain on a
staggered patter every 3 or 4 links - quite arbitrarily
I chose links 1, 4, 8, 12, 15, 19, 23, 23, 26,
30, 34, 38 and 41 to get an even spread. Chances
are that it won't work out neatly for you either
- you'll have to do some juggling too.
Next up, is preparing some of the
tread chains needed - I need 105mm chains (24
of them), in my case 22 links is about right.
Here I've joined all twelve tread
chains to the first sidewall chain (and tucked
the loose ends underneath the tyre) - note the
close up detail of one of the joins..
Join up 3 of the tread chains to
the second sidewall chain, then another two, and
so on, doing test fittings as you go..
You'll get to
a point where it becomes awkward to get the chains
on - in my case, when I'd got 9 of the 12 tread
chains on - so don't take them off once you've
got them on.
Here's a finished wheel with all
twelve tread chains linked up both sides..
You'll want to
remove your snow chains at some point - I've found
the best way is to cut one of the links out of
the inner sidewall chain, then use a cable tie
to rejoin the cut ends to refit.
This is also the best way to deal
with snow chains that are a bit loose, or become
so during use (cheap chain like this does tend
to stretch) - cut two links out & replace
with a cable tie..
I do suggest you try to form the
chains around something, or rig up some way of
hanging them when they're not fitted to any wheels
though - they can easily become a tangled mess..
Earlier, I mentioned
that it may be worth over-ordering your chain
If I haven't made it clear so far - this can be
a fiddly process, so try to view your first wheel
as a prototype for getting the measurements right
- not a chain to be used
that way if it
all goes Pete Tong you won't tear your hair out.
Here's some pics of the finished
pair of show chains on my basher Pumpkin..
I plan to try some other variations in the future
- a set with an elastic sidewall (to get the chains
on and off quickly), or with a wire loop or metal
ring sidewall for more of a scale look.
As to actually using the things
- the main thing to remember is not to spin the
wheels up too much if you can help it - you won't
get any grip, and the cheaper the chain, the more
likely it is to stretch, and possibly even break
That said, the only failure I've had was after
donutting my Brat on ice for 10 minutes!
Thanks for reading and have fun.. getting cold!
A big thanks to Jonny Retro for this article.