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Radio Control Nitro Fuel Explained - A Simple Guide

Get This Wrong & Its Like Filling Your Unleaded Family Car With Diesel..


Nitro FuelFirst up, you must be aware that Nitro fuel is toxic and flammable. Wear gloves to avoid skin exposure and safety goggles to stop it going in your eyes, especially when taking glow plugs out of engines.

Nitro fuel is not petrol or diesel. It is most like pre-mixed 2 stroke motorbike fuel, in that it is a mix of fuel and lubricant, but there is no substitute. You must not use petrol!!!

Nitro fuel comes in different grades, from 10 upwards. The number refers to the percentage of fuel to lubricant, so a 15 Nitro Fuel will have less fuel than a 25, but more lubrication. So a 25 will have more power and speed than a 16, at the expense of lubricant protection.

So which should you use? Your Radio Control cars instructions will tell you what to use, normally 16 for smaller engines and 25 for larger ones. To use a more powerful fuel than is recommended will make your car faster at the expense of engine life and reliability. Is it worth it? Depends how much cash you've got for spare engines. Also, if you start using a different fuel, its normally recommended that you stick with that mix.

Remember that the most important performance / power / speed difference you'll make to the engine off your car or truck is how the engine itself is run-in, tuned and maintained. A well tuned car running 16 fuel will outperform a poorly tuned one running 25, so follow the running in instructions for your RC car carefully, and maintain it like it deserves.

Nitro Fuel will "go off" after it is opened - water contamination is the most common cause, so use a metal container, keep the lid on, and don't put fuel back in after its been in your filler bottle, use it for another run!

Since Nitro fuel is a mix of fuel and lubricant, how rich or lean you run your engine will effect its performance. After the running in period, where you will be running very rich (which means lots of fuel. less air) you tune the carburettor, increasing the amount of air in the fuel-air mix, increasing power. As the power increases the engine runs faster and hotter, so we must be careful that we don't run too lean, because there won't be enough lubricant to oil and cool the engine, which will lead to over-heating, increased wear and reduced engine life. Performance will also drop off as the fuel mix becomes too lean.

The lesson here is be careful with Nitro Fuel, use protective gloves & glasses, use the recommended grade for you Radio Control Car, run it in properly, and don't run it too lean.

Comments / Questions:

which grade of nitro fuel do you use with a 21cxp engine? Matt.

I'd go with a 20% mix.

What is nitro made out of!!!!! Ben.

It's a mixture of fuel, lubricant and additives.

how much does the average bottle of 16 fuel cost?

About £15 in the UK.

hi i was wondeing as u say petrol or desil wont work wat wud ineed 2 make the fuel cuz iv been using petrol and its not so gd and very hard 2 get the mix right thanks. Matthew.


hi i am wondering if i could get 16 nitro fuel from the local petrol station?

No. You've got to go to a R/C hobby shop.

Your article is very informative and useful, one small issue though ,a metal container will produce more condensation than a plastic one, other than that very good.


at what age can you buy nitro fuel at the shops?

16 I'd imagine, like petrol.

ive just brought a nitro car, they run it on tornado 16% could i run it on 10% blue thunder will i have to run it in again on it. thanks, mitch.

Only run it on the engine grade the manufacturer recommends otherwise you could damage your engine.

Hi, I'm a professional chemist (when I'm not racing R/C cars) and I'd just like to congratulate you on your safety advice. Instead of trying to sound all "cool" you've focused on safety first...which is what we in the industry pride ourselves on. The main component is methanol, which is toxic and highly flammable (obviously). It'll affect your liver then your optic nerve. Gloves and eye protection are a must, don't worry, there are some pretty cool looking safety glasses now a days, I hand them out to my staff.
Keep safe everyone and have fun!! Pete.

Too Right!

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