RcTek : Information & Resources for the Model Car Racer

Radio Control Equipment Basics - Transmitter

This article is part of a section of the RcTek site that provides information about the radio equipment used to control model cars.

In this article we have information about the transmitters that are used to send the signals to control the model car.


Radio Control Transmitter

Radio Control Transmitter

The transmitter is responsible for converting the movements of your fingers into electrical signals and sending them to the car. It incorporates at least two separate controls to allow both acceleration/braking and steering to occur at the same time. Each control requires it’s own channel and therefore a two channel transmitter has the ability to send the signals from these two separate controls to the receiver in the car.

The transmitter can be bought in two distinct versions;

The most common is the ‘stick’ version (right), which uses two spring loaded movable posts to control the movements of the model car.

The other type is the steering wheel version (left) which uses a spring loaded wheel and a trigger to achieve the same thing.

Left Handed or Right Handed?

The Stick type transmitter is suitable for any model car driver, whether they are left or right handed. The Steering wheel type is available mainly for the right handed driver, although some of the more expensive sets can be adapted for left handed use.

The Controls

Both types of transmitter have additional controls built in, which vary with the cost and complexity of the transmitter. The controls from the stick type transmitter are shown here but the steering wheel type equivalents offer the same functionality.

Steering & Trim

Radio Control Transmitter

The steering control (orange) on the right is usually set up to turn left when pushed to the left and vice versa when pushed to the right. Almost all radios do allow you to reverse this should the need be felt.

The trim control (green) is a sliding switch that allows fine tuning of the central position of the front wheels so that the car will move in a straight line. This is sometimes necessary due to the configuration of the model car.

Throttle, Brake/Reverse & Trim

Radio Control Transmitter

The throttle & brake control (red) is usually set up so that the car moves forward when pushed away from the operator and brakes when pulled toward the operator. On some electric and internal combustion (gas) vehicles the brake function can also be combined with the ability to reverse the direction of the model car. As with the steering controls most radios allow this control to have the opposite efect. The trim control (green) functions as the steering trim does but centralises the neutral (non-moving) point of the car.

Battery Meter

Transmitter Battery Meter

Almost all transmitters incorporate a battery meter that shows how much voltage remains in the batteries in the transmitter. This should be checked frequently as low power in the batteries leads problems with controlling the car, no power leads to NO control over the car.


Transmitters are available that can either take separate battery cells or rechargeable battery packs. The lower cost ones are the ones where either ordinary dry cell (non-rechargeable) or rechargeable seperate cell batteries can be fitted. The higher cost ones require battery packs purposely designed for the transmitter, but are usually included at the time of purchase.

The use of dry or separate cell batteries can lead to problems with corrosion of the contacts. This is more of a problem with rechargeable batteries that are not replaced and are charged whilst still in the transmitter.

Please see the article regarding the batteries used in radio control.


Radio Control Crystal

Information regarding the crystals can be found in the Receiver Article.


That’s about all there is for a basic explanation of the transmitters available for radio controlled model cars. Please use the links to the other items that go together to form a radio control system.

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© 2001, 2009 by Darren Burnhill