Using Petrol for Nitro RC Cars: Risks and Alternatives

Using Petrol for Nitro RC Cars: Risks and Alternatives

Nitro RC cars have become increasingly popular among hobbyists and enthusiasts for their speed and performance. These cars run on nitro fuel, which is a mixture of methanol, oil, and nitromethane. Nitro fuel provides the lubrication and cooling needed for the engine to function properly, allowing the car to reach high speeds and perform stunts. However, some hobbyists may be wondering if they can use regular petrol in place of nitro fuel. This is a valid question as petrol is more readily available than nitro fuel and usually cheaper. Can a nitro RC car run on petrol instead of nitro fuel? In this article, we will explore whether it is safe and practical to run a nitro RC car on petrol, the differences between nitro fuel and petrol, the compatibility of nitro engines and petrol, the risks of running a nitro RC car on petrol, and finally, explore alternatives to nitro fuel.

Differences between Nitro Fuel and Petrol

Nitro fuel and petrol are two different types of fuel. Nitro fuel is designed specifically for nitro RC cars to run efficiently and effectively. Petrol, on the other hand, is a fuel designed for cars and other vehicles with conventional engines. Here are some differences between nitro fuel and petrol:

  • Nitro fuel contains methanol, oil, and nitromethane, while petrol contains gasoline, ethanol, and other chemicals.
  • The additives in nitro fuel provide the lubrication and cooling needed for the engine to function properly.
  • Petrol does not have the same lubrication or cooling properties as nitro fuel, which could damage the engine.
  • Using petrol in a nitro engine will require significant modifications to avoid damaging the engine or car.

It is important to note that nitro fuel and petrol are not interchangeable, and using one in place of the other could lead to damage to both the engine and the car. For this reason, it is important to stick with the fuel recommended by the manufacturer to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your nitro RC car.

What is the difference between petrol and nitro RC cars?

  • Petrol RC cars run on gasoline fuel, while nitro RC cars run on a nitro-methane fuel mixture.
  • Nitro RC cars generally run faster than petrol RC cars.
  • Petrol RC cars require less maintenance and are more affordable in the long run, while nitro RC cars require more maintenance and can be expensive to operate.
  • There are different types of RC cars available for purchase online, such as petrol-powered buggies or nitro-powered monster trucks.

For those interested in purchasing an RC car, popular websites such as Amazon, HobbyKing and AMain Hobbies offer a wide variety of options for both petrol and nitro RC cars.

Compatibility of Nitro Engines and Petrol

Nitro engines are designed specifically to run on nitro fuel. This fuel consists of several different compounds, all of which have individual effects on the engine. Petrol, on the other hand, is designed for use in a conventional engine and lacks the same properties as nitro fuel. Here are some things to consider when it comes to the compatibility of nitro engines and petrol:

Nitro Engines Petrol Engines
Require a specific fuel mixture to run correctly. Can run on different grades of fuel.
Require a high compression ratio. Usually have a lower compression ratio than nitro engines.
Have specific cooling and lubrication requirements. Do not require specific cooling and lubrication requirements like nitro engines.

Modifying the engine to run on petrol would require significant changes to the engine and the fuel system. This could lead to decreased performance and potential damage to the engine if not done correctly. As such, it is not recommended to try running a nitro RC car on petrol.

Can a nitro engine run on petrol?

No, a nitro engine cannot run on petrol. Nitro engines require a special mixture of methanol, nitromethane, and oil to run. The nitromethane in the mixture is what gives the engine its unique sound and smell. Attempting to use petrol as a fuel for a nitro engine can cause costly damages to the engine.

If you’re looking for information about nitro engines, check out RC Planet. They offer a wide range of nitro engines and accessories for RC cars and trucks.

Risks of Running a Nitro RC Car on Petrol

While it is possible to modify a nitro RC car to run on petrol, there are several risks involved that could result in engine damage, decreased performance, or even complete failure of the engine. Here are some risks to consider:

  • Petrol lacks the same cleaning properties as nitro fuel, which could cause carbon buildup or other debris in the engine that can affect its performance over time.
  • Petrol does not have the same lubrication and cooling properties as nitro fuel, which could lead to excessive friction and heat buildup, both of which can be damaging to the engine.
  • Petrol may cause detonation or pre-ignition, which can damage the engine and cause it to fail.

To avoid these risks, it is recommended to use the proper nitro fuel mixture designed for the engine to ensure optimal performance and longevity of the engine. Trying to cut corners by using petrol could lead to costly repairs or even a total loss of the RC car.

Can Nitro RC Cars Run on Petrol?

Nitro RC cars cannot run on petrol (gasoline) because they require a specific fuel blend with nitromethane, methanol, and oil. Using petrol can damage the engine and affect performance. It is important to use the correct fuel for your nitro RC car to ensure its longevity and optimal performance.

If you have any queries or need further information about nitro RC cars and their fuel requirements, check out reputable online forums and manufacturer websites such as Horizon Hobby or Traxxas.

Alternatives to Nitro Fuel

If you’re looking for alternatives to nitro fuel, there are a few options to consider:


Methanol is one of the main ingredients in nitro fuel and can be purchased separately. It can be combined with other additives to create homemade nitro fuel, which is often cheaper and more accessible than store-bought nitro fuel. Keep in mind, however, that homemade fuel may not provide the same performance as store-bought nitro fuel, and incorrect mixing can lead to engine damage.

Electric RC Cars

Electric RC cars are an alternative to nitro RC cars, running on batteries instead of fuel. They are more environmentally friendly, quieter, and require less maintenance. Battery life and charging times, however, can be limiting factors, and electric RC cars may not provide the same level of power and speed as nitro RC cars.

Other Fuel Options

There are other fuel options available for RC cars, such as propane or hydrogen fuel cells, but these are less common and may require more extensive modifications to the engine.

Ultimately, the best option for your RC car will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Consider your budget, performance goals, and availability of different fuel options when determining which fuel source to use.

What can you use for RC fuel?

Here are some choices for RC fuel:

  • Nitromethane: Contains oxygen for engine combustion, improves performance and speed, and can be mixed with methanol and oil. Some popular brands are O’Donnell, Byron, and Cool Power.
  • Methanol: Used as a base with nitromethane fuel to reduce cost and adjust performance. Common brands include Morgan’s and Cool Power.
  • Oil: Lubricates moving engine parts and reduces friction. You can choose synthetic or castor oil.
  • Electricity: Some RC vehicles use electric power for operation. You can source batteries and chargers from popular online stores like HobbyKing and Amazon.

Always check your RC vehicle manual or with a professional for recommended fuel and oil ratio, storage, and handling instructions.


In conclusion, while it may be tempting to experiment with other fuel sources, operating a nitro RC car on petrol is not recommended due to compatibility issues and potential engine damage. Homemade nitro fuel is a less expensive alternative to store-bought nitro fuel but requires careful mixing and may not provide the same performance. Alternatively, electric RC cars run on batteries and are less maintenance-intensive but may lack the power and speed of nitro RC cars.

Before choosing a fuel source, consider your budget, performance goals, and availability of different fuel options. If you do decide to use nitro fuel, consider purchasing it from a reputable manufacturer to ensure its quality and consistency. By taking the time to research and choose the best fuel source for your needs, you can help maximize the lifespan and performance of your nitro RC car while enjoying the thrill of high-speed RC racing.