Using a Computer to Control an RC Car: A Step-by-Step Guide

Using a Computer to Control an RC Car: A Step-by-Step Guide

RC cars have been popular among enthusiasts for many years, providing a thrilling experience with their speed, power, and maneuverability. With the advancement of technology, it is now possible to control an RC car with a computer, offering even more precision and flexibility to users. This has led to increased interest among hobbyists and tech enthusiasts who are looking to take the experience to the next level. The ability to control an RC car with a computer not only offers a more dynamic and interactive experience but also can serve as an educational tool for STEM-related learning. With the right software and hardware, it is possible to program the RC car to carry out specific tasks and even simulate real-world conditions. It can also serve as a way to showcase the potential of technology and its role in enhancing the RC car experience. In this article, we will discuss the steps and materials needed to control an RC car with a computer, including how to set up the equipment, install and configure the software, and start and control the RC car. We will also provide troubleshooting tips and advice for those trying this for the first time.

Materials Needed

  • An RC car
  • A computer with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or USB ports
  • Control software, compatible with the RC car
  • Arduino board (optional)
  • USB cable
  • DC motor controller (optional)
  • Radio Frequency transmitter & receiver (optional)

The materials needed to control an RC car with a computer are crucial to ensure the successful implementation of the project. This section outlines the essential components required to interface with an RC car and enable it to communicate with a computer.
RC cars are designed differently and may, therefore, require the use of specific materials or software.
Some RC cars are wired differently and use unique transmitter-receiver pairs to communicate. The right software and hardware must be identified to ensure the project’s integrity.
There are several useful websites and product options to consider when choosing the proper equipment. Some of the popular websites for selecting RC cars and computer equipment are HobbyKing, Sparkfun, and Adafruit. Additionally, websites like OpenRC Project and Thingiverse offer detailed project guides, software, and schematics for the DIY enthusiasts.

Can you control a RC car with a computer?

Yes, you can control an RC car with a computer. There are several methods to achieve this, including:

  • Using a USB interface and software to control the car with a joystick or keyboard
  • Installing a wireless receiver/transmitter module and using a computer to replace the remote control
  • Building a custom circuit to control the car’s motors and servos using a microcontroller, which can then be programmed through a computer

Some popular websites and products for controlling RC cars with a computer include:

  • – offers simulation software for controlling RC cars, planes, and boats with a computer
  • Arduino – a popular microcontroller platform for building custom RC car controllers
  • Spektrum – offers wireless receivers and transmitters that can be controlled by a computer using third-party software

Setting up the Equipment

Here are the basic steps for setting up the RC car and computer for controlling:

Steps Details
Step 1 Ensure the RC car is configured for the selected control method, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi communication
Step 2 Ensure the computer is connected to the internet and has the appropriate software installed
Step 3 Connect the computer to the RC car using USB or Bluetooth communication
Step 4 Configure the software to connect to the RC car, including selecting the appropriate communication method and inputting device codes and pin numbers

It is essential to double-check all connections and configurations to ensure the hardware and software communicate correctly. Once connected correctly, the control over the RC car is possible.

Interestingly, the use of RC cars is not limited to entertainment but has found application in various industries. The military commonly uses RC cars for surveillance and deterrence. Hospitals have used RC cars to deliver medication to patients, and agricultural industries now use RC spray cars for crop farming.

The OpenRC Project website contains free design files and guides for 3D printing and constructing RC cars. The website has various templates and design files, including an F1 car, monster truck, snowmobile, and others. The Arduino and Raspberry Pi websites are other resources for free software and hardware documentation, project ideas, and schematics.

How do RC cars connect?

RC cars can connect through different types of radio systems such as:

  • 2.4GHz radio system
  • 27MHz/49MHz radio system
  • AM/FM radio system

The most popular among these is the 2.4GHz radio system because of the following advantages:

If you’re interested in purchasing an RC car, several websites offer a wide range of models for all ages and skill levels, such as Tower Hobbies, Horizon Hobby, and Amain Hobbies.

Installing and Configuring the Software

Here is a brief guide to installing and configuring the software needed for controlling an RC car with a computer:

  • Choose the appropriate software based on the RC car make and model.
  • Download and install the software on the computer.
  • Connect the RC car to the computer through a USB cable or Wi-Fi/Bluetooth communication method.
  • Select the correct communication method, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, in the software preferences.
  • Enter the device codes and pin numbers required for communication.
  • Calibrate the software with the RC car to ensure proper movement and control.

It’s essential to select software compatible with the computer’s operating system and the RC car brand and model.

There are many software applications and forums available online that provide information and downloads. Some of the most popular software applications include:

Robot Operating System (ROS)

This open-source software provides a vast collection of libraries and tools for developing robot software. ROS is compatible with various hardware and software systems and offers a flexible platform for RC car control.

VJoy Virtual Joystick

A free software application that turns a smartphone or tablet into a wireless remote joystick. It supports various communication protocols such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

RC Car Studio

It is a software application that provides interface control and programming for RC cars using Arduino software. RC Car Studio is compatible with various sensor boards and communication protocols.

How can I control my RC car with my computer?

You can control your RC car with your computer using the following steps:

  • Find an RC car that is compatible with computer control.
  • Connect your RC car’s receiver to a USB interface or a Bluetooth module.
  • Download and install the software on your computer that can communicate with the receiver.
  • Connect your RC car to the computer and calibrate the controls.

There are several software options available for controlling RC cars with a computer, such as VRC Pro or Virtual RC Racing. These software programs allow you to race against others online and even create custom tracks.

Additionally, some companies sell kits that include both the RC car and the computer interface for easy setup, such as the Traxxas TQi.

Starting and Controlling the RC Car

Once the software is installed, and the RC car is connected to the computer, follow these steps to start and control the RC car:

  • Launch the software and connect the RC car to the computer.
  • Ensure the software and the RC car are correctly calibrated and synced.
  • Set up the control keys and buttons on the software interface.
  • Use the computer mouse or keyboard to control the RC car movement.
  • Adjust the speed and direction, and take control of the RC car to your desired actions.

Remote, Wireless Control

Wireless control is a popular method for controlling RC cars with computers. Using an application to establish wireless communication, the RC car can be controlled remotely without being near it! Some popular wireless control applications include:

Joystick Controller

This application is available for smartphones and provides a touch interface to control the RC car.

Universal Radio Control

This application is available for Android devices and provides support for various communication protocols, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It offers a simple interface that allows for easy control of the RC car.

Other apps can be found in app stores, websites, forums or from software developers.

How do you control RC cars?

Controlling an RC car might seem daunting, but with a bit of practice, you can master it easily. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Start by getting comfortable with the controller. Familiarize yourself with the different buttons and joysticks.
  • Follow the instructions that came with the car. The controls might differ slightly depending on the model.
  • Start slowly and practice accelerating, steering and braking in a straight line.
  • Once you’re comfortable, try turning the car while it’s moving, going over obstacles, and doing donuts.
  • Adjust the trim on the controller to make sure the car moves in a straight line.
  • Have fun and experiment with different movements and stunts!

If you’re looking to buy an RC car, check out websites like HobbyTron or Tower Hobbies for a wide range of options.


While controlling an RC car with a computer is exciting, there may be situations where things don’t work as expected. Here are some common issues that may arise, and ways to troubleshoot them:

  • The RC car does not respond to controls: Check the battery connections, ensure software and hardware are correctly configured and calibrated, and confirm signal strength between the RC car and computer.
  • The RC car moves erratically: This can be due to poor signal strength, poor calibration, or inadequate handling of controls. Ensure signal strength is strong, recalibrate the software and hardware, and take time to master the controls.
  • The RC car loses connection: This can be due to low battery, poor signal strength, or software configuration issues. Check the strength of the signal and batteries to ensure they are functioning correctly; troubleshoot software configuration by consulting the user manual.

Websites with Videos and Tutorials

If you encounter issues while controlling your RC car with a computer, most solutions can be found by searching for user forums, consulting the software manual, or watching tutorial videos online. Here are some websites and online communities that offer helpful resources:

  • RC Universe: Offers a helpful community with tips and resources for successfully controlling RC cars with a computer.
  • YouTube: Has a vast collection of tutorial videos that detail how to control RC cars with a computer. A video is an engaging way to learn new controls and settings.
  • Reddit: A source of information and user discussions, Reddit can offer helpful insights and solutions to common issues faced when controlling an RC car with a computer. Users can post photos, ask questions or post videos of their RC cars.

How can I have fun in my RC car?

  • Create obstacle courses with cones, ramps and other obstacles.
  • Find a local RC car club and participate in their events.
  • Upgrade your RC car with new parts and accessories for increased speed and performance.
  • Race against friends or family members with their own RC cars.
  • Use a camera to race your RC car from a first-person view.

If you’re looking to upgrade your RC car, websites like Horizon Hobby and Tower Hobbies offer a wide variety of parts and accessories to choose from. Additionally, websites like RC Universe and RC Driver offer tips, tricks and community forums for RC car enthusiasts.


Controlling an RC car with a computer can be a lot of fun and has many advantages over manual control. It can also help you to understand and learn more about the mechanics of the RC car. However, it’s important to remember that safety is a priority when operating an RC car. Always choose an appropriate location, avoid obstacles, and be mindful of other people around you.

Proper preparation and selection of materials are essential to successfully controlling an RC car with a computer. The appropriate software and hardware, along with appropriate calibration and configuration, will enable smooth and steady control. Troubleshooting is also important, and online communities and tutorials can be extremely helpful sources of information.

In conclusion, controlling an RC car with a computer is a thrilling and rewarding experience once the groundwork is properly done. By following the steps outlined in this article and exercising caution, you can start driving your RC car to new heights of precision and control.