Starting an RC Car Without a Starter Box: Techniques and Tips

Starting an RC Car Without a Starter Box: Techniques and Tips

Remote-controlled (RC) cars are an exciting and engaging hobby for both adults and children. If you are new to the hobby, starting your RC car without a starter box can be a daunting task. RC cars can come with different types of engines, such as nitro or gas-powered engines, electric motors, and brushless motors. The starter box is a gadget that provides extra help to start the nitro engines, but not all Hobbyists own one. However, not having a starter box should not limit your enjoyment of RC cars. There are several techniques you can use to start your RC car without a starter box. Before attempting to start your car, it is essential to ensure that it is fully charged. If your car has a nitro engine, your first option is the chicken stick method. Despite its funny name, this is an effective method that requires placing a wooden dowel or a rubber wheel, also referred to as a “rubber chicken,” onto the flywheel of the engine. Once you spin the flywheel, it will create compression inside the engine, making it start. However, this method requires some practice and technique, but with time, you will perfect it. In the next few paragraphs, we will discuss various methods that you can use to start your RC car without a starter box.

The Spin Start Method

If the chicken stick method does not work well for you, you can use another practical technique, the spin start method. This method involves using an electric drill fitted with a spin start adapter to start the RC car’s engine. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Insert the spin start adapter into the engine’s flywheel socket.
  2. Using the electric drill, spin the flywheel to start the engine.

Some websites sell spin start adapters, such as Amazon, HobbyKing, and Tower Hobbies. When looking for a spin start adapter, make sure to get one that fits your engine’s flywheel socket size. There are different spin start adapters sizes available, including 12mm and 14mm, among others.

The Pull Start Method

Some nitro engines come with a pull-start engine, similar to those found on lawnmowers. Here are the steps to start your car using this method:

  1. Turn on the radio and transmitter.
  2. Fuel the car.
  3. Prime the engine by covering the exhaust with your finger, then gently pulling the starter cord several times until you see the fuel move through the fuel line to the carburetor.
  4. Gently pull the starter cord; the engine should start within 1 or 2 pulls.

All the tools necessary to start your RC car without a starter box are widely available online, at hobby shops or major retailers, such as Amazon, eBay or Walmart.

How do you start a gas powered RC car?

Starting a gas powered RC car may seem daunting at first, but it’s actually a simple process. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Fill the fuel tank with the recommended fuel.
  2. Turn on the transmitter and receiver.
  3. Press the primer bulb on the carburetor a few times to prime the engine.
  4. Turn the choke to the “on” position.
  5. Pull the starter cord or use the electric starter (if equipped) to start the engine.
  6. Once the engine is running smoothly, turn the choke to the “off” position.
  7. Adjust the idle speed as needed.

It’s important to note that each RC car may have slightly different starting procedures, so always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re new to RC cars, it may be helpful to watch tutorial videos or read helpful articles on websites such as RC Car Action or Hobbytron.

RC car enthusiasts may also find useful products such as fuel pumps, starters and igniters on websites such as Amazon or Tower Hobbies.

The Roll Start Method

Another technique to start your RC car without a starter box is the roll start method. It works best for off-road nitro cars with a manual transmission system. Follow these steps to start the engine:

  1. Ensure that the transmission is in neutral and the engine is off.
  2. Roll the car downhill. Ensure that you roll it till a moderate speed, but not too fast as to risk losing control.
  3. Pop the clutch by enabling it suddenly when you reach the desired speed. This sudden transition starts the engine.

This method is less common, but it’s an effective way to start the engine if other methods fail.


Starting an RC car without a starter box requires some practice and patience; it may take some time to get right. Ensuring that your batteries are fully charged, and the engine is primed can be the difference in a successful start. That said, with adequate practice and the right techniques, starting your car without a starter box can be easy and fun. Additionally, using any of these methods can help you understand and learn more about nitro engines, thus improving your overall knowledge.

Here’s a summary of the techniques outlined in this article:

Method What You Need
Chicken Stick Method Wooden dowel or stick
Spin Start Method Electric drill and spin start adapter
Pull Start Method Pull-start engine system
Roll Start Method Off-road nitro cars with manual transmission system

All the methods and tools required to start your RC car without a starter box are widely available online, including websites such as Amazon, HobbyKing, and Tower Hobbies.

Can a car run without a starter?

Yes, it is possible for a car to run without a starter, but it requires some special considerations. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • If your car has a manual transmission, you can push or roll start the engine by getting the car up to a speed of around 10-15 miles per hour, then releasing the clutch pedal quickly while in gear.
  • If your car has an automatic transmission, you may be able to jump the starter using a jumper cable and a healthy battery, but this can be dangerous and should only be attempted if you know what you’re doing.
  • In either case, running a car without a starter for an extended period of time can cause damage to other components, so it’s important to have the starter fixed as soon as possible.

If you’re looking for more information on car maintenance and repair, websites like and products like Haynes repair manuals can be helpful resources.

Where to Buy Starter Kits

Starter kits are the most crucial part of your RC car setup if you’re a beginner. The kit makes it easy to start your nitro engine without worrying about the technicalities of an engine. You get all the tools required to get started in one package. Depending on your budget, you can get a starter kit as cheap or as expensive as you wish.

Some popular RC starter kits that are easily available online include;

  • Brybelly Nitro Starter Kit which comes with a fuel bottle
  • Power Master Nitro Starter Set with fuel jug
  • Dynamite Nitro Starter Set with universal parts for easy use with most nitro cars.

These starter kits and others are available on Amazon, HobbyKing, and Tower Hobbies for purchase. It’s essential to do some research on the type of nitro engine your car has before investing in a starter kit. Knowing the engine type ensures that you get the appropriate starter kit for your car.

With a starter kit, starting the engine becomes easy, and you’re sure to get off to a great start in this fascinating world of nitro RC cars.

Tips for Starting Nitro RC Car Without a Starter Box

If you are in a situation where you do not have access to a starter box, there are various ways to start your nitro RC car. Here are some tips and tricks to help you start your car easily and safely.

Use a Chicken Stick

The chicken stick method involves using a wooden dowel or stick to start the car manually. Here is how to do it:

  • Insert the chicken stick into the engine’s flywheel slot
  • Spin the flywheel with your hand or use an electric drill to start the car
  • Keep fingers away from the car’s moving parts during this process – safety first!

Spin Start Your Nitro Engine

To spin start your nitro engine, you’ll need an electric drill equipped with a spin start adaptor that fits your engine’s flywheel socket. Here’s how to do it:

  • Insert the spin start adaptor into the engine’s flywheel socket and connect it to the drill
  • Squeeze the drill’s trigger to start the engine
  • Release the trigger as soon as the engine starts

Roll Start Your Nitro Engine

Roll-starting your car’s nitro engine only works if your RC car has a manual transmission. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Push the clutch in and place the car in neutral
  • Roll your RC car downhill while holding the trigger down
  • Release the brake and engage the clutch when you gain sufficient speed

Remember, safety should always come first, especially when working with moving parts of an RC car engine. Be sure to follow these techniques while keeping your fingers and other body parts clear of the car’s moving parts.

Why Won’t My Nitro RC Car Start?

Possible reasons why your nitro RC car won’t start are:

  • The fuel tank is empty or the fuel is stale
  • The glow plug is faulty or not seated correctly
  • The air filter is clogged or dirty
  • The engine may be flooded
  • The radio system may not be properly set up

Visit hobby forums or YouTube channels for troubleshooting tips or consider purchasing a nitro starter kit to simplify the startup process. Check your manual for specific instructions or seek professional help if your nitro RC car still won’t start.


Using any of the techniques mentioned above, you can start your nitro RC car without a starter box easily, quickly and without too much hassle. Remember to follow the instructions correctly and always be cautious while starting the car.

If you’re looking for additional information on starting your RC car without a starter box, there are various online resources that can help you understand the process better. RC car forums can be a great resource for getting advice from fellow hobbyists, and there are also several YouTube channels that focus on nitro RC car maintenance, which can be helpful as well.

In addition, many online stores sell a variety of starter box alternatives. Some of the products that can make starting your RC car easier include electric starter motors, hand-held electric starters and many more.

Always take safety precautions, and make sure to handle your RC car with care. With the right tools and knowledge, you’ll have your RC car up and running in no time!

How do I start my nitro RC car?

Starting a nitro RC car can be intimidating, but with these simple steps, you’ll be on your way in no time:

  1. Make sure your car is properly fueled with nitro fuel
  2. Prime the engine by covering the exhaust pipe and pulling the pull-start cord
  3. Set the throttle to the off position
  4. Turn on the transmitter and receiver
  5. Press and hold the glow plug igniter to warm up the engine
  6. Release the igniter, and quickly pull the pull-start cord
  7. Once the engine starts, give it a few moments to warm up before driving

For more detailed instructions, consult your nitro RC car’s manual or check out RC car enthusiast forums like RC Universe, where you can connect with fellow hobbyists and find helpful tips and recommendations for products.


Learning how to start an RC car without a starter box can be a useful skill in the RC car hobby, especially if you are in a remote location or without access to a power source. With the various techniques available such as the chicken stick method, spin start, pull-start or roll start, there are different ways to start your RC car without a starter box.

Ensuring that your RC car is fully charged before attempting to start it is essential. Using the right starting technique and following safety precautions help to avoid accidents during the starting process.

In addition to the methods discussed, there are many other online resources that can be helpful to learn more about the starting process. You can refer to RC car forums, YouTube tutorials, or consult an experienced RC car friend for advice.

With the tips and techniques mentioned in this article, starting your RC car without a starter box is now a piece of cake. Please make sure to follow the instructions carefully, and always make safety your priority. Enjoy your RC hobby and have fun.