Mar 05, 2020 | Team Green

RC Vehicle Transmitters Explained

When it comes to controlling your Remote Control RC car, there are several options available. Whether you call it a remote controller, a transmitter, or a radio controller, they are essential to the enjoyment of any remote-controlled vehicle.

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Pistol grip transmitters

As the name suggests, this style of transmitter is known as a "handgun" style. You hold this in your hand like a gun. The trigger operates the throttle on your RC vehicle. The more you depress the trigger, the faster your RC vehicle will go. Aftermarket pistol grip transmitters come with a wheel mounted on the side of the pistol, to steer your RC vehicle.

When it comes to controlling RC vehicles, these are probably the most popular controllers to use. The batteries are installed in the bottom of the handle, giving the RC transmitter a better weight-balance in your hand. The side-mounted steering wheel is typically self-centering, meaning if you let go of the wheel, it will snap back to the center, and thus your RC vehicle wheels will center as well. The one downfall to these pistol grip RC transmitters is that they aren't suited very well for left-handed operators.

Stick transmitter

Drone pilots (and RC users of a certain older age) will be familiar with stick controllers. These RC transmitters are highly configurable and adjustable. These have fallen out of favor for use with RC vehicles, as they are not as intuitive for driving RC planes, RC boats, RC tanks, RC trucks, and RC cars. However, younger users are starting to choose them again. The stick controllers have two thumbsticks or joysticks, each providing some two-dimensional input. These are not unlike typical video gaming console controllers, and that may be driving the resurgence of stick transmitters.


When you purchase an aftermarket RC transmitter for your vehicle, you need to install the receiver on the vehicle. This installation is not as hard as it seems and opens up a wide variety of available transmitters. One option is that the receiver can send back telemetry data to the handset. For example, it can tell you how fast your RC vehicle is going, the battery level, and other such metrics.

Transmitter channels

Most transmitters come with a minimum of two channels and up to six. The first channel connects to your RC vehicle's steering servo, and the second channel links to your speed controller. On transmitters with extra channels, you can use them to remotely operating lights or even a winch on your RC vehicle.

Current day transmitters operate on the 2.4 GHz channel. This channel has many benefits. The most important is that it is fast, relatively interference-free, and has an impressive range of operation.

Binding a transmitter

When you buy a new RC vehicle that comes with a transmitter, it is linked to the vehicle's receiver. You pull the RC vehicle and transmitter out of the box, plug in the batteries, and you're ready to go. When you upgrade to a better RC transmitter, you have to bind that transmitter to the receiver that came with it. Binding is easy to do by following the directions that came with your new RC transmitter.

Transmitter adjustments

Transmitters have adjustment controls that can alter the signals transmitted to the receiver. These refinements allow the driver to remotely change things like the steering deadpoint, and how sensitive the steering or throttle controls are.

Trim adjustment

The trim adjustment allows you to fine-tune the inputs that your receiver gets from your transmitter. If your RC car is not traveling straight then, you need to adjust the steering trim knob. Very simple to do. Just follow the directions in the manual that comes with your aftermarket RC transmitter. Your transmitter also has trims for the throttle.

Endpoint adjustments

RC transmitters can also let you individually adjust the endpoints. These are available for both left and right, as well as for forward and back. If it seems like your RC car doesn't turn as far right as it does left, you use the endpoint adjustments to fix this. More commonly, this adjustment is used to make sure that your car can go as fast as possible when the trigger is held at full throttle. If your RC transmitter does not have manual endpoint knobs, many times, you can adjust the endpoint by entering a programming code. See your RC transmitter manual for more information.

Powering up

Most transmitters have a power switch to turn them on, and an LED to show the power status. Other indicators can tell you if the batteries are low or if the connection to the receivers is changing. Refer to your manual for further clarification.

Advanced transmitter features

Most of us use the transmitter that came with our RC vehicle, but there are advantages to buying a higher-end aftermarket transmitter.

Multi-model support

Professional transmitters often feature profiles allowing you to bind one transmitter to many RC vehicles. Furthermore, each RC vehicle can have its own setup and refinements. You can also install custom batteries that might last longer or are rechargeable.

Higher-end models feature a USB port for updating their firmware, and a few even allow you to use your transmitter plugged into a PC for use in simulator video games.

RC failsafe

The receiver that comes with aftermarket RC transmitters usually has a fail-safe fallback mode. Should the connection between the transmitter and the receiver be interrupted (such as driving out of range, batteries failing, or something breaking), the receiver will return the signals to the escape or the neutral position effectively stopping your RC vehicle from going any further.

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