Real helicopters receive attention from a fleet of technicians and engineers, but in the case of RC helicopters, the consumer piloting the craft via remote control assumes the burden of repairs. Although plenty of specialty services provide maintenance services, RC helicopter enthusiasts can save hundreds of dollars in repairs by gathering the parts they need on eBay and rolling up their sleeves.
Manufacturers craft such intricate ‘copters making pinpointing the source of trouble tricky. It proves beneficial for users to learn some of the most common sources of trouble along with routine maintenance tips to make simple RC helicopter repairs. For complex repairs, owners should consult their manuals or seek professional assistance.
More often than not, a tail that bobs up and down speaks to a malfunction in the head of the helicopter, while a tail that shakes left and right indicates a problem in the rear of the aircraft, often the tail itself.
Diagnosing Frontal Problems
For problems coming from the front of the helicopter, balance the blades by tightening each one equally, then track the blades to double-check alignment. Crashed planes often exhibit bent rotor shafts. In addition to bending, shafts should remain stationary.
Diagnosing Rear Problems
Symptoms of a problem in the rear of a RC helicopter often come from the tail drive. Balance the tail rotors by tightening each one in equal amounts, and look for bends. Also, gyro sensitivity set too high can cause vibrations.
Over the course of time, RC helicopter motors tend to burn out. Fix them by searching eBay for a replacement that matches the ‘copter’s specific motor.
Flyers often observe the “toilet bowl” effect, where the helicopter drifts and spins in a tight circle like water being flushed. If this occurs, loosen and clean the flybar. Should that not work, try replacing the top-rotor assembly.
RC helicopters tune into specific channels to remain airborne. If another RC-powered device or radio signal hits on the same frequency, the helicopter usually takes a dive. Aficionados should steer clear of AM RC radios, since electrical and metal noise interrupts control of the ‘copter, which tend to use lots of metal contact points and electric motors and controllers.
Fortunately, other options exist. Post code modulation (PCM) RC radios tune out interference except for other PCM RC-controlled devices, but 2.4GHz spectrum spread radios broadcast their signals across a large span of the radio spectrum and operate at a higher frequency than AM and PCM, making interference a non issue.
Overheating remains a common problem for RC helicopters. Some enthusiasts advise flying the bird for shorter spans of time, but that takes the fun out of flying. Instead, consider cutting ventilation holes in any canopies to allow the helicopter to breathe easier.
As an alternative method of improving ventilation, try increasing the size of the heat sinks. Owners can find heatsink replacements and upgrades on eBay.
Caring for Batteries
Failure to care for rechargeable batteries can lead to more expensive damages later on.
Hot or Cold
Batteries hot to the touch after use indicate age; owners should replace them to avoid harming their helicopter. Along the same lines, watch for batteries that swell up after use as batteries tend to explode after reaching a certain size, and those explosions can wreak havoc on otherwise-healthy helicopters.
Avoid charging batteries in chargers other than those supplied or recommended by the helicopter’s manufacturers, as charges not made to accommodate batteries of a certain voltage can overcharge the battery, rendering it useless.
Owners should store batteries if they anticipate letting their helicopter sit idle for more than a week. For periods of inactivity that only last a few days, owners can store batteries in the refrigerator; the cold lessons the natural effect of aging.
Check Battery Voltage
Flying an electric RC helicopter with anything less than a fully-charged battery can lead to disasters. Many helicopters give no warning when their battery dips to low levels. Owners should consult their manuals to get an estimate on how long batteries last, and wait to fly the aircraft again until the battery reaches 100 percent.
Secure Battery Packs
The majority RC helicopters run on low polymer batteries. Manufacturers prefer LiPobatteries due to their lightweight, ability to fit battery compartments of any size, and hold dozens of charges. Manufacturers tuck LiPo batteries in trays that slide or remain fixed in place. Over time, these trays can wiggle out of their secure nooks. Before allowing their RC helicopters to go airborne, owners should make secure the battery pack to prevent the battery from slipping out while in flight.
How to Buy a RC Helicopter and Spare Parts on eBay
Whether enthusiasts need to round up parts or buy a new aircraft, eBay offers new and used pieces, parts, and fresh-in-the-box RC helicopters. After navigating to any eBay page, locate the search bar and enter a keyword phrase. Try phrases along the lines of “RC helicopter parts” to browse a wide selection of bits and bobs, or hone in on specific components by entering phrases such as “RC helicopter blades.”
Shoppers should take a couple precautions before finalizing a purchase. First, one size does not fit all RC helicopters, so make sure seller’s part matches up with the buyer’s make and model. Second, buyers should feel comfortable performing dangerous repairs such as installing sharp blades.