Friday, 22 January 2010

HOW-TO: Ninco Tune Up

How-To: Getting the most from your Ninco

So you’ve purchased a fantastic looking Ninco slot car only to put it on the track to find out that it has a few performance issues. Well don’t feel alone as you’re not the first and you wont be the last to experience this. There are several slot car how-to's regarding performance on the web but I find most of them rely on using expensive after market parts. The reality is you have already spent some considerable money on a Ninco slot car so the last thing you want to do is spend another $50-$100 getting it to deliver.

This how-to starts by detailing the improvements you can do without spending a cent, basically the only thing you'll be spending is your time. I then examine the things you can do on the cheap budget followed by some of the more expensive upgrades possible.

One of the main benefits in setting up your Ninco well is the pleasure you will receive when you drive it. You're Ninco will be transformed from a noisy unpredictable beast into a smooth, quieter (sorry but you can’t completely silence a Ninco!) slot car you’ll always enjoy driving and racing.

Preliminary model inspection (cost $0)

Before pulling your lovely Ninco apart and none systematically fixing every potential issue as it catches your eye, it is important to comprehensively inspect your slot first. Before you think about placing your new slot on the track, go through the following check list and make mental note of your findings;
  • Inspect the rear axle: Rotate the rear axle with your fingers and get a ‘feel’ for the gearing of the slot. You don’t even have to remove the body to do this although it may be easier. Assess if the gearing is too tight (something that may damage the slot’s motor) and you can also assess if there is slack or lateral ‘play’ in the rear axle and therefore in the gearing.
  • Inspect tire/wheel installation: Make sure all the tires are correctly fitted to the wheels, be sure to inspect the inside of the wheels particularly to ensure the tires are installed correctly, (this issue is found more common with Fly slot cars).
  • Inspect tire profile: This is easily done by turning each wheel (more so the rear wheels) through a full rotation while visually inspecting the cross-section of the tire. If the tire cross-section is not completely flat, you may need to true the rubber but we will do that later, just make not of any issues you find for now.
  • Test for tire/body rubbing: You are looking for the presence of tires rubbing on the body, especially around the rear axle. Turn the slot over and once again turn the wheels through a full rotation and check for rubbing. This may happen due to slack or lateral movement being present in the rear axle. Unfortunately a common problem with Ninco slot cars is front tires rubbing on the body. This is because there is generally a huge amount of play present in the front axle allowing the front wheels to stick outside the body line of the car (this is also a huge cause of noise). Once again just make note of you findings.
  • Inspect glide: What you’re testing here is the amount of ‘freedom’ the glide has. An ideal glide should be able to be turned freely (without excessive force) in your fingers. Wiring from the motor to the guide should connect to the guide in a curved fashion from both sides of the body, (chassis in plan view) this will allow the guide to centre itself. Likewise the guide should not be too loose i.e. the guide post should not be able to move irregularly in the guide post housing. If the guide is sprung, check that it is functioning correctly.
During the preliminary inspection, make mental note of anything else you see that may potentially be an issue. Ok, time to stop inspecting and time to get this Ninco show on the road.

Lubrication (cost $0.1)

Before you start running your new slot it's a good idea to give the motor shaft (both ends) and the gears a light oil. I use machine oil as it is very fine - Don't apply too much however as you'll end up with it all over your track. It is also a good idea to apply a small amount of oil to the rear axle where they enter the rear bushes.

One way to avoid getting oil all over your track is to place some paper towels under the raised rear end of you slot and slowly run the motor. You’ll be surprised how much oil it deposited onto the paper towels from even the smallest application of oil to the gearing.

Track test (cost $0)

Ok so you've been looking at your Ninco for long enough, time to put it on the track. Run the slot slowly at first and gradually build speed while watching for any irregular driving motion. For example, the slot may be moving up and down slightly at the rear while travelling - a sign of wheel mould flashing. The slot may be running inconsistently through corners (on, off) – typically electrical connectivity issues. The slot may feel restrained or held back – possible tire rubbing on body or gearing that is too tight. The slot may continually deslot going into corners – a sign the front wheels gripping too much on the track or catching on the slots body.

These observations identify your slots performance issues and assist you in diagnosing the problems your slot has. (For later comparison purposes, make note of the best lap time achieved during this session.)

Electrical connectivity (cost $0)

The first thing I do with any slot car is to increase the width of the guide braid in order to achieve better electrical connectivity with the tracks rails. Use your favourite pair of needle nose pliers to spread the ends of the braids so that they are almost double their original width. Do this by holding one side of the braid with the pliers and using your finger nails to spread the braid apart. This process takes 2 minutes but you will be amazed at how much better your slot will run.

Another thing to check for is length of braid, I like the hanging section of my braids to be approximately 10-12mm long. Also make sure that the wire eyelets from the motor have been inserted completely into the top of the guide.

Loosen Body (cost $0)

One of the first things I do with non independent motor pod slots (particularly Nincos) is to loosen the rear body screws a few turns (and the front half a turn) allowing the body to roll a little on the chassis. If you cannot achieve sufficient body roll you can even slightly enlarge the chassis screw holes (I typically use a 7/64” drill bit with a low speed drill) which allows the body to pivot more freely about the screw head.

CAUTION: Be careful when enlarging the chassis screw holes, if you make the screw holes too large…well I’ll let you do the math.

Check the chassis/body clearance to ensure the body is able to pivot freely; you may have to adjust or remove detail such as side exhausts, etc. Some slotters even trim a few millimetres from the entire surround of the chassis which allows the body to pivot completely freely. Unless you very serious about racing this particular slot, I don’t think its necessary and don’t recommend it.

Also check for internal clearance to things such as wiring, motor, etc. Recently during the tuning of a Ninco Gallardo I found that the wiring (where it connects to the motor) was rubbing on the inside of the bodywork thus preventing the slot body from pivoting freely. In this case I removed the body and carefully adjusted the wiring to allow for body roll.

Rear axle slack (cost $0.2)

Ninco slots are famous for having too much lateral play in their rear axles, (typically 2-3mm). This means that the crown gear can move 2-3mm which doesn’t make for smooth or quite gearing. You may not think that this would necessarily be a problem but this means that as your slot corners the entire weight of the body and chassis moves from side to side about the rear axle which is not desirable at all. Slack in the rear axle can be easily fixed by adjusting the red axle lock.

Using a small pair of pliers, slide the axle lock towards the crown gear. Sometimes the axle lock may require a little bit of force so be careful. Additionally be sure not to make the axle lock too tight up against the brass bushes or the motor will struggle to turn the rear axle. Make sure the rear wheels do not rub on the body and that the rear axle is not too tight. You don't want the motor to have to work too hard to turn the rear axle.

Front wheels and axle (cost $0)

With most Ninco slot cars, the front axles are too long (by 3-4mm) and may have too much or not enough vertical travel. Typically the front wheels of a Ninco slot sit completely on the track at all times. This setup is not ideal with respect to having the perfect tripod, (constituting the guide and rear wheels) excessive noise levels and the potential for front wheel/body rubbing.

Firstly it is necessary to reduce the length of the front axle, remove one of the wheels from the axle and using a Dremel or metal file, (my preference) adjust the length of the axle. The advantages of using the metal file is that you can continually check the length as you go which means you’re not likely to remove too much length. Be sure to leave a small, (less than a 1mm) amount of lateral 'play' in the front axle so the wheels aren’t too tight on the chassis. If they are too tight they will not be able to spin freely and will act as a brake when the front wheels touch the track. Once finished, reinstall the axle and adjust length if necessary.

Once you have correctly adjusted the length of the front axle you will probably need to adjust the ride height of the axle. To achieve a perfect tripod you can install some axle raisers on the chassis under the front axle. There are numerous things you can use to achieve this; I use plastic tubing (hot glue in place) as you can easily cut it to length and its light. I don’t like to make them too high or the front wheels never touch the track and the slot looks a little strange as the front wheels no longer rotate when being driven.

Another potential some Ninco have is that the front axle doesn’t have enough vertical travel. When going through a slightly banked corner with a change in elevation, the inside wheel digs into the track and upon reaching the extents of its vertical travel, causes deslotting. If you suspect this is happening you can test for it by simply removing the rubber from the front wheels. I experienced this problem with the new Ninco Murciélago. You are unlikely to experience this problem if you run on completely flat tracks.

If your slot has this issue you can slightly increase the upper limit of the axle (use a drill, Dremel or sharp knife) but be careful not to over do this. One alternative is to leave the front rubber off but this doesn’t look that good unless you paint the outside of the wheels black. The more expensive option is to upgrade the front rubber with thin low grip rubber.

Residual plastic wheel flashing (cost $0)

An important thing to check for (especially with Fly and Ninco slots) is excess mould flashing on rear plastic wheels. Excess flashing can result in a slot ‘hopping’ or the rear moving slightly up and down as it runs along the track. The rubber tires sit on top of these flashings and cause the wheels/tire combination to be non circular. Remove the rear tires and closely examine the wheels for any mould flashings.

Flashing can be easily removed through carefully sanding the wheels; to remove the flashings, place some sand paper (say 200+ grit) on the surface of the track and with the guide in the slot, carefully lower the rear of the car onto the sand paper while applying a medium amount of power. This process takes two hands and a little care. Any inconsistency in the wheel will quickly sand off. Apart from obvious flashings, you may also find that the profile of the plastic wheels is not perfectly circular; truing the wheels will also correct this.

Truing rear rubber (cost $0)

The tire compound on most modern Ninco slots is a little sticky (difficult to true) and as a result grips well on the track. You will find that most Ninco slot car wheels/tires are well manufactured and require only minimal tire truing. This being said, there can still be good performance gains to be made in this department.

Truing a tire is the process of making a tire completely circular (in profile) when installed on the wheel. The tire becomes completely flat when viewed in cross-section ensuring maximum contact with the track surface.

Once you have trued the rear wheels, replace the tires and go through the truing process again with the rubber. Ninco motors are quite powerful so be careful not to over true, only true for 20 or 30 seconds at a time and don't apply any downwards pressure on the car while truing. Once the tire is correctly trued, its cross-section should be completely flat when you rotate the wheel.

I always clean tires post truing with a small amount of WD40 sprayed onto a few paper towels. Place the paper towels on a flat surface and apply some WD40, run the rear tires forwards and backwards over WD40 on the paper towels. Wipe any excess WD40 off the rear wheels with a clean paper towel, there should be no visible WD40 on the tires. You’ll be amazed at how much dirt and rubber ‘muck’ can be cleaned off what looks like a clean set of tires.

If you’re intending on racing your Ninco (especially non magnetic) and require improved grip levels, it would be worth while spend a few dollars and upgrading your slots rear rubber with some Prorace tires.

Glide/braid upgrade (cost $3)

I find the sprung glide system Ninco has developed to be excellent but you may wish to improve the guide and the braids using Ninco Prorace parts especially if your Ninco isn’t fitted with a sprung guide. I consider this to be an optional upgrade that I like to perform on any slot I'm serious about driving. We have already improved the electrical connectivity of the guide pick-ups but the guide itself was left standard. I have tried a few after market guides from and Ninco and although I like the screw guide, (SICH10) I find it a little expensive to use on mass. The Ninco ProRace guide, (with spring) is around a third of the price and is an excellent choice. Ninco ProRace braid is also supplied with the guides and is a good upgrade on the standard Ninco braid providing better electrical flow to the motor.

Ninco Prorace guides have longer posts so be sure to check that the guide is able to freely move up and down (particularly when used in slots with low bonnets). You may have to trim the top few millimetres off the top of the guide post to allow the guide more vertical travel, you can also leave the front body screws a little loose which allows a little more freedom.

The performance improvement upgrading the guide makes will come as no surprise. The slot can hold more speed through corners and desloting the car becomes far more difficult. I have vertical elevation sections on my Carrera track which can deslot even the best slot car under too much speed but the sprung ProRace guide really helps to keep the car from desloting through these sections.

Motor rotation (cost $0.1)

As Ninco motors are quite powerful they tend to slightly rotate within their housing on the chassis. Place the opened chassis on the track with the rear wheels slightly off the track surface. Run the motor with sudden bursts of power and observe the motor in its housing. If the motor is moving (rotating) it’s a good idea to fix it using a hot glue gun to glue the motor to the chassis. Run some hot glue down side of the motor, (1 side is usually enough) you only need one solid strip so don’t use too much as the hot glue adds weight. Allow the glue to set (10 minutes) and test the motor to ensure the motor rotation has been fixed.

Ninco noise

If there is one thing Ninco slot cars are famous for it’s their excessive noise levels. I liken the noise to steel ball bearings being thrown into a garbage disposal and it being turned on, just horrible! The good news is that if you have correctly done the above improvements to your slot you will have indirectly improved the noise levels of your Ninco. Unfortunately the only other way to improve the excessive noise levels of your slot is to run it as much as you can.

Chassis bracing

Ninco chassis are typically thin (light weight) and are made from a plastic that allows them to flex when under power which is not suitable for some track surfaces or types of tracks. Many slotters (particularly wooded track racers) apply some form of bracing to their Ninco chassis thus significantly reducing chassis flex and helping with the slot ‘hopping’ under too much power.

Personally I do not brace my Ninco slot cars so cannot speak from experience with regards to improvements made using bracing on plastic track. Slotters use pieces of piano wire cut to length and run diagonally across the inside of the chassis or pieces of printed circuit board (PCB) cut to size to fit inside the chassis. PCB is used as it is very rigid (and light) and therefore helps minimise flexing in the chassis. Cut a 1-2 inch piece to shape (typically to fit forward of the motor) and glue it in place with an epoxy glue like Araldite, etc.

‘Breaking in’ your Ninco

Last but far from least is the process of ‘breaking in’ your new Ninco. This is something that is critically important with all slot cars but something that Ninco slot cars benefit from particularly. Running your slot cars for 100s of laps greatly improves gearing, runs in motors, reduces noise levels and irons out most issues. Apart from those benefits its stacks of fun so get slotting!

Find this useful, check-out ManicSlot's How-to page by clicking the below link for more useful slotting tips and tricks.

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1 comment :

Paul Komnacki said...

I modify all my Nincos by bracing the rear axle mounts against the motor. It makes a huge difference to how smooth the car runs. Also, gearing is critical with the NC5 or NC14 motor. They can be geared taller (higher top speed) for tracks that have long straights such as the commercial track I race on in Canberra. We are finding that a well set up Ninco with a NC14 can lap faster than a well set up with the orange endbell motor. Cheers. Paul