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Dyeing to Look Cool
by Tony Arnold
As published in RC Car Magazine August 2007
all parts are spotlessly clean and have been washed down with soap to
remove any oil, otherwise spotting may occur.
Liquid dye works best.
Use at least 1/4 bottle of dye per ½ gallon of simmering water.
Keep the water simmering, stirred, and parts submerged through the
Allow plenty of time for the dye to work into the pieces.
Increasing dye amount and/or soak time will increase depth of color.
Reuse the dye
- my wife ended up with a couple scarlet red t-shirts after I was
done with my parts.
I think we all can agree that basic black chassis parts and dyeable
white wheels will forever rule as top part colors, but what if we want to
turn some heads? In this case, our house Traxxas Rustler with new dyeable gray Traxxas parts were
just begging for some highly durable custom colored cool. A couple key how-to's
from RC Car will add a that same custom touch to your ride without a three day clean
up process and having your hands look like you just escaped
from a freshman initiation prank. To walk through the process, we are
going to dye our trusty Rusty with readily available Rit clothing dye. Of course we also have
a few little upgrades planned to turn our Rustler into a real head turner
About Rit Dye
Rit fabric dyes are available in almost every grocery, craft, and
superstore around the country and normally cost less than $4 per bottle.
This is a pretty cheap and easy upgrade as one bottle will easily dye
over 5lbs of parts. Rit fabric dye is first and foremost non-toxic, so
the only disposal and handling concerns are where to pour out the dye
bath after you are done - I pour mine outside in the dirt. I prefer the
liquid dye from a results and mess perspective, as I find the powder dye tends to
be messier and needs to be dissolved first.
There are a couple
dyeing methods, but the old "stovetop" method consistently
delivers the best results because heat can be regulated throughout the
dyeing process whether the parts needs five minutes or an hour. Following
this method, I grabbed my 4 gallon thrift store pot, dumped in all the
disassembled and clean dyeable parts and covered them with an extra 2"-3" of water.
Large parts such as a chassis can be flipped in the pot several times
during the process, so you don’t necessarily need everything completely
submerged. All the parts were
pulled out, the pot placed on my grill burner and then the water was
brought to a slow boil. Do as many parts as you can
at once, however only use as much water and dye as is needed – no
since using 3 gallons of water and a bottle of dye for a set of
wear old clothes and rubber gloves.
An yard sale pot and cooking tongs
is a good investment for use in dyeing and ongoing cleaning.
Having an extra
bottle of dye is handy when doing dark, vivid colors and/or lots of parts, just in case a little extra color
Only use as much dye as needed, keep a
tight lid on un-used dye for later use.
Any typical RC nylon or polyester based parts will
take dye, Lexan will
Simmer, don’t boil. Boiling may misshape some plastics.
Cover your workspace with a plastic drop cloth or work outside.
FYI - Dye will stain tiles, countertops, concrete and decks.
sure to have wet sponges and paper towels on hand to wipe up spills.
Clean containers and sinks immediately after dyeing by
cleaning with foaming bathroom cleaner, hot water and powdered bleach cleanser
Need a custom color? See “Dyeing
Techniques” on Rit’s site.
My furry helper inspected and assured all the parts were clean and
grouped together. Thinking about parts retrieval in the beginning is a
plus, one of my tricks is to loosely attach a zip tie or wire to groups
of parts. My dog thought this was to make them easier for him carry
around. This is the point you really want to assure your plastic
drop cloth is place and your gloves and tongs are handy, because
it's about to get messy.
Getting Your Color On
Once the water started boiling, I dropped the heat to a high simmer or about
medium low, slipped on some latex gloves, and then added about a ¼ bottle
of Rit dye per ½ gallon. In my case that was two bottles of dye, noting that’s stronger than what is
recommended for fabric. Stir, add back in all your parts, and stir
again. Occasionally, give the entire brew a careful stir to assure
uniform color. No matter how careful you are at his point, you are going to get dye on
your hands and your clothes so be prepared.
So how long do we cook our RC parts? That depends how dark or vivid
you want them. Keep checking and pull them out when the color looks
good. For lighter colors 5-10 minutes is all that is required.
Deep dark colors such as the intensely dark red wine color took an hour. The three keys to getting deep rich colors are using
more dye, maintaining simmering water temperatures, and allowing
adequate time in the dye bath. Typically I get the color almost where I
want it and then just turn off the heat and let things cool down for 15
Finishing & Cleaning Up
When the desired color is reached remove the parts using your kitchen
tongs or by using the wires and place the parts into a bucket and let
completely cool and drain. Keep in mind even though most of the dye has
absorbed into the plastic, excess dye from the bath will still stain, so
be careful. If you have planned to do custom colors by combining
dyes, now is the time to add the next color for the next round of dyeing
- as an example I could have added some yellow for an orange dye bath,
or blue for a purple dye bath - add in the next set of parts and repeat
Once the parts have cooled, rinse them well either in a utility sink
or outside to prevent staining. Clean up on most sinks and dishes can be
done with foaming bathroom cleaner and abrasive powder bleach cleaner.
Dye and paint are just cosmetic upgrades, but they add
individuality and a custom component to your ride that makes everyone
take a second look. As you can see the Rustler’s chassis, shocks,
steering linkage and drive yokes came out great,
but we couldn’t stop there.
Along with an aluminum Idler gear upgrade,
we upgraded the power with a Novak GTB 4.5R
brushless motor/ESC system and A123 Lithium Ion 2S pack to make the
Rustler a lighter and faster runner. RPM set us up with pretty much the
entire accessory line up of their tougher and lighter bolt on Rustler upgrades. RPM parts included
front and rear arms, shock cups, 2-stage shock pistons (which I am a
huge fan of), gear cover, 5x11 bearing carriers plus Boca Green
Seal bearings, caster blocks, bumper, and Talon wheels with Losi Red
Edge and Step-Pin tires.
To up the tune-ability of the Rustler we upgraded to the mind-blowingly
beautiful FLM - Fast Lane Machine $15 front and $24 rear billet machined aluminum shock
towers - yeah we know that's a smoking deal.
These very reasonably priced parts provided drooling amounts of tuning
adjustments that we have always wanted on the Rustler. Adjustable camber links will come on the next round of
upgrades, however since a stock link was already in need of replacement, we are
giving RPM's indestructible fixed camber links a bashing workout while
we fiddle with all the new FLM shock tower adjustments and tune all that
Our trusty Rusty now screams custom, looks better than new,
and with the upgrades in durability, performance, and adjustability it should surprise more
than a few. Amazing what a bottle of Rit dye and a bag full of tricks
can do - very cool.