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Old 01-26-2012, 11:31 AM   #1
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Default AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

My AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

A few days prior to this past Christmas, I ended a two or three year hiatus from RC by purchasing a slightly used Axial AX-10 RTC on eBay. I have been in-and-out of RC since I got a Tamiya Stadium Blitzer for Christmas as a kid, about twenty years ago. Historically, I eventually get bored with RC and sell everything, then later wish I still had the things I sold and have to buy it all over again (usually used). I have done this at least three or four times in my life, but this time I may be here to stay.

In full-scale, I drive a 1997 Jeep Wrangler (TJ). It's my second one, preceeded by a 1997 Toyota Tacoma, preceeded by a 1993 Nissan hard-body pickup. I discovered off-roading after aquiring that Nissan (used, in 1997), and have been an enthusiast ever since. However, upgrading a full-scale rig gets expensive fast, and with a family it is no where near top priority. My full-scale vehicles have never been modified past 31" tires, a 2" coil spring boost, and a little body armor. My off-roading consists mainly of muddy Pennsylvania trails and woodland obstacles. I've never had a vehicle with lockers or low enough gearing to go rock crawling, although it looks like a tremendous amount of fun. There is undoubtedly something exhilirating about going super-slow and driving over obstacles. I do not know what my future holds regarding full-scale off-roading, but the price, praticality, and accessibility of it on the smaller-scale of RC, combined with my nostaligia-lined love of the hobby, have drawn me back once again.

When people began building RC rock crawlers using TLT axles, Bender chassis, and an assortment of other parts that were specifically altered by the hobbiest, I was intrigued and did a lot of reading and research online. I was really tempted to try to build one of these rigs, but didn't have the money to invest at the time (easily $350+, all things considered), and the amount of specific parts needed was intimidating, not having a local hobby shop at the time. I never did build a TLT-based rig, and as RC rock crawling became more popular, factory designed crawler kits and RTRs began to emerge on the market.

When I recently wanted to re-enter the RC hobby once again, I decided that RC rock crawling would be the avenue that best suits my current stage in life. I live in town and don't have hardly any yard, I have two kids under the age of seven, and although I do have a local hobby shop now, the hours in which I have free time do not match up with the track hours at the hobby shop. Therefore, rock crawling in my basement was the chosen niche of the RC hobby.

This would not be my first venture into RC rock crawling. During my last stint of participation in RC, I owned a Duratrax Cliff Climber. After driving it a few times, I quickly became dissatisfied with the limited articulation the stock shocks allowed the suspension. I fabricated simple aluminum brackets to extend the shock mounts by around two inches, and installed AX-10 shocks with very light springs. After this mod, it had excellent articulation (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jb12345/4468004645/in/set-72157628516765205/), but I was still discontent with the rig. It seemed to lack power, and already had the smallest pinions that Duratrax offered. I didn't want to spring for their more powerful motors, and I generally didn't like the motor over axle setup. As I mentioned, I liked the idea of the TLT-based crawlers, and I wished the Cliff Climber had that style of drivetrain.

Before buying my AX-10 last month, I did a lot of research. In the course of this, I discovered the RC Crawler forum. It has been a wealth of information, ideas, and advice. My AX-10 rig would not be what it is (or what it will yet become) without this forum and it's members. I decided that I wanted to go with either an AX-10 or a SCX-10. The SCX-10 is fairly pricy compared to the AX-10, and when I found a slightly used AX-10 RTC on eBay for $175, I didn't think twice about clicking "Buy It Now". The prior owner even included a 7-cell NiMH battery with overnight charger. This was nice because it kept the initial cost down, and also because it taught me the importance of a log center of gravity.

Since buying my AX-10 about a month ago, I have made numerous modifications to it. It is not finished, but it is at a stopping point in the progression of it's build. I had wanted to write a build thread as I made the modifications to it, but was too excited to just get to work to stop long enough to post anything worthwhile. Now that I am at this pause in the build, I would like to discuss the modifications I have completed, including the reasons for them, how they were performed, their result, and their cost. It feels backwards, writing a build thread about modifications that are already competed, and that is why I titled this thread "My Backwards Build Thread". I hope that you enjoy reading this, and if you are a fellow newbie to the AX-10 I hope this gives you ideas on modifications you can do to your own rig. Conversly, there are numerous members of this forum who have more time and experience with RC rock crawling then myself, to include competitions. If anything I am writing is incorrect, or if anyone has pertinent information to add, please feel welcome to speak up. With that said, let's begin.
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:35 AM   #2
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

Tie Rod and Drag Link

Upon the maiden voyage of my AX-10 RTC, I noticed that the stock steering linkage was way too flexible. Under the power of the stock steering servo, the tie rod would buckle if one tire was bound up in an obstacle. Also, the stock rig has no toe-out at all. It may even have slight toe-in. The lack of any toe-out makes it more difficult than it needs to be for it to turn in a tight circle. A vehicle with the drivetrain completely locked (center diff, front diff, and rear diff all solid / spools) needs all the help it can get when it comes to steering sharply. I wanted to replace the tie rod with a stronger one, and one that would add some toe-out. Because the stock drag link joins mid-way up the stock tie rod and not at the knuckle arm (_MG_3460 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!), the drag link would need replaced along with the tie rod.

Several companies offer aftermarket steering components for the AX-10. However, ever since my days of dreaming about building a TLT-based rig, I have wanted to make my own suspension links. Making a tie rod and drag link would be no different than making upper or lower suspension links. The decision to make my own links was one of a few I have experienced in life, where a decision had to be made between buying the part itself, or buying a tool to make the part. When practical, I try buy the tool instead of the actual part. It forces me to learn something new. For this project, I finally purchased a Dremel tool. I have thought about buying one for a long time, and actually bought a cheap-o one from Big Lots once, but quickly returned it because it was junk. This time, I bought the Dremel brand. It was $50 at WalMart, and worth every penny. It has been the near-perfect tool for making links. I also purchased a #8-32 tap, #8-32 all-thread, 3' of brake line, and Traxxas Revo rod ends. I didn't buy the T-handle tap wrench and used vice grips instead. The total cost of these materials was around $20 - $25.

There is a good bit of debate around the best material to use over the all-thread when making links. Some people say 1/4" aluminum tube, some people say 1/4" stainless steel tube, and some people say brake line. In my opinion, it seems like stainless steel would be best because it would be the hardest, and thus would gouge less and slide more when on the rocks. However, I already had enough money invested in this part of my project and didn't want to splurge for the stainless tube online (I couldn't find any 1/4" stainless steel or aluminum tube locally), so I went to Advance Auto for brake line. I took a piece of the all-thread into the store with me, gave the clerk a brief description of what I was doing, and asked him for a 2' - 3' section of brake line that fit snugly over the all-thread. I don't recall what it cost, but it was not much.

Replacing the tie rod and drag link provides two benefits. One benefit is the added strengh that the new links provide. The steering linkage will no longer buckle or flex when under stress. The second benefit is the slight toe-out (002b | Flickr - Photo Sharing!), which provides improved steering because the inside tire will be at a sharper angle than it would be with the stock tie rod. When making the new tie rod, I followed the same general shape as the stock one (slight angles at either end - not perfectly straight across). This will be important later, upon additional upgrades to the steering system. After the additional upgrades, which I plan to discuss in a future post on this thread, if I had make the tie rod straight across, it would have contact edthe pumpkin and limited the steering. I also put a little bend in the drag link, just before it attaches to the knuckle arm. The purpose of this bend is to keep the drag link from contacting the servo horn when at full steer to the left.

Because the tie rod and drag link both now need to attach to the end of steering knuckle arm, the stock screws that used to attach the tie rod would no longer work. The one that attaches both the tie rod and drag link would not be long enough. While I was swapping out these steering compenents, I also installed aluminum steering knuckles. Judging from my prior experiences with RC, I didn't expect the plastic steering knuckles to last long. I found the aluminum knuckles on eBay for $10, plus $3 shipping. While buying the tap and all-thread, I also picked up some #4-40 screws and nuts. I chose #4-40 size because they fit nicely through the Traxxas rod end balls, and coincidentially (and much to my delight) they threaded perfectly through the aluminum knuckle arms. I used 1" long on the drag link side of the tie rod and 3/4" on the other side.

This has been a worthwhile mod, without doubt. If you already own a Dremel tool, the only cost would be the above mentioned $20 - $25 spent on materials, and $13 or so if we also want aluminum steering knuckles. While replacing all of the suspension links, at one point I did have to buy another package of rod ends, and the #4-40 size screws and bolts need factored in, though they didn't cost much. Taking into consideration all of these materials needed to replace the tie rod, drag link, and all eight suspension arms (ten links total), the cost per link is probably no more than $4. That means replacing the tie rod and drag link cost $8, not counting the Dremel tool. It cost $21 if we include the aluminum steering knuckles. Not only was this a worthwhile mod of reasonable cost, but the experience of doing it myself has also been a blessing.
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Old 01-26-2012, 04:56 PM   #3
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

Inboarding the Lower Control Arms

In the short time I have had my AX-10, I have noticed how the lower control arms can get hung up on a rock, at the point where they attach to the chassis. If the lower control arms / links were moved inside the chassis plates, it would provide a smoother surface (only a small screw head to interfere) to slide past the rocks. Additionally, at this point in my build I was still in pursuit of increased steering. Inboarding the links at the axle ends is essential in order to make more room for the tires to turn.

Several aftermarket skid plates are available that are made for the specific purpose of inboarding the links at the chassis end of them. I considered buying one of these skid plates, and especially liked one on The Crawler Store's website that also included the hardware to inboard the links at the axle end, but it was sold out. Since I had already purchased the Dremel tool, I decided to try my hand at modifying the existing skid plate to get the links side the chassis plates.

The edges of the stock skid plate that run along the chassis plates are the stoutest portion of the skid plate, so I didn't want to remove any material from them. I did remove material on the inside of these areas, but left as much as possible in the center (001 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, 002 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). I didn't want to remove any more material than necessary and risk weakening the skid plate.

While working on this project of inboarding the links, I also replaced the stock links with some made of the all-thread and brake line I used for the tie rod and drag link. I wanted the added strength of these new links, and I made them 1/8" shorter than the stock ones. I did this because previously, I had the links attached to the center mounting hole on the chassis end, in order to give the rig slightly more ground clearance under the skid plate. The stock AX-10 RTC comes set up very low, which is good for a low center of gravity, but I wanted a little extra room underneath. Since I was inboarding the links and not wanting to remove any more material than necessary from the skid plate, I only made the outside mounting holes available for use. To compensate for not being able to use the center mounting holes, I made the new links 1/8" shorter.

To bolt the links to the skid plate in the new location, new hardware was required. I used #4-40 x 1/2" screws and nuts (006 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). One of the nuts did have clearance issues with the motor when I tried to screw it on. I loosened the four screws that hold the transmission to the skid plate, finished tightening that nut, and tightened the four screws. I do have a little concern that the nuts may get knocked loose while crawling over the rocks, but have not had any trouble yet. I thought of using thread lock to help avoid this potential issue, but didn't have any handy so I used a drop of super glue on the threads instead.

Inboarding the links at the axle end was as simple as removing the old hardware and replacing it with new, basically. I unbolted the stock hardware, and replaced the screws with #4-40 x 1 1/2" screws. I put the rod ends outside of the axle mounts, on the pumpkin side of the mounts. I put the shock ends right next to them on the inside of the mounts, and I used the balls from the end of the stock lower control arms to take up space between the shock ends and the outside of the axle mounts (007 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). This seemed to work out well, but I did have a little concern again about the nuts being knocked loose while crawling. I used a little super glue on the threads again, and put double nuts on each screw.

Driving the rig after this mod is noticably different. It slides past rocks where it would have previously gotten snagged or hung up. The cost to make the links was about $4 each, and the hardware was about $1. That makes the total cost for this mod $17.

Last edited by Josh_Br; 01-26-2012 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 01-26-2012, 07:04 PM   #4
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

in board your links of the chassis, see where the front 3 link is mounted to the chassis?? move it in to the closest hole to the skidplate, gives the rig raked look and better performance. weight in the wheels, get some tires, a fancy servo.. does your rig have the new 2.4ghz electronics?? if so when you do upgrade the steering servo the AE-2 ESC does not like the higher torque servo's like the hitec 7955TG. get rid of all plastic links, i'd start with the steering and drag link.
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Old 01-26-2012, 07:58 PM   #5
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

good luck with ur build
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Old 01-26-2012, 08:01 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AX10wannabe View Post
in board your links of the chassis, see where the front 3 link is mounted to the chassis?? move it in to the closest hole to the skidplate, gives the rig raked look and better performance. weight in the wheels, get some tires, a fancy servo.. does your rig have the new 2.4ghz electronics?? if so when you do upgrade the steering servo the AE-2 ESC does not like the higher torque servo's like the hitec 7955TG. get rid of all plastic links, i'd start with the steering and drag link.
Thanks man. Much of that I can mark off your list; some of the photos are from along the way, not the current state of the rig. I'll discuss the decisions I made in regards to some of those things in the near future. Thanks for your input!
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Old 01-27-2012, 05:56 AM   #7
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

Allways good to see new builds with the AX-10

D.I.Y Mods for AX-10... what have you done...


AX-10 Templates

Sean

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Old 01-27-2012, 08:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

Thanks guys. I hope to put more up later today.
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:37 AM   #9
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Tires and Wheels

Tires are one of the most important parts of a vehicle, scale or full-scale. If the tires cannot be effective at their intended purpose, the entire remainder of the vehicle is useless. I made the following four modifications to the stock tires and wheels on my AX-10:

1) I trimmed the edges of the tire foam at a 45* angle (_MG_3490 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!, _MG_3491 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). This provides less support for the edges of the tires, so the rubber can wrap around obstacles better.

2) I bought lead weights with adhesive backing at my local hobby store, Big Dog RC (_MG_3485 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). They were $5 per six ounces. I bought three packages of them, and put three ounces on each rear wheel and six ounces on each front wheel (_MG_3493 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). This held the rig to the ground nicely and made great use of the suspension's flexibility, but seemed to be a little too much weight in the front for the stock steering servo, if the tires were in even the slightest bind. I removed half of the weight from the front for the time being, but planned to put it back after upgrading the steering servo.

3) I drilled two holes in the inside of each wheel (180* from each other), being careful not to drill through the lead weights (wheel hole | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). This allows air to flow in and out of the tire as needed, which allows the tire to compress more and wrap around obstacles better.

4) The edges of the stock AX-10 tires have long, solid chunks of tread. I snipped them so they became two smaller pieces instead (tread | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). This seems to give them slightly better grip.

I love free mods, and three of these four were free. Of the four, I'd say the two that seemed to make the most difference were the weights and drilling the holes. However, I also noticed a little better grip after separating the large tread lugs into two. Total cost for these mods: $15.

I have considered upgrading to 5.5" tall tires at some point, to provide a little more room under the rig. Does anyone have any thoughts / advice on 5.5's?
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Old 01-27-2012, 01:15 PM   #10
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Upper Control Arms and Servo Plates

Since experiencing what it is like to drive an AX-10 with a 7.2v NiMH stick battery mounted in the stock location, I wanted to mount my batteries on the axle, to lower the rig's center of gravity. To accomplish this, I needed to install a servo plate on one of the axles that was large enough to hold the battery. If I was to be replacing the servo plate, it seemed like a good opportunity to make new upper control arms / links. I also wanted to make the switch to LiPo. LiPo batteries give more bang for the buck in terms of power, per size and weight of the battery.

I chose a Vanquish Products servo and battery plate to go on the front axle, and a TCS Crawlers servo plate for the rear axle. Both had places to mount individual upper links, which was different than the stock triangular setup. The stock setup worked well, but I just didn't like all of the plastic. I questioned its long-term survival. I was glad to make more all-thread and brake line links. I originally planned to mount the battery and servo on the front axle, but there wasn't room for both. The tire rubbed on the edges of the battery (a FlightPower 1600 mAh 2s) at full steer, which made me a little nervous. I tried adding a piece of angle steel from an Erector set to protect the battery, but that just interfered with steering even more. I have seen people turn the steering servo on its end to make more room up front, but I decided to just put the Vanquish servo plate and battery on the rear axle, since there would be no servo back there to take up space, and also because the LiPo battery doesn't weigh much. I put the TCS servo plate on the front axle.

While measuring for the new links, I left the stock suspension pieces in place and installed the servo plates. This allowed me to measure properly in order to make links that would keep the existing upper suspension geometry. After the new links were installed, I removed the stock suspension.

At this point, I was glad to be completely rid of all of the stock plastic suspension pieces (008 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). They might have lasted for years, who knows, but I was glad they were gone. The new set up is very strong. Also being rid of the weight of a NiMH stick pack in the stock location was a great thing. The rig is much less top heavy. It now seemed to cling to inclines instead of toppling off of them. The weight of the LiPo battery being mounted on the rear axle was not noticable.

The cost for this mod was as follows: Four new links, around $16 total. Vanquish servo and battery plate, around $20. TCS servo plate, around $15. #4-40 mounting hardware, $2. Total: $53. A little pricier than the other mods I had done at this point, but still worth it, even just for getting rid of the NiMH stick pack on top of the rig.
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Old 01-30-2012, 11:30 AM   #11
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Default Re: AX-10 Backwards Build Thread

This thread turned into way too much talking (by me) and not enough photos. I'm going to abandon this thread and start a new one with less words, more pictures: My new AX10 build thread

Thanks,
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