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Understanding Glow Plugs For Nitro Cars


The glow plug is one amazing piece of engineering, the closest anyone has ever got to a true perpetual motion machine, you radio controlled cars engine will run without anything apart from fuel, no spark plugs or electrical ignition, these babies run on the glow.

Selecting the correct glow plug is not that difficult you just have to understand how they work. Truth be told they are not exactly perpetual motion machine, they still require a little kick with a 1.5V battery to start the glow, after that they will keep glowing as long as the engine is running.


Turbo or Standard 

A turbo plug will only work in a turbo engine, these do not have tiny 1:10 Scale fans blowing air into the engine like there full sized counter parts, the turbo plug is tapered at the end to create a tighter fit to the engine head, this in turn increases power slightly, you can't use a turbo plug in a standard engine, these require standard plugs.

The Glow Plug Temperature Rating 

You need to find the right temperature glow plug for your engine, a hotter plug will work better when the engine is a little short of heat, while you should use a cooler glow plug if you have a large engine that produces a lot of heat.Hotter glow plugs also make it easier to start your engine, while the colder glow plugs will give you slightly better performance during you run.

There is no right or wrong setup, everything needs to be taken into account, from the temperature of the air to the height above sea level these all affect they way the glow plug will perform.

Quality over quantity. 

When buying a radio controlled glow plug it's always, as so many things in file, worth your while to get the slightly more expensive glow plug, these generally have a more consistent tune and heat and will often outlast the cheaper plugs by several runs, which makes up for the extra cost.

Reading your glow plug 

Using a few simple methods it's easy to find out how close you are to a perfect tune by inspecting the glow plug, if there is a surplus of oil on the head then they are running to rich and need to lean up your mixture, if your glow plug is a grey color with a small amount of oil then your spot on with your tune, likewise if there is little to no oil and your glow plug filament is bent or thinning where it connects to the base of the glow plug then you are too lean and need to richen your mixture.

Some general points about glow plugs 

  • Never touch the filament, this is very fragile and doing so can break the filament and ruin a plug.
  • Protect your engine by only buying good glow plugs from decent hobby shops
  • Keep your glow plugs in a cool dry place, they don't like moisture
  • Always select the right glow plug
  • Follow the recommended break in procedures for your engine.
  • When Breaking in an engine chances are that the plug you use will be ruined.
  • Keep your engine in tune
  • Never tighten a glow plug too much, it doesn't need to be as tight as you think
  • Watch out for nitro detonation, this means your using the wrong plug or your tune is way off.
  • Use the right glow starter
  • Ask other racers for help, the RC community is an awesome one and someone will always be willing to help you
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