Many beginner hobbyists struggle to choose shock oils for their RC cars. There’s no manual for oil properties; you’re on your own for the most part. It took me a while to figure out what weight shock oil is best for an RC crawler, how properties differ by oil weight, and what “oil weight” even refers to.
In this article, we’ll go over what makes shock oils appropriate for different RC setups and suggest a few recommendations for a basic crawler shock setup.
How to choose RC shock oil
The type and quality of shock oil you use greatly impact your RC car’s driving. Shock oil affects the shocks’ damping, improving your driving off-road or reducing your steering on-road.
You can easily get what you need if you focus on one factor: shock oil weight. Shock oil weight is the value assigned to the oil, which is assigned to RC car shocks, depending on the total weight they carry.
RC shock oil weight is stated in CST, the expression for Kinematic viscosity, or WT. The higher the figure, the more viscous (thicker) the oil, and the lower it is, the thinner the oil.
Generally, thicker oil is used for higher traction, while thinner oil works best for lower traction. You can also say that thick shock oil makes steering sharper and more accurate, but thinner oil improves grip in the rear.
RC enthusiasts often have to find the right balance of shock oil to maneuver varied terrain. You may need more than one type of shock oil to hit peak performance levels for your RC, so be open to exploring combinations.
Choosing RC Shock Oil by Weight – What You Should Know
400 – 500cST – 1:10 Touring (AWD)
You’re lucky if you have a touring car because most of them use the same oil in the front and rear. That said, it’s a good idea to stick to the basic principle of choosing shock oil: thinner oil gives a better grip but makes turning lazier.
If you don’t want your vehicle rolling in curves, stick to the 350 – 500cST range. This is the best oil choice for touring cars because their shorter springs don’t travel much.
Touring AWDs respond better to slight adjustments to the shock, so they fair best with a thin shock oil that allows them to retain more grip. I recommend the tried-and-tested 420cST Team Losi silicone shock oil. This 35WT shock oil provides just enough damping for the rear wheels and keeps steering fast and accurate.
300 – 350cST – 1:10 Buggy (2WD)
If you’re working with a 2WD buggy, you’ll need two types of shock oils.
For the front wheels, thicker oil will serve you better. Thick oil is ideal for high-traction surfaces and makes steering faster and more accurate. RC oils rated 300 – 350cST generally fit this application best.
The best oil for this kind of setup would be the Team Losi 338cST Racing silicone shock oil. With a viscous rating of 338cST, it is just right for RC cars that need very little damping.
For rear 2WD wheels, opt for shock oils rated 250 – 350cST. For the rear wheels, thinner oils will do the trick. They improve the rear wheel grip and make your rear wheels less “nervous” and unlikely to bounce. Bear in mind that damping needs to be just right to prevent rear bounce.
You can also use the 338cST shock oil for the rear wheels. It’s thick enough to provide damping but not too thick to loosen your RC car’s grip.
350 – 400cST – 1:10 4WD Buggy
With a 4WD buggy, you will most likely need two types of shock oils.
The front wheels benefit from thinner oils designed for low-traction surfaces. That’s unless your track is made up of a high-traction material like asphalt or mat, in which case, you’ll need at least a 500cSt weight shock oil.
A heavy-duty shock oil like the 516cST Team Losi silicone shock oil is perfect for such setups. The front wheels can afford to have some hard damping, so this is a good weight shock oil, even for RC crawlers.
As for the rear wheels, a 300 – 400cST weight shock oil is the right way to go for soft rear damping and driving on slippery surfaces.
For the rear, a 420cST shock oil like this Team Losi silicone oil should do the trick. You want to get just the right amount of damping at the rear to prevent bounces.
500 – 600cST – 1:8 Buggy
When you graduate to the 1:8 weight class, you need a lot more damping. Heavy shock oils are almost always the way to go, but some exceptions exist.
400 – 600cST is a good range to check out for the front wheels. It’s okay to want thinner oil, especially to give the front wheels a better grip. In most scenarios, damping and grip have to be a tradeoff.
300 – 500cST is plenty for the rear wheels, where damping needs to be softer to avoid bouncing. The 420cST Team Losi shock oil mentioned above would work well with this configuration.
Bonus tips for picking out the right weight RC shock oil
Stick to one brand
Shock oil ratings are inconsistent across brands — the viscosity varies dramatically depending on the manufacturer’s standards. As such, when deciding on the right weight shock oil for your RC crawler, ensure you’re comparing products from the same brand. They are more likely to have consistent viscosity ratings.
The Right Weight Shock Oil for RC Crawlers
RC crawlers are much heavier than cars in the 1:10 category, so you’ll need a high-weight shock oil. You can start with the 420cST Team Losi silicone oil and work your way to the high-damping 710cST Team Losi silicone shock oil.
Aim for just enough damping to make landings comfortable. Larger RC cars need more damping to avoid diving after big jumps. Damping should also be softer in the front to prevent under-steering. It shouldn’t be too soft to avoid diving after sharp braking.