how to start a nitro rc car without glow starter

How To Start A Nitro RC Car Without Glow Starter?[Complete Guide]


A corrupted glow starter might get you into trouble while you’re having fun with your RC. Undoubtedly it’ll spoil our fun for what you were waiting for. So, it’s good to know the alternatives to the glow starter.

So, how to start a nitro RC car without a glow starter? 

The most effective way to start your nitro RC car without a glow starter is to make your own DIY glow starter. Also, you can use an electric starter to start your RC car. Another way to start a nitro RC without a glow starter is by attaching a starter box to your nitro RC car. Or you can use a rechargeable battery to complete the circuit of the glow starter.

These are some of the options to start a nitro RC car without glow starters in short. Want to learn more? Check out the complete tutorial to understand everything about glow starter alternatives.

Let’s begin-

Is it Possible to Start A Nitro RC Without A Glow Starter?

Yes, you can start a nitro RC car without the help of a glow plug.

In fact, the very belief about needing a glow starter to start a nitro engine is a misconception. Glow plugs are a mechanism that holds the energy long enough to transfer it to the engine. And the glow starter helps to start the initial ignition of the glow plug.

Starting a nitro engine without a glow starter doesn’t damage the nitro engine in any way. You can use any other electric starter or starter box to help power the glow plug as long as the starter is compatible with your nitro RC car.

You can still find some Nitro RC cars that come with their own ignition tools instead of glow ignitors.

A nitro engine requires a high temperature to burn the fuel mixture and a glow plug helps to hasten the start by transferring a heated air and fuel combo.

So while it’s recommended to use a glow starter to start a nitro RC car, you can also look for other alternatives for glow starters.

However, if you’re sticking to glow starters, make sure you have a good one. A bad glow plug will require you to keep the glow starter plugged in all the time. Or else, the engine won’t run once the ignitor is removed.

If you take off the glow igniter for bad glow plugs, the engine will die off right when you disconnect the glow igniter. So in this case, you need a constant source of ignition as an alternative for a glow starter.

How to Start Nitro RC without Glow Starter: 4 Alternative Options

A glow starter is a simple tool with a battery on the stick that ignites energy to the engine. Here the battery acts as the energy source and the wired coil transfers the energy. 

The platinum coil reacts with the nitro fuel and generates heat rapidly. And that transfers energy and starts the engine instantly. 

As we’ve observed, a glow starter is just a helping hand to start nitro engines. Therefore we just need to replace the starter with similar mechanisms or tools. 

Below, we’ve discussed 4 cool alternatives that are very handy to execute. Make sure to read till the end of the tutorial.

Method 1: Using Only a Rechargeable Battery 

Perhaps the simplest and easiest way to start a nitro RC car without a glow starter is by using a rechargeable battery. Any AA or AAA rechargeable battery will do our job. But it must satisfy two conditions. 

Firstly, its size should be enough to fit on the opening of the glow plug starter. Secondly, its negative pole should be wrapped up the whole surface of the battery. 

Normally the negative is found on the bottom part only. But in that case, the whole battery case should be negatively charged. Energizer NIMH is such a battery that satisfies both of these constraints. 

The methodology is very simple. Put the battery down into the glow starter. The whole battery case should touch the glow starter head. Otherwise, it won’t complete the circuit.

Hold tight to the battery and pull the T-Handle of the pull starter till the engine starts. After one or two attempts your nitro will growl and start. If you don’t have any pull starter then you should try starting a nitro car without it

Method 2: Build Your DIY Glow Starter

It’s a three-minute task if you put proper concentration to make a DIY glow starter. Here’s all the things you’ll need to make a DIY glow starter:

  • A Cordless Drill (12 volts or larger)
  • A Drill Bit Extension Holder
  • One 1/4″ and 12mm Socket Bit 
  • One Battery (AA)
  • Two Alligator Clip Wires
  • Two Metal Nails
  • An Electrical Tape

Now go through the following steps and know how to build a DIY glow starter at home

  • First of all take your battery, nails, and electrical tape. Attach those nails on both sides of the battery and tape around the battery tightly. Make sure the nail ends stick out past the end of the battery. 
  • Connect your alligator clips with each of the nail ends. Make sure they don’t touch one other. It may result in unwanted short circuits and fire breaks.
  • Now, connect the red wire to the heat sink of the engine and the black wire onto the plug housing. 
  • Set up the bit driver with the drill machine. Put your drill on the one-way bearing and turn it on. And it’ll growl. Your nitro has successfully started. 

That’s how you can start a nitro using a drill without any hassle of a glow igniter. 

Method 3: Electric Start 

The electric start method is divided into two parts. Let’s discuss those methods consecutively.

Shaft Starter 

It’s a type of starter that has a unique gearbox. A shaft is attached to the end of a handheld electric motor. This type of starter works by pushing a button to start the engine. 

Some of the cars are equipped with electric starters. But for the other model, this starter is retrofitted with it.

Onboard Glow Plug Igniter

It has a small motor for the electric start system on the board. A handheld battery-powered tool is used to supply power and ignite the nitro engine. 

Method 4: Starter Box 

You can make a replacement glow starter with a starter box. Sometimes it’s called a bump starter also. It is simply a black box with a flywheel and an energy source inside.

Just follow two simple steps to get your nitro started. 

Put your RC onto the starter box. Adjust the guide planes and pins to make the flywheels align with each other.

After everything is properly aligned, turn the starter power on. And your nitro will growl and your engine will be ready to go.

It’s very easy to execute. You just need to have a solid power source to gear up the starter anytime. Check out the list below to find the best products within your budget.

What is the Proper Way of Starting a Nitro RC Car?

Well, we just covered how to start a nitro RC car without a glow starter. But what if you do decide to go with a glow starter? I mean, its the recommended way to go, isn’t it?

So, here’s how you can properly start a nitro car:

Step 1: To begin, make sure that you have enough fue in your tank. Keep an eye not to have excess fuel in your tank.

Step 2: The next step is to prime the engine. This process involves transferring the fuel from the tank to the carburetor. To do that, hold the exhaust and uphold the starter. Wait until the fuel flows through the created path.

Step 3: Hold the exhaust and uphold the starter until you get to see the fuel passing through the path.

If you want to do it manually, then you can take off the pressure tube and blow into the pipe.

You will then prime the engine, which is basically to get the fuel from the tank to the carburetor. It is done by holding the exhaust and upholding the starter until you see fuel going through the mentioned path.

Assess all the components from the receiver to the transmitter, and once you’re done with your testing, connect the glow starter to the engine and keep pulling the starter until your Nitro RC starts.

It’s really that simple!

Should You Fully Charge your Glow Starter?

This entirely depends on how frequently are you going to use your RC.

Let me explain, your glow starter needs to be charged before using it to start your Nitro RC engine. And it takes an average of 12 hours to charging at 170mAh to get it from 0 to 100% health. It also takes around 15 hours on average to discharge a fully charged glow starter.

Now, if you fully charge your glow starter, make sure that you use the starter as soon as possible to drain its charge. Not discharging the glow starter will slowly diminish the glow starter life, damaging it in the long run.

Overcharging the glow starter will also damage it.

I usually recommend everyone to get a AA NiMH battery with a minimum of 2000mah capability to charge their glow starter.

How Long Does A Nitro RC Run With Glow Starter?

How much power a glow starter drains solely depends on how fast the engine of the nitro RC starts. Every extra second the engine takes to start drains more and more power from the glow starter.

Depending on the quality of the glow starter, the longevity of a glow starter can range from 10 minutes to an entire year.

For example, a 1800mah glow starter can last anywhere from 10-15 minutes. This number can rise up to around 3 days if you go for a 3500mah glow starter. Many RC users shared their experience, claiming a solid 2 weeks of backup from a 5000mah glow start.

So, in short, the estimated longevity from glow starters can be very vague.

How to Tell If Glow Starter Is Working?

As we mentioned beforehand, glow starters can be pretty fragile and can die from minimal usage. So if you want to test whether or not your glow starter is working, you can do it pretty easily.

Simply take your glow starter and hold the glow plug against it. Once you connect the glow plug with the glow starter, a beaming light will emit from the glow starter. That way, you can know that the glow starter is good for use.

But if the light emitted from the glow starter deems too mild or dim, then you might need to look for a replacement.

And that’s simply how you know if your glow starter is working or not.


Question: How long does the glow starter last?

Answer: About 20-30 tanks depending on the run in between tanks. If the starter remains unused for long, it gradually loses its lifespan. So keep it on work for long and sustainable performance. 

Question: How long does an electric glow starter take to charge?

Answer: Minimum 12 hours for the initial charge. However, to be fully charged it takes 20-24 hours for an 1800 mAh battery. Here we used a 100 mA charger. 

Question: How do we know if our glow starter is bad?

Answer: Deformed coil, turns in grey instead of silver, removal of the igniter stops the engine. These are the common traits of a bad glow igniter. That means the igniter loses its effectiveness and needs to be replaced soon. 


Our discussion has come to an end. We’ve covered everything about how to start a nitro RC car without a glow starter. You’ll find it easy to enjoy your RC journey more profoundly. 

Wish you all the best for your next run. Don’t forget to spill your thoughts in the following comment section below.

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