Axial SCX10 II Upgrades on a Tight Budget

For many RC car enthusiasts the ability to upgrade their rig is the best part of this awesome hobby. Thankfully the selection of hop-ups available for vehicles like Axial SCX10 II are quite extensive. Heck, you could probably replace every part of that truck with upgrades from the aftermarket. While that's great, not every upgrade has to be expensive. Some of the best upgrades come from your imagination. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. And that's what this article is all about. I came up with a few cheap or free upgrades that the average hobbyist can do to their SCX10 II on a tight budget.

Cutting Foam Inserts
One of the first things I noticed when building the SCX10 II kit was that the tires seemed to be a bit on the stiff side. Sure, they climb pretty well, but I still feel that a softer tire would be an improvement. Of course, the easiest solution would be to throw a set of stickier set of tires on it and call it a day. But with a decent set of tires running in the $50 range, that wouldn't follow the "tight budget" part of this article, would it? Instead, I've decided to try cutting the foam inserts. Back when I built my AX10 I cut its foam inserts and it really seemed to help. So why not try it out on the SCX10 II?
For those uninitiated in cutting foam inserts, the idea is to remove enough of the foam so that the tires can flex more, giving them a better contact patch and additional traction. At the same time, you don't want to remove too much foam or the sidewall could deform, resulting in odd handling characteristics. Which is why we don't remove the foam inserts altogether. One of the time tested ways of achieving just the right of foam removal is to cut them in a star pattern. This may sound tough to accomplish but it's really not that hard.
To start, you need to use a sharpie to mark the star pattern you'd like to cut. If you check out the photo below you can see how I managed to get an even star pattern. Just mark two lines in an "X" pattern across the insert. Then use that to mark an intersecting "X". The next step is to carefully draw a circle around the center of the insert. This will be how deep the star pattern goes. Finally, use the previously drawn shapes to help you draw the the final star shape.
Once you have the star pattern drawn on each of the SCX10 II's foam inserts, it's time to start cutting. I've tried quite a few different ways of getting this done and the best solution for me was to use a thin hacksaw blade to carefully cut along the marked lines. It doesn't give the prettiest results but it works fine our purposes. Once all of the foams are cut you can re-install them and give 'em a try! Here are before and after photos showing how much more the tire contacts the ground after cutting the inserts.

High Clearance Axle Screws

After running my SCX10 II for some time I kept noticing that the axles would easily get hung up on sharp rocks. After doing some testing, it turns out that the part of the axles that were getting hung up the most were the screws that hold the diff covers in place. The SCX10 II's diff covers are held to the axles with four steel socket head screws and that's the problem. Instead of the axle housing being able to glide over rocks they come in contact with, the socket head of the screw hooks onto the edge of the rock, stopping the truck in its tracks. Luckily, the solution is quite simple.
All you have to do is replace them with button head screws of the same size. More specifically, the SCX10 II uses M2.5x18mm screws in this location. You might be able to find these screws at your local hardware store. Otherwise they're easily found from sellers on Amazon and eBay for just pennies a piece. Check out these before and after photos. You can easily see why the original screws would get hung up on the rocks and why the new button head screws solve this problem. While you could swap out all four screws on both axles, you really only need to change the bottom two on each.

Dying Parts

Something that has bothered me from the second I built the SCX10 II is Axial's choice of red plastic for the differential covers and suspension mounts. Sure, that red really makes everything pop, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the scale looks department. Luckily, we can easily dye those parts black for just a few bucks. First things first, you need to get yourself some Rit fabric dye. You should be able to find this at your local grocery store on the laundry detergent aisle. Most craft stores should stock it as well. It is offered in liquid and powder form, with the powder being less than half the price of the liquid. In my experience the powder form works just as well so that's what I'm using. For those wondering, you can only dye plastics darker, not lighter. If these parts were white you could dye them just about any color you'd like. But since they're already red your choices are limited to a darker red, purple, or black.
Before we get started there are a few things I should warn you of. First off, it seems obvious but I'll say it anyway. This dye will ruin just about anything it touches. If it splashes on your clothing or on your wife's favorite kitchen towels, they'll be beyond repair. So, be careful. Secondly, not all parts can be dyed. I've found that most RC car manufacturers use a blend of nylons that accept dye just fine. But others, such as Tamiya, use ABS plastic for their parts which cannot be dyed. When in doubt, you may want to ask other hobbyists about their experience with dying parts on your particular model before proceeding. With that said, dying RC car parts couldn't be easier. Just fill a pot with tap water, pour in your choice of Rit dye, and throw your parts in. Now all you have to do is turn your stove on medium heat and start stirring your parts around. Every few minutes pull a part out with a long spoon and see how things are looking. When the color of the parts are to your liking, remove the pot from the stove and strain out your parts. You'll want to run the parts under cold water for a minute to cool them and rinse off the remaining dye.
Here are the completed parts. As you can see, it really gives the axles a higher quality feel and more realistic appearance. So what are you waiting for? Go dye some of your own RC car parts!

High Grade Diff Screws

This one couldn't be easier. Although the Axial SCX10 II comes with a sweet set of spiral cut machined ring and pinion gears, there is one weak point in this setup. That would be the three small screws that hold the ring gear to the locker. I'm not sure if this was an oversight on Axial's part, or if they purposefully used these tiny screws as a weak point to protect more expensive parts. Either way, these screws have been known to shear right off and it always seems to happen when you're having the most fun. The solution? All you have to do is replace those M2x8mm screws, which are made of a relatively soft steel, with high strength 12.9 grade counterparts. Best of all, they only cost a few bucks on Amazon.

Double Rear Axle Bearings
A few keen eyed builders have noticed something a little weird about the Axial SCX10 II's rear axle shafts. When built according to the owners manual, the rear axle shafts ride on single 5x11x4mm ball bearings. What's strange is that the truck appears to be missing a second bearing that supports the inner part of the axle shaft. Everything seems to be there for a second bearing including a properly sized shoulder machined onto the shaft and a recess in the axle housing. Yet the truck doesn't include these bearings, nor does the manual have any mention of them.
One can only assume that when the SCX10 II's rear AR44 axle was first being conceived, a second rear bearing was incorporated into the design, but once the truck was actually built, Axial decided they weren't needed. If that's the case, you may be wondering why we'd want to add them now. Well, a number of SCX10 II owners have noticed some slop in the rear axle that is fixed with the addition of the second bearings. Considering how cheap a couple of 5x11x4mm bearings are, we figured it couldn't hurt to throw them in and seeing how it feels.
Installation couldn't be easier. Just remove the M3x15mm screws that hold the straight axle adapters in place and the axle shaft should slide out along with it. Then pop the new bearing into the axle housing and slide the axle shaft back in place. Re-install the axle adapter screws and you're all done. When doing this mod I really wasn't expecting much but I'm happy to report that they did make a noticeable difference. The second rear bearing removes slop so the rear axle shafts can't move in and out so the truck feels more predictable in sticky situations. Try it out for yourself.

Bonus Upgrade: 3D Printed Winch

I'm adding this last one as a bonus because I'd only consider it a low budget upgrade if you already own a 3D printer or know someone else who does. Another thing that bothered me from day one about the SCX10 II is that giant hole in the front bumper where a winch should sit. To fill that space I designed a scale winch and printed it out on my 3D printer. The resulting print was a bit rough so I filled it with body filler, sanded it down and gave it a coat of paint. The final thing is pretty darn cool if I do say so myself. What is the best part of this? I'm offering the design for free for anyone who'd like to print one of their very own! Check it out here.
Once again, Thanks to fine folks at A-Main Hobbies for their help with the SCX10 II project!
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