How To: Prep Your Carbon Fiber Parts

How To: Prep Your Carbon Fiber Parts

Beginner’s Guide to RC – Prep Your Carbon Fiber Parts

Most high-end on- and off-road RC cars and trucks come with carbon fiber (CF) components. These components are lightweight and super-strong…2 key factors in keeping your ride fast and nimble. These parts are cut from a large sheet and, once completed, often have sharp, un-prepared edges. These edges can be fragile in a crash and the carbon fiber plate can de-laminate, causing the part to weaken and fail.

To combat that, there is a process of ‘sealing’ the sides of the CF parts. This involves taking a small amount of super glue and applying it to edge of the parts, effectively sealing the edges. This will allow the parts to take much more abuse before failing.

Items Needed:
A file. You don’t need anything fancy. I use a fingernail file found at any convenience store.
Super glue. Any kind will do. Note that thinner glue will be a little more difficult to work with but will dry faster.
Black Sharpie (optional)
Q-Tips. For applying the glue.
Small piece of plastic, preferably a plastic bag.
A towel for any emergency cleanup.

NOTE: Work in an open area with good ventilation! Any water coming in contact with the glue will speed up the hardening process, but will also create a fume that will irritate your eyes and nose. It is suggested you let the carbon parts dry completely before applying the glue.

Step 1:

Sand the Edges
Start by sanding the edges of your chassis
Remove your carbon fiber parts and, under running water, lightly sand the outside edges with your file. Make sure you sand BOTH sides of your parts. Graphite dust is extremely fine and, since it’s not good to breathe in, sanding under water will eliminate the dust. The object here is to remove the hard edge of the cut carbon fiber.

Step 2:

Optional: Sharpie the Edges for a Cool Effect
Optional: Sharpie the edges for a cool effect
This step is completely optional, but I like to do this because if looks a little more “Factory”. Once you have sanded all the edges, take a Sharpie and color the edges of your carbon fiber parts. This will turn the edges black and make the final product much more appealing. If you’re adventurous, you can try different color markers. I Sharpied a red one once and it came out pretty cool, but because it was initially a little hard to see, I had to do some additional prep work. DO NOT USE PAINT! If you use paint, the super glue will not be able to seal the edges. Any collisions will cause huge paint chunks will fall off (at the same time that your chassis de-laminates).

Next, find yourself a place that you can set your parts to dry. Remember, you will be applying super glue to the EDGES of your parts and then setting them aside. Find some place where they won’t glue themselves to the surface you place them.

Step 3:

Plastic Glue Base
Prep the glue on a not pourous surface
BE CAREFUL! Super glue is great for bonding things together…including FINGERS! Take your piece of plastic to pour a small amount of super glue onto it. You don’t want to put too much that it overflows on to your work area. The reason we use plastic is that it’s not porous; the glue will not seep in and dry out.

Step 4:

Apply the Glue
Apply the glue with a Q-Tip
Take a Q-Tip and dab a little glue onto the edge of the part. You may need to dab quite a few times; just make sure you don’t put too much. Apply a good coat all the way around your part. Set your part aside to dry (should only take a few seconds). Follow the same procedure for the rest of your parts.

Step 5:

Assemble and Admire
Assemble and admire
Once dry, you are free to continue assembling your vehicle. It is suggested that you complete this procedure BEFORE you build your vehicle.

About the Author

Tony Phalen - As an avid RC enthusiast, Tony has been building, bashing and racing RC Cars for over 25 years. He has raced everything from 1:18th scale trucks to 1:5 scale motorcycles and everything inbetween. He's also worked on both sides of the industry fence; working at and with many major manufacturers (as well as being a sponsored driver) to working for a high-profile industry magazine. During this time he has learned many tricks, tips and techniques and has transferred that knowledge to CompetitionX - the most informative RC website on the internet! More article by Tony Phalen

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2 comments

  1. Nathan van Slooten

    Could you use a Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker instead of a regular one?

  2. Hey Nathan. I don’t see why you couldn’t. I’ve used white out followed with a red Sharpie before to create a pretty cool look. I would clean the carbon fiber really well to make sure the Sharpie can get a good grip on it.

    Shoot me a picture afterwards … I’d like to see how it turned out!

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