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Choosing the Right Slot Car Tires

Here is some general information to help you choose the right tire for your particular car, track and racing style. Like all things in this hobby, choosing the best tire depends on many factors. There is no one best slot car, track, or tire.

Tires that come on your slot car are generally natural rubber tires. Aftermarket tires (tires not made by the car manufacturer) come in three additional compounds: urethane (similar to rubber but straight out of the laboratory), silicone and foam rubber. Stock rubber tires may be all you need. Remember, one key to competitive racing can be that everyone races on the same type of tires. Aftermarket rubber tires made by Slot.It and NSR are a better quality rubber tire.

Let's discuss the main differences between rubber, urethane and silicone tires.

Rubber tires have several benefits over their synthetic rivals that tend to be overlooked. First they work better on a “dirty” track when compared to silicone or urethane tires. This means you will have more time to race since you won’t need to clean off your track first! Another benefit of rubber tires is that they put down a layer of rubber on the track. This can be seen on this picture of our Carrera track if you look closely. There are dark lines on either side of the slot where the rubber tires have left a layer of rubber on the track.

Built up rubber on track


This is similar to a 1:1 track and benefits the rubber tired cars in the same way, giving them better grip. This means you will want to be careful when you clean your track if you run mainly rubber tires so that you do not wipe away this built up layer of rubber. (We use a dry micro-fiber cloth to wipe down our track.) However, just like 1:1 tires there are many different compounds of rubber tire to tackle the wide variety of track surfaces.

As stated earlier almost all slot cars come out of the box with rubber tires mounted on them. These stock tires tend to be quite hard and thus do not perform well on lower grip track surfaces such as Scalextric Sport or Carrera, but might work great on a higher grip surface like Ninco, Scalextric Classic or SCX analog or digital track. Generally you will want to follow a manufacturer’s recommendation on the compound to use on your track. For example Slot.it currently (February 2015) makes 13 different tire compounds, some of these are recommended for a particular track surface or application:

  • E1 and P5 compounds are recommended for Ninco track
  • C1 compound are recommended for Scalextric Sport track.
  • Slot.It also have several “Any” track surface compounds divided between F-series and N-series.
    • ** F-series comes in 3 compounds F15 (softest) F22 (medium ) and F30
    • (hardest)
    • ** N-series comes in two compounds N18(softest) and N22 (harder) .
  • NSR tires are a little less confusing since they only make four compounds:
    • Zero-grip for front wheels
    • Supergrip (softest)
    • Ultragrip (medium)
    • Extreme (hardest)
As a general rule; the more abrasive the track, the harder the tire you should use. This will vastly increase the life of your tire since a rough surface like Ninco will soon shred a very soft tire.

One drawback of rubber tires is wear: rubber tires will wear out eventually, unlike silicone or urethane tires. In addition rubber tires can dry out and become cracked and hard, rendering them useless. Very soft rubber tires can also develop flat-spots if they are on a car that is left sitting for a long time. One final issue with rubber tires is availability. You will have a hard time finding aftermarket rubber tires that will fit your car unless it has rims and tires that are made by the same manufacturer. This can be solved by upgrading the rear axle assembly in your car (axle, wheels, axle gear and sometimes bushings) however this process can be expensive and tricky in some cases, leading most people to try silicone or urethane tires first.

Silicone tires work best on super clean tracks. They are dust magnets. If you don't wipe your track off almost every time you race, you may see your silicone tires lose traction and your cars may start fishtailing. Silicone tires tend to have the best grip on very clean plastic tracks, better than urethane or rubber tires. It is not recommended to run silicone and rubber tires together on your track, because the silicones tend to pull up the rubber that is laid down by the rubber tires. Urethanes do not do this however, allowing you to use them interchangeably with rubber tire shod cars. This does not mean that you cannot run rubber tires and silicone tires together ever, but that it best to pick one type and try to stick to it, occasionally running the other type won’t cause hurt anything; just understand that they work against each other. Silicone tires are also molded to fit onto the stock wheels of the vast majority of slot cars, allowing you to more easily find the tire that will fit your car, slip it on and run without having to worry about how it fits on the rim.

Note: In general, don't plan on sanding silicone tires. If you have a slot car where the manufacturer hasn't specifically recommended a tire for it, you would be wise to consider an aftermarket urethane or rubber tire for your car, as you may need to do some sanding on it. A tip to improving your urethane tires: sand urethane tires true, then round the edges, and polish them smooth with very fine sandpaper.

Urethane tires can be somewhat less grippy on a clean surface and more forgiving on a slightly dirtier surface. If you have a "normal" slot car track that you don't keep super clean, urethane or rubber tires would work better for you. Just like silicone tires, urethanes are designed to fit on the plastics wheels that come stock on the car, however urethane tires also allow you to true the tire on an "untrue" slot car wheel. Wheels are supposed to be round, right? But plastic wheels are often not perfectly round, which is the reason people replace plastic rims with aftermarket metal wheels.

New rounded sidewall tires by Super Tires- This is taken straight from Super tires themselves, "Since Super Tires were originally introduced, one of the biggest criticisms was the "square" sidewalls. While many racers were primarily interested in performance (and cared very little about appearance), there are also a lot of racers who are concerned about a tire's appearance. From their viewpoint, real tires have rounded sidewalls so scale tires should too. Super Tires with rounded sidewalls are designed to look more realistic while retaining the original performance characteristics they are famous for. The rounded outer sidewall requires minimal "profiling" (rounding) compared to the original Super Tires who had the "square" edges. Profiling silicone tires was a time-consuming task. Serious racers will still want to profile the inner sidewall; however, doing so only requires half the effort of profiling both sidewalls. Rounded edges allow the tire to corner (slide) more predictably than non-rounded edges which tend to "grab" the track unpredictably during cornering. Profiling the original Super Tires reduced ever so slightly, the width of the contact patch. The contact patch width is not affected with the new rounded outer sidewall design. The rounded outer sidewall is less likely to interfere with fender wells than the original "square" design. In some cases, it will let you fit a slightly wider tire under the body if desired.

Certain types of cars don't need as much grip as others. For maximum speed and lower lap times with many cars, you need to slide the rear for best cornering. Tall cars like NASCAR and other sedan-style bodies have a tendency to roll with too much grip. Short, high powered sidewinders can be difficult to keep in the slot if they have too much grip due to front end lift. Urethane tires would be a good choice with cars like these. As you can see, you need to try different tires to see what fits with your particular car, track and your racing style the best.

1400R Series Super Tires

The 1400R Series Super Tires are designed to fit the Slot.it and NSR wheels along with several other wheels. This series is broken up into 3 groups:

  • 1400-1405 fit 15x8mm wheels
  • 1407-1410 fit 17x10mm wheels
  • 1420-1425 fit 14.4x12mm F1 wheels.
Any ‘group’ of these tires will fit on the same wheel. The only difference between the tires in any of the three groups above is the outer diameter of the wheel.

For example, all 1400-1405 series tires fit the Slot.it 15.8 x 8.2mm wheel. The difference between a 1400R and a 1401R is a the 1401R is 0.030in taller. Here are a few pictures to illustrate this:

Built up rubber on track


These six tires are all shown on the same wheel. You can see the difference in the ‘profile’ of the tire. The ability to alter the outer diameter of your tire is important for several reasons.

*Most importantly it directly influences the ground clearance of your car, so using a lower profile tire will lower your car to the track, improving your cornering. This is especially noticeable when using traction magnets as the strength of the magnetic field increase exponentially as the distance between the magnet and the rails decreases. However there are some draw backs to using a lower profile tire. First it has a large impact on the gearing of your car. The changing from the 1400R to the 1405R is the same as lowering the number of teeth on your pinion gear by 4, causing a noticeable difference in top speed and acceleration. Another potential issue with low profile tires is fit: these tires may not fit on your car, if your car has tall stock tires and low ground clearance. Or if you put tires that are too short on your car, it might not touch the track! Similarly you can have issues trying to put very tall tires on a car. While they very well may fit onto the wheels, they may rub against the bodywork, also not good. Because of these various factors we strongly recommend you measure your stock tires first and try to get the proper 1400 series tire to match what is currently on your car.

Foam tires are the final type of aftermarket tires. These are made from foam rubber and are generally very soft. They tend to require some sort of cleaning agent to get the best performance out of them. These tire cleaners typically have some sort of adhesive agent in them which causes clubs to ban them at a lot of tracks, due to the residue these tire cleaners leave on the track. For this reason we only allow people to use foam tires on our club track that are cleaned using Scaleauto tire cleaner which does not leave residue. These tires offer some of the best grip of any sort of tire; however they do have some drawbacks. First they are susceptible to the same calamities as their solid rubber brethren, only they can degrade much faster depending on the storage climate. Additionally they tend to be quite soft so you should exercise caution when buying these to use on an abrasive track surface such as Ninco or SCX. Finally they require special wheels. This can mean added expense if your car does not already have metal wheels since it will require you to upgrade the whole rear axle to mount the wheels on the car. They also may require gluing, a delicate process that can be frustrating to those not accustomed to it.

General Tire Performance Tip

“Glue and true” your tires. This means gluing your tires onto the rim and then sanding them slightly to ensure that they are perfectly round or ‘true’. This is very important with plastic wheels or rubber tires since neither tend to be perfectly round when you get them. Gluing the tires on before you ‘true’ them is extremely important since it will prevent the tire from moving on the wheel, which would potentially ruin your efforts to true the tire if the wheel is not round. It will also keep the tire from coming off the rim when you are driving the car as well as prevent the tire from slipping on the wheel, which will help cornering and acceleration, improving lap time further. A trued tire will minimize bouncing and keep the maximum surface area of the tire in contact with the track, making your car smoother and faster. However you should keep in mind that softer tires are harder to true. If you are trying to true very soft tires you will need to be careful that you do not tear up the tire. This is especially true with foam tires. Also, it is normally a good idea to put a smooth, polished finish on your trued tires. It is advised that you start truing your tires with a rougher sand paper like 220 grit, and then once they are trued, lightly sand with 400-600 grit and finally polish the surface with 1000 grit if you can find it. If you are truing a lot of tires you may even want to invest in a tire-truing machine as this will make truing tires easier and much more precise.

Try these ideas to keep your tires clean: Alcohol or water on a rag works well on the urethane/rubber tires. A rag soaked lightly with rubbing alcohol works great for cleaning both your track and silicone tires. It is well worth the time to clean them both frequently. You can also run the silicones on a sponge sprayed with Simple Green, or clean your tires every few laps by rolling them over duct tape. Besides cleaning the tires, this will also condition the track so that you can go a longer time between cleaning sessions.

All of our brands of silicone tires are divided by car brands. If you know the brand and the product number of the car you need tires for, just read the description and the MORE INFO for the car you are looking for. If you don't see your car mentioned in the description, chances are there is not a tire made for your car yet. But keep checking, as we get info on new uses for existing tires, or get new tires in stock, we update our tire list accordingly.

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