Whenever you purchase a RC helicopter whether it’s used, ready to fly, almost ready to fly or a kit, you’ll want to make sure that the blades are tracking perfectly.
If your blades aren’t tracking on the same plane, they won’t have the same pitch and provide the same amount of lift which can cause vibration in your RC helicopter which may result in slightly unstable flight.
Not only proper blade tracking reduce vibration and improve your flying experience, but it will lessen the chance of something going wrong and causing a crash.
So, what is blade tracking?
When one your heli’s main rotors rotates in a circular motion, the other blade follows behind it, usually 180 degrees later on a 2 bladed main rotor. If both rotor blades spin on the same plane without one blade being higher or lower than the other blade it’s following, then the rotor blades are tracking properly. If one blade is following higher or lower than the other, then the blades aren’t tracking properly and will need to be adjusted.
The longer your rotor blades are, the more important tracking is to your RC heli and the greater the effect ‘out of track’ blades will have on your flying performance.
How To Track Your Blades
Whenever you’re flying a RC helicopter for the first time, you’ll want to make sure that the blades are tracking properly. You should always make sure that your blades are balanced before you look at the tracking, as unbalanced blades will effect how they track.
If there’s a lot of shaking or vibration when you’re flying your RC helicopter, then there’s a good chance the rotors aren’t tracking properly.
But since shaking and vibrations can also be caused by other things, here’s a dead simple way to check the blade tracking:
1. Take two different colors of tracking or electrical tape (I like red and black) and put a small strip of red tape on the leading edge of one rotor, and a small strip of black on the leading edge of the other.
By using a different color on each blade, it makes it a lot easier to see which blade might be out of track. If you have black or white blades, you can just put tape on one blade tip if you wish, though putting tape on both will balance out the additional weight.
(Tracking tape on leading edge of one balde)
2a. Now hover (or have someone else hover) the helicopter a few feet off the ground so the rotors are spinning at eye level…
2b. Or spool the RC helicopter up on the ground keeping the pitch at 0 degrees and from a safe distance away, bend over and get your eyes level with the spinning rotors.
If the blades are tracking properly, then both rotors will spin in the same plane and the colored tape will be a blur.
If they’re not tracking properly, then one rotor will look like it’s on top of the other and the colored tape will be clearly visible.
I couldn’t get a clear picture of the spinning rotors (they’re just too fast), but here’s what it would look like – just imagine them spinning.
(Blades not tracking properly – travelling in different planes)
(Blades tracking properly – travelling in same plane)
If the blades are tracking properly, then there’s nothing else to do, but if they’re clearly tracking on different planes, then continue to the next step.
3. In this step, you’ll want to have your RC helicopter manual handy so that you can look up the proper blade tracking information for your helicopter model in it.
Usually it involves lengthening the linkage to the blade grip of the rotor that was spinning lower, by removing the ball links and unscrewing them one turn at a time until the tracking is dead on.
If you need to unscrew one blade grip linkage by more than a couple of turns, you might want to tighten the other by a turn or two and alternate until the tracking is perfect.
4. Once you’ve adjusted the linkages to the blade grips, repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 to check the tracking until the blades are tracking in the same plane.
One thing you might want to keep in mind, is that anytime you remove the main rotor blades, you’ll want to keep note of which one goes where to avoid having to readjust the tracking in the future.
Also, every time you replace the main rotors, you should check the tracking. I keep a small roll of red tracking tape with me, so I can check the tracking anytime I’m at the field.Have a question about this article or anything else RC Heli related? Ask it in our brand new RC Helicopter Forum and you'll get expert answers quick.
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