Hopping up the Traxxas® Rustler® XL-5


The Traxxas Rustler has been a 1/10-scale favorite among electric R/C newcomers for many years. The Rustler is very easy to use and is incredibly durable. Not to mention, it's backed by the industry leader in customer support. It's an excellent choice for anyone getting into R/C for the first time, or for the enthusiast looking for a fun little 'charge-and-go' off-road machine that will take their mind off of everyday worries.

Traxxas also offers a full line of great looking hop up accessories to improve the appearance, handling, and durability of the Rustler. In this article I will highlight each accessory and show you how to take the Rustler to the next level for improved performance and a custom look. Whether you're at the track or your favorite bashing spot, these tips are sure to help you get the most out of your Rustler.

Suspension

One of the most effective ways to beef up the Rustler's front end is to add the fiberglass front suspension tie bar (#2532). This inexpensive piece joins the two front suspension pins together to increase the strength and reliability of the front bulkhead. The tie bar requires the extended suspension pin set (#2640) for installation. These heavy-duty pins are longer than the stock screw pins to accept the tie bar and are held in place with E-clips. The pins are machined for smooth operation and allow the suspension arms to pivot more freely for consistent performance.

For better bump handling and jump absorption, I recommend replacing the stock composite Ultra Shocks with a set of Traxxas aluminum Big Bore™ shocks, (#2660-Long up front and #2662-XXL out back). These units are PTFE-coated and hard-anodized for smooth and consistent performance.

I filled the Big Bore shocks with 40wt shock fluid for good all-around performance on the track and general bashing duties. The plastic pre-load clips are used to adjust ride height and should only be adjusted with a battery pack installed. A good starting point is to set the front and rear suspension arms so that they are level with the ground.

In order to beef up the corners of the truck and reduce friction from the axles, I replaced the stock rear hub carriers, caster blocks, and steering knuckles with a full set of machined aluminum units.

Up front, I used the Traxxas brilliant blue-anodized 6061 aluminum caster blocks (#3632A) and steering blocks (#3636A). They improve durability and control up front, and look great too. They're also available in a beautiful fire-red finish (#3632X & 3636X). The ultra-trick laser-etched TRX logo on the caster blocks is a cool bonus, and the steering knuckles include a set of four high-performance 5X11mm sealed ball bearings.

The brilliant blue-anodized rear aluminum hub carriers (#3652A) increase durability for hardcore bashing and like the steering knuckles, the small bronze axle bushings are replaced with a complete set of 5x11mm sealed ball bearings. These high-quality hub carriers are also available in a fire-red finish (#3652X).

Rounding out the suspension upgrades is a complete set of Traxxas 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle camber links (#3741A) and steering rods (#3139A). The ultra-stiff aluminum camber links come factory assembled to replace the stock plastic non-adjustable links for precise camber adjustments. Traxxas also includes a cool 5.0mm aluminum turnbuckle wrench for easy adjustment. Like the other aluminum upgrades, they're also available in fire-red (camber links #3741X and steering rods #3139X).

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#2532Traxxas fiberglass front suspension tie bar
#2640Traxxas extended suspension pin set
#2660-LongTraxxas aluminum Big Bore shocks (front)
#2662-XXLTraxxas aluminum Big Bore shocks (rear)
#3632ATraxxas blue-anodized 6061 aluminum caster blocks
#3636ATraxxas blue-anodized 6061 aluminum steering blocks
#3632XTraxxas red-anodized 6061 aluminum caster blocks
#3636XTraxxas red-anodized 6061 aluminum steering blocks
#3652ATraxxas blue-anodized 6061 aluminum hub carriers (rear)
#3652XTraxxas red-anodized 6061 aluminum hub carriers (rear)
#3741ATraxxas blue-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle camber links
#3139ATraxxas blue-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle steering rods
#3741XTraxxas red-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle camber links
#3139XTraxxas red-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle steering rods

Drivetrain

For improved traction and optimum power delivery to the wheels, I replaced the stock gear differential with the Traxxas pro ball differential (#2520). The pro ball differential uses high-quality carbide differential balls for smooth operation and diff action is adjustable to meet any track condition.

I highly recommend the pro ball differential for best performance, especially when a high-powered battery and motor are used and maximum traction is required. The differential is easily adjusted by inserting a small Allen wrench into the adjustment slot. Simply turn the other side of the differential clockwise to tighten or counter-clockwise to loosen the diff action. A good base setting is to tighten the diff until the differential gear is unable to turn with the output shafts locked. You can tighten the diff further to reduce diff action on high-bite surfaces. Be careful to not over tighten the adjustment screw. This can damage the differential.

Next, I replaced the stock output yokes with hardened steel output yokes (4628X). The steel output yokes are exceptionally strong and endure the rigors of heavy off-road racing and bashing for ultimate reliability. You'll definitely want a set of these if using a high-powered battery and motor.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#2520Traxxas pro ball differential
#4628XTraxxas hardened steel output yokes

Control

Traxxas offers a digital high-torque servo (#2070) that's economically priced and provides excellent performance for a project like this. It features ball bearings for long lasting performance and is designed with digital circuitry for better holding power and speed. This means faster response and better overall control. With 125 oz-in of torque and a speed rating of 0.16-seconds, it rivals some of the more expensive racing servos on the market. We'll use this servo for the steering.

Finally, I swapped out the stock steering bell crank assembly in favor of the Traxxas machined aluminum steering bell crank system. This high-tech steering system consists of solid billet aluminum components that pivot smoothly on a set of four precision ball bearings. The system is virtually maintenance-free and is available in brilliant blue (#3743A) or fire red (#3743X).

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#2070Traxxas digital high-torque servo
#3743ATraxxas blue-anodized T6 aluminum steering bellcrank system
#3743XTraxxas red-anodized T6 aluminum steering bellcrank system

Racing Body & Track-Worthy Treads

To wrap the revamped Rustler, I chose the Traxxas Rustler VXL clear body (#3714) and applied my own custom paint job. The Rustler VXL body provides a sleek racy look for the track and comes pre-cut with window decals for quick and easy installation.

I chose to stick with the 2.8" wheel set up for their cool looks, but switched to the 2.8" Twin-Spoke™ design for something different. These wheels feature a captured bead design to help keep the tires locked in place under extreme conditions. The new rear wheel (#3774) features a rear offset designed for use on the electric Traxxas Rustler and Stampede. The front wheels (#5572) fit perfectly and retain the factory track width and offset.

I mounted up a set of stock 2.8" ribbed tires on the front wheels and went with the ultra soft 2.8" Alias tires (#5569) in the rear. These tires are just like the stockers, but are molded in a softer compound for better bite.

I used a set of Traxxas blue-anodized aluminum flanged lock nuts (#1747) to the keep the new hoops in place and to provide a little curb appeal. They're lightweight and are flanged to keep the wheels rolling true.

Parts used in this section
Part NumberPart Name
#3714Traxxas Rustler VXL clear body
#3774Traxxas 2.8'' Twin-Spoke chrome wheels (rear)
#5572Traxxas 2.8'' Twin-Spoke chrome wheels (front)
#5569Traxxas 2.8" Alias ultra soft tires (rear)
#1747Traxxas blue-anodized aluminum flanged lock nuts

Hitting the Track

After installing all of the beautiful high-performance Traxxas goodies onto the Rustler I was a little hesitant to get it dirty, but what fun would that be? I've driven countless hours with the Rustler in its stock form, so I was anxious to see how it would perform with all of the new hop ups.

I noticed a significant difference as soon as I pulled the trigger. The Rustler took off smoothly and handled the bumps with outstanding control. Corner speed was noticeably faster and launching the truck out of the turns was much more predictable than before. The stock Rustler is a very durable machine, but with the addition of the aluminum upgrades the truck could be driven even harder. After many tumbles and crashes, the decked-out Rustler kept coming back for more. The aluminum Big-Bore shocks were soaking up the jumps and the soft-compound Alias tires were hooking up nicely on the dry track surface. I was having a blast turning lap after lap, and it reminded me of how much fun I had when I started racing two-wheel drive electric off-road way back when.

Conclusion

The stock Rustler works great on a variety of surfaces for newcomers and experts alike, but with the beefed up suspension components, upgraded shocks and competition ball differential, the new Rustler will certainly increase the performance and overall fun for countless laps around the track. Of course, not all of the accessories featured in this article are necessary to have fun, but each one has its purpose and provides a benefit in one form or another. If you own a Traxxas Rustler and are looking for an extra edge over your buddies, or just looking for some extra performance, give some of these upgrades a try. You won't be disappointed.

Complete parts listing for this article
Part NumberPart Name
#2532Traxxas fiberglass front suspension tie bar
#2640Traxxas extended suspension pin set
#2660-LongTraxxas aluminum Big Bore shocks (front)
#2662-XXLTraxxas aluminum Big Bore shocks (rear)
#3632ATraxxas blue-anodized 6061 aluminum caster blocks
#3636ATraxxas blue-anodized 6061 aluminum steering blocks
#3632XTraxxas red-anodized 6061 aluminum caster blocks
#3636XTraxxas red-anodized 6061 aluminum steering blocks
#3652ATraxxas blue-anodized 6061 aluminum hub carriers (rear)
#3652XTraxxas red-anodized 6061 aluminum hub carriers (rear)
#3741ATraxxas blue-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle camber links
#3139ATraxxas blue-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle steering rods
#3741XTraxxas red-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle camber links
#3139XTraxxas red-anodized 7075-T6 aluminum turnbuckle steering rods
#2520Traxxas pro ball differential
#4628XTraxxas hardened steel output yokes
#2070Traxxas digital high-torque servo
#3743ATraxxas blue-anodized T6 aluminum steering bellcrank system
#3743XTraxxas red-anodized T6 aluminum steering bellcrank system
#3714Traxxas Rustler VXL clear body
#3774Traxxas 2.8'' Twin-Spoke chrome wheels (rear)
#5572Traxxas 2.8'' Twin-Spoke chrome wheels (front)
#5569Traxxas 2.8" Alias ultra soft tires (rear)
#1747Traxxas blue-anodized aluminum flanged lock nuts
The Revo Rocks Project 1