Smartech - If you want cheap...

     I recently purchased 2 Smartech Winner 1 cars via E-Bay from a dealer in Arlington Texas named Saul at Micro  I was pretty excited, these were my first Nitro RC cars! Turns out, they were junk. The cars cost $179.00 ($215 with shipping) each, not bad for a Nitro RC car. The problem - guy I bought them from would not do anything to help me, he basicaly said the car was my problem. If you want to see emails we sent to each other, Click Here.

After unpacking the cars, we noticed one had the wrong body (and the engine was different from the picture on E-Bay), the body on one was cracked (not too bad though), and basically the cars were different. I don't have a picture of the car Marshall received, but there are links to mine on this page. Here is Marshall's car advertised on E-Bay, and here is mine, as advertised on E-Bay. Click here and scroll down for pictures of what I received, understand, I am not complaining - the car I received worked good, except for the bad engine (and the one time the throttle seemed to stick - may have been interference, who knows). Had the engine not died, or the seller fixed the defect. this article and my feedback on E-Bay would have been very different. I was happy with the car, until the engine broke - after only an hour and a half or so of running.

     As it turns out, you get what you pay for. The following is part of an artice I wrote about a friend of mine, Marshall, and our RC car bug we both seemed to have. The story you are about to read picks up after we ordered our cars off E-Bay, and stops after they were both deemed to be junk. If you want to read the whole article, here it is.

     Marshall's car was ordered before mine by about 8 hours - I had placed a bid on another one that fell though, so I ordered mine later that day. We hoped they would make it by the weekend, even though it was Tuesday when we placed our orders. Every day when a UPS or FedEx truck would drive by, we would hope they were bringing our new toys, and every day they just passed us by - Bummer. Then, on Tuesday (this past Tuesday for anyone keeping track) Marshall got his car! As it turns out, these cars weren't from Arlington at all, they were shipped direct from China - oh well, it was awesome anyway! Unfortunately is was raining outside in Tucker that day, so we had to play with it in the shop after we closed, but we didn't care.

     It was now 6 o'clock on Tuesday evening - we moved around a few cars and had the whole center of the shop open for racing. After breaking in the engine, it got fun. From one end of the shop to the other it was probably running about 20 mph, and being a four wheel drive car, it got there pretty quick! It was a blast, until, about 6:45 - Marshall hit a tire on a car in the shop. He hit it hard enough to strip out the gearbox in the RC car - the racing had ended, or had it? Hell no, the hobby shop in Stone Mountain is open until 8:00 tonight!

     We got all the stuff together that we thought we would need, and hauled ass to the hobby store. It was about 7:15 when we got there, and about 8:00 when the car was fixed - just a $15 part and we were off again! I couldn't wait to get my car, this was going to be so fun! Across the street from the hobby store is a K&G store, they were closed and the parking lot was bright and dry - were racing again! We got the car fired up and made a few good passes across the parking lot. We weren't restricted to 50 feet now; we could really open it up and see what it would do. The car was really fast, and then on the 5th pass, the engine died. We didn't have a clue what happened, but the pull starter would not turn the engine over - this is NEVER a good sign.

     That night, Marshall took the engine apart and found the connecting rod had broken. This connects the piston to the crank shaft - it is a very important part. We called around at some other hobby shops to see if we could find another connecting rod, but it seems no one has ever heard of Smartech. The next day (Wednesday) I got my car. We played with it for about 20 minutes before I hit a curb (the throttle hung wide open for a few seconds - seems to be another Smartech problem) and broke the spur gear - this is the drive gear between the engine and drive shafts. Now we both needed parts. When I got home that night, I removed the broken spur gear and took my engine apart to match up a connecting rod for Marshall's engine. We had the same cars, or so we thought.

     Friday night we found a rod for Marshall's engine ($15.00), but they didn't have one for mine - it was a little different. There was nothing wrong with mine, but I figured we both have Smartech cars, and this seems to be a common problem with Smartech, I should expect mine to break also - get a back up for when it does. No luck, they told me they didn't have one, and couldn't get one, if mine broke I would have to replace the whole engine, between $100.00 and $150.00. OK, maybe this won't happen to mine, but I still needed a spur gear. This also seemed to be a problem. It seems Smartech uses pretty much there own parts on the cars, and people can't seem to get in touch with them. I ended up getting a gear for a belt driven car($5.00), mine was gear driven. Although parts were almost impossible to find for these cars, we managed to make some work. We were racing again!

     Later Friday night, we put our cars put back together. I tested mine in from of the house - it car ran great but I noticed it didn't handle like it should. The rear drive shaft had become disconnected from the rest of the drive train. I now had a front wheel drive nitro car, and needed more parts! The good thing about this though, is that it still ran, and all I needed was a setscrew. This is easily purchased at any hardware store. Unfortunately it was already about 10:30 - everyone was closed. No problem, I'll get it in the morning and I can still race tonight.

      Now it's 11:00 pm on Friday night. Marshall met me in the old Walmart parking lot a mile or so away from my house. We had a huge parking lot with nothing to hit and plenty of light! Well, that still wasn't good enough. It seemed I had a bad glow plug now, and my car wouldn't start after the first tank of fuel. That's ok, we raced for a while, then I just watched him run his car for a little while.

     The next morning, I went to the hardware store and got 2 set screws, one for the rear driveshaft, and one for the front. Marshall was suppose to meet me at the old Walmart after he went to the bank at 10:00, so I needed to get my car back together, and race ready. Fixing it was no problem, about 10:00 I was in front of my house testing out my repair work. This thing ran great! It was like a whole different car, the acceleration was very impressive, now that it was pulling with all 4 wheels - he wouldn't have a chance, until I heard the engine go dead. It sounded just like Marshall's, when the rod came apart in his engine. Sure enough, that's what happened, the connecting rod in my engine broke. Now I would need another engine - I was pissed and bummed. I wasn't about to spend $150.00 for an engine on a car that I only got to run for a total of about 1 hour. The engine in these cars were junk, and finding ANY parts for the rest of the car was nearly impossible. It seems I should have listened to my future bride and spent a little more to get a better car, and one that is fixable. She was right, absolutely right, but what can I do now?

UPDATE: April 25th 2004

After posting two negative feedbacks for (one per purchase), Saul wanted to help us out pretty bad. In exchange for removing the negative feedbacks ($20 each) through SquareTrade, and shipping the cars back to him, he said he would refund us our money. We sent the cars back ($15.00 shipping to Arlington), and waited for the feedback to be removed., This took about 10 days, after which, he did refund me my money, or at least part of it. I received the refund on my car on April 6th.

He credited my PayPal account $150.00: the car was $179 without the $35 for shipping - $20 for removing the negative feedback brings us to $159 I guess he thought he would just keep the extra $9, but you know, I was ready to get this over with. Oh well, what can you do. I wasn't going to argue anymore about this, it just isn't worth the $9.00. Basically, I had about $235 in the car with all the repairs, and $15 in shipping the junk back to Arlington; about $250 total. I figured I lost $100 in this deal, a lesson learned I guess

So, I got my refund, how about Marshall? Well, it is now April 25th, and he just received his. I just got an email from Pay Pal, telling me that he has money. So, now I guess it is all finally finished. I have to say, after all the BS that went along with this, I don't really have a problem with E-Bay, and will probably buy from the site again. The next time I make a purchase on E-Bay, however, I'll be sure to ask more questions, and check for a warranty!

     There are a couple of things I found out about these cars, other than it is almost impossible to get parts from Smartech for them.

  • The spur gear (main gear) in a single speed Winner 1 can be replaced with one made by HPI Racing - the part number is HPIA444, check your local hobby shop, I got mine at Hobbytown USA in Duluth Ga. The one that came on the car is a 41 tooth, this is a 44 tooth, but I couldn't really tell a difference (at least not in the 20 minutes I got to run it before the rod broke).
  • If you have the 15CX (not the 15 CXP) then you can use a connecting rod from an OS Engine OSMG2032 11522 .15 CV RC BUGGY - the part number is 21205040. The wrist pin is bigger in the .15CXP, so this rod won't work, and I haven't been able to find anything that would, and be less expencive than buying a new engine.