There are several ways to start a nitro engine. All starting methods other then onboard and starterboxes will require a glow ignitor.
The most common onboard electric starter is the Traxxas EZ-start system. The EZ-Start has a few methods of starting rolled into one. It uses its own motor, but houses it on the truck. It also uses the same battery used to turn the engine over to ignite the plug, both draining power from the battery and providing less power to the motor turning the engine over. While it is a very handy option, a negative aspect of the EZ-Start is the weight; a full assembly adds 5oz to the weight of the truck, whereas a pullstarter only adds 1.2oz. An extremely common addition to the EZ-Start is to use a separate glowplug ignitor, thus both prolonging battey life and allowing the motor to draw more current. Many hobbyists have abandoned the EZ-Start in favor of a pull starter or a shaft starter.
Shaft Starters, like the Losi Spin-Start and HPI rotostart systems utilize a backplate with gears in it that crank the engine. The gears are turned by a starter shaft that mates to the backplate, and is turned by the 'wand'. The wand has a motor and battery that will turn the starter shaft. You can also chuck the shaft into a drill to start the engine, if your starter unit battery dies.
Pull starters are one of the best starting options available, and depending on what your RC was orginally equipped with, possibly the cheapest. The only thing you will have to carry with you while bashing to start the vehicle is a glow ignitor. Just give the pull starter a few yanks and the engine roars to life. An engine in good condition and tune should start on the first or second pull, after priming. On most vehicles you will have to pull the starter several times to prime, possibly with the exhaust plugged.
Starter boxes are great for racing. These are used to start non starter engines. This type of engine has no starter assembly to drag on the crankshaft, and give a very tiny performance increase. They have a wheel that sticks out from the top of the box. You sit the vehicle on it, push down, and this activates a switch which makes the wheel start spinning, and makes the flywheel contact the starter box wheel. The engine will eventually start. A starterbox will only work on an RC with a flywheel access slot on the bottom of the chassis. This means, basically every RC but a standard monster truck.
Starterboxes have small adjustable tabs that align the vehicle to allow for quick, effortless starting. The position of these tabs will be different for every model, so don't plan on starting your GS Storm SUT truggy on the same 'box as your Losi XXX-NT. There are also different sizes, named by the scale they are for. It will be nearly impossible to start a 1/8 scale buggy on a 1/10 scale starter box, but the current authors are not sure that a 1/10 cannot be started on a 1/8 starterbox.
You can power a starterbox on either a standard 12 volt gel cell battery, or two 7.2 volt nicd/nimh stick batteries. The gel cell works well, the nicd/nimh will cause many problems, including being drained rapidly, usually when you need it the most.
Inexpensive starter boxes should always be avoided. Some of these cannot be fitted with a standard 12 volt gel cell battery, and roquire a weaker two 7.2 volt nicd/timh setup. They are usually plastic, which causes durability issues, while any good starter box has a metal case. The starter wheel can also be made of the wrong compound of rubber, causing very rapid wear.
Some starter boxes have cool extra features, but they aren't always useful. These include magnetic strips to hold body clips, and jacks to hook a glow plug clip into, which will ignite the glowplug with the same battery as the starter.
- Very minimal performance increase
- No one-way bearing.
- No starter shaft or startershaft bushing.
- You can use a heatsink engine backplate which will arguably lower temperature.
- More powerful then any of the other starting systems, which allows for very rapid starting, even if the carbeurator mixture is not perfect.
- Heavy, which makes them very inconvenient for bashing. (Consider a shaft starter.)
- The performance increase is very small.
- They have to be adjusted to fit the vehicle properly, and will only fit one model without constant adjustment.
- Starterboxes are the most expensive starting method.