Convert your starter box to LiPo
Words and photos: Sylvain Lafrance
Since the beginning, starter boxes are designed to use heavy 12v gel cell. They offer good power and can be used for a reasonable long time before they need to be charged. However, they need to be frequently charged to maintain their optimal performance and charge. But with today’s new LiPo battery packs, there is absolutely no reason why we should not replace these gel cells by a lightweight, longer lasting and more powerful LiPo battery.
UPDATE 8/12/2010: In the original article, I’ve used foam insert and a zip tie to hold the LiPo pack in place which was a good idea to protect the pack. Some guys at RCTech.net suggested me to use small pieces of adhesive Velcro to hold the pack. This is a nice idea because it makes charging and battery replacement so much easier. So I’ve updated the original pictures and text.
What I used:
I didn’t replace the stock wires from my starter box, I kept things simple and I have only replaced the Tamiya style connector by a Deans connector that has less resistance and that is easily capable of handling the extra power of my LiPo pack. While talking about the LiPo battery, I picked a Turnigy 2650mAh 4S 20C Lipo Pack from www.hobbyking.com. The pack’s price is less than 25$us and fits perfectly into the starter box. The LiPo pack is 14.8v which is a little bit more than the 12v of my gel cell but the starter box’s motors and wire will easily handle this extra power.
The first step was to remove the gel cell from the starter box. Simply remove the screw that holds the battery bracket located under the box. Once it is done, use cutters to remove the Tamiya connector and install a Deans male connector. Remember, always install the male connector to the starter box (or ESC) and the female connector to the battery.
To secure the LiPo pack and to make removal easier, I used 1 inch square pieces of adhesive Velcro tape. I also used a zip tie to secure the battery wires to make sure they will not get in contact with any rotating parts such as the rubber wheel or the strap.
If no on/off switch is installed to your starter box. It is important that you install a good one that can’t be easily switched on accidentally. This can save your LiPo pack. You don’t really to install a LiPo cutoff if you frequently check your LiPo pack voltage and you stop using your starter box as soon as you detect less power from the battery pack.
I tested my new LiPo powered starter box with a new Novarossi 21 Plus 4 engine. The starter box started the engine with ease and faster than never before. My starter box is not just lighter, it is now faster and has more torque making tight new engines a breeze to fire up. The battery runtime is also increased.
Converting my heavy starter box to LiPo took me less than 30 minutes and cost me less than 30$. This is a good investment considering how important a starter box is. More power, more runtime, faster charging and less weight, this perfectly describes my new LiPo starter box.