The PowerLead Prac C004 2WD 1:32 Scale Remote Control Electric Racing Car was kindly provided to me by PowerLead-UK free of charge in exchange for a fair and unbiased review on Amazon.co.uk. No additional compensation was given in exchange for posting this article on my blog.
The PowerLead Prac C004 RC car is available in the UK from PowerLead-UK on Amazon.co.uk at a cost of £43.99 with free P&P. In the US the PowerLead Prac C004 RC car is available from PowerLead on Amazon.com at a price of $29.99 with free P&P. (Prices correct at time of posting).
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PACKAGING & CONTENTS.
The PowerLead Prac C004 2WD RC car is supplied in a retail style cardboard packaging bearing a large clear plastic window showing off the car within.
(Just to be clear, this is actually a WLtoys 2019 RC car with a PowerLead sticker placed on the box. As PowerLead kindly provided me with the sample to review I will continue to refer to the car as the “PowerLead Prac C004 2WD RC car” in my review, just be aware that it is actually made by WLtoys and is a model 2019 RC car).
Also included in the box are 10 blue and 10 orange small plastic traffic cones the controller, controller antenna, charging cable, a clear plastic aerofoil and the manual. A battery for the car is contained within the car itself, although there are no batteries supplied for the controller (6x AA required).
At its greatest points the PowerLead Prac C004 measures 8.2cm wide, 12.2cm long and 4.5cm high, weighing just 55g including its supplied battery. All four wheels of the car measure 32mm in diameter with the front wheels, providing steering only and the rear wheels, providing momentum, hence the 2WD (2 wheel drive) in the title of the product.
The PowerLead Prac C004 is essentially made from three separate sections with the centre piece secured onto the front using two small phillips screens and a further two screws secure the rear to the centre section. At the front of the car the front wheels are secured onto a non moving axle using pin hinges that allow for a 45 degree of articulation left and right.
A separate far less substantial axle also adjoins both wheels which actually controls the steering of the wheels. This axle is attached to each wheel using a simple plastic push clip and an electronically controlled concealed gear cog serves to move the axle left and right to function the steering.
On the underside, in the centre of the main axle there is a small switch that can be used to adjust the steering bias. If you find that the car veers to one direction when it should be going straight this switch is supposed (note I said supposed) to allow you to adjust compensation so that it does indeed go straight. Personal testing of this switch finds that it does absolutely nothing.
The reason that it doesn’t do anything is due to several problems with the smaller axle that controls the steering.
Problem 1: At each end of the small steering axle are small holes which are secured onto plastic push pins found on the wheels. These holes are too big and as a result, there is a lot of play in the steering, holding one wheel straight and level the other wheel can easily be manipulated by around 20 to 25 degrees left and right.
The result of this is a very twitchy car that can change direction at any given moment without warning. Even driving the car on linoleum it often just randomly veers off to one side and as the steering is either straight, full lock left or full lock right (something I will cover within the controller section of the review) and there is no subtlety or finesse with the steering it is impossible to counter the steering when the car veers off of its own accord as all you end up doing is over compensating and spinning or flipping the car.
Problem 2: The steering axle itself is very thin and flimsy and when put under any sort of stress it buckles, such as if the car is driven into a skirting board. Coupled with the fact that the pins on the wheels which the steering axle is mounted are barely fit for purpose when this axle warps it pops off the mounting pins resulting in it being impossible to steer the car until it is re-attached.
The first time that the car was used in our front room by my nephew at low speed no less than a dozen or more times after bumping into either the sofa or brick fire surround I had to re-attach the steering axle to the wheels, which diminished the fun he was having while playing with it.
Problem 3: The gear mechanism that moves the steering axle has no torsion at all. The play in the wheels due to the poor fitting plastic push pins is an annoyance in its own right, but the fact is simply blowing hard enough on the wheels will move them, as a result the steering is effectively free moving.
Simply put, if you place the car on a flat even surface and push it forwards all four wheels should move in a straight line. With the PowerLead Prac C004 when it is pushed forwards the front wheels are all over the place, one second they are pointing outwards at the top and inwards at the bottom, then they switch to pointing inwards at the front and outwards at the back a second later they point outwards at the front and inwards at the back.
Quite simply put the steering of the PowerLead Prac C004 has a mind of its own and even on a smooth surface, it can go any direction at any time and when used at high speed this often means its just flips or rolls.
The centre section of the car serves to join the front and back sections with each section attached with two phillips head screws. This centre section also conceals the plastic gear and a small cylindrical motor that operates the steering, the battery (which is user replaceable) and a small circuit board.
Rather concerning the battery has been stuck directly onto the circuit board using a double sided sticky pad and while it appears to bear no visible markings the Amazon product listing advises that it is a 3.7v 240mAh lithium battery.
From the circuit board two very thin wires (barely half the gauge of low voltage telecoms wire) connect to the front steering motor that simply rests in a small recess on the front of the car. Another two equally thin wires run to the drive motor found on the rear section of the car and a single wire runs to the aerial on the car found on the top of the centre section of the car.
The two wires connecting the circuit board to the drive motor on the rear of the car are hardwired and tether the rear and centre sections of the car together. These cables are rather short and as previously noted very thin so care should be taken when dismantling the car as it will prove rather difficult to repair should it get broken. Finally, on the left side of the centre section of the car (on the outside) is a small round hole, which is the port used to charge the battery within the car.
It should be noted that the PowerLead Prac C004 has no weather or waterproofing features as the charging port is entirely exposed and there is even a hole in the top of the centre piece of the car leading directly to where the circuit board and battery are housed. As such, it should not be used outdoors when snowing or raining or when there is surface water in the area you are planning to use the car.
Also found on the underside of the centre section of the car is a small two pole red switch that either turns the car on or off. Along side this is a small sticker that states “49MHz”, this matches a sticker also found on the controller and this advises the frequency of which the controller works to operate the car.
This frequency may differ from one car to the next, or it may not and as this frequency is not user adjustable it is something to be aware of. Should you order two cars and both come with the same operational frequency it will not be possible to use both cars within the same operational range. Should you try to do so both cars will respond to one controller and if trying to use two controllers to function two cars, both will try to respond to the commands of both controllers and go haywire.
Why on earth, there are not two or three frequency settings that can be user adjusted so that two cars can operate within the confines of the same area especially considering the price of the car is quite honestly unforgivable.
The rear section of the car as noted earlier is secured to the centre piece using two small phillips head screws. This section is a very thin, flat piece of ABS plastic with the rear wheels mounted and the drive motor and a spoiler bolted on top via three additional screws found on the underside of the car.
As well be being secured to the centre piece with two screws the front edge is also clamped together between the front and centre sections of the car and in the middle there is also a small spring on either side mounted between the rear and centre sections of the car.
These springs act as a suspension for the rear wheels which do not function independently. Given the size, weight, wheel base and stiffness of the springs I have to admit that I have yet to see this actually act as suspension should other than perhaps when the car is going at maximum speed the springs might be allowing the rear spoiler to push the back end of the car down to obtain a better grip. This is, however a theoretical assumption.
Like the front wheels, the rear wheels are fitted with a non removable solid plastic tyres sporting a reasonably deep tread. Like the front wheels, they are also free moving and I would advise against pushing the car along as doing so may well damage the motor.
The final piece of the PowerLead Prac C004 is the thin plastic body that fits over the chassis. On the inside, this is white and on the outside it sports a blue and silver racing livery and is secured to the car with two small plastic clips. It should be noted that while this is very secure in place to start with constant removal to access the charging port on the side of the car will cause wear on the clips which may result in the fit of the body becoming loose.
As such, given that the body is very flexible I would strongly advise when you need to charge the car that you just lift the side of the body up and push the cable in leaving the side of the body to rest on the cable. I have thus far done this four times and it does not appear to have had any detrimental effect on the bodywork.
The final item to cover in this section of the review is an accessory that comes supplied with the car that is called the “safeguard circle” in the manual. This is a thin, narrow, long piece of rigid clear plastic bearing two adhesive pads which the manual shows should be formed into a loop and secured to the underside of the car.
The purpose of this as per the manual is so that the car self rights when it rolls over, specifically the manual illustrates it purpose, giving demonstrations of the various tricks or stunts the car can perform, such as jumping and 360 loops using ramps or even climbing in a spiral out of a tube.
Sadly, with my particular sample this “safeguard circle” came out of the box quite badly creased which meant that it could not be formed into a circle and thus was not fit for purpose (as the car would only right itself if it fell over or stopped rolling on the on the un-creased side of the plastic strip).
I was able to largely remove the crease by placing a cloth over it and ironing over the cloth on a low heat, however where the crease once was is clearly no longer as rigid as the remainder of the strip and again when the car rolls over on the side that was creased it is still incapable of self righting itself.
To be honest, it’s a bit of a shame this does not entirely work with my particular sample and given the condition that it arrived in and it is also a shame that more than one is not supplied. The reason for this will be discussed within the controller section, but in short when the car is being used at its highest speed and you attempt to change the direction of the car it frequently does a 180 and stops moving or more often just flips or rolls over.
The controller for the PowerLead Prac C004 is similar in style and design to that of a knock off Playstation dual shock controller. It is satin silver in colour, is made from cheap plastic and feels rather flimsy and fragile.
As it actually turns out the controller is made from black plastic with a painted finish, this sadly became rather evident early in my testing where after less than an hours use the paint was starting to wear off the back of the controller.
Where the analogue sticks are found on a dual shock controller, there are instead semi transparent two pole rocker switches or buttons, those on the left are marked “Switch” and “Ratio” and those on the right are marked “F” and “B”.
The functions of these buttons as per the manual are as follows…
Switch: “Switch over in 5 modes” in reality tapping the switch button sets the speed of the car to its slowest setting. (Suitable for use indoors).
Ratio: “All scale mode” in reality tapping the ratio button sets the speed of the car to its fastest setting. (Not suitable for use indoors).
F: “Forwards fine tuning” – If the car is moving backwards of its own accord, hold this button down and slightly move the left controller stick forwards until it remains stationary.
B: “Backwards fine tuning” – If the car is moving forwards of its own accord, hold this button down and slightly move the left controller stick backwards until it remains stationary.
Where the D pad is on the dual shock controller we find an analogue stick controller with an 18mm diameter cap that only moves forwards and backwards. Pushing the stick forwards moves the car forwards (accelerator) and pulling it towards you makes the car reverse.
It should be noted that for any response at all from the car the stick has to be moved at least 50% forwards or backwards as there is a significant dead zone. When the stick is moved forwards (or backwards) by 50% the car begins to move at approximately half its maximum speed for the setting currently in use. As the stick is further moved forwards or backwards the car gains speed and when the stick is pushed all the way forwards or backwards it moves at its greatest speed for its current setting.
It was also noted that there is a slight delay in the response from the car when operating the controller. Firstly, if you are moving the car forwards (or backwards) and you release the stick on the controller the drive motor remains active for at least 1 second after the controller is released.
If moving the bar forwards at full speed and you flick the stick on the controller to put it into reverse there is again about a 1 second delay before the car stops moving forwards and begins to go in reverse.
To the right, where the four round buttons are found on a dual shock controller we find another matching analogue stick that operates the steering. Sadly, like the forward and reverse accelerator stick on the left the steering stick has an equally large dead zone.
Pushing the stick left or right by approximately 50% does nothing and pushing it slightly beyond simply enables full steering lock. As such the car either goes straight or steers 45 degrees left or right, there is no tactility to the steering, nor any subtlety.
In the centre of the controller is a faux rectangular black button with raised “A B C” lettering below it that does nothing and just above this is an orange two pole toggle switch that turns the controller on or off.
Just above and to the left of the power button is a small square faux button and just above to the right is a small triangular faux button, both of which do nothing. Just above and to the right of the left analogue controller is a small red LED indicator that lights up when the controller is switched on and just above and to the left of the right analogue controller is a small green LED indicator which lights up when charging the car through the controller.
On the back of the controller, there are 4 shoulder buttons once again matching the style of a Playstation dual shock controller. All four of these buttons are semi transparent red plastic with the top set of buttons measuring 8.15mm x 17.19mm and offering no function at all.
The bottom set of shoulder buttons measure 17.77mm x 17.28mm at their greatest points, as per the manual, the button on the left “Shifts up” and the button on the right “Shifts down”. As noted earlier the switch and ratio buttons change between its fastest and slowest speed modes, using the bottom set of shoulder buttons on the controller it is possible to tune the speed setting of the car more finely with a total of 5 different settings available.
The final feature on the back of the controller is a small hole located in the centre which is for mounting the aerial which simply screws into the hole anti-clockwise. This aerial is similar in style to an old car or portable radio aerial and is made from a non flexible magnetic metal that measures 92mm long when retracted with a total of 4 additional extending sections measuring 351mm long when fully extended.
When the aerial is not attached to the controller its functional range is about 1m, when the aerial is attached, but retracted the operational range is approximately 3m and when the aerial is fully extended the operational range is in excess of 30m.
On the underside of the controller is a large battery compartment cover that encapsulates almost all of the rear of the controller and also parts of the hand grips as well. This cover is secured along the bottom edge on one side with an easy to release clip and on the other side with a small phillips head screw, considering the price of the car the inclusion of a mini screwdriver to fit this would have been very welcomed.
Behind the battery cover we find that the controller uses 6x AA batteries that require installing in series. During my testing of the PowerLead Prac C004 I have been using Panasonic Eneloop 1900mAh 1.2v rechargeable batteries that have worked without problem. I confess that I am going to make no effort in testing how long the batteries last within the controller as based on past experience with such cars the controller, batteries are going to last some 10, 20 or more times longer than the car battery.
The final feature on the controller is found on the right edge. This is a small, rather flimsy hinged flap that folds out towards the bottom edge of the controller to reveal a small cable. This cable protrudes from the controller by approximately 10cm and connects to the charging port on the PowerLead Prac C004.
This allows the car to be charged “in the field” using the batteries within the controller, to do this, simply connect the cable to the car and switch the controller on. Both the red LED indicator will light up to show the controller is switched on and the green LED indicator will light up to show that the car is charging and it will go out once the battery in the car is fully charged.
Charging the car battery using a set of Panasonic Eneloop 1900mAh batteries in the controller it takes approximately 31 minutes to recharge the battery in the car and they are capable of recharging the car battery six and a bit times.
It should be noted that when testing how many times the AA’s in the controller could be used to recharge the car battery the same batteries were used in the controller to run the car and drain the battery to simulate how much run time can be got from the car and the controller with one set of batteries. It should also be noted that these batteries are not new, they are in fact, almost 2 years old and are in regular use with camera equipment being charged at least once a fortnight.
Excluding the aerial the PowerLead Prac C004 controller measures at its greatest points approximately 16.2cm wide, 10cm long and 8cm deep and it weighs 301g including the aerial and 6 Panasonic Eneloop 1900mAh batteries.
THE CAR BATTERY.
As noted earlier, it is possible to charge the car using the batteries from within the controller. This method is ill advised when using disposable AA batteries as it will quickly become a very expensive affair. If using a good quality set of rechargeable AA batteries, however it is a convenient and effective means of charging the battery in the car.
A separate charger cable is also supplied that allows the car to be charged using a USB port (such as a PC, laptop, wall charger or even a TV). This cable, however is rather flimsy and very poor quality even when compared to the charging cable found built into the controller.
As noted earlier when charging the car battery using the controller, there is a green LED indicator that lights up when charging and goes out to indicate the battery is full. Sadly, this is something lacking on the USB charger, there is a red LED indicator light on the USB connector, however this simply lights up whenever the source it is connected to is switched on and it never goes out.
As such when charging the car battery using the USB adaptor unless you are making use of a USB multimeter you never know if and when the car battery is fully charged. As such my preference for charging the car battery has always been by way of a set of rechargeable AA’s in the controller.
Charge testing… As noted earlier when charging the car battery using the controller it took approximately 31 minutes to fully recharge the battery. When charging the car battery using the USB adaptor with a Samsung 2A wall adaptor as supplied with a Tab S2 tablet, a Drok USB multimeter was used to obtain the following readings…
- At the start of the test the readings from the Drok USB multimeter were 5.25v, 2.787w, 0.52A with 9mAh having been charged within the first 60 seconds.
- After 13 minutes the readings were 5.28v, 2.164w, 0.41A with 102mAh having been charged.
- After 23 minutes the Drok USB multimeter was indicating the battery was fully charged and that it had only been charged by 120mAh.
While the Drok multimeter has a small margin of error of about 0.8%, this does not account for the reason that the supposed 240mAh battery only charged by 120mAh. The truth of the matter is despite the PowerLead Amazon product listing claiming the battery is 240mAh it is in fact only 120mAh which is confirmed looking at the spares section on the WLtoys website.
Interestingly charging via a USB wall plug is approximately 8 minutes faster than charging using the controller charging method, that said there is no means to tell when the charge is complete using the USB adaptor and so the controller method still remains my preferred method for charging the battery within the car.
Drain testing… to test how long the battery within the PowerLead Prac C004 lasts the battery was fully charged, the car placed upside down on a table and the accelerator stick was held at maximum until the battery ran out.
For the first 13 minutes and 30 seconds the car ran at full speed forwards. During this time it was evident that the gear on the drive motor was occasionally slipping, not only could this be heard the wheels briefly slowed for a millisecond when this happened. It was also evident that on occasion the drive motor was also cutting in and out for equality brief periods of time.
Exactly how often this occurred I have to confess that I lost count, what I do recall, however is when the motor was cutting it out almost instantly kicked back in, twice, however I had to release the stick on the controller and push the stick forwards again to start the car moving once more as the motor had stopped completely.
Between 13 minutes, 30 seconds and 14 minutes, 30 seconds the motor was constantly kicking in and out. I thought at the time, the battery was about to give up, but then it suddenly had a second lease of life and continued as previous until the 24 minute marker once more stopping completely requiring the accelerator to be released and activated to get the car moving forward once more.
After 24 minutes it was becoming evident that the car was beginning to slow down slightly. Around this time I also accidentally moved the other stick on the controller activating the steering and when this happened the rear wheels slowed down considerably resuming near full speed when the steering stick was released.
After 28 minutes the rear wheels were no longer spinning anywhere near as fast as the slowest speed setting and they continued to slow until the wheels stopped moving at the 32 minute marker. As the wheels slowed it became evident that the gears were no longer slipping, although the motor continued to quite frequently cut in and out, although each time the wheels started back up of their own accord.
While the wheels span for nearly 32 minutes this is not representative of the battery life of the car if I am honest. After 24 minutes when the steering was accidentally activated the speed of the car vastly reduced and compared to the first time my nephew used the car in our front room at a mix of low and high speed (to my chagrin) I would say that in real world use the battery lasts in the region of 7 to 10 minutes.
I will confess that I had planned to set the battery to drain un-monitored with an elastic band to hold the stick on the controller and repeat the test for each of the car’s speed settings. Sadly, given that the car stopped several times requiring a manual restart this was not possible and also given that the test results were far from representative of real world use, I simply opted not to bother.
Having read my review in full should you still wish to buy this product I would strongly advise that you shop around. The sample sent to me by PowerLead at the time of writing is being sold for £43.99, looking through the “What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?” section of the product listing on Amazon we find the very same car being sold by EDeeXop for just £27.99, and on Fleabay it can be purchased for less than £16 which is far more representative of what it’s actually worth.
It should also be noted that the WLtoys 2019 RC car appears to have been discontinued and replaced by the WLtoys L929 which is available from BangGood for £18.48 including P&P.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review, I hope it has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please post a comment below and I will do my best to answer them.
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