Safe Engine Starts: 5 tips for using electric starters

Safe Engine Starts: 5 tips for using electric starters

Whenever it comes to firing up model airplane engines, either they are gasoline or glow powered, Model Airplane News editors always recommend the use of an electric starter motor. Sullivan Products has been offering excellent starters for years and when it comes to quality and durability, modelers consider the Sullivan starter as a field box essential. Available in several sizes and styles, their line of starters are hard to beat.


1. Even though you are using an electric starter, don’t try to start your model airplane by yourself. Have a friend secure the model before engaging your starter. You have to push the starter cone firmly on the model’s spinner or prop hub and if your model is only secured with a restraint, it can lunge forward when the engine starts up. One hand on the plane and another holding the starter makes it difficult to get to your radio’s throttle stick should you have to adjust the idle.

2. Hold the starter straight and aligned with the engine’s centerline. If you hold the starter at an angle to the spinner, the cone will “walk off” to one side. If you are applying a lot of force, you can damage the model or propeller and at the very least, the rubber insert will slip out of the starter’s aluminum cone.


3. Always use a fully charged starter battery. And use the proper voltage battery. You see it all the time, someone is trying to start a stubborn engine and the starter can just barely spin the prop through the engine’s compression. Someone then reaches for a propeller tip to help swing it through. This is dangerous and defeats the purpose of using the starter in the first place.

4. When setting up yourself and your model at the flightline, position your starter battery and the power cord so they are clear of the model’s propeller. Typically if you are holding the starter with your right hand, have the power cord come straight back and around you with the battery behind and to the left of you. Always make sure the clips connecting to your battery, or your power panel, are properly secured so they deliver the most power to the starter.

Starting up the P-47 for a great flight! It's almost dry again!! (Tim Johnson Photo)

5. Replace worn out starter cone inserts with new ones. Warn out inserts slip and don’t deliver all the torque produced by the starter motor. Worn inserts also tend to slip out of place more leading to damaged propellers or models.


Using these few tips will minimize the chances of damaging your model and will maximize your engine starting efforts. Be sure to always clean your starter and don’t just throw it on the ground where it will get dirty. Have a space for it in your field box and treat it with the respect it deserves.

Popular Starters from Sullivan Products

The Hornet Starter. This little hand held starter really packs a punch. For small airplane engines to .12-size, it has a high RPM motor, heavy duty bronze switch and a reversible silicone drive adapter.

Hi-Tork Starter and (Deluxe Hi-Tork). These are the original standard Sullivan starters. They are suitable for most sport engines and are capable of starting larger capacity engines up to 0.60ci (10cc) and many to 1.20 4-stroke engines

Dynatron Starter. Regarded by every RC modeler as the gold standard, the Dynatron starter is a field box essential. It has amazing starting power for most engines up to 2.4ci (40cc).


Megatron Starter. This two-fisted starter is designed to handle engines up to 5ci (80cc) depending on engine’s condition and compression ratio. It has two steel handles and steel endplates and features a big 3-inch aluminum cone with a quality silicone rubber insert. It operates on 12V or 24V, maximum 100 amps. Torque output is 600 in-oz at 12V, and 1200 in-oz at 24V.


The Validus GRS is Sullivan’s biggest engine starter ever! This professional starter for large engines up to 350cc  provides 1 3/4hp of starting power. Stall torque is 225 inch-pounds or 3600 in-oz. 4000 no load rpm. Maximum amp draw is 600.

Model Airplane News - RC Airplane News | Safe Engine Starts: 5 tips for using electric starters


Updated: July 15, 2015 — 4:14 PM


  1. Thanks Gerry.

  2. Great free ad for Sullivan! and yes, i do own a Dynatron and think it’s great. These day however i take to the field a starter that a fellow from Florida makes and sells on RCUnviverse. “Easy Starts”, comes with a 11.1V lipo, so it’s a self contained one piece unit. It has started (up to our biggest) 50cc motors no problems

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