Radio-controlled toys are a major hobby. They can be time-consuming and challenging, but they're also a fulfilling way to pass the time and gives you something concrete to show off for your efforts. Of course, part of the hobby lies in understanding all the parts and components that come into play. Whether you build RC cars for going over rough terrain or take overhead shots using a model plane you control from the ground, you need to know a few things.
One of the things that you have to know is connector types. There are multiple types of connectors used in the RC hobby. Below you'll find a basic overview of the various connector types you might encounter. Some of them are more common in some specific areas than others, but it pays to know which is which.
Molex connectors are among the more common, typically rating 1 or 2 Amps. They're small and low-cost, but should be handled with care due to a risk of the female connectors becoming loose while you're soldering. They're also used if you need something that is easy to replace in case of damage or if you're looking to the long-term and want the ease of upgrading to come with the package.
However, if your project heats up a lot, it might not be the best choice. The pins become loose and you'll need to use a thick CA glue to hold them in place. You're most likely to see these in single-cell RC aircraft, provided a JST specification isn't used instead.
For battery packs under 1500 mAH, you are most likely to encounter RCY connectors, based on JST specifications. These are small, not rated for more power than 5 Amps but you can push it to 10 if you're willing to take a few risks.
This type is known to be robust and a favorite for many, because it requires no soldering and can be plugged or unplugged as needed. Changing them around is infrequent, so you can stick to using just the one connector for an extended period. They're also hard to disconnect once mated and don't take up much space.
The Deans Mini is a small RC connector, with a value that can go from 7 Amps to 12. Some have had success in pushing it to 15 Amps, but there is a risk of overheating the pins if you do this. They're designed to be comfortable to use and non-sex-specific, so the plugs are the same for both male and female variants. This makes it an easy choice for anyone in need of a reliable RC battery connector.
The Deans Mini does have an exposed solder joint, so you'll need a heat sink and insulation. Shorting hazards are also possible, especially if the exposed pins have the "+" mark on the source side. Apart from RC circles, these are also seeing use in airsoft equipment.
Servo plug-type connectors are among the best choices for some hobbyists, but not others. They're built to take 3 Amps power but can handle up to 6. The burst shouldn't be too long, however. Servo types excel in projects when you make your own connections, rather than something prepackaged. Their reliability is solid and can work with any servo controller, making them very flexible.
Each one has three pins as connectors, but only two are ever used. The third is a ground pin. The ones that are active are marked by two red and black wires in the connector.
Small in size, the XT30 specification is also lightweight and will often see deployment in RC aircraft and drone technology. On the market, you'll find either the original Amass XT30 connectors or the copied versions. The copies look the same and are cheaper, but aren't as robust. They are designed to take a load of 30 Amps but can be increased to 40 if you're willing to risk it.
Both rely on heat sinks to provide insulation. Being made of nylon, these RC connectors are more sensitive to heat and loosening of pins than others, so care should be taken while soldering them. Copies of the originals tend to be more fragile and prone to damage while soldering, while the Amass connectors aren't as sensitive.
EC2 connectors are the small variant of the EC3 and EC5, built to take loads of 20 to 30 Amps. Unlike XT connectors, there's no need for additional insulation and the wires are soldered into pins attached to the casing. The design allows it to cool down faster.
Disconnecting them is easy, with plugging and unplugging being a simple matter. However, these connectors snap into their cases, so replacement is impossible. If you use one of these, you're in it for the long-term.
There are bigger connector types for bigger projects. This is just an overview of what the most common types you'll find for small projects are. Understanding each one's advantages and disadvantages can help you in putting together your RC project. Have fun!