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What Are Load Cell Pedals? What Are Their Benefits?

When you are choosing upgrades for your sim racing rig, there are some key components that you will want to consider upgrading first. The steering wheel is often everyone’s first choice, but almost just as important as the wheel are the pedals that you use. So, what are load cell pedals?

Load cell pedals are more advanced sim racing pedals that base the strength of the braking signal received by the game on the pressure applied to the pedal, rather than the distance the pedal travels when you press it.

This can make for some very realistic sim racing experiences, and it can be a great way to improve your racing abilities as well. But how do load cell pedals compare to standard pedals available on the market? Let’s find out by looking at each in more detail.

Traditional Sim Racing Pedals

As we mentioned in the introduction, a good set of pedals should be one of your first considerations when setting up your rig. There are plenty of options on the market, and if you are a beginner or an intermediate racer, you will probably be drawn to some of the more traditional sim racing pedals sets, and these are ones which use something called a potentiometer.

A Decent System For Beginners

A potentiometer measures the distance that the pedal travels, often simply called the travel, and then converts it into a corresponding voltage. It is a simple electronic component that does a very good job of converting a physical action into a signal that can be picked up by another component. In this case, it measures how far you press the pedal, and this tells the game what to do.

Not The Most Accurate

This is a good method of replicating the movements that you make with your feet and emulating that in the game. Although a fairly basic piece of technology, it is still very useful in sim racing as it used across most lower-end pedal sets, and also in equipment like wheels and joysticks as well. They lack some accuracy, but they are cheap and easy to implement.

An Outline Of Load Cell Pedals

More Accurate, More Advanced

A load cell is a component that measures pressure, rather than distance or travel. The pedals will still move in a load cell system, but it is not simply the amount of movement that will determine the response of each one in the game. Load cells also often use a spring to act as resistance, which is the common method used in potentiometer pedal sets as well.

By using the pressure – in other words the strength of the force used to press the pedal – the load cell can convert this into a voltage in a similar way to the potentiometer. This is then reflected in the game, and it is often much more accurate as they tend to be able to pick up much finer resolutions, and thus this often leads to a more realistic experience.

How Does The Price Compare?

The Cheaper Option

Potentiometer pedal sets will always be a cheaper option than their load cell counterparts. They can cost as little as $100 or less, but they can also run into the several hundreds of dollars for a more high-end option. They are also often bundled with wheels and other peripherals, and so they are a great option for those on a tight budget.

More Expensive, But Better

Load cells on the other hand tend to be a bit more expensive. They often start at a couple of hundred dollars, but they can cost close to $1000 for a really high-end set. They also don’t tend to come bundled with wheels and other equipment unlike the potentiometer pedals, but you will often instead see some individual pedal options, which can be very useful for customization purposes.

The Level Of Immersion

Prices Can Be Similar, But The Experience Is Always Different

The prices of potentiometer pedals and load cell pedals can sometimes be quite similar, but of course they can also vary a lot at the extremes. The important difference between the two then is the level of immersion that each one provides. Potentiometer pedals do provide enough feedback and realism to make them good enough for most sim racers, but they do lack accuracy in some regards.

The main area in which they are not highly accurate is the brake pedal. Braking in real life involves a lot of fine control, and most potentiometers will just not provide enough resolution to give you this. However, the gas pedal and the clutch don’t really need to have as much control, and so a potentiometer can usually provide enough immersion for these.

An Upgrade In All Aspects

That is not to say that a load cell clutch pedal will not make a difference, as in fact it can offer a lot of control through its inherent customizability. It can also make a big difference for the gas pedal, as more control is obviously better. However, the main pedal that will provide a really noticeable difference is the brake pedal, and so this is often why people choose them.

Although the potentiometer can replicate the movements of the pedals and to some extent the response, the load cell options just allow for far better detail. They often feel much better and are usually made of higher quality materials too, which adds to the immersion. However, it is this increased resolution that makes load cell pedals far superior to potentiometer options.

The Element Of Customization

Load cell options also tend to offer a lot of customization too. This is sometimes achieved via software, but they can also usually be tuned manually on the actual pedals themselves. The pedals also often come as individual parts, which means that if you want to keep your existing clutch and accelerator but upgrade the brake pedal, you will usually be able to do it fairly cheap.

Which Is The Ideal Choice For You?

Potentiometer Is Best For Beginners

So, now that you know the differences between the two types of pedals, which one should you go for? As a beginner, you will almost always want to go for a potentiometer-based set of pedals. This is mainly due to their price point, as you will probably not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a set of pedals as soon as you get started, unless you have a big budget.

With that said, you should try and get one of the higher end sets if you can, as these will provide the best experience at the lowest price. Plus, potentiometer pedals still provide enough immersion for those new to sim racing to get the hang of things, and you can always upgrade later. They are also fine for intermediate racers, but more experienced players will definitely want to go for load cells.

Load Cells Are Almost Essential For Advanced Racers

The amount of control and immersion that load cell pedals provide is simply so much better than what a potentiometer can offer, so they are well worth the higher price tag for those that are serious about sim racing. A lot of load cell pedals are modelled after real cars, so they are designed to be as realistic as possible while still not being obscenely expensive.

Even if you are a beginner or an intermediate sim racer, a set of load cell pedals can be a smart investment for the sheer quality of their construction. Not only that, but they can also help you to become a better sim racer too, through their increased resolution and ability to control your movements in a much more realistic way.

What About Hydraulic Pedals?

Before we conclude, it is also worth mentioning another popular type of pedal that is out on the market. Hydraulic pedals are some of the most desired options in the world of sim racing, but they are also some of the most expensive. This is because they provide the most lifelike pedal experience possible, and there is some really advanced technology contained within them.

The Most Realistic

Real cars use hydraulic braking systems, as well as clutch and gas pedals, and so hydraulic pedal sets provide the most immersive experience just due to their physical construction. Obviously, they have to be well made, and most choices on the market are, but you will have to pay a premium for this quality. These pedals will cost several thousand dollars.

The Most Expensive

This high price point will deter most sim racers, and if you are a beginner or intermediate sim racer then you definitely don’t need to upgrade to hydraulic pedals in order to have an immersive experience. However, if you are a serious sim racer with lots of experience and a big budget, hydraulic pedals are the next step up from load cells.

Final Thoughts

Load cell pedals are some of the best options on the pedal market for sim racers, and they come in at various different price points. This makes them a suitable upgrade for all levels of experience. However, they are definitely more suited to intermediate to advanced racers. They provide a lot of realism and immersion, and they usually don’t cost that much more than potentiometer-based pedals.

By measuring the pressure applied on the pedal rather than the distance the pedals travel, as with a traditional potentiometer pedal, load cells can provide a lot of resolution and thus a lot of immersion. Nothing will beat a set of hydraulic pedals however, but these are often just too expensive for most people. Thus, load cell pedals are usually a good choice when upgrading your pedals.