Radio-Controlled Cars: Brushed Motor to Brushless Motor Conversion Guide
Converting Requires Purchase of New Motor and ESC
Motors in electric-powered radio controlled (RC) cars use one of two types of motors: brushed or brushless. The brushed motors are the original, older style, and the brushless are newer. In order to change over from brushed to brushless, you must first purchase a new brushless motor. It is not possible to convert the motor itself from one type to the other.
In addition, the brushless motors take a different type of electronic speed controller (ESC), so that must also be replaced.
The main advantage of going brushless is--big surprise; wait for it--there are no brushes! Hence, they are maintenance-free. Secondarily, there may be an increase in speed of the car, but this is not always the case, and should not be the main reason for making this change.
Brushed vs. Brushless Visual Comparison
Tools and Experience You'll Need
- Small screwdrivers
- Parts tray
- Allen wrench
- New brushless motor
- New electronic speed controller
- Small soldering gun or pencil-type soldering iron made for hobbies
- Solder is molten lead, and is very hot; it melts at 370oF (188oC). (Plain water at 140oF will cause 3rd degree burns in just 5 seconds!)
- Be careful when using, and keep flammables away from the work area.
- When installing the new motor and ESC in the vehicle, be careful in routing the wires. Don't let them touch any moving parts to avoid chafing of the insulation which could cause a short.
Soldering Know-How is Required
You will need soldering know-how to complete this changeover.
Use rosin-core solder on electronic parts.
This is not only the most effective type for electronics, it also eliminates the need for messy application of flux to the piece before soldering.
Typical Pencil-Type Soldering Iron
Brushed vs. Brushless ESC Visual Comparison
Removing the Old Motor and ESC
To change your motor, remove the body from the vehicle, then remove the drive gear cover. Disconnect the motor leads from the speed controller.
Locate the motor mounting screws and unscrew them, setting aside in the parts tray.
Remove the pinion gear (smaller of the 2 gears).
Examine motor lead wires that connect the motor to the ESC and determine whether they are plug-in connectors or soldered connections. If they are plug-in, simply unplug them; if they are soldered connections, you'll need to unsolder them before proceeding.
Typical Connections on Brushed Motors
Installing the New ESC and Motor
Attach the new ESC lead wires to the new motor. ESC’s for brushless motors have 5 wires to connect: 3 attach to the motor, 2 go to the battery pack. The wires for the motor are labeled, “A,” “B” and “C.” The wires for the battery are labeled positive and negative (+ and -). The wires are also color-coded to the attachement points.
Although your old motor may have had plug-in connectors, (see photos at right), all brushless motors require soldered connections. Be sure the connectors are free of dirt or any type of oily residue prior to soldering. For any heavy deposits, clean with a piece of fine sandpaper or emery cloth. Rubbing alcohol works well for minor grime, and also to finish off after a sanding treatment.
Check to be sure you have attached the wires securely to the new motor, and install it into the car. Re-install the pinion gear and drive gear cover. You are halfway done!
Brushless Motor and ESC
Removing Old and Installing New ESC
Locate the speed controller, and remove it from the vehicle.** (Sometimes they are screwed in with mounting screws, sometimes they are held in with double-sided foam tape.)
**Don't forget to unplug the battery connectors first!
Fit the new ESC into the vehicle. It may be necessary to move it to a different spot than was occupied by the original one, depending on size and configuration.
Decide whether you wish to use double-sided foam tape or mounting screws, if that option is available on the new speed controller. Mount the new ESC in the chosen location; hook up the 2 power leads to a fully charged battery pack, and the 3rd wire to the receiver. Test the operation.
Brushless Motor Installed
Finished With Install--Now Test!
Double-check all your connections, and turn on the car, then your transmitter.
If the car or truck will not operate, or works erratically after you have made the changeover, double-check all your connections for tight fit and proper polarity.
Be sure your transmitter batteries are fully charged as well.
All photos by this author unless otherwise noted.
© 2010 Liz Elias
More by this Author
Coded secret messages--easy and fun ideas for youngsters, plus a very basic look at how computers understand instructions.
Have you ever wanted to drive a race track like the pros, but don't have that kind of money? Then R/C racing is for you!
Plumber's snakes: how to use them for clearing simple clogs. Save yourself the cost of a plumber's visit. D.I.Y. household maintenance and repairs.