Brushed and brushless motors are the two main types of motors for RC cars and virtually any other RC vehicle (plane, drones, boats, etc.). One motor is more powerful than the other and also works better than the other. The motor I am talking about is of course the brushless one.
Brushless RC motors are far superior to their brushed counterpart in virtually every way except for the cost. Brushless motors last longer, produce more power, and are much more reliable but they are more expensive than brushed motors.
Since brushless motors are more expensive you will often find brushed motors in less expensive RC vehicles as people who are spending a lot of money expect to have the better brushless motor in their vehicle.
As a hobbyist, can you differentiate between a brushed and brushless motors? Technically, brushed and brushless motors apply a similar working principle.
Brushless motors are certainly the better of the two but rather than just having you trust us on that we will dive into the specifics of these two motors in this article so you can get to know more about each of them.
If you prefer to see a video comparison of the two you can check it out below.
What is a brushed motor?
The brushed motor has brushes inside of it (hence the name) and these brushes are normally made of copper, silver, or graphite and are used to convert electricity into motion. These brushes make contact with a mechanical rotary switch called a commutator and deliver an electrical current.
When the current is passed through the air , a magnetic field is made, repelled, and attracted, which finally causes the armature, also known as a rotor to rotate. For the brushed motor, the windings are located on the rotor, and the magnet is on the stator.
The pros of brushed motors
Brushed motors are relatively reliable, straightforward, and most of all, cheap.
They provide primary two-wire control and this is favorable for new users and entry-level cars. With their simple command, the brushed motor gives more power for tight, tactical driving. Meaning it’s easier for brushed RC cars to maneuver through terrains compared to RC cars with brushless motors because they have minor external components.
Compared to brushless motors, the brushed motor is excellent for beginners as their prices are considerably more affordable.
Brushed motors are also highly configurable. You can modify them to get the exact speed you want with the voltage that you use. The Traxxas Slash 2WD (found here) or the Traxxas Bandit (found here) are the two best choices to consider when talking about RC cars with brushed motors.
The cons of brushed motors
Brushed motors have a low power efficiency. The efficiency level of a brushed motor is typically between 75% and 80%, which is considerably lower than for brushless motors, which have an 85% to 90% efficiency level.
The mechanical limitation of the brushes causes the engine to offer a lower speed range than cars with brushless motors provide.
There is also a lot of electrical and electromagnetic noise due to the constant switch of the commutator, brushes, and shafts. Due to the continuous contact of the elements inside the motors, heat loss is high, and the rotational force is less.
Periodic repairs and replacements are required because of the wear and tear on the brushes causes the motor to simply wear out after a while.
What is a brushless motor?
Brushless motors are constructed a little differently. The windings are located on the stator instead of the rotor, and magnets are placed on the rotor. This unique design eliminates the need for brushes which in turn makes the motor considerably better.
In addition to the external rotor, a brushless motor uses three phases of driving coil and an additional sensor device to sense the position of the rotor and the drive electronics. Besides, it makes use of an amplifier that is triggered by an electronic device like an optical encoder to create a magnetic field inside the motor.
As per the explanation you can see, electronic commutation with a brushless motor is created based on the position sensor instead of the mechanical rotary switch.
The pros of brushless motors
Brushless motors don’t deteriorate quickly, and they will last a long time, often longer than the other parts of the RC vehicle. They don’t have brushes inside and that is why they have a much longer lifespan.
Also since they don’t have brushes then a brushless motor will require less maintenance, have fewer problems, and cost you less cash in the long run.
In a brushless motor, there are no brushes to clean or to replace either so you only have to maintain the bearing, which needs periodic lubrication to keep in check.
Brushless motors can often run for five to six years without any issues! That is much much longer than you could ever expect out of a brushed motor.
The weight and size of the motor is relatively smaller and lighter. It’s not a burden to your vehicle, so it can also improve your speed and handling capability quite significantly.
Moreover, a brushless motor offer more power and longer run times than an equivalent size brushed motor. The reason being there is no mechanical brush limitation on this type of engine and the brushless motor is more efficient (as mentioned earlier).
Brushless motors are known to be able to deliver higher torque at variable speeds and on a more practical note, the brushless motor has a low electric noise.
The loss is shallow, which translates to a higher movement for the same amount of electricity that you feed to a brushed motor.
The cons of brushless motors
Brushless motors are much more expensive than a brushed motor due to the complexity and the use of the electric speed controller. Despite the fact that it’s pricey, with brushless motors, you will see the value for your money because it will work flawlessly for a much longer time as they require fewer repairs and replacements over the years.
Brushless motors offer less load speed control as well. It makes driving on a rougher terrain a bit harder and more challenging when compared to the brushed motor.
Now the big question is which one you should choose for your RC car?
If fast speed and maximum power from the motor are not necessary, then a brushed motor would be ideal for you to allow you to save some money.
If you want to crawl and require an occasional speed boost at 5mph to 10mph, a brushed motor will work just fine. Besides, they are excellent for beginners who need ample power at a lower price.
A brushless motor is the best for you if you need to be faster than 15mph and would like to have some additional power efficiency. Brushless motors are an excellent option for experienced racers who need to have more speed from their cars and also want to get the best possible performance from them.
In our mind this is a no brainer, if you have the choice you should always go for the brushless motor!
Upgrading your RC motor
You can upgrade the engine of your RC car to a brushless motor and it works in most cases, but make sure you do your research thoroughly.
Besides upgrading your RC car to the brushless motor, you will often need to upgrade other features to support the brushless motor as well which can increase the cost of upgrading substantially.
For instance, you will need to get the brushless ESC, and the battery will likely need to be upgraded from NiMH to Li-Po. You will also need a new battery charger as well as other safety accessories.
So what do you think you will get after the brushed to brushless change?
You will be happy to experience enhanced performance in your RC car regarding speed, suspension, steering, and much more.
Both the brushed and brushless motors can work fine in your RC car and just because a specific model has a brushed motor does not mean you should never buy it. If you are a beginner there is nothing wrong with starting with the cheaper and less powerful brushed motor.
However, most people quickly realize that a brushless motor is considerably better when they start racing with friends and are constantly losing. At that point upgrading can often be expensive or at least require a lot of time and effort.
If you plan on being in the RC hobby for a considerable period of time into the future it is best to just start with the better brushless motor from the beginning!