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How To Clean An RC Car Motor Plus Maintenance To Do When Cleaning

If you have an RC car or know anything about them at all then you will know that the motor is one of the most important parts of the vehicle (obviously) however what many people don’t know is that they should regularly clean that motor to keep it running at the peak of performance. 

As soon as the engine fails, the fun stops so motor maintenance is exceptionally crucial. Therefore, if you choose to properly clean and maintain your motor it will last much longer and in turn provide more fun while saving you some money. 

A well-maintained motor will never let you down. It’s likely to last for much longer than other engines that are covered in dirt and embedded with grit as those will heat up faster, run hotter, and ultimately die quicker. 

RC motors should be inspected regularly and cleaned to provide maximum performance. 

In this article, you will give you some information on steps you should take to keep your engine in tiptop shape, as well as how to make your engine run cool.

Also, we will let you know not just how to clean your RC motor but even how to properly maintain it.

You can also check out the video below on how to clean an RC motor if you prefer to watch rather than read. 

How to clean an RC motor

This information applies to most of the brushed and brushless motors on the market but sometimes motors will be slightly different so the cleaning process might be different as well. 

Clean the chassis and speed control

Get an air compressor to blow off the dust and dirt that has accumulated on your RC car’s chassis and speed control. If you don’t have an air compressor you can use cans of compressed air or buy a cheap air compressor here

Your goal here is to remove the loose dirt and grime before it becomes too hard to get off using air. You can use an old toothbrush to remove any dirt that is stuck extremely good but be careful with the speed control as you don’t want to damage it or the connections to and from it. 

Inspect the wiring

Checking the speed control for frayed wires and damaged insulation is essential because they can lead to radio interference and short-circuiting, which can result in burning up the motor and speed control. 

Use heat shrink tubing or liquid electrical tape to repair damaged wires if you have any or use this opportunity to replace the wires or the ESC all together depending on its age and condition. 

Remove the motor

You do not need to unsolder the motor’s power leads or unplug the sensor harness, but doing so will give you more freedom to work. After removing the engine, wipe it with a rag to remove dust and dirt. 

If you don’t want to remove the motor you can wipe it off and use an air compressor on it while it is still attached to the RC car but cleaning it is a bit easier if it is removed. One thing you will need to be careful with is that you don’t knock any parts off the motor with the high powered air so it’s a good idea to hold it a little ways away from the motor and gradually move it closer where needed. 

Disassemble the motor

It’s easy to take apart brushless motors for cleaning because they only require a few simple screws to disassemble. The few screws that are used to hold the motor together are on the front, back, or sides of the motor casing. 

Remove the screws, disassemble the motor, and lay the parts on a clean rag. Be careful not to lose any spacers or washers that are used to align the motor shaft inside the motor. You should also note the order in which the spacers or washers are installed.

Clean the motor

Dirt does accumulate inside a brushless motor just as it does in the case of brushed motors. The use of a motor cleaning spray is not recommended to clean the windings inside the engine. Using motor cleaning spray can take a situation from bad to worse. 

Just use a small brush and light air pressure to clean inside the engine and that should be enough to move any debris or dirt that is inside. 

Clean the bearings

The rear bearing can be removed from the motor to make cleaning easier. Things are different for the front bearings on some brushless motors since it can be glued to the front end parts, and it cannot be removed. 

If this is the case with your motor then simply leave the front bearings in place, and give it a good dousing with motor cleaning spray.

Keep it cool

NiMH and LiPo cell batteries have high capacity and run time often for longer than 30 minutes. Running an RC vehicle for that long can lead to problems  like overheating, which could lead to your speed control’s thermal shutdown feature kicking in. 

If you have issues with the motor overheating even after cleaning it then you should check with your motor’s manufacturer because most likely they will have optional motor cooling products that can be added to the RC car. 

To help control running temperature you can attach a cooling fan to your speed control, and it will pass a continuous flow of fresh air over it to keep it cooler. You can mount the cooling fan to the speed control’s heat sink if it has one, or onto the chassis next to speed control so that it blows directly on the case.

If you go this route you will have to plug the fan’s connector into your receiver’s battery slot. It can also be wired to the speed control. It will not lower your run time by much since these small fans use very little power.

Some motors like Novak’s Velocity can be fitted with a motor sleeve that has tall cooling fins to dissipate heat.

These motor sleeves will not fit most 1/10 scale off-road buggies and trucks in which the transmission wraps around the motor. It’s best for on-road vehicles and monster trucks with a lot of room above the engine.

The fins are designed to have a fan mounted directly to the heat sink as well. In case your motor’s manufacturer does not offer a motor heat sink, it is possible for you to get a generic one that will fit. Installing both of these items will significantly lower the running temperature of your motor and speed control.

Inspect the motor

Check if the cleaned and disassembled motor pieces have any signs of wear. Ensure that the windings in the motor aren’t loose, chafed, or shiny. Check whether the magnets have rub marks and be sure they aren’t chipped or loose as well. 

Lubricate the bearings

The motor cleaning spray we used earlier will have washed away the factory-applied lubricant, so you have to re-lubricate the bearings before using your RC car again..

Inspect the bearings

Prior to rebuilding the motor, it’s necessary that you check the front and rear ball bearings to ensure that they spin freely. Since you already have everything apart and clean this is the perfect time to check these. 

If the bearing feels gritty, replace it. Check your motor’s instructions or reach out to the manufacturer to make sure that you get a replacement of the right size.

Rebuild the motor

After cleaning and inspecting the motor’s significant components and lubing the bearings, now comes the fun part, it’s time to rebuild your motor. 

If you were careful with disassembly and kept all the parts close together this should be easy. If you scattered the parts all over your house or garage it might take you longer! 

Reinstall the motor

Make sure that the gear mesh is set correctly, and use zip ties to secure the power leads and the sensor wire and keep them away from spinning parts.  

Once your motor is clean, and your mesh is all set, you now get to go out and get it all dirty again. The type of terrain you drive in will determine how frequently you should clean and maintain your motor.

The good part is that you have a fresh, clean motor that‘s going to be faster and will last longer than the racers who don’t take the time to maintain and clean their RC engine.