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Guide to R/C Motors

08/12/2007 Specialist Radio Controlled Gamer Article
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Guide to R/C Motors

Previous articles from our editor Paul Govan are here.

For electric radio controlled cars one of the key components is the motor. There are a wide range of manufacturers and grades. Motors need to be matched to the type of speed control unit and battery in the car to ensure optimum performance. Two main types are available, cheaper but less robust Burshed Motors and more expensive higher performing Brushless Motors.

Brushed motors are the cheapest way to power an R/C car and an ideal solution for most beginner hobbiests. They can be paired with the cheaper resistance based Speed Control units. However, their wound core and magnetism based drive generates heat as well as power, and needs to be open to air flow for cooling. This not only reduces efficiency at lower speeds but also makes them more like to need maintenance or replacement if used in muddy, wet or dusty conditions.

Brushless motors are a recent innovation that offer several advantages over brushed motors. The have higher efficiency and reliability, run quieter and longer without brush erosion problems. They can also be sealed units which is ideal for off-road dust and mud racing. Becuase of this technology, brushless motors cost significantly more. They also require complex and more expensive Electronic Speed Controllers to run.


Beginner kits, such as those available from Tamiya, usually come with a standard motor. These can often be upgraded to improve performance provided they are well matched to the battery and speed control unit - such as changing the 340 to the 540 in a Grasshopper.

Intermediate kits usually come with a higher spec motor. Manufacturors have to balance the performance of the motor with the cost to the consumer. You are more likely to find a Brushless models here.

Expert usually pair bespoke motors and speed control units to suite the weight and telemetary of their racing set-up.

Guide to R/C Speed Control Units

For electronic radio controlled cars it is vitally important to be able to accuratley and efficiently control the speed generated by the motor. Two types are available, the more basic Physical Speed Contollers and all in one Electronic Speed Control units.

Physical Speed Controllers work by using a Servo to move a physical rheostat to vary the amount of power going to the motor. Although this is cheaper, you need to factor in the extra cost of the controlling Servo and maintenance of these additional moving parts. These are being replaced with Electronic Speed Controllers in even cheaper models.

Electronic Speed Controllers are stand-alone units that control speed electronically. This avoids the problems associated with physical controllers, and must be used with Brushless Motors. They incorporate the throttle and receiver into one sealed unit.


Beginners should be aware that some Electronic Speed Control units do not offer a reverse function. These higher spec control units are focused of efficiency and accuracy of forward motion, ideal for racing but not as convenient for leisure driving.

Intermediates should be aware that an Electronic Speed Controller ensures that they can upgrade to Brushless Motors in the future.

Experts will rely on the reduced wight, components and increased performance of Electronic Speed Controllers.

Written by Rupert Stelling

You can support Rupert by buying Guide to R/C Motors

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Rupert Stelling writes the Radio Controlled Gamer column.

"Having grown up racing Tamiya radio and remote controlled cars and trucks I was keen to get my kids started on the same hobby. Here, I share my R/C reviews and guides to getting started in this electric and petrol powered world."

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