RC cars tend to be separated into two main categories: brushed RC cars and brushless RC cars. This is arguably the most important way to distinguish RC cars, which means that it should have a big influence on how you purchase and customize them.
But what does brushed and brushless even mean? In this post, we’ll explain the difference between them and tell you everything you need to know.
The key to understanding the difference between brushed and brushless RC cars lies in understanding more about the RC motor. Brushed and brushless refers to the kind of motor that is installed, as well as the kind of technology that the motor itself uses.
The basic difference between the two is that a brushed RC car motor is mechanical, whereas a brushless RC car motor is electronic.
A brushed motor is primarily made up of carbon pads and brushes, which is where brushed motors get their name from. The pads brush up against another component of the motor that’s called the commutator. This creates a magnetic push-and-pull motion which produces heat and friction, causing movement to be created which allows the RC car to function.
As you can expect from the name, a brushless motor does not use carbon pads which brush up against other motor components. Instead, the process is inverted. While the process is a lot more technical and complicated, the short version is that the motor casing rotates and spins around the coils instead of the other way around. This process results in much less friction than a brushed motor.
Brushed motors are much more popular and mass-produced more frequently than brushless motors, and the reasons why are quite simple.
For one thing, brushed motors are much less expensive to manufacture since the design is simpler to build. As a result, this also makes brushed motors cheaper to buy. This is arguably the biggest reason why brushed motors are the more popular option. Most RC cars you buy on the market will come with a brushed motor unless stated otherwise.
Another benefit of brushed motors is that they are easy to use and customize. Should you ever want to take apart your RC car or replace it with a new motor, a brushed motor has less components and is easier to handle.
Brushed motors are actually preferred by many people for lower speeds or low cycles because they don’t take up too much energy at these states compared to brushless motors and brushless RC cars. This makes brushed motors a great choice for people who use their RC cars for more recreational purposes as opposed to participating in races.
As mentioned earlier, brushed motors are less expensive than brushless ones, but you can probably also expect that the more expensive motor is probably packing a lot more features as well. While they are more complex and pricier, brushless motors offer a lot more value in many ways.
For one thing, brushless motors are always faster than brushed motors when all things are equal. This is because, as explained above, these motors produce much less friction. Less friction means less resistance, and less resistance means less internal stress reducing the maximum speed of the RC car. As a result, brushless motors are always preferred among fans of racing.
Another huge benefit of brushless motors is that they require far less maintenance. Again, this is related to the lack of friction. The more movement and friction that mechanical parts receive, the closer they get to breaking down. This is true of computers, vehicles, factory equipment and RC cars – it's simply a law of nature.
Because the electronic components of brushless motors are almost entirely frictionless, they will need repairs or replacements far less often than their brushed counterparts.
Additionally, brushless motors have better energy efficiency and are better suited to longer sessions or races. This makes them more compatible with batteries with longer lifespans themselves.
One last benefit of the brushless motor design is that they actually can improve the handling and precision of your RC car. You’ll feel your car turn with more sharpness and accuracy when handling tight curves. This makes them better suited to more experienced RC car users, but it’s a level of control that’s hard to turn away from once you’ve gotten a taste of it.
Yes, it is possible to put a brushless motor in an RC car that originally came with a brushed motor, but only if the car itself is compatible with the more powerful technology.
You have to keep in mind that because brushless motors are faster, they may be too fast for some RC models. Not all RC cars have the gears or tires built to handle the speeds that only brushless motors can provide.
There’s also the chance that the circuitry of your RC car is not compatible with the different motor type even if the more mechanical elements can handle higher speeds.
Always check that your RC car is compatible with brushless motors before opting for an upgrade.
No, brushless motors will eventually wear down and require replacement, just like their brushed counterparts. As mentioned earlier, the lack of friction extends their lifespan dramatically, but they will still eventually require maintenance or flat-out replacement.
For reference, many brushed motors will only last about 2500 hours before they require maintenance, whereas your average brushless motor can go for tens of thousands of hours before anything goes wrong. Keep this in mind when asking yourself why brushless motors are more expensive.
Now that understand the difference between brushless and brushed motors for RC cars, you choose the one that’s right for you, or even make an upgrade if you crave more speed!