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Brushed vs brushless motor: Which is best for you

There are several key differences between a brushed and brushless motor. Knowing the differences between the two will help to make you a more informed buyer when you decide you want to purchase a remote controlled vehicle.

Different RC vehicles all have different engine variations. With each unique variation comes a host of concerns like maintenance, efficiency, handling, maneuverability, repair parts, storage issues, modification opportunities, etc. Knowing the key differences between brushed vs brushless motors is imperative to make sure that you have a good experience with your RC devices.

The Similarities of Both Motors

The similarities between both motors are that they both have motor windings that create an electromagnetic field between coils. This electromagnetic field then rotates the shaft causing energy to transfer from one set of windings to the other rotating the motor shaft to rotate continuously.

How a Brushed Motor Works

Brushed Motor diagram

Brushed motors have windings that are fixed around a central shaft. This central shaft is located inside the motor case and spins with the shaft when the electrical current is applied. There are two magnets within the motor can that are fixed to the inside that does not move.

Power is pushed to the motor windings by the two brushes both positive and negative, that then push against the commutator affixed to the central shaft.

In other words, when the coil is powered the magnetic field that is generated is pushed away from the left magnet and goes to the right which rotates the armature repeatedly.

From there, the friction that is created between the brushes and the commutator is the reasoning behind how the motor is not very efficient when compared to a brushless motor.

Any RC owner who has previously purchased a ready to run electric car in the past has most likely used a brushed motor. Brushed motors are much more affordable and come with some of the most entry level to mid-range car kits available.

Brushed motors are one of the earliest miniature motors that were available, as they came onto the scene back in the mid-1800s and is still used to this day.

Brushed motors typically have a 75 – 80% efficiency percentage.

Concerns with a Brushed Motor

Because there is friction between the brushes and the commutator as mentioned, their motor tends to be less efficient because both the brushes and commutator will wear out eventually.

As a result of this, brushed motors that are more powerful will wear out quicker because they have more revolutions than a weaker one.

How a Brushless Motor Works

brushless motor digram

A brushless motor works differently than a brushed motor does. There are several components that make it especially unique and an interesting consideration nonetheless.

To start out, a brushless motor does not require a commutator, which is why brushless motor popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. Because there is no physical commutator, there is almost no maintenance required due to the fact that the bearings inside will last a very long time. Much longer than the brushed motor works, that’s for sure.

RC buyers will find that brushless motors are found in the most premium options available in the marketplace today, as they are often used for more serious racers and hobbyists.

Brushless motors came to be in the 1960s but didn’t really have a large following until the early 2000s where they began to be a mainstay in production lines.

Brushless motors typically have an 85 – 90% efficiency percentage, which is greater than brushed motors by 5 – 15% at a minimum.

Concerns with a Brushless Motor

As mentioned above, brushless motors are much more expensive and can be too expensive for hobbyists or RC collectors looking to get a more powerful engine. The higher price does come with a better performing system that doesn’t require as much maintenance in the long run.

Advantages vs Disadvantages for Both Motors

So now that you understand how the brushed and brushless motors work, there are several advantages and disadvantages for both. An informed buyer needs to know both the advantages and disadvantages, so the total cost of ownership can be calculated for the RC device they plan on purchasing. The charts below help to break down some of the advantages and disadvantages for each:

Brushed Motor

Advantages

  • Very Inexpensive When Compared To Brushless
  • Simple Wiring
  • Easy Maintenance Due To Lack of Complexity
  • Sometimes Rebuildable Parts Available For Engine

Disadvantages

  • Brushes and Commutator Happen To Wear Out
  • Not Very Efficient (75 – 80%)
  • More Power Wasted
  • Additional Heat Loss
  • Additional Friction
  • Shorter Run Times
  • Shorter Time To Enjoy RC

Brushless Motor

Advantages

Disadvantages

  • More Expensive
  • Complicated Brushless ESC is Required To Power

As you can see from the chart, for a brushed motor the advantages vs disadvantages are almost one to one. Meaning that for every advantage, there is a significant disadvantage that comes along with it.

For the brushless motor, the same comparable ratio cannot be made, as the motor consists of way more advantages over disadvantages and comes with a much larger price tag to get that ratio.

Which is Better Brushed vs Brushless Motor

To determine which is better between brushed vs brushless motors, it all comes down to a few factors including user preference. From a technical and engineering standpoint, there is no question that brushless motors perform much better than brushed motors.

RC Car Body

The true question is whether or not which one is better for different user preferences and experience levels. Remote Controlled vehicle enthusiasts who are just starting out, or are beginning to get involved with RC vehicles should go with a brushed motor.

Brushed motors will give beginners the opportunity to learn all there is about their first initial purchase without having too much power or complexity to scare them away because they struggle to control the vehicle.

Brushless motors that come from manufacturers already have a built in stigma that those who are going to purchase the most expensive option have already dabbled in RC vehicles in the past. This means that they have done their own maintenance before, driven for an extended period of time, know the exact differences between the engines and how those differences are going to affect handling, etc.

Beginners want to do one thing, have fun without having to worry about extra things that might take time away from them doing what makes this hobby great. Brushless motorized RC vehicles come with many more complexities than a beginner should have to worry about like few stabilizing and support features, or a more rigorous care program.

Along with the power concerns and stability issues, a potential buyer has to consider, the next thing that should be considered between which is better is the usage pattern. Beginners can pick up a brushless motor as long as they plan on using negotiable terrain.

What this means is, if a new RC enthusiast wishes to take out a brushless motor with the extra power to a terrain they are unfamiliar with, the RC can get away from them and cause extensive damage that only adds to a headache. While experienced RC hobbyists with brushless motor experience won’t have a problem in this regard, it is something beginners need to absolutely be aware of.

At the end of the day, brushless motors will beat out a brushed motor from an engineering and hardware standpoint. But for beginners, a brushed motor is the definitive way to go until they are comfortable enough to upgrade in the future.

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