RC Car Electric Motors Explained

Updated November 21, 2016

The original RC cars were model cars fitted with a remote control aeroplane engine, and those all ran on gasoline. While electric motors weren't the first choice for RC cars, once they were put into use it opened up a number of options (and many of those choices involved what type of electric motor you want to use).


When RC cars first emerged, there were no commercially produced cars or even kits on the market. Even when the first production RC cars were made, they all had gasoline engines. Instead, enthusiasts built their own model cars and equipped them with gasoline-powered engines designed for model aeroplanes. By 1974 the first electric motors for RC cars began to emerge. Companies like WorkRite and Leisure were among the first to make electric-powered RC cars.

Brushed or Brushless

The two main types of electric motors for RC Cars are brushed and brushless. In a brushed electric motor, various parts (most notably windings of wire) are spun around a stationary assembly that includes magnets and brushes. With a brushless electric motor, those windings of wire remain stationary while magnets are mounted on the rotor and spin around them. As the name implies this system does not include any sort of brushes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Brushed Motors

If you are looking to get into RC cars on a tight budget, you'll probably find yourself with a brushed motor. That's because they are considerably less expensive than brushless motors. They have a number of disadvantages, though. For one thing, they don't give the same level of performance as their brushless counterparts. They also generate radio noise (which can interfere with your controls). In addition, they require frequent maintenance (mostly involving the brushes themselves) or replacement.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Brushless Motors

There are quite a few advantages to brushless motors. The motors are more reliable than the brushed versions and also produce less radio interference. They tend to last longer and operate more efficiently (thereby giving increased performance). The main disadvantage to brushless motors is that they are considerably more expensive. Besides that, it can take some time to get them programmed, meaning that the learning and set-up curve is a bit higher with brushless motors.

Other Variations

When it comes to brushed RC motors, the main statistic you want to consider is the number of turns. Essentially the lower the number of turns, the more power the motor will have. However, low turn motors require more maintenance and drain batteries faster than higher turn ones do. The central variation with brushless motors is the battery. The more powerful the battery you have, the better your car's performance will be.

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