How to test a speed controller for a brushless motor

Written by jay macgruber
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How to test a speed controller for a brushless motor
Spend less time in the pit and more time driving your radio-controlled unit. (Digital Multimeter image by TekinT from

Electronic speed controllers (ESC) have been in the radio-controlled (RC) hobby market for 25 years. Before that, mechanical speed controllers were the only option. Today's ESCs utilise micro-controllers to squeeze every ounce of performance possible from the motors. Brushless motors and controllers are the latest addition to the RC world. These devices can be more complicated to set up and operate. Sometimes it becomes necessary to test these controllers to verify they operate properly before you use them in a race.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • RC transmitter
  • RC receiver
  • 2 lithium-ion polymer battery packs
  • Brushless motor
  • ESC instruction manual

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  1. 1

    Connect the electronic speed controller to the throttle channel on the receiver. Make sure any power switches on the ESC are in the off position. Connect the output of the ESC to the motor. Brushless motors have three connectors, one for each phase. These connections determine motor rotation.

  2. 2

    Turn the RC transmitter on to verify batteries are charged. Plug the lithium-ion polymer battery into the ESC. Ensure the throttle on your transmitter is set to zero.

  3. 3

    Read the ESC instruction manual and follow the proper power-up programming sequence. For most units, turn on the ESC power at the switch and hold the set button until a tone emits or a light flashes. Squeeze the throttle 100 per cent forward and release. Push the throttle 100 per cent in reverse and release.

    The controller should now emit a tone or flash a light indicating proper calibration of your controller. Squeezing the throttle should now drive the controller and turn the motor. If the motor is not turning the desired direction, turn off the ESC and switch any two output wires going to the motor.

  4. 4

    Turn the ESC back on and verify that the motor now turns the desired direction. You have now verified that the ESC is functioning properly.

Tips and warnings

  • Never plug the battery into the ESC with the transmitter off.
  • Never short the battery's terminals.

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