Brushed or Brushless RC Cars [ Key Performance Impacts ]

by Josh | Last Updated:   3 weeks ago
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Brushless and brushed are the two types of motors you would see in an RC car. Many people new to RC vehicles are often confused about their differences and how they affect the performance of their RC car. As a result, a lot of people want to know which of the two motors is ultimately better.

Brushless motors have a longer lifespan and faster response, while brushed motors have better control at low speed. Off-Road RC cars tend to use brushed motors for better control. While most of the touring and racing RCs use brushless for efficiency and speed.

“What is better, brushed or brushless RC cars?” is a common question among many new RC hobbyists. To this day, there’s no definitive answer to it because they serve different roles and outperform each other in certain situations.

There’s also the matter of maintenance and efficiency. I shall touch on all of these topics and explain them in detail so that you can judge them yourself and figure out which would be the best for you.

Three offroad RC cars turning into a sharp turn

Brushed Vs. Brushless RC Cars

Brushed and brushless RC cars are both equally popular, but they have varying degrees of impact on an RC car’s performance. Strictly speaking, a brushless RC car will have better acceleration than a brushed RC.

That’s because a brushed RC has a slight lag once you press the throttle. On the other hand, a Brushless will start as soon as the command reaches the ESC.

RC monster trucks, for example, almost always use brushless motors. These large cars require a lot of power, which is something a brushed motor can not provide.

The speed that an RC car can reach depends greatly on the size of the motor. However, bigger is not always better. That’s why most monster trucks do not have gigantic motors. They are usually modest in terms of size.

RC touring cars or recreation cars rely on brushless motors for the most part. They have lowered bodies that are mainly suited to on-road travel.

There’s no logical reason for them to be using brushed motors over brushless. They gain absolutely no benefit from the low-speed movement control of a brushed motor. Usually, cheaper on-road RC cars have brushed motors.

RC trucks, crawlers, buggy, and any other off-road cars will often use brushed motors.

Brushed motors are indeed cheap, but that doesn’t mean there are no high-quality brushed motors. Rock crawlers, in particular, almost exclusively use brushed motors because of the low-speed movement control.

Off-road RC cars are less about raw speed and acceleration, more about control and handling. Brushed motors are peerless when it comes to better control systems compared to brushless motors.

The performance difference between brushed and brushless motors becomes especially evident when going over rocky terrain.

Off-road RC cars often get into sticky situations, like being stuck over large rocks or in a hole.

When you transition from being stopped, especially when you are putting uphill or downhill, brushed motors will offer unrivaled control.

The brushes of a brushed motor will drag over the commutator, which makes the transition very gentle.

Brushed Motor vs. Brushless Motor

I explained which motor works best for which type of RC car. But in terms of just the motor, which is better? Let’s break it down from the very basics.

Brushed Motors

Brushed motors are cheap. They are easy to replace and come with a very simple ESC module. However, performance-wise, Brushed motors have plenty of downsides. Brushed motors require a significant amount of maintenance to perform at their best. Their only redeeming quality is their control mechanics.

Brushes

Brushed motors have a set of brushes in them that wear off over time. You would need to replace these brushes often. An average Brushed motor would last anywhere from 5 hours to 30 hours. But that depends on the speed of your RC car.

A fast rig like a Slash 4×4 can wear a brush down to a mere thirty minutes. A rig’s weight also plays a significant role. The heavier the rig, the more power a motor needs to power it.

In certain cases, it’s better to use a low-powered brushed motor over a high-powered one. Something with a lower power output will always produce slower rotation.

It will ultimately reduce the rate of deterioration of the brushes. These motors also happen to be dirt cheap so replacing them is not that costly.

Heat

Brushed motors produce a significant amount of friction. The brushes inside the motor constantly grind on the lamination, resulting in heat. Managing the heat is a headache in most cases.

A fast car will overheat a brushed motor in a matter of minutes. It is a significant drawback and is the reason why you won’t see the brushed motor in most speed-focused RC cars.

However, most off-road cars prefer a gentler pace, so this constitution fits perfectly with them. Relatively cheaper brushed motors have very wide laminations, which cause a lot of steel loss. But that’s still manageable to some extent.

ESC

The ESC or electronic speed controller of a brushed motor is easy to modify and program. That’s why almost every regular RC car comes with a brushed motor instead of a brushless one.

Since it’s easier to set-up, replacing these motors becomes a lot less troublesome.

Speed

The speed of a brushed motor is a lot slower than brushless motors. Since the brushes cause a bit of hindrance, they also reduce the torque density quite a bit.

Brushless Motors

Brushless motors are peerless in terms of efficiency. They have an extremely long runtime and faster output. That’s why almost every high-end on-road RC car uses brushless motors.

Not only RC cars, even RC boats, and aircraft use Brushless motors. On the flip side, these are far more expensive than brushed motors.

Brushless

As the name suggests, these motors do not have brushes. Just this fact alone would make your life significantly more comfortable because you wouldn’t need to change these parts on the motor constantly.

The inner laminations do not decay, and they can last indefinitely as long as you do not let them rust or overheat excessively. The initial cost of these motors might be a bit high. But in the long run, your overall expense would be lower.

Heat

The inner body of a brushless motor has no parts that produce friction. That’s why they produce significantly less heat than a brushless motor. Since they take a long time to overheat, most of the faster RC cars use them.

ESC

Brushless motors do not need any dedicated maintenance but setting them up can be a bit difficult. The electric brushless motors have complex ESC setups.

Speed

Brushless motor has no friction and can increase its speed based on the amount of power it gets. They usually have optimized laminations to reduce steel loss as much as possible.

That’s why they can generate significantly more RPM than a brushed motor without burning out.

Brushless motors will naturally have higher runtime than brushed motors. But if you use too much power, the runtime might be lower than a high-end brushed motor.

Final Thoughts on What is Better Brushed or Brushless RC Cars

I hope that after going through all that, you have a clear idea about what is better, brushed or brushless RC cars. Brushless RC cars are easy to maintain, produce more torque, and are generally harder to control.

On the other hand, brushed RC cars have a slower speed, more control, and are high maintenance. Thanks for reading till the end.

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