In recent years the capabilities of electric RC vehicles have taken large, innovative steps. Batteries today are hundreds of times more powerful than they were five years ago, and this has ushered in a new breed of electric systems: brushless motors. Today, there are a large variety of brushless systems available and they are becoming less and less expensive. There is no doubt that brushless motors are incredibly more efficient than their brushed counterparts. If you take care of a brushless motor, it can last a lifetime, and you'll never have to see a lathe or pair of brushes and springs again. Today's brushless ESCs allow the use of both brushless and traditional brushed motors, but there are a few important differences in installation and setup.
Installation and ESC Setup
1. Before installing a brushless system, chose a location for the ESC; keep it isolated from the receiver and steering servo. Doing so will prevent electrical interference that would result in glitching and poor reception. Keep the ESC in a location that will remain clean and dry as well. Use thick, high-quality servo tape, and secure the ESC in place.
2. Bolt the motor to the engine mount, and decide how long the ESC power wires need to be. Then cut off the remaining slack. Strip about 1/8" to 1/4" of insulation from the three power wires, and tin each of them with solder .
3. Now, solder the power wires into the corresponding female soldering tabs. Use a handless soldering jig to hold the wire into the female, and heat the wire from underneath the soldering tab. Apply enough solder to the wire until it is completely integrated into the tab. After all three of the power wires are soldered onto the tab, cut off the remaining wire hanging from the bottom, flush to the solder mound.
4. When using battery connectors, install them at this point. If your brushless system is sensor-based, insert the six-wire plug into the ESC, and use the provided harness to corral the sensor wires.
5. Finally, charge a battery pack and program the ESC according to the default settings in its instruction manual. Make sure that your gear selection is within the suggested parameters for your system. If your gearing is acceptable, attach the pinion gear, using a healthy drop of thread lock.
1. When using a brushed motor with a brushless ESC, you need to install the proper capacitors onto the motor. It's okay to use a Schottky diode with a brushed motor, just be sure never to use one with your brushless…the ESC will melt. Poof!
2. As you solder the power wires, you can use the single wire or a ‘Y' method. When using a brushless ESC with a brushed motor, you must solder three of the power wires onto the negative soldering tab, and one on the positive.
3. When powering up your system, make sure to put the ESC into brushed mode, again according to the setup instructions in the manual. If you don't, the ESC will turn into a fried egg.
Setting the Brakes
In brushed motors, the added friction creates drag as the throttle returns to neutral. This feeling is unique, and it makes handling at high speeds feel more comfortable. In a brushless motor, the lack of friction takes away from this comfortable drag. Most brushless
ESCs, however, have a setting that simulates the drag sensation created by brushed motors. The drag brake setting is adjustable and can be turned off completely. Drag adjustments are also very consistent, even at high
RPMs. This setting will also work if you decide to run a brushed motor as well, making the ESC extremely versatile.
Keep the ESC Cool With a Fan
Today's powerful batteries challenge an ESC's ability to stay cool and run smooth. Sometimes you are relegated to certain gear combinations. This is based on an ESC's inability to run high gear ratios without overheating. Thankfully, many manufacturers sell cooling fans that attach, rather universally, to brushless ESC's. Some new brushless systems even include cooling fans. These fans usually draw power from the receiver, while others are integrated with the power of the ESC. Either way, cooling fans draw very little current. Using a fan to keep the ESC cool will allow a larger range of gearing possibilities, while protecting your hardware in the process.
If taken care of properly, brushless motors can last forever. With a brushless system, you will spend much more time on the track than in the pits, unless you crash of course. Installing a brushless system is not difficult, but it has to be done properly, or the ESC can turn to liquid. The future has arrived in RC with brushless systems, making them as powerful as nitro engines, while running silently. In order to change the fundamental idea of brushed motors, it took something truly innovative. Thomas Edison would certainly be proud. Brushless systems have taken electric RC into a new arena and right into the 21st century. Just watch for the turns, they come quickly.