PHOTOS JOEL NAVARRO
Out with the old, in with the new
Upgrading to a brushless motor system is one of the best upgrades you can make to your electric vehicle. Brushless motors require significantly less maintenance, and due to increased efficiency, brushless motors outperform brushed motors in almost every regard. If you're already running brushless, you might be considering an upgrade to a new speed control and motor combo that can handle extra voltage, or has more competition tuning features. No matter why you're looking to install a new brushless system, the job is an easy one. Here's how…
1 UNPLUG THE SPEED CONTROL FROM THE RECEIVER
Pull on the plug, not the wires.
Depending on your model, you may need to open up a receiver box to get to the receiver. When unplugging the speed control, grasp the plug itself instead of pulling on the wire to avoid pulling the wires out of the plug casing. The speed control is plugged into the Channel 2 slot.
2 DISCONNECT MOTOR FROM THE SPEED CONTROL
If a connector is extra tight, hold both sides of the connector so you don't strain the wires where they attach to the motor.
Most RTRs use bullet connectors between the motor and speed control, which can simply be unplugged. If the speed control wires are soldered to the motor, you can remove them with a soldering iron, or simply cut them with wire cutters.
3 REMOVE THE GEAR COVER AND PINION GEAR
The pinion is usually too large to pass through the motor plate hole, so you'll have to remove it. Put the gear-cover screws back into the cover so you don't misplace them.
In order to remove the motor itself, you will likely need to first remove a gear cover. Use a driver and unscrew all of the fasteners that hold the gear cover to the motor plate. Once removed, reinstall the screws in the cover's holes so you don't lose them. When removing the pinion, be sure to use the proper size hex wrench and make certain it fits the fastener tight to avoid stripping the setscrew.
4 REMOVE THE MOTOR
Now that the gear cover and pinion are removed, it is time to remove the motor itself. Just unscrew the two screws holding the motor and it will come right out. You'll need the screws and washers to install the new motor, so place them in a parts tray or simply thread them back into the motor for safe keeping.
5 REMOVE THE SPEED CONTROL
Twist the speed control to loosen the tape, then lift it off.
Now that everything is disconnected from the speed control and the motor has been removed, remove the speed control unit itself. Some speed controls are attached to the chassis with screws, which makes the job extra easy — just take out the screws. Most speed controls, however, attach to the chassis using mounting tape. Use your fingers to grasp the speed control around the case itself (not the heat sinks or wires) and twist the case to loosen the tape. Once a corner of the tape gets loose, use your finger to pry it off the rest of the way. Peel off any remaining tape and clean the chassis thoroughly. For stubborn adhesive residue, try a citrus-based degreaser or denatured alcohol.
6 INSTALL THE NEW SPEED CONTROL
Don't cheap out now. Use high-quality tape to hold your high-quality gear.
The first step in installing the new brushless system is installing the speed control onto the chassis — place it in the same location as the old speed control that you removed earlier if there's enough room. Most speed controls include mounting tape. If yours did not, get the good stuff from your hobby store —Parma Pro Servo Tape and Novak Mounting Tape are good choices. Make certain the mounting areas are clean before sticking the speed control in place.
7 INSTALL THE NEW MOTOR
Don't tighten the screws completely yet.
Place the motor flush onto the motor plate and rotate the motor until the motor screws are aligned with the screw holes on the motor plate. Always position the motor in a way that the soldering tabs are accessible and in a position where the speed control wires won't be pulled excessively when they are attached. Once you find a good spot, fasten the screws, but not all the way, as you will make final motor position adjustments later.
8 INSTALL THE PINION
Slide the pinion in place until it lines up with the spur gear.
Slide the pinion gear onto the shaft and align the setscrew with the shaft's flat side. Line up the pinion with the spur gear as in the photo to make certain the gears mesh fully. Once you've got the pinion lined up, tighten the setscrew. Again, make sure you're using the correct size driver and the fit between the tool and the setscrew is secure to avoid stripping.
Should You Re-Gear?
If you're upgrading from a brushed motor, you will likely need to install a new pinion to get the most from your new power system. While brushless motors really excel in the mid- to high-rpm range, the trade-off is a little less initial grunt on the low end. To compensate for the powerband difference, you will probably need to drop to a slightly smaller pinion gear. Consult the instruction manual that comes with your motor, as many provide you with suggested gearing choices.
9 SET THE GEAR MESH
The ol' paper trick.
It is important to set the gear mesh properly. If the gears are too tight, unwanted drag will be placed on the motor and drivetrain, and if the mesh is too loose, your gears will wear prematurely. To set a proper gear mesh, use “the paper trick.” Slip a strip of regular paper between the spur gear and pinion, push the motor forward to seat the pinion into the spur, then tighten the motor screws. Remove the paper, and the gear mesh should be set just right with just a “tick” of play between the gears.
10 ATTACH THE MOTOR TO THE SPEED CONTROL AND ROUTE THE WIRES
Oops, that's not good: the sensor harness is rubbing the driveshaft and interfering with the camber link. Keep all wires clear of moving parts.
If your motor and speed control are attached by bullet connectors, just plug them together as described in the manual — the wires are usually color coded. If you're installing a “hard-wired” system without plugs, you'll need to solder the wires into place. — at's a how-to in itself — see “How To Solder Like a Pro” in our August 2013 issue. When routing the power wires (and sensor harness, if you have a sensored power system), make sure the wires do not interfere with suspension action or contact exposed gears. Also be sure to leave a little slack in the wires to accommodate chassis flex. Use zip-ties to bundle excess wire.
11 INSTALL THE GEAR COVER
The job is almost done…
To keep debris from getting into the pinion and spur gears, it is important to reinstall the gear cover. Simply line up the screw holes on the gear cover with the holes on the motor plate and tighten the screws.
12 PLUG THE SPEED CONTROL INTO THE RECEIVER
The speed control always plugs into Channel 2.
With the battery disconnected and the power off, plug the speed control into the receiver's Channel 2 slot. Make sure the plug is facing the right direction, as it's designed to fit only one way. Fully depress the plug until it bottoms out into the receiver. And like all wiring, make sure that the receiver plug wire is out of the way of any moving parts.
13 PROGRAM THE SPEED CONTROL
Depending on your speed control, the calibration process typically involves a series of button presses and trigger inputs.
Now that everything is properly installed, charge up a battery pack, and refer to the instruction manual to program the speed control. The actual steps vary from brand to brand, but it's a simple matter of pressing a button and pulling the throttle trigger when you see a certain sequence or color of LED blinks. This setup process calibrates the radio with the speed control to set the neutral, full throttle, and brake/reverse positions.
That's a Wrap Your new brushless power system is ready for action. Read your manual fully for any specific installation steps our general how-to may not have included, and have a look at the tuning adjustments your speed control offers. Many allow you to set maximum braking force, throttle “punch,” and other parameters for more performance and fun.