Can Any Motor Be Used In Any RC Car?

At some point in your RC hobby, you will be tinkering with the parts under the hood, so to speak! When you become entrenched in the RC car hobby, you are always on a quest to tweak your car’s speed, torque, or other performance aspects. Concerning motors, are RC car motors interchangeable? Can any motor be used in any RC car?

In most circumstances, RC car motors are not interchangeable on their own. The RC component that goes hand in hand with the motor is the Electronic Speed Control, or ESC, which typically has specifications for certain motors. Changing motors usually implies changing ESC at the same time.

As an RC car driver, you will at some point delve into changing out components in your car to improve performance or to adapt to different driving conditions. You may not want to buy a completely new car for your changing requirements, but can you upgrade and change motors in your RC car easily?

Can Any Motor Be Used In Any RC Car?
RC motor in my Traxxas Slash

Are RC Car Motors Interchangeable?

You can make many tweaks to your RC car, and you can change parts to improve performance or adapt the car to different conditions.

However, changing the motor is essentially doing open-heart surgery on your RC car. The motor is the core of the RC car, and everything is generally structured around the motor.

Consequently, there are several considerations you should bear in mind when undertaking such a drastic change on your RC car!

The main aspects you will need to research before taking the plunge are as follows.

  • The type of motor you are upgrading to.
  • The compatibility of the new motor with the ESC.
  • The physical size of the motor.
  • Shaft diameter of the motor.

Can A Brushed Motors Be Changed For A Brushless Motor In An RC Car?

The most common swap-out for RC car engines is changing from a brushed motor to a brushless motor. Brushed motors are considered to be older technology, and as a result, many RC car owners want to change out these motors for the more modern brushless motors.

Brushed RC car motors can be changed for brushless motors as long as the ESC is compatible, the mountings for the motor fit, and the shaft diameter of the motor is the same as the previous motor. If the ESC is not compatible, it will need to be replaced with a compatible model.

Brushed motors are older technology motors that have copper brushes that are in contact with the motor windings. The brushes in the motor wear out over time and require replacing. If you drive your RC car often, you may need to replace brushes as frequently as every 6 months!

Brushed motors are not sealed, making them vulnerable to moisture entering the motor and causing problems. They are also not as fast as brushless motors, which is generally why RC car owners want to change them for the newer technology.

Many lower-end RC cars are still produced with brushed motors, so many beginner RC car drivers have a car with a brushed motor. As the new driver progresses in skill level, they quickly outgrow the capabilities of the brushed motor and look for something a little more challenging!

More advanced RC cars typically have brushless motors from the outset, but these motors vary in power and speed. For this reason, some RC car drivers may want to replace a brushless motor with a more powerful brushless motor.

(Amazon link)

Do You Need To Change The ESC When You Change An RC Car Motor?

Close up of an ESC

If the motor can be described as the heart of the RC car, the Electronic Speed Control can be described as the brain. The ESC translates the signals for motor control from the transmitter to the motor itself, which requires compatibility between the ESC unit and the motor.

The requirement to change the ESC when you upgrade the RC car motor will depend on the specifications of the ESC unit. Some ESC units are compatible with brushed and brushless motors, some are only compatible with certain motor brands, and others are still rated for motors of a certain power.

Some ESC units will only work on certain branded motors. Both the motor and the ESC will have proprietary connectors and software that is not compatible with other brands.

Related post: How To Tell If Your ESC Is Bad

Brushed and brushless motors have different connections. Brushed motors typically have two wires coming from the motor, while brushless motors have 3 wires coming from the motor. If the ESC does not have connectors to accept all the wires from the brushless motor, the ESC will need to be changed.

Some ESC units are compatible with both motor types, but this will be detailed in the documentation for the ESC and will normally require program changes on the ESC unit.

If you are changing from a brushless motor to a more powerful brushless motor, you still need to research the specifications for your ESC to establish whether the Esc can handle the new motor or not.

(Amazon link)

Where Do You Find Out What Motor Your ESC Is Compatible With?

It is important to ensure your ESC is compatible with the motor you install in your RC car to prevent the motor or the ESC from being damaged.

Most ESC units will have a serial number or model number, which you can use to research the ESC on the internet. You will find documents online that give the specifications to what range of Kv motors the ESC can handle, and in some cases, specific motor models recommended for pairing with the ESC.

If the ESC unit is the one that came with your RC car, the specifications of the unit are probably included with the documentation that came with the car when you purchased it.

The New RC Car Motor May Not Fit In The Car

The motor and the ESC unit electronics are not the only compatibility issues you need to consider when replacing a motor in an RC car.

Some RC cars are built with a chassis designed to take a motor with certain dimensions. A larger motor or a motor with a different physical shape, such as shoulders around the shaft or differently positioned wiring connectors, may result in a new motor being unable to fit in the RC vehicle.

The scale size of your RC car may also be a limiting factor for the size of the motor that can be installed in the vehicle. Smaller scale RC cars and mini RC cars typically use 370-size motors. Generally, it is not possible to fit a physically larger motor in these cars.

Typically, 1/10 scale RC cars use 540-size motors, with 550-size motors used for the off-road vehicles in this scale and 1/8 scale RC cars, which typically have more room on the chassis.

Related post: How Fast Do 540 Size RC Motors Go?

Generally speaking, physically larger motors produce more power and speed, but if you have a mini RC car, it is unlikely you will have space internally to upgrade to a 550-size motor.

RC Motors Have Different Shaft Sizes

The final aspect to consider when changing the motor on an RC car is the shaft size of the motor. This may result in incompatibilities with the drive mechanism of the RC car, which may require more parts to be replaced or modified.

Typically, larger RC motors have larger shaft diameters to better cope with the additional torque produced by the motor. The shaft diameter is usually part of the specifications on the motor and should be checked to ensure compatibility with your RC car’s drive mechanism

Not only does the shaft on motors vary in diameter, but they may also vary in length. This may require the motor to be mounted closer to the drive mechanism to ensure proper alignment of the gears to drive the wheels.

If the shaft length and diameter differ from the original motor in the car, you may need to purchase additional parts or modify existing parts to accommodate the different motor.

Related post: What Turn Motor Is Best For RC Drifting?


It is possible to change the motor in an RC car, but any motor will not work in any RC car. The compatibility of the ESC unit, the space in the chassis, and the shaft size of the new motor must be taken into account to ensure the motor will work in your car.

So, changing the motor in an RC car may not be as simple as changing the motor! You will need to engage in some research to find a motor compatible with the other aspects of the car or consider additional replacement parts to accommodate the new motor!

Paul Good

This awesome hobby has something for everyone, whether you like to build your RC from scratch and keep modifying till you've got it to just how you want it, to track racing. You might be out with a boat, or perfecting your skills with a plane. Are you taking some cool pics with your drone? I'm sure my site will help you on your journey.

Recent Posts