Article Author: Dean Bielanowski  

Associated RC18R Kamino Body 4WD Car Upgrade to Brushless

Product DetailsWhen I was looking to upgrade my stock Team Associated 18R RC car to a brushless system, I looked online for information but found very little, so here is a brief article on what I purchased and how the upgrade process happens...

Because the 18R has a relatively small chassis with not much room to move, you cant just throw any old brushless motor and ESC in and expect it all to easily fit. So I knew I had to get a Micro sized brushless motor and ESC combo. While there are many on the market, I decided to go with a Mamba Pro ESC and Castle Creations 5400kV brushless motor combination. These seemed well regarded by many who have used them previously and the Mamba Micro ESC has many decent programmable features for controlling many aspects of the motor. I probably could have went with a 6800kV or even 8000kV motor from the some company, but these may have been too powerful for the light 18R chassis and I am not sure if the higher kV motors are larger or too large to fit in the chassis and engine mount area? In any case, the 5400kV brushless motor is actually smaller in diameter than that stock brushed 370 size motor that the 18R ships with out of the box.

The good part is that the Castle Creations 5700kV micro brushless motor that comes as part of the kit (see Amazon link to the right) fits perfectly into the motor mount on the 18R without modification. Just be sure to use the screws that come with the new motor. The shaft on the new motor just not have a flat ground on it to better secure the pinion gear screw. You will need to grind a flat yourself otherwise your pinion gear will likely eventually slip. I used a Dremel and a wider grinding wheel to grind a flat on the shaft. You dont have to grind a lot off, and be careful not to grind too much or you will weaken the motor shaft. About 1/3 the width of the shaft is plenty. You just need enough for the small pinion gear securing screw to sit flat on the shaft.

With the motor secured and positioned for proper mesh I moved onto hooking up the motor to the ESC. These are solder-less connections using bullet type connections and they can be easily pushed together. If you find your motor runs in reverse once all is said and done, you generally just have to switch two of the wires with each other and that resolves the problem. I ended up wrapping each connection with a layer of electrical tape to make sure those wires were completely isolated from each other. It may help avoid any problems later on.

At this point I had also removed the stock ESC. This is just stuck on with double sided tape to the chassis. Just carefully pry it off. The Mamba Micro Pro ESC fits in roughly the same location as the stock ESC. It is a little wider but it fits fine and I secured it to the chassis with a new piece of double sided tape. This has worked fine so far and it doesn't move at all.

With that done, I had to solder a connector to the ESC wires to suit my battery. Now, the stock NiMH battery comes with a Tamiya type plug (I think). I chose to upgrade all my batteries to Deans style plugs as I read somewhere that these were one of the better designs and allowed more current to flow than the plastic pin type Tamiya or Molex plugs. Swapping all my batteries to Deans plugs also made them easier to charge (I didn't need 3 or 4 different charge wires or plug types). Additionally, I can use either NiMH or 2S LiPo batteries if I want on the 18R. I purchased about half a dozen Deans plugs to convert all my batteries. For my 18R I still just use the stock 7.2v 1100mah NiMH battery supplied, and I purchased a second 7.2v NiMH battery from with a higher 1600maH capacity which works great too.

With the Deans plug soldered to the ESC, it was pretty much ready to go. The brushless motor/ESC combo also comes with a new ON/OFF switch, but I haven't really found a good place to put this on the chassis where it will be away from the outside of the chassis, but also easily accessible without taking off the body. So for now, I just have it wrapped around the battery wires from the ESC and secured it with a cable tie. Not ideal but it works.

That's pretty much it for the installation of the brushless upgrade. The next thing to do is read the printed manual that comes with the upgrade kit. This shows you how to program the ESC to suit your driving style or needs. There are about 8 or 9 settings you can manipulate that suit both casual driving and racing modes. You use your transmitter and throttle trigger in various combinations to make changes to the settings. It is all explained in the manual so keep it handy.

I haven't made any changes at all to either the pinion gear or spur gear on the 18R - they remain stock. I'm not a hardcore RC racer or anything like that so I just wanted to keep things simple and try to get a bit of a speed boost as well as enjoy all the benefits of a brushless motor setup with as little fuss as possible. The speed and power of the 18R with this particular upgrade to me seems well balanced. I don't see the point of overpowering a chassis and then have it constantly spin out of control because the motor has too much juice. Sure, you can go a heck of a lot faster, but you will probably strip a lot more gears more easily or cause damage to other moving parts through excessive torque or speed. The 5400kV upgrade seems like a good balance to me.

So was it worth doing? Simply... yes. So it cost just under $100 to upgrade a $150 car. A bit of an expense yes, but I think top end speed has increased by about 30-40% as a guesstimate, the car is a lot quieter, acceleration is much quicker and both the motor and battery remain much cooler than with the stock brushed motor. In fact, the motor barely gets warm, and the battery is the same, as well as the ESC. If you can avoid overheating any or all of these components, then it is a good thing!

The upgrade took me about 45 minutes all up (soldering took the most time) but it was certainly worth it. My 18R is much zippier and more enjoyable to drive and race around the local track. If I want more speed, I can change gearing but I think it has enough speed as it is with stock gearing. I have left the 27Mhz receiver on board as there seems no real reason to change it at the moment.

After about a month of solid use and 30 or so battery cycles, the 18R continues to run great and is certainly exhibiting all the benefits of a brushless upgrade.
So if you have an 18R and want to upgrade to brushless, I can personally recommend the Mamba Micro Pro / Castle Creations 5400kV Micro motor combination.
If you are considering upgrading your 18R with this combo, please use the link above and grab it from Amazon to help support further articles in this area, or to show your support if you found this article to be of use!

Update - July 2014. I have produced a quick video outlining some of this information, as well as highlighting LiPo batteries I have found that fit the chassis nicely. Take a look!

Happy brushless driving! - Dean

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