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Are ESCs consumable items?

kilroy07

Well-known member
#1
Okay, first off I just started this "hobby" (obsession, whatever) last September.

I started with a kit from FT (Dr.1 & Se5) with all the electronics but then started shopping cheaper and cheaper motors/ESCs (usually from China). Lately I have had a rash of failures and I am not sure if I am pushing them too hard (not amperage wise, my biggest motor right now is a 2216) but maybe I should be letting a plane get a rest between batteries? Some of the FT designs don't seem to have much cooling airflow (Simple scout, Cub) and I wonder if they are just overheating or if it's just buying cheap hardware I cannot expect it to last very long (I have pretty much given up on the cheap ($5-7) 2212 Golden motors... I've even had one of those go bonkers and kill any (and all) ESCs I plugged into it... (Lost two ESC before I tossed it in the trash.)

So, I guess my real question is; Is it worth it to spend $15-20 per ESC to get good quality stuff when I am still trashing and bashing (Er, I mean "learning" to fly) or should I look into more of my flying habits and give the ESCs a break now and then to cool? (D. all of the above?)

Thanks for any (and all) insight!
 

foamtest

Toothpick glider kid
#2
I would recommend to get the more quality ESC's and motors, they are almost never damaged in a crash so I wouldn't worry about breaking them. Another good tip to save some money is to get older stuff, like the original red bottom motors, I just got some for $9.99 in FT's big sale. I have noticed that if you buy quality it will last and save you in the long run, I still have my 1806 motors and ECS's from my mini guinea that I got in 2015.
 

Namactual

Well-known member
#3
It could be any number of factors, or combination of them.

You have to consider cheap electronics with zero quality control, proper airflow, onboard BECs in relation to the input voltage vs system draw and finally your motor/prop amp draw.

One of the best things you can do is use an external BEC. Using a external switching BEC cuts down on A LOT of the heat that your ESC has to dissipate. Also if you do fry your ESC you may lose your motor, but you will still have system control.

Another cheap fix is cutting ventilation holes into the electronics bay.

And finally, you could buy an ESC rated for a higher wattage than you really need.

I personally always use external BECs and make sure I have proper ventilation. YMMV
 

lrussi750

Rogue Pilot
Mentor
#4
Hey kilroy07, Welcome to the madness! Cheap electronics are just that, cheap, unless you have to keep buying them over and over. Decent Motors and ESC's should not be super hot after normal use. If you pushing hard for the whole flight I can see them getting hotter than normal. If you don't use the proper propeller for the motor and battery voltage you could kill the motor and ESC easily but under normal use motors and ESC's are not consumables. The FT power packs are really a good option when you're first starting out. Once you get a little more familiar with electronics you can start ordering your own electronics to suit your needs. I've been flying for about 7 years and the only items I have consumed are servos, foamboard and 1 or 2 batteries :p. I better find something to knock on or my fleet is going down :ROFLMAO:!
 

Chuppster

Well-known member
#5
It could be any number of factors, or combination of them.

You have to consider cheap electronics with zero quality control, proper airflow, onboard BECs in relation to the input voltage vs system draw and finally your motor/prop amp draw.

One of the best things you can do is use an external BEC. Using a external switching BEC cuts down on A LOT of the heat that your ESC has to dissipate. Also if you do fry your ESC you may lose your motor, but you will still have system control.

Another cheap fix is cutting ventilation holes into the electronics bay.

And finally, you could buy an ESC rated for a higher wattage than you really need.

I personally always use external BECs and make sure I have proper ventilation. YMMV
I too enjoy using external BEC's. Personally I just get a cheap buck converter (switched step-down) from Ebay and solder it to the XT60 the ESC uses. You can find an example here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/5pcs-MP158...594256&hash=item1ed4a6ecf3:g:ZboAAOSwQQlbAer6
 

Fluburtur

Cardboard Boy
#6
I always buy the cheap HW30A ESCs from banggood (like 3€ each) and rarely use them above 10 amps but they are just so cheap, it's not really worth getting some with smaller capacity. They have a pretty big cooler plate on them so they never overheat, they are also indestructible. Never managed to kill one.
 

Hai-Lee

Old and Bold RC PILOT
#7
With a flying regime of over 100 flights each month which includes a large number of repaired retail aircraft, the health or capacities of ESCs over time has become an area of extreme interest to me. ESCs do degrade over time due to the heat generated during their operation and the quality of the components used in their construction.

The weakest components, those that degrade quickest with excessive heat are the old Electrolytic capacitors which effectively dry out and reduce in value over time and rapidly degrade with heat. When you also add that sometimes poor internal heatsinking or damage to the heatsinking efficiency due to crash or impact damage it should be considered that most ESCs have a limited lifespan. Sadly the over-temperature protection on some ESCs can actually shutdown the Rx voltage regulator due to the overheating of the motor drive circuitry. The result is obvious!

As ESCs switch high current into inductive loads voltage spikes are often generated which healthy capacitors normally suppress effectively. When the capacitors degrade they are less effective at filtering and the voltage spikes can increase in voltage and lead to premature ESC failure and even coupling the spikes onto the Rx voltage rail which can damage the Rx and the servos.

It is wise to fit an external BEC, (especially on high power installations), to reduce unexplained failures and crashes.

Cheap ESCs! The term cheap to me refers to quality and can have nothing to do with quality of components selected. Sadly a lot of low cost ESCs do use very cheap or old components with limited lifespan or poor specifications. BUT all is not lost! Just like the batteries we all use if you manage the temperature their life can be extended for many years of fault free operation. My simple rule of thumb is if I use cheap ESCs or have limited cooling I DERATE the ESC by around 25 to 40%. Derating means that a 30A ESC would be used in an installation of up to 20A and a 4S ESC would be used in an installation of 3S maximum. Since implementing the Derating of ESCs and the use of external BECs on high power installations I have had very few crashes or unexplained control issues. As a side effect I have not lost a single ESC or motor due to burnout.

From experience it appears that most ARF, RTF, and BNF retail offerings are good for around 12 months before they start showing problems, after which they become increasingly erratic or a pile of foam debris. Generally the ESC survives and goes on to destroy other planes before being retired. This of course depends on the models treatment and the flight cycles or hours!

Are ESCs Consumables? Yes and No! They need to be treated with respect and used well within their ratings for a long life. For high performance models they should be considered as having a limited lifespan or the model they are installed in will!

DON'T PANIC! Just keep the heat low and all will be well!

Just what my trade training and experience has discovered! It works for me!

Have fun!
 

Snarls

Gravity Tester
Mentor
#8
ESCs should generally not be consumables. This applies mainly to quads, but to planes as well. There are lots of no name escs out there that are jumping onto the hype train and will burn you in the end. But getting reliable ESCs does not mean spending a lot of money. Do some research, see what a lot of the better pilots are flying, and you will likely find an affordable esc that will do the job. I have been flying the same four KISS 24a escs for just about two years and haven't had an issue. That is an expensive example, but I have also been flying the same four Sunrise Cicada 20a ESCs that I got for $2 each on sale since the Fall. They were cheap, but they were also established as reliable by other pilots.
 

kilroy07

Well-known member
#10
Thanks everyone for your comments (Esp you Cranialrectosis, it's nice to know I'm not the only one!) :LOL:

The FT Mustang I maidened last night was set up with a 2216 (Sunnysky 1250Kv) 9x5 APC style prop and one of those 30a Yellow shrinkwrapped Blheli ESCs you can find everywhere for $4-7. I bench tested the setup before the maiden and was seeing only 17amps drawing from a 3S. (why is it 3"S" when Cell starts with a "C"?!!) After some suggestions here I thought maybe I was over proping the motors (the 10x45 SlowFly prop DID draw 23 amps!... As much as a 3 bladed 9x6! That surprised me.)

Anyway at the end of several minutes flying (and a rather spectacular 'eh-hem "Landing") I checked and the ESC was uncomfortably hot to the touch. I would think (and maybe I'm wrong) but drawing just over half of the rated (actually 17A was a full power, so I was most likely under half) capacity of the ESC should have given me PLENTY of margin and kept it cool(er)?... Although, I was working the controls quite a bit at first (still getting used to 4 channel flight!) so maybe it is the BEC that is causing all the trouble...

So I am still puzzled. I am looking at some of the drone ESCs with higher quality (smaller) MOSFETs and a separate BEC as several of you have recommended and give that a go.

Thanks again, I appreciate all the help!
 

foamtest

Toothpick glider kid
#11
I think that the BEC is the culprit in that particular case, or a lack of airflow over the ESC.

Also it is 3s not 3c because the amount of current that a battery can put out is measured using a "c" rating.
 

Namactual

Well-known member
#12
I would suspect the BEC as well. A quick way to test is is to plug the battery in, never tough the throttle and work the servos for a bit. Chances are the ESC will get hot to the touch pretty quick. You will be surprised how cool your ESC's stay after bypassing the internal BEC.

That has been my experience anyway.
 
#13
Just to add my experience to the list, I have 50+ ESCs, fixed wing and multirotors all cheep but still good quality and have had only ONE fail (manufacturing fault). I fly like I stole it, they all have plenty of air flow and when I land there only warm (same with motors).
 

rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#14
Just to add my experience to the list, I have 50+ ESCs, fixed wing and multirotors all cheep but still good quality and have had only ONE fail (manufacturing fault). I fly like I stole it, they all have plenty of air flow and when I land there only warm (same with motors).
I've purchased and used at least that many ESCs too, and have only had 1 mysteriously stop working and 1 flame out up on this hemisphere. So while it happens, it should not be too common, regardless of if your map is right side up or not. :p
 

Namactual

Well-known member
#15
Wow, you guys have good luck.

I have used probably 15 or so. I let the magic smoke out of one doing a bench thrust test. One came DoA which I fixed (faulty wiring). And finally I had another just flake out on my while flying. Luckily it just killed my output by about 50% and did not flat out die.
 

PsyBorg

Wake up! Time to fly!
#16
I look for mid range quality or higher gear. I learned LONG ago in other hobbies as well as with work gear. Cheap just costs you more in time and hassles then saved in the long run.

I hammer the snot outta my gear at times and have only recently burned up my first component and that was over a year old and extremely abused at times.

So to answer the OP are ESC's consumable my answer is only if you are buying the cheapest thing you can find. Keeping air flowing on electronics is the largest factor to their lifespan. If you look at every piece of electronics they post the temperature ranges right on their spec sheets. invest in a digital thermometer and keep an eye on your gear when new or making changes and you will thank yourself in the end with the money saved by doing this.
 

kilroy07

Well-known member
#17
I too enjoy using external BEC's. Personally I just get a cheap buck converter (switched step-down) from Ebay and solder it to the XT60 the ESC uses.
Eureka!!

So, putting together what Chuppster, Foamtest and Namactual suggested it occurred to me that I had some of those step down buck converters in my Arduino bits box! I first tried just moving the controls (with the original setup) and sure enough the ESC got warm (then hot) to the touch within a minute or so (no current through the motor.) So I wired up one of the buck converters and everything ran cool as can be (even with the motor churning about)!

So after some research (iow wasting time watching youtube videos) I've concluded the cheaper ESCs just use a linear voltage regulator (like a LM7805) the result is (A LOT of) extra heat! That, combined with the lack of airflow in certain designs I think was the root of my problem.

So now I need to do some more soldering and cut out another Mustang to abuse!
Some pics of my "test rig" (not the prettyest but functional) ;)
IMG_6974[1].JPG
And the final result (NOT shrink wrapped yet) now, to solder about 10 more so the rest of my fleet are protected!
IMG_6975[1].JPG

Again, Thank You EVERYONE who helped me get to the bottom of this!!
 

ElectriSean

Eternal Student
Mentor
#18
Also it is 3s not 3c because the amount of current that a battery can put out is measured using a "c" rating.
Actually, it's short for series, as in 3 cells in series. Some larger packs you will see called 3s2p, which would be 6 cells total, 2 x 3s in parallel.

The C in C rating stands for capacity, so whatever the capacity is X the C rating is the rated discharge current.