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How Does a Brushed Motor Work?

In the realm of electromechanical devices, the brushed motor stands out as both a historical marvel and a modern-day workhorse. Its intricate device, with its mesmerizing dance of electromagnetic forces and meticulously engineered components, has powered countless applications, from household appliances to industrial machinery.

To truly appreciate the brushed motor’s role in our world, we must delve deep into its anatomy, understand its foundational principles, and answer the most frequently asked questions. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey, exploring the intricacies of the brushed motor’s design and function.

If you don’t know How to Test and Troubleshoot Brushless Motors, you can click here to read the article.

Brushed Motor

Definition of Brushed Motor

What is a Brushed Motor

A brushed motor, notably recognized as a type of electric motor, operates by rotating structures powered by direct currents (DC). In the expansive landscape of DC Motors, the brushed variety utilizes internal fixed magnets to generate magnetic fields, steering the rotation of the armature attached with commutators and brushes.

Historical Evolution

The annals of brushed motors trace back to the 19th century, bearing witness to humanity’s relentless pursuit of automation and mechanical prowess. Sir William Sturgeon unveiled the prototype of the electric motor in 1832, which, over time, evolved into the sophisticated brushed motors we recognize today.

Component Structure of Brushed Motor

Diving deep into a brushed motor’s anatomy uncovers a world of meticulously engineered components, each with its distinct role.

The Heart: The Armature or Rotor

Functioning as the central rotating body, the armature or rotor in brushed motors typically comprises windings. When energized, these windings create magnetic fields that instigate motion.

The Conductors: Brushes

Constructed primarily from carbon or graphite, brushes ensure a seamless transfer of electrical currents from the stationary parts to the rotating structures. Their durability and design are paramount; inferior brushes can reduce motor efficiency, leading to increased wear and tear.

The Director: Commutator

A brushed motor’s commutator is a rotary switch, that transfers current between stationary wires and the moving armature. As the armature rotates, the commutator’s segments ensure the current’s polarity switches, maintaining the armature’s rotational direction.

The Silent Observers: Permanent Magnets

These immobile magnets, positioned around the rotor, set up the external magnetic field within which the armature operates. Their relentless magnetic force induces the armature’s rotations, driving the operations of the Brushed DC Motors.

How Does a Brushed Motor Work:Working Principle

Brushed motors, a fundamental variant of electric motors, have been instrumental in powering countless devices and appliances for over a century. Their operational mechanism, while appearing straightforward, rests on a well-orchestrated interplay of physics principles.

Brushed Motor

Electromagnetic Foundations

At its core, the brushed motor’s operation hinges on the principle of electromagnetism. When electrical current passes through a conductive wire, it generates a magnetic field around it. In the context of a brushed motor, this wire is coiled and located on the rotor or armature, and as current flows through it, it produces a magnetic field.

The Dance of Magnetic Fields

The motor comprises both the rotor (the motor’s moving part) and the stator (the stationary part). Permanent magnets are affixed to the stator. When the rotor’s coils are powered and produce their magnetic field, they interact with the stator’s magnetic field. This interaction between opposing magnetic fields results in a force that induces the rotor to rotate.

The Critical Role of Brushes and Commutators

Here’s where the brushed motor gets its name: from the brushes that facilitate its function. The brushes, typically made of carbon or graphite, maintain physical contact with a split ring, known as the commutator. As the rotor spins, the brushes slide over the commutator, supplying electrical current to the rotor coils.

The commutator plays an essential role. As the rotor rotates, different sections of the coil become aligned with different poles of the permanent magnet. To ensure the rotor keeps turning in the same direction, the current’s direction within the coil must reverse at the right moment.

The commutator achieves this timely reversal by periodically switching the coil’s connection to the power supply as it turns, thus ensuring consistent and unidirectional rotation.

Friction, Wear, and Heat

One of the characteristic features of brushed motors is the generation of sparks and heat. The contact between the brushes and the rotating commutator causes friction. While these sparks are usually harmless and are a regular aspect of brushed motor operation, they contribute to wear and tear over time.

This wear is one reason why brushed motors may require periodic maintenance to replace worn-out brushes.

Efficiency and Power Loss

Due to the physical contact between brushes and the commutator, there’s an inherent energy loss in the form of heat. This frictional loss, coupled with electrical resistance within the coils, can lead to efficiency reductions.

However, brushed motors still find favor in many applications due to their simple construction, cost-effectiveness, and the torque they can provide, especially during startup.

Brushed Motor


Brushed motors, with their long-standing history, often pique curiosity. Here are some commonly asked questions and their answers.

How does the brushed motor rotate?

As aforementioned, the rotation arises from the interaction of magnetic fields. The external field from the stator and the rotor’s induced field work together. Their push and pull — attraction and repulsion — generate torque, initiating and sustaining the motor’s rotation.

What Causes the Spark in Brushed Motors?

The sight of sparks at the point where brushes contact the commutator might alarm some. These sparks occur due to electrical resistance and voltage differences. While occasional, mild sparking is normal, excessive and persistent sparks might indicate issues such as worn brushes, misaligned commutator, or dirt accumulation, which might necessitate maintenance.

The Lifespan Debate: How Long Does a Brushed Motor Last?

The durability of a brushed motor is multifaceted. While they can last for many years, their longevity is influenced by the motor’s construction quality, the environment in which it operates, and its maintenance regimen. Regular inspection, cleaning, and brush replacements can significantly extend a motor’s life.

AC or DC: What’s the Brushed Motor’s Domain?

Brushed motors predominantly function using direct current (DC), where the constant polarity ensures steady rotation. However, they can operate using alternating current (AC) but may face challenges such as reduced efficiency and increased wear, due to the sinusoidal nature of AC.

Maintenance: Is Regular Upkeep Required?

Brushed motors, owing to their physical contact (brushes touching the commutator), do require regular maintenance. This upkeep often involves cleaning away debris, ensuring the brushes are in good condition, and periodically checking for any wear and tear.


The brushed motor stands as a testament to the ingenious amalgamation of physics and engineering. Its enduring relevance in modern devices, despite the advent of newer technologies, signifies its foundational significance in electromechanical design.

For those wishing to delve deeper into the fascinating world of motors and their myriad applications, DONGHUI Motor offers a wealth of information and insights.

Related Reading:How Do I Choose a Brushless Motor?


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