The WL Toys 104001 is a well designed 1/10 scale 4wd off road RC buggy that I reviewed here It is somewhat lacking in power and is only able to achieve a fairly modest 39km/h which feels slow for a car this size. This is due to the stock brushed motor - this is old but cheap technology which in general are slow and inefficient; they just don't do justice to the otherwise good handling car. Brushless motors and ESCs offer improvements across the board - more speed, better battery life through more efficiency and cooler running. In this upgrade guide I'll show you how to get A LOT more power and battery life on the cheap with a budget ESC and motor combo and give you exact feedback on exactly how it performs including speed runs
Recently I looked at a more expensive brushless upgrade for the WL toys 104001 in my Big Brushless Upgrade and Installation Guide. This offered a big increase in performance (76km/h top speed) and battery life but was a pretty expensive option owing to the high end Hobbywing Max 10 SCT speed controller I used with a 4s battery. This time around I've put together a cheaper and easily accessible build that is perhaps better suited to this car and is still about 90% as good as the much more expensive option, depending of course on your metrics.
Gear chosen for this build
The choice that made the last brushless build expensive was 4s capability. I think this was probably a little on the overkill side and so I've made the decision to look at 2s predominantly for this brushless upgrade with an option for 3s. This opens up much cheaper ESC options including combos that also come with motors. I'll also list some budget options for the other gear you'll need for a brushless upgrade.
ESC and motor. Please note that although ESC and motor combos can look like good value, you have to be REALLY careful shopping here and buy only what has been thoroughly tested. Especially in this range there are so many look alike products but I strongly recommend only the products I have linked because of my own personal experience. In the case of the motor and ESC I've used here, this combo is nearly 2 years old and has already been thoroughly abused in a very large 4wd SCT as per this guide. I can hand on heart say this has been extremely reliable on both 2s and 3s. This is the only budget combo I recommend at present, if you want to spend a little more on a Hobbywing ESC and motor then these offer more smoothness and overhead but nothing in terms of more speed or acceleration
Radio Gear and Servo. You will need a new servo here because the stock 5 wire unit will not work with a regular receiver. No drama, it is slow anyway. Both servos listed here below are inexpensive. I personally use the Racerstar one and it works well. If you want some faster options check out my big brushless upgrade article. For radio gear it is hard to recommend going past the DumboRC X6 which is pretty cheap and has a gyro. The new eachine model is priced slightly better and may well come from the same factory but I haven't personally used it myself
Battery and other parts. With this setup you can definitely use the stock battery. You will should get similar run time as the stock motor but with a lot more speed. I do definitely recommend the CNHL 2s "shorty" lipo pack as below though, it is the most energy dense battery I've ever come across and easily fits in this car with just a little modification. It is also light and low profile and of course should offer over twice the run time as the stock battery with the ability to supply a lot more power when called on. I've also given a 3s option but there is very little in the way of higher capacity options in this size. Lastly you'll want some more pinion gears to improve gear ratios, as wit the other build the surpass hobby M0.6 pinion packs are by far the best value and are of excellent quality.
Upgrade install guide
I won't go into massive detail here around the install, only specific tricks I've used for cable management, fitting this particular ESC and of course the battery. I'd encourage you to check out my Big Brushless Install Guide Here if you need a little more detail than is shown below. Before you go any further make sure the car is properly set up using my 104001 setup guide here
Aside from what you may hear these ESCs need no calibration but if you do want to change any of the basic performance parameters, you can see my guide on using the programming card here.
The other potential but probably less likely bottleneck is the ESC however usually ESCs tend to overheat when they hit or exceed capacity or catch fire in extreme cases. Although this is a cheap ESC this did neither - it was still only lukewarm as was the motor following multiple 3s passes with this car. Until I can find a better lipo to test I'd recommend you stick with 2s on this setup.
Comparing this cheap ESC to a more expensive one. I made it clear in by 104001 big brushless upgrade guide that if you are going to spend money somewhere when going brushless, you should prioritise the ESC. This cheap ESC has proven that you can get the top end performance similarly effectively, so why would you bother with a more expensive ESC? The answer is smoothness. After spoiling myself with high quality Hobbywing ESCs recently I've found that they have much better throttle control in the lower range compared to this one. They also have a more linear feel which means the power doesn't come in quite so much like a sledgehammer. The cheaper ESC used here does have a touch of cogging but this is fairly minimal with the correct choice of gearing I have here. Given I've used this ESC for nearly 2 years I can actually say it has proven itself reliable, something I wasn't so sure of in the beginning. I can assure you, this ESC has not had an easy life either.
This cheap Surpass Hobby brushless ESC/motor combo has exceeded my expectations, especially when used in combination with the excellent 2s lipo battery pack I've talked about above. This setup makes for a really great performer that practically equals the performance of my premium brushless 4s build but at a fraction of the price. In hindsight I think 2s is best suited to this car in this type of setup because it is still relatively light - the big power reserves associated with a 4s build just can't be taken advantage of in this car. One place I do miss the more expensive Hobbywing ESC is the extra smoothness and control they offer - crucial for a track car but not so much a basher and this will no doubt guide your decision on which option you should buy.
All in all though this mod is well worth doing if you want your 104001 to reach it's true potential - something it simply cannot do with the stock brushed motor.
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