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I took apart an RC car and found 2 sets of motors. The rear wheels (left) seem to run off an electric DC motor which is understandable.

The front wheels (right) I expected to be controlled by a servo motor because it can only make the front wheels face 3 directions (front, steer left, steer right) and no angles in between.

Looking at the insides, I can see that there are only 2 wires instead of 3. The servos that I've worked with before needed 3 wires for Vcc, ground and a control wire.

Could somebody confirm whether or not this is a servo? If not, what's the next best type of motor it could be? How would I control it? Would it be PWM or something else?

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's an open loop actuator based either on a motor that stalls at a limit or a solenoid. Controlling it proportionally will probably not work, as it will be too dependent on mechanical load variation. PWM hobby servos are dirt cheap now, well under $10, just get one and rig it in there. Get a spare too for when the gears in the first die. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 19, 2011 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ The steering is bang-bang. Full left, center or full right and nothing senses how much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Audioguru
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 22:56

2 Answers 2

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It is a DC motor in there, A very simple gear system moves the wheels left and right and a spring centers everything. there is no fine control.

enter image description here

to control it you could use PWM and an H-bridge.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That is exactly what the RC car we tore down as part of our engineering project last year looked like. Definitely just a motor, gears, and spring. \$\endgroup\$
    – pfyon
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you jsolarski, for the picture. I had to fix one of our RC cars here at Radio Shack and couldn't picture how the spring lined up. The peg had broken off inside, so I had to drill a hole in it, pin it, and super glue it back into place. Works like a charm now. \$\endgroup\$
    – user34070
    Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 0:09
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Since it can't do angles in between, I would not expect the 3rd control wire. Perhaps it uses a simple geared brushed DC motor? It could drive in one direction until it hits a limit switch. If the user wants to turn in the opposite direction, it just needs to drive current in the opposite direction, so it would only need two wires.

You could also put an oscilloscope on the wires and see what's going on.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How would it reach middle position? By only a spring? \$\endgroup\$
    – AndreKR
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 8:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AndreKR & Dave - Correct, but it not a brushed motor. It is basically an solenoid with a magnetic plunger, and spring centering. You drive current through it in one direction, and it repels the plunger, the other and it attracts it, turning toe other direction. When no power is applied, it is centered by the spring. Technically, it's really not a servo, per-se. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 9:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fake Out of curiosity, how can you tell that it's a solenoid? I haven't seen any models use that, but I also haven't gotten one in a while. \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fake oh duh, I totally forgot about the cars I've seen in the past. It's really obvious when you see the wheels flick back and forth. Definitely a solenoid. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...and I just threw that little car away about a month ago. Rats! I could have pulled it apart. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 13:58

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