How Electric Motors Work

Toy Motor

The motor being dissected here is a simple electric motor that you would typically find in a toy.

You can see that this is a small motor, about as big around as a dime. From the outside you can see the steel can that forms the body of the motor, an axle, a nylon end cap and two battery leads. If you hook the battery leads of the motor up to a flashlight battery, the axle will spin. If you reverse the leads, it will spin in the opposite direction. Here are two other views of the same motor. (Note the two slots in the side of the steel can in the second shot -- their purpose will become more evident in a moment.)

The nylon end cap is held in place by two tabs that are part of the steel can. By bendin­g the tabs back, you can free the end cap and remove it. Inside the end cap are the motor's brushes. These brushes transfer power from the battery to the commutator as the motor spins: