How do you program an ESC to have a reverse mode? We're looking to control an ESC from a servo board (for a robotics project).

Assuming that the input will be between 0 and 255, we're looking for 127 as off, 255 as fully forward and 0 as full reverse, so how do we achieve that?

  • $\begingroup$ Brilliant, and simple...elegant. Use 1 output to switch 2 poles and voila, it turns backwards! Not only does it turn backwards, it saves a lot of code. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2019 at 2:49

2 Answers 2


It varies from manufacturers. Some ESC allow reverse, or disabled reverse and allow breaks instead, or some combination (break for 5 seconds, then reverse).

for example HobbyKing has a bunch of programmers to make changing it easier. In most cases the same thing can be done with radio controls, although it generally is a bit more challenging.

I looked at your page a bit but did not see a reference to which speed control (ESC) you are going to use. If you have not chosen one yet, be aware that they usually come with instructions for programming reverse handling, timing etc.

Your assumptions about input seems reasonable, and is what I think you will find once you get going.

  • $\begingroup$ Here's the ESC in question ebay.co.uk/itm/… $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ It is listed with "user programmable brake" - that usually implies, brake on/off with off allowing reverse - so you should be good. I don't think any brushless ESC in the last couple of years didn't have reverse anyhow so you are probably OK. The directions will come with the ESC and may take some time to digest. I know the last cheap ESC I got took me a while to figure out from the poor translations, but eventually I made it. Good luck. $\endgroup$
    – Spiked3
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Note that sensorless ESCs will lose commutation when running at slow speeds. Any transition between directions will not be very smooth, if that is what you are hoping for. $\endgroup$
    – user65
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ This is the ESC in question ebay.co.uk/itm/… any thoughts? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 21:41

While my answer does not address reprogramming ESCs, which is the actual question asked, it does turn the motor the opposite direction. And it was hard for me to find a good answer on the web. Google searching can end up here, so I'm posting what I think is helpful.

For my ESCs, I have three wires coming out, and to reverse the direction of the motor, all I have to do is swap any two wires that go from the ESC to the motor. It worked for me. YMMV.


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