The functionality of drone propellers is often the governing factor for flight quality. So, it’s generally a smart idea to replace propellers that are worn out.
But here’s the thing: they also need to be replaced the right way.
With the danger of a drone fail continuously looming over your head, you’ll only be worse off if you’re not sure what you’re doing
Fortunately, there’s a general set of instructions you can follow. Here’s, briefly, what changing a propeller involves.
Changing a drone propeller varies by drone design and propeller type. Quick-release propellers are simply pressed onto their motors and twisted for removal and installation. However, other propellers may be fitted with screws. You may sometimes need tools, like a wrench, for the changing process.
From the direction of propellers to their lock-on properties, this post will be covering all the bases of switching out propellers.
And to top it off, you’ll also find instructions that are solely targeted towards some of the most popular drone models on the market.
Before we actually get to our first step, you need to know how to differentiate propellers in a set. It’s an absolutely vital piece of information — regardless of the type of drone you operate.
Here are some things you can look for.
You can identify your drone propeller using the label on its blade(s). The letter R means the propeller has a clockwise rotation, while the letter C means the propeller has a counterclockwise rotation. In addition to that, a blade’s protruding edge always spins towards the drone’s body.
So, the orientation of a propeller is also given away by its shape. This is particularly helpful if the propeller markings have worn off (or if there weren’t any in the first place).
Now, why exactly is this information important?
To put it simply, your drone will not fly if you fail to match your propellers to the motors. They need to be in accordance with each other.
And identifying their orientation allows you to correctly attach a propeller from a set to its corresponding motor.
One thing to note is that propellers do have other properties, like their sizes and pitch lengths. Those are identified by propeller numbers.
However, those properties aren’t particularly relevant to our topic.
This post solely focuses on the physical act of changing propellers. In case you don’t have a replacement ready, I recommend checking out my article on choosing a drone propeller.
The first part of changing your propeller is safely removing the old one. Most camera drone pilots learn how to do this early on in their journey, since detaching the wings improves portability for transportation.
However, some of them also do what they think is right instead of actually verifying their method. Here’s the proper way of removing a propeller.
You should remove a propeller from a drone using instructions from the drone model’s user manual. Generally speaking, propellers are to be pulled vertically or rotated until they pop off. Most camera drone propellers, however, are held in place with screws that will need to be removed first.
The screws are located on the propeller hub. You can remove them by using a screwdriver and rotating them counterclockwise.
On the other hand, toy drones are assembled more simply. Most models allow their propellers to be pulled off without anything needing to be unscrewed.
Here’s something to remember: never bend the propeller shaft sideways as you apply force. This applies to camera drones and smaller drones.
Some manufacturers, like DJI, add in extra tools with their drone models to make the removal process super convenient. This is why I always recommend going through the user manual, even if you already have a faint idea about things.
Now that your drone is ready, here’s how you can install your replacement propeller.
To install a drone propeller, you initially (and most importantly) match it to its motor. Installing a propeller is very similar to its removal. For instance, a propeller may be mounted by pressing it down onto the motor and rotating it in a direction opposite to that used in the removal.
I’ve already covered a few ways to match a propeller to its corresponding motor.
However, another thing you can look out for is color. Propeller and motor pairs are sometimes given the same color for easy identification.
Once you’ve figured out the pairing, then comes the installation process itself.
Let’s say you rotated your propeller counterclockwise to remove it. This means you’ll have to rotate your replacement propeller clockwise until it’s secure in place.
But like I mentioned in the previous section, not all propellers are mounted in the same way. We’ll be looking at specific methods by considering one drone model at a time later on in this post.
Some drone propellers may simply need to be screwed on.
If that’s the case, I recommend using newer screws instead of the old ones. Drone propellers typically come with their own screws when you buy them.
Finally, remember to tug on the propeller gently to make sure it’s attached and not just insecurely placed.
This one’s a question that’s bound to pop into your head, particularly as you finish installing your drone propeller. Here’s my advice on it.
Drone propellers should be tightened moderately so they’re firmly in place. It isn’t a good idea to turn your propellers as tightly as possible because this increases the risk of internal damage. In fact, some drone models have slightly loose propellers that tighten up during flight.
Ultimately, you just need to make sure your propellers and motors turn together and fit nicely. If your propellers are squeaking during flight, they’re likely a bit too loose.
Some drone pilots question whether they need to tighten the propellers of a brand new drone. You typically don’t, assuming they come pre-installed. If you’re particularly skeptical, you may give them a small turn without using any tools.
You may also be wondering what “internal damage” refers to in our case.
Well, your drone’s motors need to spin freely. And if you excessively tighten the propellers, you risk jamming the motors. This may also result in your propellers not spinning at all.
Another aspect comes into play if things go wrong.
A somewhat loose propeller is able to absorb more impact compared to a propeller that’s fully tightened. In other words, the former will save your motor and other connected components.
The DJI Mavic Air 2 is a mid-range camera drone that’s popular for its value for money. Here’s exactly how you change a propeller on it.
You can change the propeller on a Mavic Air 2 by closing the blades, pressing down on it, and twisting it to one side to remove it. The installation follows the same twist-on mechanism. Remember to match the new propeller to its motor using the color of its ring and the color of the motor’s stripes.
For example, the propeller with a gray ring around its hub goes onto the motor with gray stripes.
The Mavic Air 2 uses quick-release propellers, similar to the Phantom 4. They’re incredibly easy to replace. However, there is one thing you need to be careful about.
Unlike previous DJI drones, like the Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic Air 2 does not have a safety feature. This means if you accidentally install your propeller onto the wrong motor, it will lock into place.
Consequently, your drone will flip over on takeoff and potentially get damaged. This is why I stress (correctly) matching the propellers and motors so much.
You may have noticed how I didn’t specify which side you have to twist your propellers. This is because two of your propellers unlock by a clockwise twist, while the other two unlock by a counterclockwise twist.
The YouTube video below should clear any small doubts you may still have.
The Mavic Mini 2 is another super popular drone from DJI. Its propellers, however, are different from those of the Mavic Air 2. Here’s how you replace them.
You can replace the propeller on a Mavic Mini 2 by using a screwdriver to unscrew the old one and screw in the new one. The screws slot into the propeller holes and can be smoothly inserted into the motor. The propellers with the small bumps must be paired with the front right and rear left motors.
On the other hand, the propellers with no bumps go on the front left and rear right motors. The “bump” on the propeller is located near the hub.
It’s recommended to replace both of the propeller blades instead of just the one. And like I mentioned before, the screws should be replaced along with them.
The entire process should be very smooth. If you’re trying to install a propeller and feel resistance, you may be inserting the screw incorrectly. Make sure it is aligned vertically.
Compared to the Mavic Air 2, it’s slightly more difficult to figure out the propeller and motor pairings. The bumps aren’t as noticeable as the rings.
However, new propellers for the drone do come in packaging that clearly labels which propeller goes where.
When you look at a toy drone, you’ll instantly notice a less sophisticated setup. But at the same time, you may not find obvious labels or detailed instructions to help you do things.
Take a look at what changing a micro drone propeller typically involves.
You can change the propeller on a micro drone by grabbing the hub and pinching, before pulling it vertically to remove it. Use the letter (A or B) on your new propeller to match it to its motor and then attach it. The letter A typically refers to the front left and rear right motors.
And as you may have expected, the letter B typically refers to the front right and rear left motors.
Installing propellers on a micro drone is really as simple as attaching it. Just place your propeller onto its corresponding motor and press it downwards so it’s firm.
If you’ve fitted and changed the propellers but only one side of the drone lifts, you may have installed them the wrong way around. Fortunately, micro drones are fairly durable and a small flip shouldn't really damage them.
To wrap it all up, there isn’t a step-by-step process that works for every quadcopter. You’ll have to follow instructions given directly by the manufacturer.
However, you can make sure you’re on the right path by following a few rules widely accepted in the drone community.
You can change a quadcopter blade by, firstly, safely removing the old one. This may involve the use of a screwdriver, a wrench, or just practical force. You can then install your new blade by remembering the blade is always supposed to spin in the direction of the blade’s leading edge/higher side.
The blade’s trailing edge (or lower side) should not be spinning towards the drone frame. You can safely apply this rule to all types of drones and ensure you never mess up your propeller and motor pairings.
Keep in mind that the tools I’ve mentioned typically come with the drones themselves or are, at least, specifically designed for them. I strongly advise against using your own tools as you may end up damaging your drone’s components.
Finally, make sure you test the security of your drone’s blades in a safe, confined space before taking it outdoors.