The commutating machines have a notable effect on the exchanges in brush–commutator contact area, which is particularly obvious when determining the intensity of sparks located on the brush. With time, higher current density at the descending edge promote sparks excitation, which itself increases intensity of the electrical erosion, brush temperature and thus also the wear. So in order to make an analytical study of commutation phenomenon, the coupled circuit method was developed. Therefore, a generalized mathematical model of the commutation, for brush–commutator, is established and can be extended for any other types of commutation on the basis of electromagnetic field (e.g. transformers and phase shift transformer. This model provides a greater efficiency to explain the impact of the electromagnetic fluxes surrounding brush area (or switch), specially for the current transition of the commutation process. Successful commutation is defined as operation in normal service, with no serious damages to the commutator, brushes or switches due to sparking that might require abnormal maintenance. It is recognized that some visible sparking are not evidence of unsuccessful commutation. The recommendation to improve the commutation (to achieve longer brush life) is the implementation of the proposal (slotted brush), which provides a linear and a sweet transition of currents in the coils of commutation. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.