Instructables
Picture of Make a Racing Powerwheels Jeep
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This Instructable will show you how to build a Racing Powerwheels Jeep. The Jeep runs on 24 volt rechargeable batteries and is equipped with disk brakes, digital dashboard featuring voltage and motor temp readouts, pneumatic rubber tires, working headlights and taillights. The Jeep has swappable gear ratios and can reach speeds of around 25-30 MPH with a small adult on board.


Caution - This project is intended for adults...letting a kid on one of these would certainly end in disaster.

Like any project, there are a million ways to go about it...there are ways to make lighter, faster cars. It's all about tradeoffs and what your time, budget, and skill set are.

I built this Jeep in the hopes of participating in the Power Racing Series set of races that are held at Maker Faires around the Country. Take a look at the video of a recent race to give you an idea of what these little cars are capable of. For more info on actual events and rules, check out:

http://www.powerracingseries.org/

For more of my other nutty projects, you can also check out www.jamiepricecreative.com

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Step 1: Find Your Donor Car

Picture of Find Your Donor Car

To get started, find a car you like and can fit into (barely). Look in Craigslist, garage sales, trash day for good deals. I scored the slightly weathered blue Jeep for $15. We really only need the body, so if its mechanicals don't work, that is fine.

Next, start stripping off everything you can from under the body. We need to drop as much weight and unneeded parts as possible.

Step 2: Build a Frame

At this point, you have a stripped down Powerwheels body. Next, we need to build a frame to support the body, driver, batteries, and drivetrain.

For the drivetrain of my Jeep, I scored a differential from an ancient electric wheelchair. This already has a differential and a jackshaft/sprocket set. I tossed the motor as it won't be fast enough. For the rest of the frame, I used steel bedframe pieces that I scored cheap at Goodwill.

I ordered go kart spindles off ebay and welded those to a crossbar up front. Actual dimensions of your frame will be dependent on your car size. I also used some smaller steel angle to make two battery holders.

As for steering, I used the steering head and bars from a Goodwill scooter, the bearing steering tube from a Goodwill bike. I ordered some go kart wheel rims off the net. I scored the adjustable tie rods free from a riding mower graveyard (just had to cut/shorten/reweld them. The tires are cheap Harbor Freight rubber tires.

To cut my steel pieces, I used a steel chop saw that makes quick work of it. An angle grinder is great for smoothing rough edges. I used a crappy mig gas welder to weld all the pieces together.

Step 3: Drivetrain

To make your vehicle move, we have to find a DC electric motor. There are tons of options here, but the recurring theme is always power vs weight vs efficiency vs reliability. There are always tradeoffs. In my case, I am using a 12 volt industrial DC motor found through surplus that I am running at 24 volts (roughly 4 horsepower). This motor is quite powerful, but the tradeoff is that it lacks efficiency. It also gets quite hot when pushing it.

Some other cars I have seen are using electric scooter batteries and still others brushless motors. There is even a team using motors from an electric fork lift.

Your car will also need a strong set of brakes. I used disk brakes that were purchased from a scooter store.

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Step 4: Electronics / Batteries

The vehicle needs a way to apply the battery power to the motor. This is done by using an electronic speed controller (ESC). For my Jeep, I used a Curtis brand ESC pulled from a recycled electric pallet mover. This allows me to run 24 volts and up to about 300 amps. The ESC is controlled by a twist hand throttle from an electric scooter. The batteries are 12 volt sealed lead acid (I use two to make 24 volts). note - batteries is another area where there are lots of choices cost vs weight vs performance.

I used Anderson connectors and thick gauge wire throughout.

For the digital displays on the dashboard, I have one display for battery voltage and another for motor temperature (I installed a thermocouple into the rear motor plate).

There is a large keyed main power cutoff switch installed at the rear of the vehicle.

Step 5: Finishing / Paint

The frame was sandblasted and painted semigloss black. The body was sandblasted (use powdered glass media) and painted to resemble a war era Jeep. The underside of the Jeep is sprayed with truck bed liner. For a floor, I took some sheetmetal and cut and bent it to fit the contour of the bottom. This was sprayed with bedliner and riveted in place.

Step 6: Extras

I wanted this project to have extra wow factor. I hacked two harbor freight 12 volt spotlights for working headlights. These are wired from a switch on the dash and use a small 12 volt battery to run. I also added yellow led marker lights and led tail lights.

I found some war era research that showed the markings on a Jeep and used them to have my buddy create vinyl adhesive graphics.

Upholstery foam and black vinyl were used to create a seat. It is hinged to access the battery area.

A spare tire was added for cool factor.

The project takes a good amount of trial and error. You can experiment around with gear ratios to get better run times, or more top speed, or quicker acceleration.


wbannister3 months ago
could u weld me up a frame for ££

XD Very Cool!

thbigbro5 months ago

Can you give me a little help in selecting a motor? You said yours was running about 4hp, what rpm is it running at and where is a good place to find one?

jamiep (author)  thbigbro4 months ago

Industrial DC motors or scooter motors or huge outrunners are a starting point

rasterweb4 months ago

This is a beautiful build... There's a few thing you'd probably find out from racing it, like the fact that those rims won't take much lateral force before destruction. Welding gussets in place will help. For the motors, some teams moved towards watercooling to keep the motors from overheating. Since you'd need to drop it to 40 amps for the 2014 season, overheating may not be as much of an issue though. The detail on this build it truly amazing though. :)

Always interesting to see what you'll build next, keep on being creative!

BLR_RAVI4 months ago
just wonderful..love the color
Eric T4 months ago

yours is awesome

Eric T4 months ago

Darn I just sold my old chain saw to my uncle. that would be awesome! What is the recharge time on yours?

Darthorso5 months ago

Oh my god you deserve a favorite and my vote just for the front image!

It's damn hilarious I fell off my chair XD

Xamu5 months ago

Well done, sir. What's the total weight of this thing?

bogie71295 months ago

I've been wanting to make something like this for quite a while now. I've already got the body for it - a cast-off grocery cart. I want to use mine to haul all my fishing supplies down to the end of the 1/4 mile+ long fishing pier (since I don't have a boat.) Since I'll be walking alongside my cart, I don't need speed, but I do need torque. I'll be hauling 8 rods/reels, 2 coolers w/ice, a bridge net, two fishing chairs, two tackle boxes and a bait box. I'll also have a cutting board for filleting some of the catches for use as bait. I didn't know where to start - now I do. Thanks for this instructable. It will be an invaluable assistant when I get ready to start. Wow! Thanks.

nwary155 months ago
hahaha
chiporty5 months ago
What was the cost

Under $500 from what I can tell.

mephisto19695 months ago

The smile at the end of the vid spoke volumes. Although you've just confirmed what I've always thought. You Yanks are nuts. Keep up the great work.

kaiga5 months ago

How long is the runtime on those batteries, does the motor get too hot first?

BikeHacker5 months ago

Really cool!

razamatraz5 months ago

Awesome, although I suspect this would end badly for some adults too. "Hold my Beer and Watch this" comes to mind.

jamiep (author) 5 months ago

lol...yeah, my neighbors never know what I am building next...one month a huge dinosaur costume, the next a Jeep. :)

dorybob5 months ago

Great instructable and thank you for introducing me to another delightfully weird part of maker space.....the power racing series. Have you convinced your neighbors to compete down the cul-de-sac or are you, like myself, the neighborhood nut job? You can take the Fifth on that. Great work.

baecker035 months ago

wonder if a box alum frame, brush less motor and lithium battery would make a big difference..

kurokikaze5 months ago

It's awesome but my kid will probably kill herself on this :)

dunnos5 months ago

That is awesome! I especially like the paint job

DustySeven75 months ago

if you made the rear lights go off the brake pedal, added turn signals, and a seat belt; your vechicle would technicaly be street legal

wkearney995 months ago

The added traction of the rubber tires has got to be rough on that drivetrain. At least with the plastic the kids get some braking from the tires skidding. Too much traction for kid use is sort of a bad thing. For an overgrown kid, however, I bet it's a blast.

jamiep (author)  wkearney995 months ago

With the differential, the rubber works great...but the top heavy nature of an adult on it makes cornering and adventure... I have rolled it once ;) lol

AMCGT5 months ago

That's very cool. It seems to be very tough and very quick for such a small car. And it looks great too!

Two words "Freaking Awesome"!
Thebomb0915 months ago

cool

niki63715 months ago
Omgosh I wanna do that awesome idea
nodcah5 months ago

This is awesome!

andrea biffi5 months ago

That is so professional! I want (to make) one!! :-)

jdrury25 months ago

I could see the benefits of that. like a small lifan 125 pit bike motor chained up to the back under the seat with a heat shield and a gas tank under the hood. and a suicide shift connected to the lifan 4 speed trans. ohhh. man I'm gonna make one now !

jdrury25 months ago

Could u build one of these but with a gas dirt bike engine if u wanted to

M3G5 months ago
This is awesome!
That looks like a whole lot of fun. Love the smile on the guys face at the end of the video! Great job
jessyratfink5 months ago

Hahaha! This is hilariously awesome. The way it takes off in the video is perfect :D

barnmaster985 months ago
What did this cost you in the end? This is an awesome idea
jamiep (author)  barnmaster985 months ago

to be eligible for power racing series, all cars have to be under $500 (they don't count cost of brakes, safety equioment, against cost. These batteries also only count as half value towards the total).