Introduction: Mousetrap Car Racer

Picture of Mousetrap Car Racer

Recently in Physical Science, we were assigned to construct a mousetrap-powered car.  After a great deal of research, I had a basic idea of what I wanted to make.  The end result is what you see.  This mouse trap car is more for speed than for distance, although it's performance seems to be between the two.  It goes a decent distance, and it travels at a decent speed.  While being lightweight, This car is also quite sturdy.  It's fairly easy to make, so give it a shot if you're interested!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

There are a few specific items that you'll need for this project, but you can probably use similar items if you aren't able to find balsa wood, copper tubing, etc. in the sizes that I used.  So, here's what you'll need for the project:

* 1 Victor mousetrap
* 1 pool noodle (try to get one with an inner hole that has a small diameter)
* 1 long piece of balsa wood (You will need two 8" lengths of this balsa wood.  I cut mine from one piece of balsa wood that was 1/4" thick and 1" wide)
* slender copper tubing (the diameter of mine was 5/32", but you can use a close size)
* 4 small screw nuts (these must fit over your copper tubing, ideally as close a fit as possible)
* 1 wing nut (like the others, this nut must also fit over your copper tubing)
* JB-Weld
* wood glue
* electrical tape
* string, yarn, twine, etc. (just make sure you can tie it and that it can wind easily)
* (optional) corner braces or similar item (as many as needed--I used two)

* a pair of pliers
* hacksaw or knife (to cut pool noodle with)
* (optional) miter box (for clean, square cuts when you cut the pool noodle)
* pipe cutters or something else to cut copper tubing

Step 2: Making the Body

Picture of Making the Body

The body of the car is comprised of only three parts: the mousetrap, and two pieces of balsa wood.  Your first deal of business is to remove some parts from the mousetrap.  To do this, I clamped the parts with pliers and yanked the pieces out.  You will need to keep the lever arm (indicated in the picture notes).  Next, cut your balsa wood into two 8" lengths.  My balsa wood was 1" wide and 1/4" thick, but you could probably use a different size.  Next, mark two dots on one piece of balsa wood.  Each dot should be 1/2" from the bottom and side of the wood, on both ends of the wood.  Holding both pieces of balsa wood together, I drilled where the holes should be.  Your copper tube (which will later become the axle) should fit loosely in the hole.  Next, make marks two inches from each end of the balsa wood.  This is where you will glue your mousetrap.  Finally, use wood glue to paste the mousetrap to the two pieces of balsa wood.

Step 3: Assemble the Axles

Picture of Assemble the Axles

Step 4: Attaching the Wheels

Picture of Attaching the Wheels

Take your pool noodle.  Mark two 2" lengths and two 1" lengths.  I used a hacksaw and miter box to cut these.  These lengths of noodle will be your wheels.  Next, wrap electrical tape where your wheels will go.  Make the fit as snug as possible.  Wrapping the tape will take a LONG time.  Once you are done, the wheels should fit very snugly over the axles.

Step 5: Extending the Snapper Arm

Picture of Extending the Snapper Arm

Step 6: Using Your Car

Picture of Using Your Car

Pull the snapper arm back.  Hook the loop in the end of your string on one end of the wing nut.  Pull the axle back to wind the string around the rear axle.  Wind the car up until the snapper arm is fully back.  Place your car on the ground and let go!

Step 7: Optional Reinforcement

Picture of Optional Reinforcement

One thing that did concern me was the durability of the car.  I decided to use balsa wood for the sake of making my car lightweight, but it also made the car seem less durable.  Just to be safe, I glued two corner braces where the mousetrap meets the balsa wood.  Mix together some JB-Weld, and apply a generous amount to the corner braces.  Then, put each corner brace where the mousetrap joins the balsa wood, as shown in the last couple of pictures.  After that, I decided to glue in another piece of wood at the front of the car.  The glued-in piece of wood keeps the snapper arm from bending when it is in its forward position.  Finally, I wrapped the snapper arm in electrical tape.  This likely won't do much, but it could prevent some scratching from the spring being placed on top of the copper tubing.

Step 8: Decoration (The Best Part!)

Picture of Decoration (The Best Part!)

Finally, the actual fun part of making a mousetrap car: decoration!  You can probably tell that I had fun with mine!


atholiti (author)2017-02-03


atholiti (author)2017-02-03


atholiti (author)2017-02-03


atholiti (author)2017-02-03

u suck

atholiti (author)2017-02-03

can u make a video . it would help cause i dont like reading

science_baby (author)2016-11-23

does this mouse trap car 100% work and how far does it travel?

35115 (author)science_baby2017-01-04

your mom

crazyboy10 (author)2016-05-04

why copper tubing and can u use something other than it

RabihH1 (author)crazyboy102016-08-17


You can use anything you want, from PVC tubing to pencils lol. Axle thickness is what you should be looking for.

Justice Marie (author)2016-05-31

sry geek27 for all the people with joulous issues and put you down you did a great job ???

Justice Marie (author)2016-05-31

wow great job can u please pm me the meat rails best to use that would be awesome I'm doing a 6th grade project and need you to pm me asap

TheVibeKing (author)2016-05-01

Where did you get the pictures? I know Google images? Or something. And what worked best when attaching the bolts onto the axels, glue or electrical tape? One more question, why did you name it "The Obese Gopher" ? And where did you make it?

If you could try to answer me, that would be great!! I'm doing this for an 8th grade science project and the model looked innovative and creative to me.

lux2132 (author)2015-02-01

Could you please attach verbal instructions for Step 3? I have to make a car for a project at school, and this is one of the best designs I've found so far..

lux2132 (author)lux21322015-02-01

And for #5 as well...sorry and thank you!

JohnB25 (author)2014-11-23

string, yarn, twine, etc. (just make sure you can tie it and that it can wind easily) if u could estimate how much would you need

BrightW (author)2014-09-28

where did you buy all the supplies from? Trying to make this for my project! That's in 2 weeks

pianoplayer45 (author)2014-02-08

How long did it take you to make this car?

geek27 (author)pianoplayer452014-02-08

Since I made this years ago, I can't remember now how long it took! But, if I were to estimate, I'd say you could probably make this in a couple hours' time if you had the materials and the instructions (of course, you would need to wait for the glue to dry, though)

max2001 (author)2014-01-22

Really well done! This is the best design I've found so far. My son has to make one for a D&T project and we're going to try your design. I'll let you know how it goes!!!

bergiemoore (author)2012-04-06

That's a LOT of electrical tape (not to mention time.) Do you think putting a wade of hot glue there and attaching the wheels would work? Or paper that was glued? I haven't made your car, so I'm asking if you think something else than e.t would work.

geek27 (author)bergiemoore2012-04-06

I wouldn't think that hot glue would work very well--you'd probably make quite a mess, you'd be rushing to glob on all the hot glue, and once you stick the wheel on, it probably won't be centered with the axle. That means that when you finish all four, the wheels will be crooked on the axles and your car won't work as well.

Paper might work if you make sure that it's glued to the axle well. Really, the point of using electrical tape is to build up the diameter of the axle so that the wheels fit snugly. Electrical tape is convenient because is will probably never come off your axle unless you peel at the end of it. Using paper would bulk up the diameter of the axle evenly, but it might be harder if you work with glue instead of using electrical tape.

So, unless using electrical tape is too expensive, that's what I would recommend. I don't remember using too much electrical tape when I did this project--certainly not an entire roll. It might look like more than it really is, since the diameter of the axle is quite small compared to the diameter of the roll that the tape comes on.

tornagen (author)2012-04-01

great idea!

penglish1 (author)2012-03-30

Can you list all the materials that i need because im going to the store Monday thanks!

geek27 (author)penglish12012-03-30

At first, I was going to ask you to check my step that lists the materials, then I looked at it, and the horror sunk in--

I have no idea when this happened!  Apparently, I deleted all of the text that I wrote for steps 1, 3, and 5.  Now, I'm not sure if I'll be able to rewrite these or if I'll be able to get back to you quickly, because I'm really, very busy this weekend.  But, I'll try--thanks for pointing it out!

Madrias357 (author)2009-12-16

Mousetrap cars are fun!  I remember doing this for our Physical Science class, along with Newton's Third Law of Motion a week later with rubber band powered fan cars.

The only problem was our class was very immature and took instead to leaving the mousetraps (our last step of installing) in people's chairs or on desks so we'd snap ourselves with them.

geek27 (author)Madrias3572009-12-17

Ah, thanks for being the first one to comment!  Of course, that happened in our class too.  People would plant mousetraps under other people's binders.  I suppose it is to be expected though... fun anyways!

Madrias357 (author)geek272009-12-25

I was the first to get my hand stuck in one.

pieman12 (author)Madrias3572010-03-11


braneyy (author)pieman122011-07-26

can you please help me with a mouse trap car with skateboard wheels i don't know how to move it and its due on friday please reply by tommorow THANKS!

geek27 (author)braneyy2011-07-29

Sorry, I usually try to reply to my messages quickly, but I just got home from vacation, and I didn't have access to a computer for the past week.

This car was built to be pretty light. The body's made out of balsa wood, and the wheels are made out of foam pool noodle. I haven't held a skateboard wheel all on its own, but I imagine that it's pretty heavy, or at least considerably heavier than foam noodle. The mousetrap might not have had enough power to move the heavier skateboard wheels.

Sorry I couldn't get back sooner!

peaceandlove (author)2011-06-20

Is fast this car?

geek27 (author)peaceandlove2011-06-21

Well, I'm having a hard time comparing my mousetrap car's speed to the speeds of other mousetrap cars since I did this project (and researched other mousetrap cars) a little more than a year ago. I wrote to another user:

"But, I could give you an estimate of how far it traveled. The goal of the school project was that the mousetrap cars travel at least ten feet. I know that my car went ten feet easily, and consistently. However, it didn't go much farther. I would estimate that the maximum distance it went would be around 15-20 feet."

So, obviously, the mousetrap car didn't really travel that far.  I don't think that it necessarily slowed down a lot either, so I'm pretty sure that it didn't get going that fast.  I had meant for it to accelerate fairly quickly (as opposed to making it go a great distance), and I think that it went decently fast.  It is a bit faster than all of those "distance" mousetrap cars, though.

aliceisavamp (author)2011-03-21

This car is not a car for a poor persona

geek27 (author)aliceisavamp2011-03-21

I'm going to guess that what you just said is a compliment and say, "HECK NO IT AIN'T FOR A POOR PERSONA!"

aliceisavamp (author)2011-03-21

bye bye bye

Bashful Brunette (author)2010-12-29

How far did your mouse trap car travel????

geek27 (author)Bashful Brunette2010-12-30

Unfortunately, I never got to measure that. I was planning on it, but I ended up turning my car in (it was for a school project) and never getting it back...

But, I could give you an estimate of how far it traveled.  The goal of the school project was that the mousetrap cars travel at least ten feet.  I know that my car went ten feet easily, and consistently.  However, it didn't go much farther.  I would estimate that the maximum distance it went would be around 15-20 feet.

That distance really isn't all that impressive compared to many mousetrap cars you can find on the internet, but it got the job done, which was to go only 10 feet.

About This Instructable




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