Introduction: RC Car to Robot

Picture of RC Car to Robot

Converting an RC car into a robot is a quick and easy way to get started with robotics. At the very least, when you get bored of playing with your remote control car after three days, you can turn it into a robot that will do all of your evil bidding. Well, maybe not all of it, but at least a sizable amount.

In this Instructable I will go over the bare minimum you need to get started. Think of it as a template for making a basic robot that can be expanded with sensors, code, and additional hardware to do some really amazing things. You can now impress your family, make new friends, and scare your pets with the power of robot magic.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

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You will need:

(x1) R/C Monster Truck (Radioshack #60-646)
(x1) Arduino Uno REV 3 (Radioshack #276-128)
(x1) Arduino Motor Shield (Radioshack #276-131)
(x1) Parallax Ping Sensor (Radioshack #276-136)
(x1) Heavy-Duty 9V Snap Connectors (Radioshack #270-324)
(x1) Size M Coaxial DC Power Plug (Radioshack #274-1569)
(x1) Multipurpose PC Board with 417 Holes (Radioshack #276-150)
(x1) 90-Ft. UL-Recognized Hookup Wire (Radioshack #278-1221)
(x1) EnercellĀ® Alkaline 9 Volt Battery (Radioshack #25-853)
(x1) 6" Heat-Shrink Tubing (Radioshack #278-1627)
(x1) 5-1/2" Zip Ties (Radioshack #278-1631)

Step 2: Remove the Cover

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Flip the RC car over and remove the two screws holding the cover in place.

Put these screws aside somewhere safe for later reassembly.

Step 3: Unplug

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Unplug the motors from the connectors on the main board.

If your remote control car is hard wired to the motherboard, cut the motor wires loose.

Step 4: Remove the Controller

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Remove the screws holding the controller board to the RC car and pull it free.

Step 5: Power

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Remove the cover from the M-type power plug and slide it onto the wires for the 9V connector (such that you can twist it back on after you solder the wires).

Solder the red wire to the middle connection tab. Solder the black wire to the outer connection tab.

Twist the cover back onto the plug.

Step 6: Mark and Drill

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Place the Arduino atop the bed of the cargo RC car.

Make marks where the mounting holes are in such a way that it will later be easy to zip tie the Arduino down.

Drill through each of these marks with a 1/8" drill bit.

Step 7: More Marking and Drilling

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Place the 9V battery on the underside of the cargo bed. Make two marks on each side of the battery and drill them with a 1/8" drill bit.

Step 8: Attach

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Plug the 9V clip to the 9V battery and zip tie it to the underside of the RC car.

Trim away the excess bits of zip tie.

Step 9: Shield

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Plug the Arduino Motor Shield into the sockets of the Arduino Uno.

Step 10: Attach

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Now that the Motor Shield is attached zip tie the Arduino to the back side of the RC Car.

Step 11: Trim

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Using scissors or a paper cutter, trim the PC Board until is skinny enough that it slides neatly between the RC car's front grill.

Once made skinnier, shorten it such that it is just long enough to stick out the front.

Step 12: Solder

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Solder the PING sensor centered on the front of the trimmed PC Board.

Connect 8" of green wire to the Signal pin, 8" of red wire to the 5V pin, and 8" of black wire to the Ground pin.

Step 13: Insert

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Slide the circuit board into the front grill of the car and make sure the sensor is sitting level.

If it is not level, adjust it until it is.

Step 14: Drill and Fasten

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Drill an 1/8" hole on each side of the circuit board and firmly secure it to the body of the RC car with zip ties.

Step 15: Extend

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Trim away the connector for one of the motors. Connect an 8" red wire to one and an 8" black wire to the other.

Repeat this process with the second motor.

Finally, slide heat shrink tubing over each of the four exposed solder connections and shrink them into place with a heat gun.

Step 16: Clean Up

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Zip tie each set of wires together to keep everything tidy.

You may even want to consider zip tying the sets together into a single bundle for the length of wire that passes over the body of the RC car.

Step 17: Put It Together

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Put the body back onto the frame of the RC car and screw it back into place with the screws you set aside earlier.

Step 18: Program

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Program the car with the following Arduino code:

For help getting started with the Arduino, check out the Intro to Arduino Instructable.

Step 19: Wire It Up

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The ping sensor:
  • Connect the green wire from the Ping sensor to digital pin 7.
  • Connect the black wire from the Ping sensor to ground.
  • Connect the red wire to the power input screw socket on the motor shield.
The front turn motor:
  • Connect the red wire from the front motor to+ port on channel B of the motor shield.
  • Connect the black wire from the front motor to - port on channel B of the motor shield.
The rear drive motor:
  • Connect the red wire from the rear motor to the + port on channel A of the motor shield.
  • Connect the black wire from the rear motor to - port on channel A of the motor shield.
The motor shield:
  • Connect the 5V socket to the power input power screw socket on the motor shield (in addition to the Ping power wire already connected).
  • Connect the ground socket on the shield to the input ground screw socket on the motor shield.

Step 20: Go!

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Insert the 9V plug into the power socket on the Arduino to power up your robot.

Note: If you decide that you want to reprogram your Arduino, before you plug in the USB cable, disconnect both the 9V battery and the power connection between the Arduino power socket and the motor shield.


dimitrakis1992 (author)2016-04-11

Hello to everyone.check out my new project about Arduino

Hey, I'm currently making a similar build, I've uploaded the code and I only get a short initial jerk from the motors after that I get nothing, I've only substituted the parallax ping sensor for Radioshack's version and the Arduino motor shield for Seeed's. Any suggestions?

MeljohnN (author)2015-10-14

sir the ping sensor that i buy has four feets where do i connect the other one and is there something to add in the code if the sensor is like that

reply sir ASAP

dallenK (author)2015-09-14

budrow01 (author)2015-04-20

I also have the 4 pin sensor and don't know how to program it. Thanks!

budrow01 (author)2015-04-20

I can't copy the code. I'm not sure if you did that on purpose or not?

Electronics_Geek (author)2014-11-16

Hi Randofo! I am running an RC car with the same setup as yours. Will I be able to wire up the car's standard 6v battery pack to the motor shield without frying the ping sensor? Will the ping sensor take on 6v?



remzak (author)Electronics_Geek2014-12-17

I don't think it could, but you could use a voltage regulator to bring it within the operating voltage of the Ping sensor.

skippymoore123 (author)2014-12-02

that would be pretty cool if you used a traxxas or any other fast rc car

abencomo (author)2014-03-21

Nice tutorial, thanks for sharing! We built a similar project. However, we installed an Android device onto a RC car and used an IOIO board instead to control it autonomously. Here is the preliminary result:

arun3491 (author)abencomo2014-09-01

hi abencomo, really u have done great job, can u send the details of ur project, like app which follows the ball, code and schematics to my mail

AlB1 (author)arun34912014-09-03

All the information and code is here:

GochtG (author)arun34912014-09-03

That's great! Can you tell me more about your project? (

Brian Henderson (author)2012-12-30

Great Instructable! Your build and pictures are so clean! Thank you so much for documenting this so clearly!

The choice of adding a motor shield kind of confuses me, though. If you have a steady hand then connecting four wires to the car's RX chip and taking advantage of the car's already present H-bridge is pretty simple. You can even send PWM signals and it works to control the motor's speed.

If you already have a motor shield or don't want to solder to a surface mount chip then I totally understand, but one can easily cut out $20 to $30 of the cost of this project with some careful soldering.

Can you pls share the wiring on the car's RX chip and/or the H-Bridge?

S0uraV_DAS (author)2014-06-19

Awesome work! I am building it now!

iliriano (author)2014-03-21

Thanks for the great instructions and pictures. My son and I just finished the truck and it worked. However the truck is only going foward and to the right, it pauses and repeats again. When I copied and pasted your scripts a bunch of extra spaces were added between the lines. I will delete them to see if this is the fix?! Otherwise we will have to recheck the Ping soldering and wiring to the Arduino motor shield, to find other errors.

BlueShorts (author)iliriano2014-03-27

Can you screenshot the code? I haven't done anything arduino but I do know a bit of code.

vkadnor (author)2013-12-17

can i use arduino leonardo and l298 ic motor shield

tarroyo2 (author)2013-11-20

How possible to pull this off using a Sensored Brushless Motor system? Novak is what I am wanting to use).

NASCAR18 (author)2013-11-19

Do you know if these sensors will work? "Ultrasonic Module HC-SR04 Distance Measuring Transducer" If not does anyone have code for these? great project!

tharindurc (author)2013-11-06

can we use a different arduino motor shield

randofo (author)tharindurc 2013-11-14

Yes, but perhaps not with these instructions. These instructions are centered around this shield.

12y1 (author)2013-09-20

is it possible to solder jumpers directly to the IC?

vek11 (author)2013-07-19

Instead of using a motorr shield, can I use a motor driver ic(SN754ONE)

kaipenzhorn (author)2013-06-16

Thanks for the great instructable! Could I use this motor shield? I am new to all of this stuff. Thanks

mihir.crazi (author)2013-05-30

I have made a similar kind off project but instead of an arduino motor shield and a ping, i have attached a adafruit type of motor shied and a hc sr 04 sensor . can you please help and modify this coding for an adafruit motor shield along with a hc sr 04 sensor .

randofo (author)mihir.crazi2013-05-30

No, but please share your code if you do.

mike010101 (author)2013-05-09

You mentioned that the front motor was the "turn motor". how exactly does that work? does it actually turn or spins the left or right wheels to achieve turning? I'm wondering if one would need 2 motor controllers for an RC that has for motors

randofo (author)mike0101012013-05-10

If it has four motors, then you might. Mine has two motors. One drives the back wheels and the front one turns the axle left and right.

angpal59 (author)2013-03-21

works great but my wheels wont turn, they stay where they are when I fire it up but other than that it works perfect.

randofo (author)2013-02-26

I don't know anything about that shield. I don't know who made it, the pin mapping, or the specs on it.

Unless it is explicitly stated somewhere, never assume any electronics component is interchangeable with any other. I recommend searching the internet for instructions to use exactly what you have.

angpal59 (author)randofo2013-02-26

but to tell you the truth randofo, it's been so long it could of came from overseas, I'm trying to find out now, I will get back with you sometime

angpal59 (author)2013-02-25

I am trying to delete one of them but having a hard time, bear with me please

angpal59 (author)2013-02-25

Here it is, older motor shield, can I use this one?

leeseibert (author)2013-02-22

Thanks for the How to.

I am working on a project very much like this. See my video here:

dzholekbayev (author)2013-02-11

Good day! I have one question about this project. Should I use Xbee modules to connect PC with robot??? I will be appreciate for your answers!

shar2 (author)2013-01-15

may I know what's the purpose of connecting the ground socket on the shield to the input ground screw socket on the motor shield?

The.Smart.Man (author)2012-12-01

dude should you only use new bright cars

hilmara (author)2012-11-13

Hey there, I used same arduino, same motor shield, same ping sensor, same code, but different rc car, basically the same two simple motors, but somehow my car moves only forward, with a short little stop, than moves again forward even if there are objects, like my hand or foot, It never reverse and doesnt turn the wheels. Can anyone help me? something wrong with the code or ?

shar2 (author)2012-10-24

Hi, I've used exactly the same kind of Arduino, motor shield, Ping sensor and code but different RC car for my project. However, the rear wheels turn forward and then reverse repeatedly when there is no obstacle. It works fine when there is an obstacle. May I know what's the problem?

focalcity (author)shar22012-11-08

hey, I had the same problem. Different car, anytime I power it up. it moves forward then backwards repeatedly, but when I keep my hands in front of it, keeps moving forward

hilmara (author)2012-11-05

Hi there, cool project. Im planning on doing my own. I got this old r/c car wich only has one motor, the rear one is that okay ? do I have to fix the code? and second, what do I do with the originally on/off button and its wires? thanks in advance !

ataripunkconsole (author)2012-09-18

hello when i put in the cod e every thing works fine but every 5 second the motors stop and some times the ping sensor does no always work is ths normal

shar2 (author)2012-09-15

Where did you connect the wires from the battery pack and from the switch to?

randofo (author)shar22012-09-15

I am no longer using the car's battery pack and switch. It is all powered off the 9V.

009agent (author)2012-09-06

How would you go about removing the Arduino so you can use it for other projects. I understand you would need an ATMega chip.

jackjackboom (author)2012-08-05
randofo (author)jackjackboom2012-09-04

Not the greatest idea. You can harm the Arduino by doing that, as the motor could produce voltage spikes.

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previously life I had founded and run the Instructables ... More »
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