Step 4: Building the Solar Rack

Picture of Building the Solar Rack
drilling plastic body.jpg
The finished vehicle with have an overhead rack to support the solar panels. The rack has to be high enough to let the child in and out without hitting their head. The finished solar canopy will also shade the driver, nice for keeping cool in the summer!

The top of the rack needs to be a size to match the solar panels, while the bottom of the rack needs to line up with solid points on the frame of the vehicle.

To start with measure the frame of the vehicle. You may need to remove the plastic body, or at least disconnect it and pull it partially up to get access to the frame. The Jeep has easily accessible push-nuts that hold the body on.

Once you have identified the length and width of where the solar rack with attach to the vehicle frame, write it down.

Drill holes through the plastic body (5/8" spade blade worked well) directly above where the rack will connect.

Next, measure the size of the solar panels, particularly noting any holes or slots that are used as attachment points. You will want the conduit to line up with those points so that the rack holds up the PV panels, but also allows for a bolt or screw from the panels, through the frame to secure it in place.

Depending on your car and solar panels, your rack may be an odd shape, like an old-fashioned football goal-post, a ladder, or some shape other than a rectangle. That's OK, as long as the top fits the solar panels, and the bottom fits the POWER WHEELS.

Cut 1/2" electric conduit to the correct length to build the top portion, which will fit the solar panels. I found that a plumbing pipe-cutter works really well to cut 1/2" conduit. It's safer and quieter than power tools, and leaves a very clean cut that really doesn't require any other filing or finishing.

Weld the conduit together, and lay your solar panels on top to confirm that they fit correctly.

Now you will want to measure how TALL your rack is. You may want to get your little tyke out to the car and see how much room they need to get in and out of the car, allowing plenty of room so they don't bump their head. Remember to leave room for them to grow taller!

Cut four pieces of conduit to the height you chose.

Weld the conduit to solar rack, with the rack laying on the ground, and the "uprights" straight up from it. Flip the rack over and it should look roughly like a pickup truck ladder rack.

Grind down any bad welds, fill in any holes, and then paint the rack. I like Rustoleum Gloss Black spray paint. It always looks nice, seems to hide bad welds, and in this case, matches the trim and tires on the Jeep.