I made this Halloween firetruck for my son to ride in. I thought it would be a fun way to build him a ride for the local town stroll where he can trick or treat in the town center. This is not entirely a new build as I used the chassis from the train I built him last year as a starting point. Here's the link to that instructable if you're interested in how I made the cart and this entire endeavor started last year.
Now to how I built the firetruck, which every kid in town loved.
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Step 1: The Teardown
First off I needed to tear apart the front of the train. That was pretty easy, just needed to scrape off some hot glue which had been used to hold most of the train engine together as well as some screws holding pieces of wood in place in the front of the train. I also removed the arched top of the cabin area in the back. The purpose for all of this was to change where my son would stand. For the train he was in back of the cart, but with the firetruck he would have to be in the front.
Step 2: A Firefighter Needs a Ladder
To begin the actual building process and intrigue my son, I started with building a simple basic ladder for him. I used some cheap 3/8th x 2 1/4 inch boards, cutting two at approximately eye height to my son. I then cut five 3/8th inch dowels at 10 inch lengths. Clamping the two boards together I measured and drilled five evenly space, 3/8th in holes with my drill press. Putting a little bit of glue on the inside of each hole and on the ends of the dowels I slid everything together and let it dry.
My apologies I forgot to take photos of this step, all I have is a photo of my son using the ladder to look out the window.
Step 3: Reconfigure the Chassis
First step was removing the piece of plywood which separated the cabin from the engine in the train I made the year before. I had cut several holes in it, making the setup not great for the firetruck's needs. To keep things cheap I put in a single 2'x4' piece of attic pressboard, which you can see in the photos. It covered the area relatively well. Next I cut a spare 2x4 into two equal length pieces (the two vertical boards in the photos). They had to be low enough so my son could easily see over them but not too low they wouldn't stop him if we stopped short. I made them a bout chest height. I used decking screws at an angle, one per each 2" side, to secure the board to the horizontal 2x3 which the 2x4 would sit on. The boards were a bit wobbly so I cut two 2x4 pieces with 45˚ ends to stabilize the vertical 2x4 pieces. Lastly I did a cross beam for one last little bit of safety. I would have put the cross beam higher, but I needed space above it for the buttons, their components and cables to fit under the plywood which would be at the top of the vertical boards.
The end result was a very sturdy front dash of the firetruck cabin.
Step 4: Adding the Sides and a Rear Hatch
The sides were the cheapest (i believe they are 1/8th" thick) plywood boards I could buy at home depot in 2x4' lengths. I measured a panel for each side to cover the missing area, a front panel, top strop for the front panel and cut them to length on a table saw. The back panel if I remember correctly did not need resizing (but it's been a month or two so I could be wrong with that). The front and side boards were secured to the frame using cheap 1.5" drywall screws. No need to get anything fancier. For the rear hatch which would be an essential access point for all of the electronics and "water tank" i put it on a simple cabinet hinge. At the top of the plywood board I cut a simple strip of scrap wood to help secure the screws to something more than simply 1/8" of board. My son who was "helping" me at this point would frequently disappear into the back of the firetruck as you can see in the photos. He would pop out roaring with the hopes of jumping me (he did get me once or twice).
Step 5: A BETTER STEERING METHOD
So yes this is not the most amazing steering method, AND I will admit I used the ropes from the year before for some extra strength, but it's much better than how I steered the train. First off this was an iterative process with me making several attempts at a pivot join for the dowel to connect to. The first few tries broke when I went to move it around the driveway. Finally I made a fairly chunky version and an oak dowel to have enough strength for it to survive the stresses of steering. An old broom stick with a drilled hole didn't last too long which I knew would happen, but had to try. Holding the dowel and pivot joint together was a nut and bolt with four washers.
This all came about because last year I needed assistance going down hills when we brought the train to the local holiday stroll. Did not want to require a second adult to move it around just in case.
Step 6: Paint
So now that the frame and sides are all in place time to make it red. I had my wife help me out (she's much better at this than I am, I tend to have some runny spots when I do it). We first did a base primer and then put on an Apple Red glossy final coat. The base we kept black. We put a good two coats on of red paint maybe using 2-3 cans of spray paint.
Step 7: First Attempt at a Steering Wheel
So if you're making any type of road vehicle you need a steering wheel (unless it auto drives). So I made what I will admit is a first attempt. It worked well, but as my wife pointed out it isn't ergonomic for my son. I left this in so that people could see the trial and errors I went through in order to get to the final product. The base is simply two 2x4s screwed together with deck screws. For the actual wheel I simply cut it from a spare piece of attic press board using a jig saw. I screwed the wheel using a drywall screw into a 5/8th dowel.
I have the final version in a later step.
Step 8: Doors
So, to keep my son in the vehicle as we take him around town, and because my wife instructed me, I put a door on both sides of the cab. I measured out with width required and using some of the scrap plywood from earlier steps I cut out the doors. They did not reach the entire way down from the top of the dashboard to the floor, but it was not necessary to make it go all the way.
After I had the boards cut (and marked to which side because there was about an 1/4th inch difference) I measured out and cut four pieces per door to go around the perimeter of the plywood for strength. The edges were all cut at 45˚ angles so they would fit together well. Using drywall screws (had them readily available) I put in two per side to hold the plywood to the boards. I put in a single drywall screw at each corner of the door connecting the 3/8th x 2 1/4 inch boards together so that they would not independently flex. Because the drywall screws were too long and went through the thickness of both the plywood and the board I dremeled the extra part of the screw off flush and smooth with the board. I made sure by running my hand over it that it would not anyone.
To finish it off I primed and spray painted the door red like the rest of the truck.
Step 9: The Firehose (pump)
So to start off I found a good inexpensive water pump. I ended up buying the following water pump (over half off when I purchased it so i got two) pump https://www.banggood.com/12V-High-Power-Electric-A...
I have attached a video testing the pump out to make sure it worked the way I had hoped. I had two of the larger "security" batteries (one of which you can see in the photo) from RadioShack. Was fortunate to pick them up when the store was closing near me so they were only $5 a piece.
The water is supplied by a simple home depot 5 gallon bucket with a sealable top. I bought 3/8" plastic tubing from my local hardware store (about 20 ft just to be careful but at $0.60 a foot I am all game). To weigh the plastic tubing going into the plastic bucket down I glued its end to a large nut. I will describe the nozzle tube connection in a later step.
To make sure that if water did spill inside it wouldn't cause issue I made a holder above the top of the bucket. I also put in two 2x3 beams to hold the water bucket in place. Did not want that being thrown around as I pulled it, especially with some decent sized batteries back there.
Step 10: The Face of the Truck
So I need to add the grill of the truck with it's headlights. I cut out a template with some spare cardboard. In an attempt to keep it even on both sides I folded the cardboard in half and then cut it with a knife. Because the edges were a bit unclean I wrapped them with tape to smooth them out and then taped it to the front of the firetruck with painters tape. Being impatient as I usually am I installed the front lights. I found this on sale at home depot for about $6.50 each. They are trailer lights and are 12v so it worked well with the batteries I already had (and can be see in daylight). I used some black spray paint for the primary area of the grill. Once the paint had dried I used some silver paint from Michaels and a paint brush did a silvery perimeter. I waited for that to dry and then using a fresh piece of cardboard I painted horizontal lines to make it really look like a grill. The final product is something that is starting to look good.
Notice the original steering wheel, it didn't really look right and it was at this time my wife suggested I rethink it.
Step 11: New Steering Wheel and Firehose
So I clumped these two together because it was just simpler.
I took out the base of the old steering wheel and recut some 2x4s in the same dimensions. I screwed them together the same way and then using a table saw cut off a section at 45˚ big enough for me to drill a 5/8" hole into it for the dowel. Once it was cut I propped it up using scrap wood on the drill press so the 45˚ cut was parallel with the floor. I drilled down the center and then widened it a bit using a dremel and re-drilling the hole a few times. It needs to be be loser than snug but not flopping around. Once this was achieved i secured it to the cross 2x4 in the front dash of the firetruck with deck screws.
The firehose was a ........ challenge. Using the plastic 3/8" tubing, which doesn't fit a garden hose nozzle needed some assistance. Because I knew this was going to be problematic I purchased the cheapest plastic nozzle I could find at the hardware store (about $6). I first tried to use hot glue and really sealed the tubing to the nozzle, or so I thought. The first test on the water pump (just for reference at full power this pump can do 110 psi) the "seal" immediately leaked until I opened the nozzle significantly. I then tried several layers of hot glue, epoxy and silicone sealant. I came to the conclusion that I could reduce the leaks when the nozzle is closed by about 2/3 but that was the best i could do. We ended up letting it go full open so it was a nice stream that only sprayed 2 feet. It was concluded by my wife and I we had to be careful to not allow a "weapon/toy" my son could use to spray other kids so the spraying power was important. I also did a control switch which you'll see later with the electronics step.
Step 12: Wiring
So many cables were needed for this setup. There are four buttons on the dashboard to control the lights. Each button requires 4 wires, 2 for the internal LED and 2 for the button connection. I soldered wires long enough to get to the electronics board in the back and labeled each one with the button and its purpose. I also put a switch on the back hatch for the water pump. This is an emergency button with a cover. I did this one so it does'n't accidentally get turned on and two so I could hit it off quickly. This specific button is rated for 12v and 10amps because it directly drove the water pump from the battery. There are also four wires two to each of the headlights.
All of the wires in the front went through a 1/2 in hole in the pressboard at the back of the cab. It was 1/2 an inch above the floor on the drivers side. I did this to keep them all together and then covered the cables with cardboard and duct tape so my son wouldn't trip or play with the wires.
The wires for the buttons in the front were taken from an old computer I scrapped. Only 5v low amps was transmitted over them so they were perfect. The buttons were purchased for the train last year and reused. The water switch was purchase at RadioShack on store closing sale for $0.70 and the light, water pump cables were all 12v car cables (not sure what gauge they came with the trailer lights). Know the volts and amps going over the cables so they can adequately handle the load.
Just be careful when you're playing with wires and do tests all along the way. I almost caused a problem (and burned myself but not fire) when I mixed the Power and ACC cables on the water pump switch. The cables got hot enough to do a light burn of my fingers, but nothing too bad and it was easily fixed.
Step 13: MORE LIGHTS
So I purchased off of amazon these two rotating lights. I purchased the 7" lights vs the smaller ones because bigger is better. I forgot to verify if they were the battery powered lights or 120v..............they were the latter. I made this it's own step to remind people to double check before you buy. I did get this to work for me, just cause me to purchase an inverter. They were about $27 for both lights with shipping and made a great addition overall.
Step 14: The Brains
For this project I used an Arduino Uno with two shields, a SeeedStudio relay shield and motor shield, links to both are below. I ended up only using the relay shield but left the motor shield in place because I didn't want to swap out the board midway (and re-insert all of the wires). I used a breadboard as a poor mans power distributor for the buttons on the front. I have attached the code for the Arduino board (not my best or cleanest but it works). The relays get fun here, I used one relay for each of the two front lights and then a third for the rotating lights on top. To get that to work I powered the 12v to 120v inverter from a car booster pack. I redirected the power cable from the booster pack to the relay shield and then to the inverter in order to control when it is on or off. Not exactly kosher, but again it works well enough for my needs.
I should also describe here what the buttons are setup for. The bit white on on the left is for a light sequence you'll see in videos at the end. The one to the right controls the left headlight, the next button to the right is the right headlight and the last button is the rotating lights at the top of the firetruck.
I am more than happy to answer any questions with this step because it was very MacGyver.
Step 15: Windshield
So while picking up supplied for home improvement project at Home Depot I saw a nice acrylic sheet which my wife suggested would be "great for a windshield", and I didn't need any convincing. I cut it down just a bit with my table saw to fit onto the front of the firetruck. Using the same 3/8th x 2 1/4 inch boards I have used in earlier steps I cut two to be about an 1/8" short of the acrylic sheet's height and one piece with about 3 extra inches of its width. I then used my table saw to cut a 1/8" groove in all three wood pieces. Prime, paint and wait to dry. I set it all up on a work bench, predrilled the screw holes (a must for many screws but essential here or you'll split the wood) and screwed the three pieces together with the sheet in it. I then screwed it to the front of the truck using drywall screws at an angle. It is really looking good. Now all it needs are some accents.
Step 16: Accents and Double Checking Everything Inside
So every firetruck needs an ax, this was easy, cut up some cardboard and then spray paint. I used velcro like pads to attach it to the firetruck. You can see I also tried to attach a real kitchen fire extinguisher but it wouldn't stay put so I stored it inside the back area of the truck. I also realized the windshield was not secure enough so I build a rack for the top of the truck to hold the rotating lights, ladder and hold the windshield in place. On the far side not shown here I used a 3M adhesive cable hook as a holder for the firehose. The rotating lights on the top were glued down just to make sure they didn't fall off.
Step 17: Final Tests
So to make it look it's best I wrote WHFD (local fire department) and 2 for Engine company 2 which is our closest fire station. I did that using silver magic marker. I also printed out images of gauges and the local fire department patch, gluing them to the sides of the firetruck. Nice touch to make it look nice.
So here are the final videos the day we used it. What do people think?