Intro: New Bright R/C Chargers Easy Battery Upgrade
I searched all over the internet for instructions on how to modify these awesome little R/C cars from New Bright. Most responses on various hobby forums were, "Spend $50 for a real hobby car, otherwise enjoy it for what it is." And also, "Don't expect much for $25. Especially from New Bright."
I also read that people had issues with the Li-po batteries in these cars dying after only several charges. They're not fast, they're not powerful, but they are fun and with a little tinkering you can turn this little toy into an R/C car that the battery will last for hours and hours of fun.
For this project you will need:
- A working 'R/C Chargers' from New Bright
- Battery is going to be replaced so that part doesn't need to be working
- Soldering iron
- Rosin Core solder
- Portable cell phone battery pack
- Phillips Screwdriver
- size 0 or 1
- (Optional) - Male USB cable
- Batteries for the remote
- Warning: You're working with Lithium batteries which can explode or catch fire if:
- connected improperly
- short circuited (i.e. + and - contacts touch each other)
Step 1: Cut Open the 'hood'
For this step you will need your scissors (or an exacto knife). Use patience and cut along the faux hood line. This opening is where you will stuff the battery and USB cable.
If you do decide to cut the back side DO NOT cut the faux hinges. I found that cutting the back side helped the hood open with less effort but the plastic is cheap and thin. So if you plan to roughhouse with the R/C car then I suggest you wait and see how you like getting the battery in and out of the opening.
Step 2: Removing Screws
There are only a couple screws holding the plastic body on the frame (3 to be exact). Once you have those removed, there is one screw holding down the mainboard (beneath a protective plastic cover)--remove this also.
Step 3: Once Inside...
Warning: Lithium batteries do not like to be jostled around, nor will they tolerate being short circuited.
Caution: This step requires using a hot soldering iron.
After the protective cover of the main board is removed, you will see a red battery cell. You will want to disconnect the three white clips with wires. Be gentle with them as they are not made of a durable plastic and the wires may pull out of the plastic connecter if you use too much force.
Next, pull the mainboard out and gently grasp the battery cell and make the green side of the board face you (as shown in the picture).
You need to apply gentle pressure to the battery (as if you are trying to pull it off of the board). Then heat up the solder on each lead of the battery. You can ask someone to help you with this part or just use your fingers to brace against the mainboard as if you're trying to pinch/push the battery away from the board.
Then, alternate heating up the solder on the battery leads. You may notice that as you heat up the solder, that the lead will kind of give a little, but only so far--because of the other lead being soldered in place. Take your time and alternate to the other lead, allowing the opposite lead to come out a little.
Continue being patient and repeat as necessary, until the battery is free.
Caution: Lithium batteries don't like high temperatures. If the hand that is holding the battery feels warm or uncomfortable then take a break!
Do not overheat the battery nor be in a rush. Especially if you want to preserve these tiny, rechargeable battery cells for another project.
Note: In the third picture you notice I am pointing at the mainboard and it looks as though something was removed. You are observant! On this board I removed the white plastic coupler because I wanted to use it (which did not work out in the end).
Step 4: The USB Cable
The USB cable you disconnected earlier has a long wire. Once you cut the protective covering you will notice two inner wires. One wire has a plastic shield on it (this is the + lead) and the other has no protective plastic shell (this is the - lead). This presented a problem for me...
Initially I used superglue to ensure that the + and - had no chance of touching each other, but when my nephew mishandled my R/C car and my + lead came loose, I ended up splitting open the white plastic and potentially exposing the wires to a short circuit (since the white plastic stuck to the super glue).
This could have been avoided if I had soldered properly the first time, but I had been experimenting (not shown nor discussed).
So, as long as you feel sure that the + and - leads are not going to cause a short circuit, the included USB wire works great for this project (it is still installed on my other R/C car).
You need to peel back the green plastic, to separate the + and - leads and allow working room for your fingers for the next step. For me, it took a little extra time, but gently putting the bare wire back inside of the green plastic sleeve and then supergluing the split in the sleeve was safe on both vehicles I had performed this 'operation' on.
Step 5: Installing the USB Cable
Note: if you are using your own USB cable, you may want to check this instructables post.
If you are using the USB cable that came with the R/C car, then + is white and - is the bare wire. If you are using your own USB, then power is red (+) and black (-).
You can see in the picture that + and - are clearly marked. If you have any doubts you are doing it correctly, please ask an adult for help. This may only be 3v-5v ~1A DC, but again, Lithium batteries are volatile and will catch on fire if short circuited (i.e. if the connection is improperly soldered etc.). Lithium is a metal and putting out a metal fire is not fun...trust me, I was in the Navy on a Submarine and we had to deal with metal fires.
Note: Before proceeding to step 7, I suggest ensuring the power switch is off now (otherwise when you connect the battery it will send live voltage through the mainboard before you're ready).
Step 6: Reinstall the Mainboard and Cover
Reconnect the wires taken off earlier.
Note: I shouldn't need to say it, but I want to ensure that it's understood that the USB does not get reconnected to it's original power socket. Only the front connector and rear motor are connected back.
The picture shows that there is a hole on the mainboard that should line up with the screw hole on the R/C car frame (circled area).
Step 7: Connecting the Battery
If you haven't already checked that the power switch is off, do so now.
Once you are ready, connect the battery and power it on.
Please wait until step 8 before testing with the remote.
Step 8: First Test
If your remote has batteries in it--and it was working previously--turn the R/C car upside down (tires in the air).
Go ahead and press the buttons on the remote and ensure the tires work. Test the left and right controls to ensure the front wheels can turn and forward and backwards.
If everything works, AWESOME! You're almost done!
If it does not work, take the batteries out of the remote and then put them back in and press back and forward twice (this will force the remote to 'find' the mainboard's transmitter signal). You do not need to turn off the R/C car to reset the remote (two remotes can connect to a single vehicle--which is funny for messing with family).
If it still does not work, turn off the vehicle, ensure the battery you are using is charged (i.e. plug it into a cell phone to see if it charges the phone). If it provides power for another device then plug it back into the vehicle and power the vehicle back on. Take the batteries out of the remote and put them back in and press back and forward twice.
If this still does not work, go back through the steps and examine the pictures and compare your soldering work to the pictures:
- Did you accidently solder through the protective coating?
- Are the soldering points touching anything they shouldn't be?
- Are you using a 5v 'portable usb power bank'?
- Was the vehicle working before?
- Are you sure you verified the wires are connected properly?
- in normal (data and power) USB cables there are at least 4 wires (see picture in step 5)
- Are the batteries in your remote dead?
- Have you asked someone to check your work?
- ...someone that knows what they're looking at?
- Is the portable battery becoming warm or hot?
- If so immediately unplug the battery
- Move the battery to a non-combustable, heat tolerant surface (preferably dry but a porcelain or metal surface is best)
- Let the battery rest for at least 15 minutes while you check your work
Step 9: Making a Cutout for the USB Cable
USB cables are made of thin strands of copper wire (in most cases) and copper can tolerate bending...for a time. And since you are going to be moving the cable often while installing and removing the battery bank, for charging, it is advisable to make a small cutout on the mainboard cover.
You can skip this step if you want, but I suggest a little 'surgery' if you plan to keep this R/C car for a while, without service.
You can use hot glue to seal up the mainboard case if you want an extra layer of protection. But be advised this R/C car was not designed to go through water. The motors are not sealed and neither was the mainboard. There are holes in the former USB enclosure that you will need to seal with hot glue also.
Step 10: Tidying Everything Up!
Now you've reinstalled the cover on the mainboard, it's time to make things tidy!
If you have a lot of extra cable you can wrap it and store it in the body. There's plenty of room inside.
Once you're ready, replace the plastic body cover and stick the USB through the hood--as shown in the second picture.
You're all set!!!
You can see that even with my long battery, it fits nicely inside the body. You may have a battery of a different size or shape and your experience may vary from battery to battery, but you've gone from a 3.2v .3A battery to a 5v ~1A battery!!!
Now that 'New Bright R/C Chargers' car (or whatever body it has) has a bigger battery and more power.
Note: I have not tested any batteries that provide 5v 2A, but I have been using this 1A battery and it can run for 4-6 hours between charges. It is a 3Ah battery but if you divide that up that's less than ~5 Watts per hour!
I hope this instructables was helpful. I scoured the internet before I 'operated' on my own R/C cars, but didn't find any helpful information. So, if you're on a tight budget like me, but like tinkering and have the time and tools--you can have some fun with this project.