RC Car to Robot




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

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.

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Step 1: Go Get Stuff

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Power

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

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

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

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

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

Step 10: Attach

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

Step 11: Trim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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.

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Robot Challenge

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Robot Challenge



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    82 Discussions

    Krishna Maity

    Question 4 weeks ago on Step 18

    1.While writing codes for robot car if I need to write all the codes? For example there is also written
    //of the sensors out:
    Is I have to Witte all these?
    2. Where to write these codes in computer? MS Word or Notepad?

    1 answer
    randofoKrishna Maity

    Answer 26 days ago

    You can copy and paste all of the code from this page and put it in the window of your Arduino software. You should then be able to upload everything onto the Arduino.

    The Arduino ignores any code with // in front of the line.

    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?


    3 years ago

    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


    4 years ago on Step 18

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


    4 years ago on Step 18

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

    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?



    1 reply

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


    5 years ago on Introduction

    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:

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    All the information and code is here:



    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    That's great! Can you tell me more about your project? (agocht@gmail.com)

    Brian Henderson

    6 years ago on Step 20

    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.

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Step 20

    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.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

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