The LED Wheel (for RC Cars)

Introduction: The LED Wheel (for RC Cars)

About: Doing rc since I was about 10 years old I cannot get enough.

I have always loved lights in motion because the visual effects are awesome, LED's have made this project possible and fairly easy to make.

So here I have setup  some rainbow LED's that have built in sequencers to create amazing wheels for RC cars. specifically for Drifters since their wheels are continuously spinning and don't really go fast allowing viewers and racers to  see the full effect.

the video  shows the wheels in motion but also is an actual tutorial in itself.

Step 1: Parts List

1/10 scale RC Car Disc Brake kit
Batteries x 12 or 3 packs of 5 (LR41 cell size. Dollar store has tons.....)
Some small gauge wire (20 gauge will do)
a 30 watt soldering iron
Some Rosen core Solder
Some Chrome Wheels (find them at
Slide Switch x 4 - (Model # 688-SSSS711403)
LED = Rainbow 3 mm x 8 (Not that easy to find, try ebay)
Fine grain sandpaper (400 grit will do)
A Pair of Helping hands
Cyanoacrylate (CA ) glue (Hobby grade, PLEASE USE CAREFULLY.)

Step 2: Cleaning Off the Chrome

These steps are for one unit. You will have to repeat this 4 times to make one for each wheel.

Take one disc and clean off the chrome off of both side. the reason for this is that chrome is conductive and your circuit would get shorted out and be useless.

I took a spare axle shaft, installed the disc on it and then put the shaft on my drill. Spin the drill and use the sandpaper to take off the chrome. Take a few seconds per disc.

Step 3: Marking for Battery Placement

Use a ruler and place it along one flat of the hex drive part. With a knife, lightly score a line. Do this on 3 faces as shown.

Now at each line measure 2mm from the edge and drill a hole (probably about 1/16th)  the size of the wire you used.

Put aside for later use

Step 4: Wire Prep

Strip 2 lengths about 4 or 5 inches of the wire and twist together.

Place it in your helping hands and apply solder to the full length taking cake not to make it lumpy.  Let it cool off.

Set aside for later

Step 5: Battery Prep

Lay a piece of sandpaper flat on your work area and drag 3 batteries to roughen up the surfaces to be able to apply the solder.

Using your iron (must be ready as in HOT) to apply a little solder to each side of the batteries.

Take one wire you made in the previous step and cut in 15mm lengths
Solder one to each side of the batteries making sure they are sticking in the same direction at about the same distance.

Always always make sure the two sides of the batteries do not ever touch.

Step 6: Install Batteries

One the 3 cells are setup place them on your disc as shown. Make sure the 3 cells follow the standard battery configuration/order  as in +/- +/- +/-  and that in a circular direction.

See Diagram....

Once in, turn over and bend the wired towards the inside of disc

Step 7: Check for Fit and Find LED and Switch Positions

at this point you can check to see if  the disc will fit your wheel. You may have to try a few different positions of the HEX drive in the hex drive socket.

If it does not fit then you will have to figure out why.
Otherwise, keep reading.

I guess it fits right?
Now find 2 opposite positions that are clear. On my setup  I chose the top and bottom. You have to be able to see the LED's and have access to the switch and  be clear of any wheels parts. They, like the batteries need to be properly positions so the wheels stay balanced.

So now you found the positions for the LED's and Switch? You need to mark it.  Make a mark on the disc in the corners of the openings.

Step 8: LED/Switch Positions Continued

You can see my line just to the left  of where the battery holes were drilled. This is where my LED's will go. Center your LED's (2 of them) on this line. The first 2 holes will be 2mm from the edge and the inner most LED will be about 7mm from the edge.

Your switch will be on the exact opposite side of your LED's. As for the switch it depends on your switch. Mine is placed horizontally but I suggest placing it vertically if it is not to long. Keep in mind you need to keep space in the center for the wheel to fit over the HEX Drive.

How far away form the disc you put your LED depends on the depth of your wheel. It should be flush or maybe even  slightly inside the wheel so it does not get damaged so do a test fit with the LED to see how long they have to be for your specific application.

Step 9: Soldering Everything Together

The diagram shows  the circuit form the back/Solder side.

Place your disc with all the parts onto your helping hands as shown in picture, If you do not have helping haves (get some) or find an other way to hold the piece in place.
If the parts tend to fall off use a little glue to hold them temporarily. 

Now use the other wire you made earlier and cut your pieces to length one at a time. Follow the diagram and solder the wires in place so as to complete the circuit. Your wiring may differ a little depending if you used the same parts as i did or not. most likely you will not so either way simply follow the circuit diagram and it will work.

You may have to experiment a little to get it right but the results speak for themselves.
If you want these specific Discs and wheels go to and click on the wheels on the left. They are very nice and inexpensive so experimenting will not cost a fortune. I suggest ordering 2 sets of discs like I did. This way if you make a mistake you will have spares.

Step 10: Fit?

Install the Disc/Hex drive onto your RC and install the wheel over it. Again you may have to try a few positions for the parts and the HEX to fit. 

Before powering up and running your RC spin the wheel by hand to make sure nothing is rubbing or touching. If it spin freely then Power it up by flicking the switch and give her a spin to see the effect. Once tested and everything seems fine try it with the Remote. 

Remember This instructable is  for one disc. You need to make four in all.

Additional Information
at no time during construction should the 2 sides of the batteries touch. Not only will they get hot but they will drain very quickly leaving you with a dead cell. Also keeping the battery in your hand or between fingers can drain it as well. If you have any, use common sense. If you don't then maybe you shouldn't be toying around with hot irons. the idea here is to have fun and save TONS of money.

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    6 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    awesome instructable, easy & well explained, my question is can this be done without batteries ? i.e replace them with capacitors in some way...
    thanx !


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    While Caps would be cool they would require some sort of power generation like coils and magnets. This would significant;y ad to the unsprung weight on any RC car and change the handling.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanx for ur reply; actually I'm thinking about up-scaling your idea and putting it on the wheel of a real car... but you're rite the main problem is maintaining the wheel balance, that needs to be figured out...


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    There are already some for full scale cars. Even some that can display images. Also some leds that you can install on your valve stem that flashes.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    thanx again for ur reply;
    yes I'm aware of all those products, but they all use batteries (battery packs or the Car battery itself) & the valve stem thingys would get stolen in a minute in the neighborhood that I live in...Lolz !

    actually the shake flashlight schematic completely satisfies my requirements, when the car stops the induction stops coz of no movement & a small capacitor would discharge within a minute & automatically turn off the LED but when the car is in motion again the LED would light up, this way I don't need a on/off switch or batteries...

    the only problem that I need to solve is the wheel balance...