MakerFaire K.C.: Power Wheels Racing

This section of the MakerFaire almost deserves an entire event of its own. I know I would happily attend a monthly match of the power racing series in my home town. To compete, you must have a modded Power Wheel. Yes, those electric kids vehicles that go really slowly across your lawn, those power wheels. You tear it apart, soup it up, and race it.

The modifications I saw were all fantastic. There were completely different drive trains ranging from electric drills to starter motors. The wheels had often been replaced for better traction as well, though some opted to keep the poor traction just for effect. Control systems ranged from micro controllers handling power down to two bare wires being mashed together. It was fantastic.

Though it was technically a race, I got the feeling that most of the participants weren’t there to win, so much as to build an amusing performance. Goofy costumes and slick tires mixed with squirt guns and shouts of joy made the whole thing quite the spectacle. As you can imagine, there were electrical fires as well, but everyone jumped in immediately with a practiced set of actions to ensure the driver and bystanders were un-scathed. This was fantastic. I may have to start looking for people who want to start up a league here in Springfield Missouri.

Note that the black car that I was able to get closest to had a starter motor for the power. This motor kept overheating so he rigged up a water cooling system you can see in the pics. It was great.


  1. It’s not too late to race in Detroit and Evanston!

  2. leeahart says:

    Wow! Impressive builds. But were any of these vehicles actually “Powerwheels”? Looks like they were all scratch built.

    For 16 years now, we’ve been mentoring 4th-6th grade kids to build electric vehicles. The program is called BEST (Bridging Engineering Science and Teaching). You can learn more about it at

    They are true Hackaday projects! The kids design them, scrounge the materials, build, test, and race them!

  3. MorbiousStone says:

    THAT MADE MY MORNING!! haha very cool

  4. ejonesss says:

    starter motors are not designed for continuous use.

    they are designed to run only for couple seconds also they pull a lot of power and can run the battery down quickly

    although a starter motor does show your geekiness by reusing parts designed for other uses

    • tensorflux says:

      I built that car along with my buddy Josh. We thought the motor would burn up too!

      The water pump we used was actually given to us by another “competing” hackerspace, Sector 67. The water hits the hot starter motor core and instantly turns to steam, exiting out another hole we drilled in the motor case.

      Most of the races don’t last long, and we’re allowed to switch batteries mid-race, so running low on power wasn’t much of a problem for us. We’re constantly charging up spare batteries in pit lane.

      Before we get flamed on the starter motor use, I just wanted to say we’re mostly doing it for the lulz, and the raw power. We’re not too worried if it burns up!

    • Rj says:

      Could this set-up be modified to have the starter,charge the onboard battery, while driving?


  5. Jon says:

    They must have a Power Wheels body. There’re official rules and regulations for racing in the PPPRS, but though speed is fun the crowd loves the moxie!

  6. Sharon says:

    Here is a link to the power wheels racing (PPPRS) …

    …and you can follow our vehicle, Duct Tape & Zip Ties Racing Team on facebook:

    It is so much fun! We’ll be racing at the Detroit Maker Faire on July 28-29 and at the Evanston Mini Maker Faire on August 4-5.

  7. GrandWJ says:

    Im all for starting a league here in Springfield MO! Lets do this!

  8. Sharon says:

    Does Springfield MO have a Mini Maker Faire? If not … get the word out to get one started … maybe we could convince the PPPRS chief to add Springfield to the circuit. ;-)

    Join us in Evanston IL this weekend (Aug 4-5, 2012)for the last races of the season!

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