Power Wheels Rescued, Restored and Enhanced

It seems power wheels are like LEGO — they’re handed down from generation to generation.  [Nicolas] received his brand-new Peg-Perego Montana power wheels in 1997 as a Christmas present. After sitting in a barn for a decade, and even being involved in a flood, it was time to give it to his godchildren, though not without some restoration and added features. His webpages have a very good write-up, just shy of including schematics, but you’ll find an abbreviated version below.

The starting point
The starting point

Due to time and the flood, not only did it need a new paint job, and some plastic bits restored, but the hard plastic wheels had to be emptied of water, and the entire wiring harness needed replacing, as did some of the screws. Luckily the gearbox and motors needed only cleaning and new grease.

Whether it needed it or not, [Nicolas] wanted to add a Teensy 2.0++ as brains as he hadn’t seen anyone do that before and it also allowed him to brush up on his Arduino skills (the Teensy is compatible with the Arduino software and libraries).

Teensy board and speedometer LCD display
Teensy board and speedometer LCD display

He first made use of the Teensy for one new feature, a speedometer with a dash mounted Nokia 5110 LCD display. To measure the speed he used an infrared diode along with an NPN transistor, two LM324 op-amps and a few other parts. He even drew up with some very nice custom graphics for the LCD display.

He’d originally planned to add a variable accelerator by having the Teensy do PWM to a custom H-bridge, and even went a fair way toward making it, but even at 100% PWM the speed was too slow. With only a bad oscilloscope at the time for debugging, he abandoned the H-bridge for relays instead.

Lights
Lights

When it came to the lighting, [Nicolas] went all out with high intensity white and blue LEDs on custom circuit boards. He also had to do an exhaustive search online for light covers, but luckily there’s quite a bit out there for power wheels parts, though some he took from a Civic at a junkyard. [Nicolas] is in France and reading his experience in hunting for these parts gives an interesting look into the difficulties in buying things from the US when shipping costs can easily exceed parts cost. We can see why sometimes it’s simply not an option.

Another new feature was a dash mounted radio. That was followed by a new battery charger, a quantity of fuses to rival that in many cars, a lovingly done paint job and many labels and stickers that show just what a job of passion this was. We’re sure his godchildren will love their better-than-new power wheels.

Mind you, Hackaday is no stranger to power wheels. But while [Nicolas’] is intended to be a safe one for his godchildren, we’ve seen them modified in the extreme opposite way with racing ones that do turns on two wheels only. Some races even have pit crews and involve vehicles with battery packs from Ford Fusion plugin hybrids.

12 thoughts on “Power Wheels Rescued, Restored and Enhanced

  1. These restores are what got me into the ‘hobby’.

    My daughters car is on its 2nd rebuild – I frazzled the wiring from too-high current draw, then the ESC’s due to the wiring not acting like a shunt.

    Current build uses a mobility scooter axel and ESC, then drive-by-wire via an Arduino, so I can override control with a wireless Wii nunchuck(!) [more comfortable than a full sized RC transmitter].
    Plus the steering rack strengthened.

    The first tweaks were lights (headlights, brake lights, indicators) controlled by another Arduino, then replaced the stop-go RC setup with a ‘proper’ setup. (It was later I upgraded the motors – but the current draw soon proved too much for the existing setup).

    As many find with these, feature creep is a real issue (and really REALLY bugs the kids when ‘daddy is busy fixing your car’!)

    1. Yeah, but when it’s crushing monster trucks, and outrunning Ferraris, she’ll appreciate the work. That is when she can get it out from under Daddy running obstacle courses and pulling wheelies.

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