Hacking a Pint-Sized Mercedes

[Jonas] bought an electric Mercedes “ride on” toy for his one-year-old son. At least that’s his story. However, the vehicle has become a target for dad’s obsession with hacking and he’s already done quite a few upgrades. Even better, he did quite a bit of analysis on what’s already there. He isn’t done, but he’s promised quite a bit in the next installment which isn’t out yet.

The original car can take a driver or it can use remote control. [Jonas] has an ambitious list of ideas, some of which are still not complete:

  • Speed along with softer acceleration and braking
  • Improve the radio controller
  • Proper rubber tires
  • Proper stereo system
  • Individual brake disks on the front wheels
  • Improved horn
  • Proper seat belt or maybe even a new seat

There have also been some extra upgrades like the ignition key because — hey — kids love to play with keys, right? He also made the hood open properly with hinges so you can get in there to work, and a backup camera.

Unfortunately, the increased power cracked one of the plastic gears in the drive train. That will get replaced with something more suitable. It has all turned into a big project. From [Jonas’] blog:

I also decided this build will need welding. Having never welded aluminium, i ordered a 200Amp TIG/MMA welding machine, rebuilt the main fuse-box in my house to be able to run it without burning my house down. I am currently waiting for a tube of Argon gas before i can start climbing that hill.

Good thing his son needed that Mercedes. All kidding aside, we love to see consumer goods really customized like this and he seems well on his way to having quite the conversation piece.

Of course, you don’t need to rebuild your house wiring and buy a welder to customize a toy car in every case. On the other hand, you could hack a real car.

29 thoughts on “Hacking a Pint-Sized Mercedes

    1. Geofencing the street off isn’t a bad idea, but I think it’d need some differential GPS to have sufficient accuracy. Last thing you want is the kid getting on the street then getting shutdown and stuck out there. Maybe a return to home feature?

      1. Return to home may be dangerous too. If they make it nearly across the street, then the Geofencing kicks in, stops the car and start driving it back across the street you may be putting the child in danger as the kid has no control of the car in the street, if the car has no way of detecting actual full sized vehicles it could be driving the child right into an oncoming vehicle.

        Perhaps an alternative is a receiver on the car partnered with small antennas hooked up to a low power transmitter at any danger gateway. If the signal is detected, then use any autonomous safety mechanism you see fit.

  1. “Proper rubber tires”

    For the sake of saying it — One of the main reasons the tires on these toys are hard plastic is to intentionally limit traction.

    Traction + Speed can lead to tip/roll over, and coupled with increased power it can also lead to unintended wheelies too…

    1. The small/portable mobility scooter (the ones that are designed to pack small in the car) would be the best transaxle for this. You could probably [retro]fit a 12v motor to it aswell.

      My kids cars use the beefier types, which required substantial modification of the toy to fit & mount and are heavy!

  2. Sounds to mimic a motor, as some OTHER electric cars have? I mention this after the “chainsaw panda” comment, indicating that this kid will be deprived of am/fm/8 track on which to listen to classical intelligence forming classicals… like BTO & ELC… ;>) So, as to the motor sounds, er, engine sounds, I mean… “Atomic battery to turbine… turbine to power… Sreeeeeetch!”

  3. Nice build and work. This is all out!

    You can occasionally find Pegperego electric kiddie-cars in well to do neighborhoods, thrown out when the battery is dead and Junior is much older. Available free or really cheap cause a replacement battery is crazy expensive. I’ve had 3 Jeeps go through my hands this way. Pneumatic replacement tires from “Little Red Wagon”. Two speeds using series-parallel switches operated by a metal door hinge as a “gas” pedal. Releasing the pedal puts a resistor as load for a gentle stop.

    So 12V is good, but 18V is much better and faster. With 3 and 4 year old boys on the street in front of the house, the special instructions were to avoid hammering into reverse and don’t hit anything full throttle, else the gearbox will go. Sure enough, the older one did a semi-circle and immediately hit the other head on at full throttle….. Bang…. Zzzzzzzzz went one wheel’s gearbox. Good thing I had the third car for parts. Back to 12V.

  4. you’re going to weld inside your home? that seems a little dangerous – why not just find a local hacker space with a welder? I mean I get the wanting to do everything yourself, but like rebuilding your fuse box just to run a welder inside??? That seems overboard and well super dangerous if you’re not an electrician

  5. Years ago I wanted a wheeled ROV so I modified a Power Wheels Jeep for RC stuck a camera on it and was greeted to just watching the camera jiggle as the tires had no traction.
    I tossed that design and went on to build one from the ground up that I was much much happier with.

    1. I upgraded a cheap toy rc jeep with hard plastic tyres with a better motor and esc etc for my son, then we let it rip and it did exactly the same. Cured by replacing the hard plastic tyred wheels with 3d printed ones that used tamiya 1:10 tyres.

  6. Cool but careful, lots of what could possibly go wrong thinking required. Safety has to be in the implementation, because experience as a parent has taught me that youngsters I’m responsible for have absolutely no fear nor a sense of self preservation.

    For a drive upgrade, I’d source a disability scooter motor and trans, and also the frame if you can snag it, it will hold things together better as the ones I have seen have been flat square tube affairs with the running gear built up off that flat platform. Mostly the battery packs go out on them and they are uneconomic to repair for older ones, but I have been gifted a few that shredded the transaxle so beware. They also have odd suspension geometry, which probably works ok at walking pace, but if you start to go faster, might not be a super good idea…

  7. I have a working corvette 12v car. The battery is gone. So what is the best solution for another battery???? I would love to do super capacitors but I don’t think they could have enough stored power as a lead acid.

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