Force Feedback Steering Wheel Made From Power Drill

When it comes to controllers for racing games, there is perhaps no better option than a force feedback steering wheel. With a built-in motor to push against the wheel at exactly the right times, they can realistically mimic the behavior of a steering wheel from a real car. The only major downside is cost, with controllers often reaching many hundreds of dollars. [Jason] thought it shouldn’t be that hard to build one from a few spare parts though and went about building this prototype force feedback steering wheel for himself.

Sourcing the motor for the steering wheel wasn’t as straightforward as he thought originally. The first place he looked was an old printer, but the DC motor he scavenged from it didn’t have enough torque to make the controller behave realistically, so he turned to a high-torque motor from a battery-powered impact driver. This also has the benefit of coming along with a planetary gearbox as well, keeping the size down, as well as including its own high-current circuitry. The printer turned out to not be a total loss either, as the encoder from the printer was used to send position data about the steering wheel back to the racing game. Controlling the device is an Arduino, which performs double duty sending controller information from the steering wheel as well as receiving force feedback instructions from the game to drive the motor in the steering wheel.

After 3D printing a case for it and strapping it to a work bench, the initial tests proved to be promising. [Jason] can feel the motor from the power drill pushing against the steering wheel at the appropriate time. However there are some issues to work out with the prototype as the coupling mechanism between the motor and steering wheel isn’t strong enough to resist skipping and is likely to eventually break. We look forward to future videos when these issues are ironed out, but in the meantime we’d recommend taking a look at this force feedback mouse for other ways of making video game experiences more immersive.

22 thoughts on “Force Feedback Steering Wheel Made From Power Drill

  1. I’ve never had good results, its possible game designers don’t know what good feedback is. Or maybe it is good feedback for racing, but not enjoyable like a good sports car.

    They seem to me mostly to react like a mechanical bull when I’d rather be taking a real horse for a canter.

    Meanwhile living in USA sports cars are terrible, 4,000lbs sometimes, and don’t get me started on power steering.

        1. There’s a lot of information that you miss that you’d get even as a passenger with your eyes closed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s nothing that fully feels fine for force feedback.

          1. The lag and imprecise nature of force feedback always made it feel like a wheel was coming off my car or my steering links had 1/2″ (13mm) of play. Spot on for a 40 year old truck; disingenuous for an F1 car.

          2. The next true innovation I feel is going to be finding a way to get lag down to pico seconds, though I’m not quite sure how that’d be accomplished… I wonder if a similar technique as HD rumble would work, using audio data to send loads of precise physical data quickly… Feel free to steal that idea, I don’t have the time right now to pursue this, and would love to see a breakthrough in the field or sim racing!

      1. When I sat in a Miata, I couldn’t see out of the windshield because it was so low, and it had so little clearance… It effectively wouldn’t handle any better than a regular car unless you’re on an incredibly well maintained road/track. Even the expansion joints on a highway bridge would be big enough bumps to need to be careful while doing the posted limit. You practically need a rally car to get both sporty handling and the ability to handle how rough modern American roads are.

        1. I’m not so sure about that, I think it was well designed and has plenty of clearance. Although most Miata are not running original suspension or tires. It is a small car no doubt. Get some tight and twisty roads and you are going to have a lot of fun and embarass a lot of bigger cars.

          1. I’m not tall but maybe there’s a way to change the seat to be lower, if so it could’ve been easier to see out of. And I think it’s got a very nice design which I have to assume would be amazing if there was a road that was both twisty and free from imperfections.

    1. A subaru station wagon, or even a random contractor’s pickup truck is already fast enough to send you directly to jail without passing go if you drove it at the limits of its handling. A lot of people can’t, so they try to add more horsepower and only go in straight lines.

    2. Thank you for that! Yes, I’ve also always had the same experience of the force feedback feeling *nothing* like what I would expect or have experienced in a real life car.

      (Coming from an ME with force feedback development experience and also lots of “spirited driving”).
      I’ve been wanting to tackle this as a project for some time, but wasn’t ever really sure if I’m just not experiencing it right or if there really is a shortcoming with current solutions. And what those short comings actually are.

      Great point that it could very well be limited/flawed feedback signal from the game itself. If anybody has insights into this, would love to hear it!

    1. You want reactive as restrictive would only provide some controlled level of resistance, a force feedback wheel in a game that implements it properly should actively try to push itself in wild direction at times – for instance when your steering wheels are impacted with another car or terrain. It isn’t just to provide a weightier steering response for that vehicle with no power steering…

  2. I know some cars have combo powersteering assist motors and steering wheel angle and torque sensors combined into a single unit would be a better approach.

    Abuse economy of scale of them being mass produced for the automotive industry and availability due to wrecked cars being parted out.

    1. Interesting idea, would certainly be tougher than most if not all force feedback mechanisms as if it wasn’t it wouldn’t have survived the road. Seems like you would want to find a pretty small donor vehicle though on the assumption that these units would likely be larger, heavier and probably overkill powerful on larger vehicles – most folk won’t want the gaming rig to end up heavy enough to actually be a car, or for it to be able to break their wrists.

      Also how many of these power steering motors are actually electric not hydraulic?

      1. More than you might think are electric. Honda and VW have had for a good while now, 15-20yrs. And I think Lexus might have a steer by wire setup.

        I would love to have something that tries to model the feedback you get from a real steering, including the tire deflection, camber gain, unloading of the inside tire and (if FWD/AWD) some torque coming back from the tires.

      2. The good nodern power steering has an electric motor driving the hydraulic pump.
        When moving more than a few MPH the electric motor turns off and you get manual steering feel.

        Which still ain’t going to be much until you put racecar grade suspension into the car. Seriously, if you’ve never driven a car that was at the uncomfortably stiff end of the suspension range, you don’t know. You should be able to feel a single tire start to slip in corner. Call a coin heads/tails by driving over it.

        Most passenger cars are designed to insolate the driver from the car. Comfort over feel. BMW markets that they are an exception, once that might have been true. I expect that any drive by wire systems from street cars will suck, as that was a design requirement.

        Budget racers use non-power racks. ‘Nothing on the car that doesn’t make it go faster.’

        1. Indeed, I’ve spent a bit of time in Gokart to know just how much you can feel. However wouldn’t want to ride something like that on the roads round here, break either it or your back on a pothole you couldn’t see/avoid. A bit of compromise for comfort and practicality isn’t a bad thing, even on a racecar.

          With the amount of driver aids almost all cars have (and really kinda need*) I expect you’d find most all of even the sportiest ‘premium’ road legal cars are using drive by wire type stuff somewhere. So I wouldn’t be too down on drive by wire systems – heck everything I’ve heard says EV are about the biggest blast to drive you can get for the car type, and it is rather hard for them to not be fly by wire in every way.

          *When you insist on shoving huge horsepower and torque on road tyre, while all the brands are competing to produce capable cornering and highest acceleration/top speed figures for a price class, usually while maintaining a heavy and sufficiently luxury finish… I think most folk will run out of skill almost immediately without the help, and that is assuming the car itself is built well enough to actually survive in all conditions the loads it can put itself under if you let the hamfisted human have direct mechanical control…

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