M.L. Toys
M.L. Toys
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Adding R/C to your Powerwheels vehicles? Using R/C parts on your Powerwheels?
By spoon623
I’ve been working on this project on and off for about 2 years now, and figured I would post my project up here, as I received many of my ideas from reading the various other posts (thank you to all). My turn to share for others to review, and give my input and findings. I’ve pretty much touched many different areas of modification to include:
- R/C
- 24V upgrade
- Larger motors
- Head lights
- Tail lights with working brake lights
- Power steering – of course for true R/C control
- Knight rider scan
- The ability to allow for both R/C and passenger operation, with the ability of the R/C to override passenger
It first started way back when my daughter was driving this thing in low speed mode (back when she could still claim this thing as hers), and then she graduated to high speed mode. The initial jerking motion of the full on or full off nature of the “gas” pedal freaked her out, and she never really had much interest in getting back into it. I wanted to modify the pedal such a way so that it was actually and accelerator, and not so much a switch.
I did some reading through the forums, and came to the conclusion that a scooter speed controller was the way I wanted to go, for not only the higher voltage, but also the higher current load capability.
I ended up going with the Curtis 1505 speed controller. Along with the high current capability, and being able to handle adult size loads, the thing I thought was cool about this, is it’s straight forward – no complicating hook ups. It’s basically a card with some terminals on it. Might even be able to repair it, in the event of a component failure. It’s got a pretty open layout.
Another, reason for this choice, was that it works on a variable potentiometer input (0 to 5k ohms). I figured I could easily rig something up with a slide potentiometer, under the pedal. Looking through the forums, it’s actually pretty much the same pedal setup uselesspickels did on his proportional throttle forum – his pictures are better than mine. That is one thing I regret, is not making a good photo step by step, as I am now acting as a consultant for others in my family.
The downfall of this controller, is that it does not natively have reverse. Initially, I had this wired up as appropriate through the passenger gear switch to get reverse. I later re-designed that to work through a 40 amp relay to switch motor polarity for R/C operation as well - I’ll get into that later.
I also found that this controller is now obsolete, and hard to come by. Might be hard to incorporate in other projects.
And, of course, since we’re upgrading this much, might just as well throw another battery in it for 24v operation. Also, the controller requires 24V.
Well ,as you can imagine, this led into a whole slew of other stuff. After some conversation, my friend at work got some wind of what I was doing, and so he naturally turned me to this site. He knows I tinker with electronics, and so thought the R/C mod was perfect. Short story… he was right.
I’ll post more information about the other stuff as I did it in later posts, for now here are some shots of the speed controller and pedal mod.
I basically took out the pedal switch and used a long screw with a spring around it for pedal return. The screw head pushes down on the potentiometer, and then the string insures it comes back up with the screw when the pedal is released.
Curtis 1505 Speed controller
pedal with screw and spring
Last edited by spoon623 on Thu Sep 24, 2015 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
By spoon623
Being that LED's are kind of one of my things - I tend to add these to just about all of my projects, I figured I would add some tail lights and head lights.

For the head lights, I cut and lined the interior of the fake headlight housing with reflective tape. Then, I simply drilled several 1/4" holes, and inserted 5mm 50,000mcd white leds (with plastic holders) into the holes.

For the tail lights, I just bought some cheap standard incandescent oval trailer lights (as you can get these for a couple of $$) and took out the native lighting and wiring and tossed it. I, again, drilled 1/4" holes in the base of the light and put 4,000mcd leds in there. Just for some extra look, I painted the outer rim of the base to match the purple color scheme on the jeep.

For both the head lights and tail lights, when they were initially put in, they were simply wired to the battery through a switch (and respective resistors) for simple on/off operation. Now they are operated by a micro controller for high beam/low beam operation, and brake light operation.

Since I had the front end off for mounting the led's, I went ahead and put some red leds on the inside of the grill for a Knight rider scan effect. This is currently operated by a 555 timer and a 4017 decade counter IC's. Probably would have considered using the microcontroller, but I just about have all of those pins tapped out. I am going to attempt to post a video of the scan. I am new to the forum and youtube world.

By spoon623
At this point, I knew I was going the R/C route and so I figured the steering was my biggest hurdle. I'm not very mechanically inclined, and so recruited the help of my brother, brining along the knowledge I acquired reading these forums. I read pretty extensively about the various methods with linear actuators, high torque servo city servos, and fabrication of high power motors using standard R/C servos as a feed back. Initially from a cost standpoint, I chose the later. It just so happened my brother had replaced his F150 windshield wiper motor and so I asked to see his old one. I've seen quite a few tutorials regarding converting one of these to a full feed back servo system. After reviewing these various tutorials, I was able to take his apart to disable the "wiper parking" mechanism, and "reform" the magnet that likely caused the failure in his truck. I also added some filter caps, from each of the windings to each other, and then each to chassis. Then for feed back, I chose to use a standard Futaba S3003 servo, with modified internals, that will provide the signals necessary to drive an external h-bridge with higher current capability to drive the wiper motor.

Modification to the servo is essentially disconnecting the internal motor and internal h-bridge, and connecting wires to the respective PWM signals that would feed the internal h-bridge, and feeding them out of the servo box for connecting an external h-bridge.

For the external h-bridge, I went with the Robot Power Simple-H. I read about someone else using this particular bridge on these forums, and found it to be extremely easy to use. The cost is high on this one, around $50, however I lucked out and found one on ebay for about $15. Hind site, I wish I would have bought a few more, as I don't see them anymore. Now that I know a little more about bridges, I might choose to find a cheaper off brand bridge in the future.

I was able to find a tutorial online about modifying a wiper motor and S3003, but for the life of me I can't find it right now. I will post a link when I do find it again.

After all is said and done, I have to say I am extremely satisfied with the results. The response is perfect, not to slow, and the motor so far has held up to pretty extreme 2 kid loads, and a teenager passenger here an there. The motor could be slightly stronger. It sometimes has a little difficulty turning at a stand still, however, I consider this to be negligible. As well, I have the PWM signal fed to the h-bridge coming from my micro controller, and so I have it programmed to not turn, unless the vehicle is in motion anyway. I did this to save on battery power, as it can sometimes attempt to just sit there and continue to send small signals to do some minor steering corrections, especially of kids are moving around in it. I also don't like the idea of a kid playing around underneath while parked, and the motor arbitrarily turning.

The simple-h is as such one can take an R/C receiver steering channel and plug it directly in as well, for more simple operation.

motor with servo linked
By spoon623
And a shot of it in action with full R/C control.

As a note, the R/C system I have chosen is the Fly Sky FSGT3B. I have to say for what this thing does, at about $45, it is a huge bang for our buck. I'm fairly new to the R/C world, so I can't say so much for comparison. But this is a fully customizable and programmable system with an onboard LCD. This was a major help when it came to fine tuning the steering, as well I was able to reverse servo operation with the transmitter. My particular wiring required it. Of course I could have reversed my setup, but why, when the transmitter allowed me to use reverse servo in seconds.

My brother is a pretty big R/C guru, and after he saw my purchase, he regretted his $90 setup from a local hobby store.

User avatar
By toycrusher
Great job! :D Love the wiper motor steering servo
User avatar
By Shurik2001
Spoon623, very good job!

I especially like your steering servo solution. I’ve considered similar setup for my build but after frying two cheap servos connected to a motor thru current amplifier I gave up. I built the whole thing from scratch using arduino mini and 4 power mosfets from an old computer motherboard for an H-bridge.

Not sure how you resolved steering wheel - servo conflict problem. Did you build a “fly by wire” solution?

Here is how my servo controller looks like.

Servo Controller.jpg
By spoon623
Thank you Shurik, and kudos on the home made bridge. I gave a shot at attempting my own with mosfets, but failed miserably. After a few burned up fets, I went the simple-h route.

For the steering, yes, it will be fly by wire. I am using a 5k Ohm potentiometer tied to one of the ADC inputs on the micro controller. Basically, the analog voltage is read on the microcontroller, and then I setup one of the PWM outputs to provide the signal necessary for the h-bridge. At this point, I have moved all input signals from the R/C receiver and passenger controls to the microcontroller. In this way, I am able to manage all events for both passenger and R/C operation. This is what makes R/C take over from passenger possible, as well as break lights, and then also the aforementioned steering.

I have not physically mounted the steering yet, but I have gotten it to work on the bench. I am figuring I am going to mount the potentiometer on the "fire wall," and couple the old steering shaft (cut to size), onto the potentiometer shaft. Funny you just ask this, I just picked this back up this week. I am waiting on a 3/8" to 1/4" shaft coupler. I'll take some photos of the finished installation.

FYI, the microcontroller I use is an ATMega168. I do not use it in an Arduino setup, however.
By spoon623
At this point, I have moved all signals from the R/C receiver and passenger controls to the respective inputs of the microcontroller (ATMega168). This was mainly for the purpose of integrating both passenger and R/C control. The passenger is able to operate the jeep, and when the microcontroller detects the presence of an R/C signal, using the input capture function of the microcontroller, it has been programmed to "ignore" any passenger controls and only "listen" to R/C signals. Both the "gas" pedal, and steering (monitored by a potentiometer) are connected to the ADC inputs of the microcontroller. The R/C signals are connected to the input capture pins of the microcontroller. Then the microcontroller is programed to output a PWM signal necessary to drive the steering-h bridge, based on the steering potentiometer, or R/C steering channel input. As well the microcontroller is connected to a digital potentiometer, which is, in turn, now connected to the speed controller (vice the gas pedal slide potentiometer as previously connected). The digital potentiometer is programed to change resistance as necessary by the microcontroller based on the analog voltage generated by the gas pedal potentiometer, or the throttle channel R/C input.

Another reason for the microcontroller was the ability to manage the lighting. The FS-GT3B has a 3rd channel toggle switch... I knew I had to use this. I programmed the microcontroller to use the 3rd channel from the R/C to turn on and off, as well as, toggle high beam and low beam headlights. The break lights were programed to be triggered when the power wheels comes to a stop, and stay on for 3 seconds, or go back off when gas is pressed again.

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By Shurik2001
Nice job man! I am truly glad to meet someone who thinks alike. We even used the same R/C model (FS-GT3B) feeding the signals to the MPU.

I use chinese Arduino mini because they are very convenient and cheap. My first MPU services LCD1602 display, two ultrasound sensors and R/C receiver pretty much like yours. However I use the 3rd channel to lift the speed cap a.k.a. the turbo mode.

Even thou I have considered a “fly by wire” solution for the steering wheel I’ve decided against it primarily because I was not sure how much torque I would be able to generate with a handmade servo. Your car wiper motor appears to be pretty powerful and responsive. My power screwdriver solution is not as good but it allows the rider to stay in control.

Another reason against “fly by wire” was my inability to come up with a way to connect a steering shaft to a potentiometer and making it kid proof. I’m very much interested in how you would accomplish that. Please post pictures when done.

My next step would probably be implementing running lights around the car using this individually addressable RGB string I found on Amazon for $15. The patterns are endless and you can’t beat the price!

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