As with an automatic air freshener, some products just scream to be hacked. After thinking about some remote control projects, a quick trip to Wall Mart yielded this RC car (or SUV if you want to call it that) for only $10. The brand name and model is either “New Bright”, “Pro Dirt”, “Land Rover”, “LR2″, or some combination of these names, but you can find it or something similar in the toy aisle of Wall Mart and probably K Mart, Target or wherever you shop. If you think you’re too old for the toy aisle, just tell yourself and anyone that asks that you’re shopping for your nephew or other relative. The car boasts of having “Full Function Radio Control.” After trying it out, this seems to mean that you can go forwards, backwards, left, and right at full speed (and only full speed). Not a bad deal for the price. I tried it out briefly, but as seen in the video at the end, our dog Evie wasn’t sad to see it “ruined.”
The front and rear wheels are controlled with identical 3 volt DC motors. The back uses a crude transmission to get power to the wheels, whereas the front uses a clever rack-and-pinion gear system to steer the wheels. Basically, if you steer, the front turns the wheels until the motor cannot turn anymore (Seriously, did Glade use the same design firm for it’s automatic air fresheners?). Clever design considering it’s simplicity and apparently ease of manufacture.
Taking this car apart is pretty easy, all you need is a Phillips and flat-head screwdriver. There are some snaps that you’ll have to bend back slightly and pull out, but even with this, it’s not a terribly hard device to take apart. Give it 15 minutes of work and you’ll have some new components to play with.
As far as what to do with the motor and radio unit when resolved into it’s components, the sky is the limit. I have an idea for demonstrating angular momentum in three dimensions with it, but that’s another article. Additionally, anything that you can control with 3 volts, you can use this radio unit to control, be it relays, other motors, or whatever you can think of. It would be nice if there were a couple more channels for control, but two should be plenty for many applications; seriously what do you expect for $10?
While experimenting, I tried to press-fit these motors into a 3/4 inch hole drilled with a spade bit. It was a bit tight, and I ended up bending something while pushing one of them in. After taking it apart and working with it, I got it to work, but not as well. So be careful with these motors, they’re not exactly meant for industrial use.
As promised, here’s what Evie thought of this RC car:
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What is shown in the above pictures can actually be stripped a bit more. I took the remote control board off of the battery pack and all the plastic and connected it to my own battery pack. I soldered the leads where the “stock” pack was before. It works pretty well this way if your application calls for it.