So your kid wants to go faster but you have no clue where to begin? A few minutes spent reading this article will save you hours of headaches and possibly hundreds of dollars. Remember that the first rule of motorsports is that the more you spend the faster you go. It's no different with little cars. Quality motors, batteries, and gears cost money to develop and produce. A proper setup should last until your child outgrows the car. And your next child too.
Pick the right car: Just like with real cars, it's important to start with a vehicle that can take modifications well. The ride-on market is flooded with cheap chassis that have gearboxes and electronics which can't take any more power without major headaches. There's also cars that are too small to add speed with your kid's safety in mind. We find the best cars for modifying are the Powerwheels 12 volt vehicles (except Smartdrive), Kid Trax 12 volt vehicles, and Peg Perego vehicles. Inspect your car to make sure it's in good enough condition for modifying. What was a minor problem in a stock vehicle can become a major problem when you add more power. Things to check include: - Is the rear axle bent? You have to roll it on a flat surface to see the bend. If it's bent you will melt gearbox housings at higher rpm's. - Is the frame damaged or showing white stress marks around the rear axle mounts or gearbox seating area? This is critical damage that is not fixable. - Do the tires have life left? Tires with holes will break gears. - Is the wiring strong? Wires that are dried out will likely have corrosion on the inside. They may not handle the increased amp draw that comes with speed and you'll blow fuses. - Are the switches strong? There's no way to visually inspect this. We recommend replacing them if the vehicle is 3+ years old. They're cheap.
Batteries: Upgrading batteries give more speed gain than motors but you have to match the right battery to the right motor to have the car last. Voltage gives speed. Amperage determines run time. Most vehicles have a 12v Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) battery stock. Amperages vary from 7 to 12. Power Wheels uses a 9.5amp battery. Our upgraded 12, 18, and 24v batteries are all 12amp. This means about 30% more run time. Running more then 12 amps has proven to overheat motors and is not recommended. Stock batteries usually have 30amp breaker or fuse which often fails when using upgraded motors or increasing the voltage. Our batteries use 40amp replaceable fuses. If you switch to an 18v or 24v battery you will also need an 18v or 24v charger. Our battery conversion kits include the appropriate charger. When combining 2 SLA batteries together they must be the same brand, age, and amperage. Currently a popular home-grown trend is to use lithium batteries from power tools. Lithium batteries are problematic because they deliver too much punch (discharge rating). A typical powertool lithium battery has a discharge rate 5x higher then an SLA battery because your power tool needs torque not speed. With no clutch in a ride-on to buffer that punch motors get cooked and gears get stripped very quickly. The more powerful the motor the quicker it will overheat with lithium. Almost all ride-on cars use SLA style batteries which use a gel form of acid for slower discharge and for safety. If you still wish to use a lithium power tool battery then you'll need our Lithium Low Voltage Soft Start Module to combat these issues. Using a lawnmower/motorcycle/automotive battery is dangerous as the liquid acid can boil and explode. They also overheat motors because of the different chemistry in the battery. Stick with SLAs is our recommendation.
Motors: Stock 550 motors (which come in most vehicles) are only designed for 12 volts. Some people do run them at 18 volts but eventually they fail. At 24v the motors usually will not last a day. Our motors are the only motors specifically marketed as upgraded motors for ride-ons. Using a motor from a radio controlled car that weighs 5lbs is a recipe for failure. Our Performance 550 motors provide 10-15% more speed then stock ones and are a quick, inexpensive upgrade. They come on all Stage I and II kits. Our Performance 775 Motors will run at 12v, 18v, or 24v. At 12v they are slower than the 550's but deliver 4x more torque. At 18v they deliver just a little less speed then the 550s (which will blow up) but with a ton more low-end power and durability. 24v is where the 775s are at their best and are unstoppable beasts. Gears: Upgrading gears is the least glorious but most important part of making a modified ride-on reliable. 12v Power Wheels brand ride-ons produced since 2005 use a "7R" gearcase. Older models had "#7" gearcases which are discontinued. We have developed the Phoenix Gearbox that is a direct fit in cars using #7 or 7R gearbox which is capable of handling a lot more torque and horsepower then stock ones. Phoenix Gearboxes are included with all Staged Motor/Gearbox systems. Inside a 7R or Phoenix gearbox are 5 gears. The Pinion Gear is attached to the motor. The First Gear is the gear contacted by the pinion gear and is the weakest in the gearbox. Then there is the Second Gear, Third Gear, and Final Drive Gear. The Final Drive Gear is what the wheel or driver hub attaches to. Switching gearboxes from one brand to another is an extremely difficult task and most "off-brand" cars don't have gearboxes strong enough to take more power. So we recommend starting with one of the vehicles in the Upgrades by Vehicle section of our website as they have proven to be winners.
Tires: The tires that come on the car are the tires it was designed to run. Changing tire diameter changes the gear ratio and can burn out motors. Ride-ons don't have a clutch in their gearboxes. They use the spinning tire as a clutch. Adding more traction with rubber or spikes removes the clutch and almost always overheats motors and breaks gears. Picking the right vehicle for your kid includes matching the tires it comes with to the terrain it will be used in. Monster Traction tires on the F150 are really bumpy on pavement. Mustang tires will not get traction easily in dirt. Tires are not interchangeable between vehicles so before you spend your time and money modifying make sure you've got the right foundation. You can't get no action if you ain't got no traction!