How to Make a Cardboard Car Move

Written by louise harding
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How to Make a Cardboard Car Move
Use air propulsion to move cardboard cars. (blue balloon image by Vita Vanaga from

Making a cardboard car move can be a fun, interactive project for home or in the classroom. By using air propulsion, you can move a cardboard car forward, or in reverse depending on the balloon placement, allowing students to watch the car move. Hosting simple races between one or more cardboard cars is a good way to encourage student enthusiasm and participation in the project. Use air-propulsion cardboard car races in science or art classes or just for fun.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cardboard car
  • Transparent tape
  • Balloon

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  1. 1

    Place the cardboard car on a flat surface. Dispense a piece of tape, approximately a finger length, from the tape dispenser and stick ¼-inch of the tape on the table edge or on your leg to ensure easy access while your hands are occupied.

  2. 2

    Inflate a balloon, holding the neck of the balloon so the air doesn't escape. Do not tie or otherwise close the balloon in any way. Hold the balloon neck tight.

    How to Make a Cardboard Car Move
    Inflate a balloon and hold the neck firmly. (green balloon image by Vjom from
  3. 3

    Select a central spot near the back of the cardboard car and hold the balloon over that spot. Don't let go of the neck of the balloon. Continue to hold the balloon tightly so no air escapes. Point the neck of the balloon (in your hand) away from the back end of the car. If you reverse the balloon and position the inflated part of the balloon behind the car, your car will move in reverse, so make sure that the inflated portion of the balloon is above the car and the neck of the balloon, still in your hand, is behind the car.

  4. 4

    Position the neck of the balloon over the central spot that you picked. Loosely tape the neck of the balloon (still holding the neck of the balloon tight) with the piece of tape you set aside by placing the tape across the neck of the balloon horizontally and firmly rubbing the tape onto the cardboard and the balloon just above your fingers.

    How to Make a Cardboard Car Move
    Tape the balloon to the cardboard car. (variation balloon image by Nicemonkey from
  5. 5

    Place the cardboard car on a flat surface. Release your hand from the neck of the balloon. The air will escape from the inflated balloon, propelling the car forward (or in reverse if you have opted for this direction).

Tips and warnings

  • Small balloons intended for water balloons work well for this project. Cardboard rockets can replace cardboard cars for the same air propulsion experiment in a classroom or home environment.
  • Don't let small children handle or inflate balloons as they pose a choking hazard. If any balloons burst during the inflation or taping process, dispose of those rubber fragments immediately to avoid children or pets from ingesting and choking.

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