How to make a toy car without a motor engine or batteries

Written by dawn marcotte
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How to make a toy car without a motor engine or batteries
Wooden Toy Cars (toy wooden cars image by Christopher Hall from

Toy cars that really move do not require the use of a motor or batteries. Mousetrap cars are one example of creating energy for motion. Wind- or gravity-powered cars are other alternatives. This basic car model can be modified for each of these types of power sources. Adult supervision may be needed for use with power tools.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood block 2x4x6
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Eyehooks- 4
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Wooden dowels -- 3
  • Compass
  • Plastic tub lids -- 5
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Mousetrap
  • String

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  1. 1

    Lay the wood block on a flat surface. The four-inch-long sides will be the front and back of the car. Measure one inch down from the top of the block along the front side (2x4 inch side) and draw a line across the face of the wood. Measure ½ inch in from each side along this line and make an X on the face of the wood. This is where two of the eyehooks will be inserted in the front of the car body. Repeat the measurements on the opposite side of the wood block, which will be the back of the car.

  2. 2

    Screw one eyehook into the wood at each X. Use the drill to start a hole if desired. Each pair of eyehooks should be parallel to each other so a wooden dowel can be easily inserted for the car axle. Insert a wooden dowel in the front and another in the back pair of eyehooks.

  3. 3

    If the plastic tub lids do not all match in size, use a compass to make wheels that are the same size. Set the compass for 1½ inches and make four circles. Press the pointed end of the compass into the centre of each wheel to make a small hole in the plastic. Cut out the wheels. Enlarge the hole in the centre of each wheel so the wooden dowels can be inserted into the hole.

  4. 4

    With the wooden dowels still inserted through the eyehooks, insert a wheel onto each side of a wooden dowel and glue in place to create the four wheels for the car. Allow the glue to dry completely. The car body is now complete. Determine what type of engine will be used to make the car move. If gravity is the choice, place the car on an inclined surface such as a ramp or driveway and gravity will make the car move forward.

  5. 5

    A wind-powered car needs a sail to catch the wind. Drill a hole in the centre of the top of the car body for the masthead pole. Cut the third wooden dowel to 8 inches in length. Insert the dowel into the hole and glue in place. Cut two small slits in the centre of the last plastic lid. The slits should be parallel, placed one above the other and spaced approximately 2 inches apart. Insert the plastic lid onto the dowel with the slits for the mast. Set the car on a flat surface and the wind will push it along.

  6. 6

    A mousetrap-powered car needs string in addition to a standard mousetrap. Glue the mousetrap on the centre of the car body. Tie one end of the string to the jaw of the mousetrap while it is at rest. Tie the other end of the string to the axle on the opposite side of the car body from the jaw. Wind the string around the axle until the jaw of the mousetrap has been pulled tight and is ready to spring. When the mousetrap is sprang, the string will pull and the axle will turn to make the car move.

Tips and warnings

  • Use a pencil or other object to spring the mousetrap to avoid injury to the fingers.

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