How to Make a Wind-Powered Toy Car

Written by jeffrey brian airman
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How to Make a Wind-Powered Toy Car
Plastic bottles are lightweight and rigid enough for a toy car chassis. (bottle image by drjay from

You can make a wind-powered toy car in minutes from a few common household items. Wind-powered toy cars harness the forward motion of the wind is the same way as a sailboat. Unsteady wind strength and direction may cause your sailing car to travel in an unpredictable path. Determine the most successful design elements by making and testing a few different models. Challenge your friends to build their best wind-powered toy cars and compete with you in a race.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Ruler
  • 4 matching plastic bottle caps or lids
  • Plastic bottle
  • Permanent marker
  • Jumbo paper clips (metal)
  • Pliers
  • Lighter
  • 2 ballpoint pens
  • Hot glue gun
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Paper
  • Tape

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  1. 1

    Measure the diameter of the plastic bottle caps or lids and divide the number in half. Rest the plastic bottle on its side on a flat surface.

  2. 2

    Make a small mark with a permanent marker 2 inches from the front of the bottle and 1/2 inch lower than the halved diameter of the plastic bottle caps or lids. Make a second mark on the same side of the bottle at the same height as the first and 2 inches from the back of the bottle.

  3. 3

    Straighten a jumbo metal paper clip with a pair of pliers and hold it with the pliers as you apply a flame to the end until it is red hot. Press the red hot end of the paper clip into the two marks to open them into 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch holes.

  4. 4

    Disassemble the two ballpoint pens and save the empty plastic outer casings. Push the empty pen tubes straight through the holes in the side of the bottle and use the permanent marker to mark where they line up to poke through the other side.

  5. 5

    Heat the straightened paper clip again and open up the 2 holes on the other end of the bottle. Make the holes about the same size as the first 2 so the pen tubes will slide into position, connecting both sets of holes.

  6. 6

    Apply a thin bead of hot glue around the ballpoint pen tubes where they meet with the holes on each side of the bottle. Allow the glue to cool and set for 5 minutes.

  7. 7

    Flatten two more jumbo paper clips with the pliers so they appear completely straight. Slide each one into a ballpoint pen tube and adjust them until the protruding ends are of equal lengths.

  8. 8

    Bend all 4 of the protruding paper clip ends with the pliers until the reach a 90-degree angle. Attach the bent corners of the paper clips to the centre of the plastic bottle caps or lids with hot glue or tape. Allow the glue to cool and set for 5 minutes.

  9. 9

    Roll the car forward on a flat surface once the wheels are secured, making sure it rolls straight. Make minor adjustments to the wheel lines by bending the paper clips in or out.

  10. 10

    Tape 2 Popsicle sticks to the side of the bottle, parallel to one another so they point straight up like masts on a ship. Tape a single sheet of standard copy or lined paper to both masts to create a sail.

  11. 11

    Place your wind-powered toy car on a large, flat surface in a windy area. Position the sail to catch the prevailing winds.

Tips and warnings

  • Cut into the top of the bottle to add passengers--such as action figure toys--to your wind-powered car. Adding weight like action figures to the car's chassis is helpful when strong winds cause the vehicle to tumble forward instead of roll.

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