Using a Linear Actuator to Create a RC Power Wheels Vehicle
Power wheels ride on cars and trucks are dream toys for many children (and their parents too). For the creative parent who likes a challenge they also provide many opportunities for modification. In fact, there is a whole web forum devoted to
Modified Power Wheels! People are adding lights, custom paint jobs, more power, and even remote control. One of the more challenging modifications is creating a remote controlled power wheels vehicle. Some people want to do this because their children are too small and can't drive it yet and others want to create a one of a kind vehicle for a special needs child.
According to most of the people posting on the Modified Power Wheels Forum, the preferred way to create remote controlled steering is with a feedback linear actuator and an LAC. Servo gearboxes may be cheaper but the pots get dirty quite easily and the gears in the servo can break very easily from bumps and jolts. An actuator is basically sealed and can handle puddles and light rain without any performance issues. And the installation is quite easy. You basically need to mount one end to the frame and one to the tie rod between the wheels. The actuator will push and pull the steering bar which will move the direction of the wheels. Then you need to wire the actuator to the LAC board. Here are some examples of how people do it:
Here's a video showing how the actuator turns the wheels.
If you are interested in attempting a project like this there are several good tutorials out there. This one: RC Power Wheels for a Disabled Child, posted on Instructables, is a very detailed account of how someone modified a power wheels vehicle so a child with cerebral palsy could drive around with his brother. The whole story is really amazing and we actually wrote about it on our blog previously so click here to read more.