Electric cars for kids remain one of the most popular toys year after year. If you were born after 1980, there’s a chance you have memories of zooming around on one of these cars too.
The thrill of being able to drive just like Dad or Mom is something no child can resist! Whether it’s a gift for a toddler or a teen, an electric car guarantees smiles and giggles for hours of priceless fun.
But as your child grows, cars like these can start to lose their novelty. Even when kids can still fit inside their trusty car, and the vehicle is still fully functional, the experience begins to fade.
However, there are ways to revive this toy and get the most use (and money) out of a kids’ electric car. Modifying ride-on cars is now so popular there are Facebook communities and extensive forums dedicated to all the best tips to achieve maximum speed and fun, especially for popular brands like Power Wheels.
As you explore your options, keep your child’s safety first. Heavily consider if the play vehicle you have can withstand any modifications and if the upgrades are appropriate for your son or daughter.
The Short Answer: Can You Modify Your Kid’s Electric Car to Go Faster?
Yes! Electric cars for kids can be modified to go faster, including up to 18 mph or more. There are a few options to boost the car’s speed, ranging from quick, do-it-yourself fixes to more elaborate upgrades requiring a professional’s help.
For the do-it-yourself fixes, a basic understanding of electronics is necessary. You may be handling batteries or motors and required to use specialized tools like soldering guns. Be sure to do extensive research from trusted sources before trying any modifications.
If you are curious about how to upgrade the speed of your kids’ electric car but are not interested in doing the work yourself, there are authorized repair services for battery-powered ride-ons. You can also try searching for local handyperson services on neighborhood websites and apps.
As you begin researching speed upgrades for your kids’ electric car, be sure to note the voltage (V) of the car you have. It is important to confirm the voltage of your car so you can make the safest and most appropriate choices during the modification process.
Average Speeds for Different Kids’ Electric Cars
Electric cars for kids range from very low voltage toys that are appropriate for toddlers to rugged go-karts for pre-teens. If you want to confirm the voltage of your car, check the rechargeable battery for the label. Also be sure to read our guide on electric ride-on car age ranges to make sure you’re getting the appropriate type of car that will fit your kid just right.
Another rule of thumb is 6V cars are indoors only, while 12V ones can drive on driveways and sidewalks, and 24V cars and higher operate more like a go-kart and can handle uneven terrain.
As the voltage on a kids’ electric car doubles, the speed increases by only a few miles per hour. A 6V car runs at 2.5 mph and is most suitable for toddlers riding indoors. A 12V car can reach speeds of 5 mph and is best for kids ages 3-6. With a maximum speed of 8 mph, a 24V car starts to look more like a go-kart and is safe for kids over the age of 6.
You can also find electric cars at 36V, which travel at 10 mph, and 48V vehicles that can reach 18mph or more, depending on the child’s weight.
Of course, when you’re considering modifying your kids’ electric car to go faster, it is important to remember basic safety precautions.
Any time you adjust the configuration of a vehicle, you run the risk of the toy malfunctioning. Since the vehicle is not operating the way it was originally intended, there is a higher risk of the battery burning out or other mechanisms breaking down quickly.
Before you make any modifications to the vehicle, inspect the car for any flaws that will be worse when you add increased speed.
Are the tires still intact, and are the axles straight? Is the frame of the car strong and free of major structural damage? If you purchased a generic or inexpensive ride-on car, strongly consider if it can withstand modifications and more power.
Once you decide to modify your ride-on car, confirm that you have the proper voltage for the age and weight of your child. Also, refer to the section above to ensure the voltage you have chosen is used in the correct environment, indoors vs. outdoors, and on flat or uneven terrain.
It is also important to maintain safety during the ride, so adult supervision is recommended when your child is using their electric car.
Even if the vehicle is only traveling a few miles per hour, encouraging your child to wear a helmet while riding is a wise habit of starting early and will protect their head if there is an accident of any kind.
Does My Kid’s Electric Car Need Modification?
If your battery-powered ride-on vehicle is seeming slow, it may be a malfunction of the vehicle itself. Recalls and warranty fixes are common with these rigorously enjoyed toys.
The first thing you should test is the vehicle’s battery. Try charging it for at least eight hours to get a full charge and connect a voltmeter to test the battery. The reading should pop up at least close to the value of your battery, e.g. a reading of 12.6 for a 12-volt battery.
Many popular brands of kids’ electric cars like Power Wheels have warranties. Typically, a bumper-to-bumper warranty will cover the car for a year, and a battery warranty lasts for about six months. Refer to the information for your specific make and model, and be sure to locate your receipt.
There is also a well-monitored recall program for kids’ electric cars that may solve the mystery of a low-performing vehicle.
Many manufacturers of battery-powered ride-ons cooperate with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to communicate recalls ensuring the highest safety standards for these toys.
Another consideration for a slower electric car is that your child may have outgrown the vehicle. If your son or daughter is too old to enjoy the size and maximum speed of the car you have, any modifications to make the toy fun again may be too much for the vehicle to withstand.
At that point, it may ultimately be the safer choice to upgrade the electric car altogether to a more age-appropriate size.
How to Modify Your Kid’s Electric Car to Go Faster
There are a few ways to alter your child’s electric car to increase its speed: adjusting the lock-out screw, modifying the battery, purchasing an electric speed controller, and exploring custom fabrication options.
All of these ideas range from inexpensive DIY projects to custom upgrades at a premium price.
Fully research each of these modifications to understand the tools and skills needed to achieve them. Some require specialized tools like a soldering gun, and most need a basic knowledge of electronics. Have our Power Wheels wiring layouts handy as you follow along.
The quickest and easiest way to make that electric car go faster is by removing the lock-out screw or “governor.” Most electric cars for kids feature this screw on the shifter of the car to “govern” your speed and make sure your child is introduced to the vehicle’s power slowly.
If you haven’t adjusted the governor, you may not have experienced the full capability of your vehicle yet. Simply loosen the screw on the side of the shifter, push it to the higher position and reattach the screw to hold the shifter in its new place.
This is an excellent choice for getting started with speed modifications or using the same vehicle if you have kids of different ages. By quickly adjusting the governor, you can easily cap the maximum speed without making any irreversible changes to the car.
When adjusting the governor is no longer cutting it, try switching out the current-voltage of the vehicle to a higher voltage battery.
If you have a 12V vehicle, swap it out for a 24V battery for a boost of about 3 mph. Upgrading the battery will also extend the charge on it, getting you more time to enjoy the extra speed.
Remember, by upgrading the battery on the vehicle; there is an increased risk you can burn out the motor.
One way to avoid this is by purchasing a brand-name battery made for the vehicle you own. If you choose an aftermarket battery, be sure also to buy the inline fuse to protect the car from risky power surges.
While a power surge will most likely just destroy the battery, there is also a risk of fire and related personal injury to you or your child from burning out the battery.
If you decide to upgrade the battery, make sure you match the motor, gears, and battery to all support the higher voltage. If you have a mismatched motor, gears, and battery arrangement. In that case, you can void warranties and quickly burn up the essential mechanisms of your vehicle, or in more extreme situations, it can cause an explosion.
You can read our complete guide on doing a Power Wheels battery upgrade for all the steps you should take.
Look into purchasing a complete battery conversion kit with motor and gearbox assembly included.
Electronic Speed Controller
For most ride-on electric cars for kids, there are very basic speed controls. These cars feature simple buttons for low and high speeds, or even just on and off switches. However, you are not limited to the built-in power settings on these vehicles and can build or purchase an electronic speed controller (ESC) or ESC kit to expand your speed and power options.
The most inexpensive option for an ESC is a simple standalone controller, similar to a video game controller. Because these battery-powered ride-ons have simple on/off switches, they abruptly deliver power to the motor.
An ESC has a throttle, so you can deliver more power to the motor in a gentler way — allowing you to enjoy the speed while extending the life of your car. These controllers cost about $30.
For best results, we recommend searching for an ESC kit specifically for the make and model of your electric kids’ car instead of attempting to build your own.
By opting for a kit vs. just the controller, you add so many perks to make it feel like a real driving experience for your kid. These ESC kits empower parents to control the vehicle’s speed output and add safety functions, like an emergency kill switch and brake pedals. A universal ESC kit costs about $150.
The most premium option for increasing the speed of your kids’ electric car is investing in custom fabrication. Custom fabrication makes your vehicle one-of-a-kind by adding technologies or structures to meet your specific need.
To improve safety, we recommend adding a backup buzzer when the car goes in reverse so family members of all ages can stay safe around the vehicle. Additional LED headlights or taillights can improve the vehicle’s visibility for those cloudy days or when the sun starts setting early.
You can also improve the off-road capability of the electric car in a variety of different ways. Consider lifting the vehicle for better clearance and to maintain your speed on bumpy terrain.
A popular update for a higher voltage electric vehicle is swapping out the gearbox entirely for something like a motocross bike engine. Keep in mind, once you start installing powerful engines like this, the driver should be at least 16 and eligible for a driver’s license.
Now that you are gaining speed, don’t forget to modify the tires to maintain solid traction. Upgrading from plastic tires to rubber tires is a more expensive option, but you can also try wrapping the tires in duct tape or install traction bands to achieve a similar result.
There are several ways to modify a kids’ electric car to make it go faster. While making any changes to a factory setting carries some risk, many resources are available online for this budding hobby. Be sure to thoroughly research your options to help you achieve results that are fast, fun, and safe. If you’re still considering which ride-on vehicle to get, head over to our electric ride-on car buying guide for some major factors to take into account.