There is nothing better than the look of delight on your children’s faces when they see the new ride-on electric car you bought them. However, those smiles can quickly turn to frustrated tears when the vehicle gets stuck, and the wheels won’t turn for lack of traction.
Most ride-on electric cars come with cheap, plastic wheels. As a result, they tend to spin uselessly on surfaces like grass, mud, and snow, limiting the time your children can spend playing. Because ride-on electric cars are a bit of an investment as far as toys go, you want to maximize the enjoyment your kids can get out of them.
That’s where a tire upgrade comes into play. You’re not stuck with the boring and inefficient default tires, and with a little bit of DIY work, your kids will soon be zooming around and laughing before you know it.
Tools and Materials You Need To Upgrade the Tires on Your Kids’ Electric Car
There are two options to pick from when upgrading the tires on your kids’ electric car. You can either replace them altogether or beef up the tires the vehicle already has. Both ways are effective, so it’s up to you to decide which is more convenient for you.
If you don’t want to replace the tires completely, you will need:
- Fine sandpaper
- A toothbrush
- A pail of soapy water
- A fiberglass kit (optional)
- Painter’s tape
- Rubber spray
- A knife or razor blade scraper
If you do want to replace the wheels entirely, you’re going to need:
- New tires compatible with the electric car model you have
- A flat-head screwdriver
- A hammer
- Cleaning supplies (optional)
We will cover all of the details you need to know for both options, so keep reading no matter which one you’re leaning toward. And for a more specific guide on Power Wheels, head over to our complete step-by-step process for a Power Wheels rubber tire upgrade.
Step-by-Step Process for Upgrading the Tires Without Replacing Them
Upgrading the tires on your kids’ electric car without replacing them tends to be the most budget-friendly option, but, as you might have guessed by looking at the list of materials you’ll need, it’s a bit more effort.
There’s more than one option for adding traction to the existing tires (check out my guide on Power Wheels traction bands too), but rubber spray like the one offered by Flex Seal is fast, easy to apply, and available cheaply at most hardware stores.
To make this entire process as hassle-free as possible, you’re going to want to flip the car upside down, lift it on a jack, or set it on its end so you have easy access to the tires.
Step 1: Sand the Tires So the Adhesive Will Stick
It might seem irritating and time-consuming, but scuffing up the plastic surface of the tires with a piece of fine sandpaper is critical. Roughing up the surface gives the adhesive something to stick to. If you don’t, it’s likely to peel off immediately and leave you back where you started.
We recommend safety goggles and a mask for this step, especially if you’re using a power sander. The small plastic particles you’re creating can cause health issues if inhaled or irritate your eyes.
Step 2: Clean the Tires Thoroughly
With the sanding complete, your next step is going to be to clean the tires. Leftover dirt or grime can gum up the rubber spray you’re going to apply later, so it’s essential to give the tires a good scrub.
Generally, a bucket of soapy water and a toothbrush to get into the grooves and crannies of the tires will serve you well here. When you finish cleaning, give the tires a quick rinse with a garden hose and let them dry.
Step 3: Fix Any Cracks in the Tires
If the tires on your kids’ electric car are in good shape or the vehicle is new, you can skip this step. If the tires do have cracks, though, it’s best to fix them before applying the rubber spray. Luckily, doing so isn’t as much of a pain as you might think.
Here’s where you’ll use that optional fiberglass kit we mentioned. You could use other patches for the wheels, but this one tends to be the quickest and easiest. Any kit you buy will come with comprehensive instructions, so be sure to follow them for the best results. Give the fiberglass time to set before moving on to the next step.
If you’re noticing other issues besides cracks, make sure to read our electric kids car repair article.
Step 4: Prepare the Vehicle Before You Spray
With the tires ready to work on, it’s time to prepare the rest of the vehicle. Because you’ll be using a rubber spray, there’s a high chance that you’ll get rubber on the areas around the tires as well. To minimize clean-up, use newspaper and painter’s tape to protect the sites you don’t want to be stained with rubber.
The car’s wheel well is vital to cover, as there’s typically less clearance than on a real car, and any buildup could inhibit the wheel’s ability to turn. It’s also a challenging area to clean without removing the wheel entirely.
Step 5: Apply the Spray
Now that you have finished with the prep work, you can apply the rubber spray. Follow the instructions on the canister, and apply an even coat to each of the wheels. Then, leave them to dry. The drying process will take around eight hours, so it may be easiest to leave overnight or do it right away in the morning.
Step 6: Apply a Second Coat
To ensure good traction and lasting results, it’s typically best to apply a second and even third coat when the previous layer of rubber has dried completely. Then, you can smooth any bumps and scrape off any excess spray that your newspapers missed using a knife or scraper.
Step-by-Step Process for Upgrading the Tires by Replacing Them
If you’ve ever had to change a flat tire on your own car, you already have more skills and know-how than you need for this option. However, even if you haven’t, you’ll still find this process intuitive and straightforward as long as you do the research beforehand to ensure the replacement tires you bought are compatible with the vehicle.
While it might be a bit pricier, replacing the tires is much faster than applying a rubber spray. Assuming everything works as intended, you can finish up in as little as half an hour.
Step 1: Set Up Your Workspace
The first thing you need is a clean and comfortable workspace. Your garage or driveway will work just fine. When you’ve decided where you’re going to work, you can position the car so you can reach its wheels easily. If you flip the car upside down, take care not to damage the seats or any more delicate pieces now on the ground.
Step 2: Remove the Retainer and Hubcaps
With the flat head screwdriver, pry off the retainer caps and hubcaps holding the original wheels in place. You might have to use a bit of force to do so.
Once you have the caps off, set them somewhere safe so you don’t lose track of them. Unless the new tires you bought came with their own retainer and hubcaps, you’re going to need these again later.
Step 3: Slide the Old Tires Off
With nothing keeping them in place, you should now be able to slide the old tires right off the axle without any trouble. If you want, you can take this opportunity to clean the axles. Stubborn dirt and other buildups could interfere with the smoothness of the car’s movements.
Step 4: Put the New Tires Into Place
Once the old tires are gone, it’s time to install the new ones. If the wheels you purchased are compatible with the model of the car you’re working on, they should fit as well as the original tires did.
Step 5: Securely Attach the Retainer and Hubcaps
The final step you’ll take is to replace the retainer and hubcaps you removed earlier or install the new ones if the wheels you purchased came with them. In most cases, you’ll be able to put them back into place with your hands. Sometimes, however, you might need to use a hammer to ensure a tight fit.
If you end up using a hammer, take care not to dent or damage any of the more fragile pieces.
When the new wheels are attached, give the car a shake to ensure it doesn’t wobble. You want to check that the wheels are securely in place and won’t fall off before you let one of your kids give the newly upgraded car a try.
Test Out Your Handiwork
Whichever upgrade method you used, there’s just one thing left to do. Fire up the car, and have one of your children take it for a test drive. They get to enjoy their new and improved car, and you can check to make sure all of the wheels are level and spinning the way they should.
Give yourself a pat on the back, relax, and watch your kids enjoy the product of your hard work as they motor around the yard.
If you want to do more upgrades, check out our guide on how to modify your kid’s electric car, how to replace a Power Wheels motor, and how to upgrade a Power Wheels battery.
Questions? Drop us a line.