Electric cars are great fun and are relatively sturdy, even though they are often handled roughly by children. Thankfully, electric cars for kids are generally made from plastic parts and are held together with simple clips and screws, making it easy for anyone to conduct repairs and replace parts.
In most instances, it is not a matter of repairing broken parts but rather replacing parts that no longer work. Learning to DIY these repairs yourself rather than taking the car to a garage can save you money and give your child more time to play with their toy.
Let’s dive into some of the most common problems and how to fix them.
Troubleshooting and Diagnostics
One key piece of equipment you need to accurately diagnose the problem with your child’s electric car is an inexpensive, simple voltmeter. This tool is necessary to assess the battery, the battery charger’s health, and motor issues. Plus, you can use it to run most diagnostics needed for electrical problems with your toy car.
In addition to testing the battery and motor, many voltmeters come with additional probes that can test the flow of current in wires, which is helpful for various other problems that may occur in your toy car, such as broken foot pedals.
Otherwise, you need regular tools on hand, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and hammers – all tools you can find in your toolbox at home. You don’t need anything fancy! It is actually best not to use power tools or drills to tighten screws on your child’s toy car; hand tightening is better because, in some instances, you do not want the screws to be too tight or strip the screws.
The most common reasons your electric toy car is not working are bad or loose wires, corrosions, dead batteries, broken switches or connectors, or when wheel retainers are too tight. Keep reading to learn how to repair these common problems and replace different parts of your electric car!
How to Repair and Replace the Battery
Most toy car batteries can last a few years or so. Eventually, they will need to be repaired or replaced. Cold weather and not running your toy car for months at a time will also shorten its battery life.
To repair or replace the battery of the car:
- Locate the battery of the vehicle (usually under the seat or in the hood).
- Remove the plug-in connections and gently take the battery out of the car.
- Be careful handling the batteries as they contain sulfuric acid, which can burn your skin.
From there, you must determine whether the battery is bad or something else is going on. The first step is to use the voltmeter to check the battery’s health.
If the battery is not holding a charge or won’t charge, use the voltmeter to see if it has voltage. If it does, that is a sign that something else is wrong, such as the battery charger. Check the battery charger next to make sure it is working correctly. The charger might need to be replaced instead of the battery, which can save you $60-$80 on a new battery! If the battery is dead and has no voltage, then the battery is the issue and needs to be replaced.
Another common battery issue is corroded connectors. If the connectors are oxidized, they cannot transmit power to the car, even if the battery is fully charged. Luckily, you can replace only the connectors without purchasing a new battery.
While inspecting the battery, also check for loose or deteriorated wires. You can replace these pieces separately instead of getting a whole new battery.
In addition, examine the battery for excessive wear or other damage like cracks and corrosion. Even if the battery has a full charge, abundant corrosion or rust covering it may explain why your electric car is not working. These signs show that you must replace the battery.
If you do replace your battery, please make sure to properly dispose of your old battery. You can recycle it at home improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowes.
Please note that leaving the battery connected to the charger at all times, thus overcharging it, will also reduce its battery life and cause damage.
How to Repair and Replace Tires
Replacing a toy car’s tires is similar to changing flat tires on a real car, just a quarter of the size! The process for changing toy car tires is simple:
- Unscrew the current tires on the vehicle.
- Remove them.
- Replace them with new tires.
You can easily complete this process by either elevating the toy car or flipping it onto its back – whichever way allows you to have the most direct access to all wheels. Unscrew the retainers and hubcaps for each wheel. Once these are gone, you can remove the old tires and replace them with new ones. Then reinstall the hubcaps and retainers, making sure each piece is tight (although not too tight; make sure the wheel can spin seamlessly) and correctly in place.
If the wheel retainers are too tight, the car tires won’t spin, which is another issue. Thankfully this is a straightforward fix: just loosen the retainers so that the wheel can spin freely.
You’ll know it’s time to replace the tires when the plastic is extremely cracked and worn out or if the tires have an object stuck in them.
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to repair plastic tires. Once they break, you must replace them. However, you may be able to fix small cracks by sealing the gaps with extra hold glue or fiberglass.
We recommend upgrading your plastic tires to rubber ones. There are many benefits to this:
- Rubber tires last longer and are quieter.
- They perform well on different terrains and weather conditions.
- They have more grip and better traction than plastic tires.
- If they get a leak or hole, you can easily patch them instead of entirely replacing them.
Keep in mind that you will need to make sure any new tires fit your specific toy car. Another cheaper option is to apply rubber spray, such as Flex Seal Spray, on plastic wheels to add traction and protect from wear and tear. You can reapply this spray multiple times.
How to Repair the Gearbox
The gearbox works to change speeds. Like tires, the stock electric toy cars generally come with plastic gears, but if you want to upgrade, you can use hardened steel gears instead. Either way, you need to know how to get to the gearbox!
To reach the gearbox, you have to uninstall a wheel, as mentioned earlier, and bring out the gearbox from the engine.
Use your screwdriver to take off the screws on the front face. Pop off the front face to expose the gearbox. Then you can access the problem gears and see what piece needs to be fixed or replaced. When replacing gears, make sure the number of teeth on your replacement gear is the same as your old one.
When you’ve finished, snap the front face back on and screw it back together. Place the gearbox back in the vehicle.
A prominent sign of a stripped gear and a required replacement is a grinding noise coming from the car.
Please note that you should upgrade the gearbox if you are upgrading the battery and motor.
How to Repair the Motor
If you can hear a clicking sound when the car is running, then your motor is most likely unsuitable and in need of repair or replacement. You must remove the wheels to reach the gearbox to access the engine, which attaches to the motor. Make sure to disconnect all wires you see before removing the gearboxes. Then you can reach the motor. Remove the screws holding the engine in place and take it out.
You can also test the motor using the voltmeter. Hook the engine up to the voltmeter and see if it turns.
If you’re replacing the motor, simply use a screwdriver to open the motor box and remove the current motor. Before installing the new motor:
- Install a new metal flat head onto the new engine (note: make sure it has the same number of teeth as the old fathead).
- Install the engine, attaching it to the gearbox with proper wiring.
- Ensure the wiring connection is secure before putting the wheels back on.
Please note that if you upgrade your battery and/or tires, you may need to upgrade the motor to comply with the additional power required to make the car run properly.
How to Repair the Alternator
Trick question! Because electric toy cars run on rechargeable battery power, they do not have an alternator. The alternator plays a vital role in a standard adult car’s battery charging system, which provides electrical energy to the vehicle. Electric cars run on battery power only and do not need an alternator.
How to Repair the Ignition Switch
Springs are the cause of most switches no longer working. Open the ignition switch and empty it. Clean the housing with a lubricant and replace the springs.
However, if the ignition switch needs to be wholly replaced, follow these steps:
- Remove the steering column, which is where the ignition switch is located.
- Remove the wiring case that is attached to the ignition switch and disconnect the wiring.
- Unscrew the screws holding the ignition switch to the steering column and remove the old switch. Replace it with a new one and secure it.
- Reconnect the wiring and put the wiring equipment back in place.
How to Repair the Shifter
The shifter allows your child to change the gear of their car. These, along with the ignition switch, are relatively cheap fixes.
You should replace the switches inside the shifter if the shifter handle feels loose or if you have blown a fuse. A shifter usually uses two of these switches. To replace them:
- Remove the shifter from your car.
- Unscrew the shift knob and remove it.
- Unbolt the shifter and remove any features that connect the shifter to the gearbox, like the ball cup.
- Take the shifter out of the car.
- Remove the screws holding the cover onto the shifter and take the lid off. You’ll see the bottom part of the gear stick shift, which flips the switches your child switches gears.
To remove the switches, push on the spring tabs on the sides, and they will pop out. Replace the old, broken switches with new ones. There is no front or back to the switch piece; you can put them back into the shifter either way. Put the gear stick shifter back in place and screw on the shifter cover. Ensure the wires match up when you put the shifter back in your car and attach it to the gearbox.
To replace the whole shifter, first remove the current shifter in the car, following the steps above. This time, when you remove the old shifter from the car and take off the ball cup, also remove the bushings. Set the ball cup and bushing aside, as you will need to put those on the new shifter.
When you have the replacement shifter in hand, install the parts you removed from the old shifter to the new one (Tip: grease the bushings before connecting them to the new shifter).
Install the ball cup to the gearbox and replace the bolts you removed before. Mount the new shifter and refasten it by screwing the shift knob in place.
How to Repair the Foot Pedal
The foot pedals, like a real car, tell your child’s car to move. When the foot pedals stop working, it is not always because the pedal itself is broken. Some common additional reasons the pedal might not work include a wiring issue, damaged switch connectors, a defective battery, or a broken motor, most of which we’ve already covered above.
The first step is to run a diagnostic test with your voltmeter to see if any power is running through the pedal. If there is no power, check the wiring underneath the pedals to see if they need to be repaired or replaced. To confirm this, turn on the car. If the motor starts and continues to work when you step on the pedal, the issue is most likely the pedal’s wiring.
The pedal and wiring system connectors may be corroded or rusty. If so, clean the switch connectors or replace them entirely.
Sometimes though, the pedal is just stuck temporarily. Simply fix this by continually pushing on the pedal until it releases.
How to Repair or Replace the Seat Belts
Seat belts are an essential safety feature of an electric toy car. Once seat belts are old, fraying, and worn, you must replace them. You can purchase replacement seat belts from Amazon (both 2-point belts and 4-point harnesses), and you just need a wrench and a screwdriver to install the new ones. 4-point harness seat belts are best for children under three years old.
Seat belt replacement instructions depend on what type of seat belts you have and the model of your electric car. In general, you first want to remove the seats from the electric vehicle using the screwdriver. Then remove the current seat belt straps. Depending on the type of seat belt, you may be able to simply pull the belt entirely through the slit openings in the seat.
If using 2-point seat belts, there are usually one long section and two shorter sections. Install new seat belt straps by threading the straps through the slit openings. The one long section goes in the two slits in the middle of the seat.
Go behind the seat and slide each side through those two slits and pull equally. Slide each short piece, both of which have a stopper on one end, through two slit openings, one on each side of the seat bench. Pull each short piece completely through, starting from the back of the seat until you reach the stopper. Some seat belts will fasten with additional bolts (hardware comes with the belts upon purchasing).
You may need to create holes in the top of your plastic seats for the upper seat belt parts, depending on whether you purchased 2 point belts or a 4 point harness. Complete these steps for all seat belts, and then reinstall the seats in your car.
That completes our troubleshooting list for common problems with your child’s electric toy car! Make sure to follow each step for the most effective outcome.
However, if you get stuck and need additional professional help, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Multiple electric car repair shops and authorized service centers would be happy to assist. You’ll have the toy car up and running around your yard again in no time.