Racing Power Wheels Part 7: Setting up the Steering

With the drive axle pretty much done the next thing to work on would be the steering system of the Power Wheels Dune Racer. The above pictures were just some shots during the process of fabricating the steering system. So to start things off, I'll talk about the individual parts of the steering system.

The first part I'll bring up is the spindles along with their brackets. They came together as a complete kit. Below is an image of the kit that I got from BMI Karts.

The link to the kit is found below.

This spindle kit had the shortest axle length out of two similar kits. So I decided to go with this spindle kit to stay within the 36" width limit of the Power Wheels to participate in the racing series. So this kit comes with two spindles (one for each side), two brackets, 2 kingpin bolts and nuts, and some spacers and washers. This kit was the most cheapest one that I found online which was $34.95. The spindle assembled with the bracket is shown below.

The other parts I needed to complete the steering system was the steering shaft and the tie rods to connect the spindles to the steering shaft. Below are pictures of the steering shaft and the tie rods that I used for this project. On the right picture I have the tie rod ends screwed onto the tie rods.

The link to the steering shaft is below and it goes for $14.95.

And the link to the tie rod kit is below and it goes for $8.49 a kit.

The steering shaft is listed as having a length of 20 inches and it has two sleeves along the shaft. These two sleeves allow the shaft to rotate freely. One of these free rotating sleeves is held in place between two other sleeve pieces that do not rotate. The second free rotating sleeve is the most top sleeve. This second rotating sleeve can slide up and down the shaft freely. This sleeve is to be attached to a support column for the steering shaft. Its freedom to slide up and down the shaft is to let it be placed wherever you decide to place your column support at. To better understand what I am talking about, below is an image of the steering shaft along with annotations for the free rotating sleeves.

For the tie rods, you'll have to order two kits to complete the steering system. Each kit includes a tie rod, two tie rod ends, and two jam nuts to hold the tie rod ends in place. The length of the tie rod can be chosen to be either 11, 15, or 24 inches. I selected the 11 inches based on my approximate measurements between where my two spindles will be located at.

So the first thing to do was to remove the Power Wheels body cover to expose the front end of the Power Wheels, which is shown below.

In the picture above, I had already removed the original steering components and wheels and was left with just the front bar. This front bar was slightly larger than the two other metal square tubing that run from the front to the back.

The front bar was removed from the rest of the frame and the brackets from the spindle kit was welded onto the ends of the front bar. The final product is shown below.


The brackets were positioned so that it would give the front end its highest position possible to try to match the height of the rear end. These brackets will hold the spindles in place and will then hold the front wheels. The welding for this part was done by John from Small Engine Rescue. He did a good job on welding the brackets onto the front bar.

The next thing that was done was to reinstall the front end bar onto the rest of the frame as shown below.

After that, the spindles were installed on the brackets as shown below.

The next thing I decided to do was to install new bearings in the front wheels with bearings from here at Boca Bearings. The front tires were from Harbor Freight and were about $11 each with a coupon from Harbor Freight.

Below you can see the stock bearing and the new bearing that was installed in the front wheel.

Taking out the old bearing was pretty simple. It was a matter of using a flat head screwdriver and a mallet to pop out each bearing on each wheel. Installing the new ones was simple as well by using a mallet and lightly tapping the new bearing in.

Before proceeding on, I decided to make a cutout for the steering shaft to be able to go through the Power Wheels body. So, I decided to use a power drill and a hole saw to do the cutouts in the body. A reciprocating saw would have been more ideal for this job but we don't have one at the moment. Below is an image of the power drill and hole saw.

The holes made from the hole saw weren't as smooth as I thought they would be but it got the job done. A picture of a hole made by the hole saw is shown below.

After cutting several holes in the body I finally got the steering shaft to be able to go through the body. A picture of this is shown below.

Later on I had to cut even more holes to be able to have the steering shaft placed behind the front bar. But after these cutouts, I installed the wheels and the next steep was to install the tie rods to connect the spindles to the steering shaft. What was accomplished so far can be seen below.

The steering shaft has a pitman arm at its base with two holes to bolt on the ends of the tie rods. When trying to install the tie rods between the pitman arm and the spindles, I found that the tie rods were too long. So I checked back on BMI Karts to see if they had any shorter tie rods and found that I got the shortest one.So I decided that I had to cut the ones that I had down. I ordered 2 more tie rods just in case I mess something up. So I marked on the tie rods where I wanted to cut them and used a dremel tool to perform the cutting. You can see a comparison of the cut tie rod versus its original length.

With the tie rods cut, I could then finally install the ties rods in between the pitman arm and the spindles. Below is a picture of the mock up so far.

In the picture above, the toe in and toe out of the tires weren't fine tuned. I just simply installed the tie rods in and bolted them to the spindles and the pitman arm. The toe of the wheels is the angle they are away from the parallel tubing that goes from the back to the front. Below is an example of what toe in and toe out is.

When aligning a car, you do not want toe in or toe out to optimize tire life. You would want the tires to be parallel to each other and parallel to the car as well. The toe could be adjusted for a race car to have better straight line stability or to enhance steering. But for this Power Wheels, I am going with a zero toe setup.

The next step was to weld the sleeves of the steering shaft onto the frame. Before doing that I was doing more research of how others have set up their steering and found that many people position their spindles so they would be pointed towards the back of the car. In the picture above of the Power Wheels steering, you can see that the spindles are pointed forward. So I decided to test the steering with both setups before welding the steering shaft and found that the spindles pointing backwards had a better range of steering. So I decided to go with this setup. In order for this setup to work, the steering shaft would have to placed behind the front bar.

The welding was to be done by John at Small Engine Rescue and John asked me to provide some drawings of the setup. So I did some SolidWorks modeling to try to depict a setup based on what I've seen online.

Isometric View

Front View

Top View

Right View

As you can see in the drawings above, I had a steering column where the adjustable sleeve would be welded to. This column was also supported by a horizontal bar that ran in between the side tubings. This horizontal bar was to be approximately 13" in length.

The angle of the steering column was selected to be 55 degrees after some seat testing. We went with 55 degrees to provide some clearance between the driver and the steering wheel. We didn't want the steering wheel to be very close to someone's torso. 

So from here the Power Wheels was sent to Small Engine Rescue to get the welding done from John. He first created the horizontal bar where the support column would be attached to. This can be seen in the picture below.

In the picture above, you can see the horizontal bar that I was talking about in the drawings. This horizontal bar is meant to provide a place for the support bar for the steering shaft to be welded onto.

At this stage there were some changes to the setup I first intended to do due to restrictions and actual welding possibilities. Originally, I was thinking of just getting the fixed sleeve to be welded on the edge of the front bar. But after speaking with John, he recommended to have the fixed sleeve go through some kind of metal sheet and weld it to that sheet of metal. This would provide a more secured weld between the steering shaft and this metal sheet. So he used a piece of flat metal bar and bent it to be able to be welded to the front bar of the frame and to the recently added horizontal bar. Through this bent flat bar the fixed sleeve was welded to. This can be seen in the picture below.

In the picture above, you can see the flat piece of metal that was bent connects the front bar to the second horizontal bar. This second horizontal bar was made out of some angle metal. The second sleeve on the steering shaft was welded to a support column. This support column was actually made from the original rear axle of the power wheels. The axle was cut to length and welded in between the sleeve on the steering shaft and the horizontal bar. This support bar was also different from the original plan. This support bar comes at an angle to the steering shaft. But the angle of the steering shaft was still kept at 55 degrees. Below is another angle on the steering.

Once the steering was done, the Power Wheels body was placed back on the frame again. Some additional cutting was required to fit the whole new steering system through the body. A picture of the steering and the body together can be shown below.

The next thing to work on was the steering wheel. At first, I was considering some bicycle handle bars to mount onto the steering shaft but then this wouldn't really allow much customization of the steering wheel for different drivers. So Bryan from here at Boca Bearings came up with the idea of using some PVC piping to create a steering wheel. PVC is low cost, easy to work with, and readily available at any local home improvement store. This made PVC piping ideal to make different steering wheels for different drivers.

So before getting the steering shaft welded into place, I actually took it along with the hand throttle to Home Depot to find PVC piping that will fit on the steering shaft and to fit the hand throttle. I had to get two different sizes. One to go over the steering shaft and one into the hand throttle grip. I also got a few tee connectors and some elbows. To hold everything in place some PVC cement glue was bought as well.

The first steering wheel being made can be seen in the pictures below.

You can see how a bolt right underneath the tee fitting is holding the steering wheel to the steering shaft. I am planning on drilling more holes in the PVC pipe that goes over the steering shaft to allow the steering to be brought up higher if necessary. Below are some more images of the steering wheel being made.

I will still need to install the other grip on the other handlebar once I find it here at Boca Bearings. In the few pictures above, you may be able to see some sort of handle on the left side of the Power Wheels. It's actually the braking and I will be covering that in another post.

Once I have the whole steering wheel set in place, I will then spray paint it maybe black. But that is pretty much it for the steering. Thanks for reading. I'll post more soon. Below are some more pictures of the steering system.

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