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How to replace power wheels tires

Although great for outdoor adventures, Power Wheels are known to lose their traction after repeated usage. Even brand new, on some surfaces, your power wheels could start slipping. This is mostly due to the large plastic tires commonly used in most ride-on vehicles. You'll soon start to notice the tires spinning, especially as the treads wear out, so how can you replace Power Wheels tires for better grip so it will stop slipping?

To replace power wheel tires for better grip and traction, the easiest way is to fit a rubber tire on each of the wheels, especially the back wheels. A more long-term alternative is cutting roll mat (Harbor Freight) to four strips that you'll then attach to the tires.

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If you're still reading, chances are you want to learn how to improve the traction of your little one's power wheel. So let's get straight to business on how to DIY fix power wheel tires for better grip and traction.

The Easy Way: Using Rubber Tires

Improving the traction of your little adventurer's power wheels isn't rocket science. However, you'll need to be extra careful to get the job done successfully. A small error in cutting the replacement rubber can make the tires uneven, thus affecting the overall stability of your child's Power Wheels. 

Some of the main tools you'll need for this simple DIY project include: 

  • A pair of scissors
  • Screws  
  • 2-3 motorcycle/bicycle tires (used or new)
  • Wirecutter
  • Screwdriver drill
  • Manual screwdriver (in case the drill malfunctions)  

This method is pretty straightforward and highly recommended if your child doesn't frequently drive through tough terrain. The rubber tires help provide traction at the intersection point with the road, meaning you won't need to cover the entire tire section.

Overturn the Ride-On Car To Access the Wheels

The first step in overturning the Power Wheel is to allow the tires to face you. Once you have good enough access to the wheels, proceed to clean the tires such that they're free of debris, grass, mud, or any material that might be stuck. The last thing you want is to place a rubber tire on a rough or rugged surface as the wheels won't be even, thus making the ride super uncomfortable.

Remove the Rubber Tire Sidewalls

The next step is cutting the bicycle tires to remove the sidewalls. Take your scissors and carefully cut the sidewalls evenly. The good thing about using bicycle tires is you won't have to take their measurements since bicycle tires have a slim profile. However, you'll need to ensure you use rubber tires that are the same size as your plastic tires.  

While the tires you use mustn't be the exact size as that of your plastic wheels, they shouldn't be too tiny either. Ideally, you should use tires that can fit at least three-quarters of the plastic wheels. The center area is usually the most important in terms of traction, so be sure to get rubber tires that can perfectly fit the plastic tires' center.

Although most people don't wear gloves when cutting up the rubber tires, putting them on might help you avoid injuries. It's advisable to start the cutting process with a wire cutter before proceeding to use heavy scissors. Again, the type of scissors used should depend on the type of rubber tires you opt to use. If you opt for used motorcycle tires with slim profiles, then you'll need to use heavy scissors that can cut the edges smoothly.

Place the Cut Rubber on the Plastic Tires

Once you've cut the tires and removed the sidewalls, it's time to get to the sensitive work. Start by placing the customized bike or bicycle tire on the plastic Power Wheel tire. Take your screwdriver drill and drill two to three screws on the surface. Next, you should stretch the rubber tire until it covers the entire stock plastic tire. Drill the screws again, but only if you're sure the tire is fully stretched without a sag.   

Generally, there is no correct number of screws you should drill. The more, the better, as the Power Wheel is meant for outdoor use. But you also shouldn't over screw the plastic wheels as it might prove problematic in case you want to remove or make an adjustment.

In case you don't fancy using screws in your little one's power wheels, you can opt to use glue. However, when using glue, it's crucial to thoroughly clean the tires. Adhesives don't work well on dirty surfaces, which means you'll need to clean the surface with soap or a detergent.

But when using the glue-down method, you'll need to wear gloves to protect your hands. Allow the surface to dry before applying the glue. A common mistake that most parents make when using this method is allowing children to hop on the cars before the glue is dry enough.

Please note that you'll need to give the glue around 8-24 hours to dry. The glue might even need more time to dry in case you live in cold environments. However, to know if the glue has held on firm enough, it's advisable to try moving it to the sides. If the rubber thread remains firmly in position, then your child can hop on in and start riding his newly serviced car.

The Complex Technique: Placing Rubber To Increase Traction

If you want to do a thorough, long-term job, chances are you'll need to invest in a Harbor Freight Roll mat and cut it into four different pieces. For this method, however, you will need to remove the tires before installing the roll mat. 

So here's a brief guide on how to remove the wheels of your little one's Power Wheels.

Remove the Ride-On Toy Wheels

To remove the wheels on your child's ride-on car, you'll first need to remove the plastic cover off. While you can remove this cover using pliers, an air chisel will help you get the job done a lot quicker. Please note that an air chisel can make a lot of noise and eject the plastic straight to your face, so it's best to wear hearing and eye protection.

Take a blow torch and heat the center cap to expand the plastic. A couple of seconds should be enough to expand the plastic. All you'll need is to apply a bit of force and remove the wheel from the axle.

In case you don't have the professional tools to get the job done, you can remove the cap using a paint can lid opener. Chances of damaging the plastic cap are usually high, but there's no need to worry since they are usually cheap and readily available. 

Once you've successfully removed the cap, take your needle nose pliers and hold the top and bottom parts of the push nut to remove it. Luckily, the push nut is designed to come off easily. 

You can then remove the center bolt, which then allows you to pull the wheel out.

Now that we've discussed how to remove the wheel let's get back to our discussion on how to increase traction by placing rubber on the entire surface of the plastic wheel.

Here's a list of items needed to get the tire upgrade job done for your little one's ride-on car:

  • Harbor Freight Roll Mat
  • Two tubes of caulk
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Drying towel
  • Paper towel
  • Gloves
  • Putty knife
  • Duct tape
  • Inner tire tubes (cut into eight pieces)
  • Tape measure
  • Utility blade
  • Scissors
  • Drywall T square
  • Caulk gun

Prepare for the Wheel Upgrade

Please note that you'll need a work table or a flat surface to work on. Avoid doing this project on sensitive surfaces as the cuts can leave the surface damaged.

Using the tape measure, take one of the wheels and measure its width and overall circumference. Be extra careful when taking the measurements if you want to lay the rubber matting accurately. Once you've established the exact dimensions, place the Harbor Freight Roll Mat on your workstation and mark out the dimensions. 

You don't have to be too worried about the length, but you have to get the width right to ensure you cover the entire surface of the plastic tires for increased traction. Once you've marked out the dimensions, place your drywall T square on the surface and take out the utility blade. The drywall T square will act as a cutting edge, helping you to cut the rubber roll mat accurately as per your marking. You can also use a pair of scissors to cut the mat into four identical strips.

Before you start cleaning your plastic tire surface in preparation for the installation of the rubber surface, we recommend trying out the four identical strips to see if they make perfect fits. If there is an excess, take the utility knife and cut the rubber such that it fits the plastic wheels perfectly.

The tire upgrade project will be a lot easier if you have a place to suspend all four tires. But if you don't have a surface where you can suspend the tires, then you can find a way to improvise. However, the idea is to have the plastic Power Wheels tires suspended some centimeters above the floor. Although suspending the plastic wheels isn't mandatory, it helps free your hands.

Set Up the Rubber on the Plastic Wheels

We'll assume that you have suspended your wheels somewhere in your workshop for this next step and that both your hands are free. Take the alcohol or your preferred cleaning solution and pour a generous amount on the dry towel. Clean the tire surface aggressively, making sure you remove all the dirt and grime.

Once the tire surfaces are clean, it's time to get to work. Gently place one tube of caulk on your caulk gun. It's best to put your gloves on for safety purposes before putting the caulk gun to use. So now that you have the caulk gun ready and your gloves on, head over to the first tire and where you'll begin the installation process.   

Perform a Dry Run

Although not mandatory, performing a dry run on how the rubber will look on the plastic wheel will help you know whether you're on the right track.

Take one of the four pieces of rubber you initially cut and place it on the first tire. Try to fit it on the surface of the plastic tire. Once you've placed the rubber on the plastic tire's surface, cut a piece of the duct tape and place it such that it holds the rubber in place. The duct tape acts as a third hand, freeing your hands to perform other tasks without the need to hold the rubber in place.

Next, you'll need to take a tire tube from one of your old tires and cut it into eight pieces (should. The pieces don't have to be identical, but they should be circular such that they perform the role of a rubber band by holding the rubber and plastic tire together.

Inner tubes aren't too elastic, so you'll need a bit of effort to place each atop the rubbers and the plastic tires. Stretch the inner tube and spread it evenly across the tire's surface such that it performs the role of duct tape.

To ensure the inner tubes hold the rubber in place, CKC Garage recommends using two pieces per plastic tire in this video:

Once you're positive the inner tubes hold the rubber and plastic tire well enough, remove them from the plastic wheel in preparation for the next stage. 

Please note that you won't be removing the duct tape since it will act as your third hand in the next step as you prepare to place the inner tubes.

Apply Caulk on the Rubber Surface

Take one of the pieces of rubber you cut and place it on an even surface. Confirm if your caulk gun is ready for usage and apply a generous amount on the rubber surface. Feel free to apply the caulk in any style, provided it isn't too little or too much.

The next (and crucial) step is to place the rubber on the plastic wheel. Without wasting time, connect the two ends atop the plastic tire (using the duct tape). Press hard to ensure the caulk bonds the rubber and tire surfaces together. You might want to use a paper towel to remove the excess caulk that pops up on the edges.

And since you already performed a dry run, you'll have a rough idea of how the setup should be once you apply the caulk. Take the two inner tubes and wrap them around the circumference of the wheel such that they press on the rubber and the plastic wheel. The bands will likely squeeze the caulk around the edges, so be sure to have your paper towels on standby to avoid a messy workspace.

Once done with the first wheel, you'll need to repeat the same process on all the other wheels. The good thing is you won't need to perform a dry run on the other wheels. So just apply caulk on the rubber strips that you initially cut and place them on the plastic wheels. Be extra careful when applying caulk as too much can make the area messy, and too little might not be enough to hold the rubber on to the plastic.

Allow the Caulk To Cure and Reinstall the Wheels

Give the caulk at least two days to cure before reinstalling the wheels in your little one's Power Wheels car. Once you've confirmed the caulk is well cured, apply caulk on the edges (although sparingly) to help get that natural tire finish. Take a putty knife and begin scraping the edges before the caulk dries, as this will ensure the tire edges look neat and uniform. 

You should leave the caulk to cure for another day or two before placing the tires back on your child's Power Wheel car.

Buy New Tires

Another way to improve the traction of your child's Power Wheel tires is by investing in new tires altogether. Perhaps modifying the wheels might come off as too much work, especially if you have a hectic schedule.

Once you've purchased the new tires, you'll remove the old one from your little one's Power Wheel car and start the installation process. Luckily, the wheels come with their retainers, so you won't need to worry about reusing those from the old wheels. 

Installing new tires is pretty straightforward. You'll start by installing the tires and fitting them on the axle. Put the hubcap back on before placing the new retainer. You can use a hammer to put the retainer in position before finishing the process by placing the retainer caps. Repeat the process on all four wheels, and be sure to hammer the retainers well enough.

FAQs About Replacing Power Wheels Tires for Better Grip and Traction

How Can I Make My Power Wheels Have Better Traction?

There are several ways to improve the traction of your little one's Power Wheels. You can choose to purchase new tires if you don't want the hustle of modifying your kid's stock tires. While this might appear like the easiest option, you'll still need to know a thing or two about removing and installing tires in ride-on cars.

Alternatively, you can improve traction by adding a rubber tire at the center of the car's plastic tires. Using a sharp cutting tool or a pair of sharp scissors, cut the sidewalls of the tires such that you're left with rubber that you'll use in the tire upgrade.

How Can I Make My Power Wheels Grip Better and stop slipping?

The better the grip of a ride-on car, the easier it will navigate past rough terrain, mud, or wet grass. To make your child's Power Wheels tires grip better, it's important to consider factors such as where your little one will be riding his or her car.

Ideally, adding a well-treaded rubber to the plastic tires' entire surface is the most sustainable solution. Covering the entire plastic wheel surface with rubber will ensure the tires maintain their grip for long, which is ideal if your child fancy's vigorous outdoor adventures.

Screws or Adhesives: Which One Works Best?

When upgrading Power Wheels tires, you can either use screws or powerful adhesives like caulk. Both options work well. However, using strong adhesives is the best solution in the long term. This is because screws might come off after several rounds of aggressive outdoor play. And the worst part about screws is they tend to damage the tires' plastic surface, which means you might have to buy new tires if the screw holes widen over time.

Alternatively, adhesives are ideal for long-term solutions as they don't damage the wheels. The adhesives help to bond the rubber and the plastic surface of the wheels. And in case the bond weakens over time, you can easily remove the rubber and apply the adhesive again.

How Can I Make My Power Wheels Tire Grip Last?

Unfortunately, due to tear and wear, your little one's Power Wheels tires will need to be replaced or upgraded. Rubber grips tend to last longer compared to plastic tire treads. And since most ride-on cars use plastic wheels, chances are the traction will keep reducing on every ride.

6V ride-on cars tend to maintain their grips for longer as they're mostly used indoors. However, they too will start losing their grip after continuous usage. 12V ride-on cars are notorious for losing traction, more so if driven on rocks, gravel, and other tough terrains.

The best way to make your child's Power Wheels tires have prolonged traction is to make upgrades. Adding a well-treaded rubber tire on the tire's plastic surface can go a long way in improving its overall grip.

Replacing Power Wheel Tires or Making Upgrades: Which Is Better?

The best option between replacing or upgrading Power Wheels tires greatly depends on your preferences. Purchasing new tires is a great idea if you don't have the time or the know-how of a DIY ride-on car tire upgrade. 

But if you opt to purchase new tires, be prepared to spend more cash than you would when making upgrades, especially if you hire an expert to remove and install the tires.

Alternatively, you can choose to make DIY upgrades (if you have the time). These upgrades, as we've established throughout the article, don't require much and can be achieved with proper attention to detail. The trick when making upgrades is to place high-quality rubber on the surface to increase grip and traction.

What Are the Signs of Worn-Out Power Wheel Tires?

Besides appearing worn out and without treads, worn-out power wheels tend to spin repeatedly instead of cruising past the grass, mud, or rough terrain. 

A 6V Power Wheel with worn-out tires will spin when driven inside the house, while a 12V ride-on car will struggle to move on any outdoor surface. Once you spot your little one struggling to move on his ride-on car, chances are the wheels need to be replaced or upgraded.

Should I Remove the Battery When Working on Power Wheel Tires?

As a rule of thumb, you should never work on your Power Wheels without removing the battery. Always start by removing the battery before you embark on your DIY projects. Once you've removed the battery, place it in a safe place away from direct sunlight or wet surfaces.

Also, you should place it far away from your children. Storing it in your garage on a stable enough surface helps eliminate the risk of falls, which besides damaging the battery, can also lead to serious injuries.

New or Used: What Are the Best Rubber Tires To Use?

Ideally, using new rubber tires is the best option when looking to upgrade your Power Wheels tires. New rubber tires are usually well-treaded, which translates to improved grip and traction. The more traction, the easier it will be for your little adventurer to drive past rough terrain.

If you opt to purchase used rubber tires from your local car or bike repair shop, then it's best to choose those with enough treads. A rubber tire with worn-off treads won't do you much good as it won't provide the grip needed to overcome obstacles when driving.

Should I Upgrade All the Four Tires in My Child’s Power Wheel?

Some parents prefer working on the rear tires to provide better traction, while others opt to upgrade all wheels to improve the ride-on car's overall performance. However, to give your child's ride-on car a proper balance and driving consistency, it's best to upgrade or replace all four tires. Doing so will improve your child's driving experience and get him or her excited to use the toy once again.

Wrapping Up

There are several ways to improve the grip of your little one's Power Wheel tires. While some might prefer replacing all four tires with the same type, others find upgrading the plastic tires to be a better option to stop the tires from slipping.

When it comes to upgrading the plastic tires, you can choose to either cover the entire surface with high-quality rubber or place a well-treaded rubber tire in the middle of the plastic tires. But if you choose to use caulk to bind the rubber and plastic surfaces, be sure to give it around two days to cure.