Hello friend. Ever wished you could drive the cars the way we do it in the real world? Here I will give you a brief guide for building a steering wheel which has got not just a steering brake and gas pedal, but a Clutch, and yeah a gear box too. It wont cost you more than $10, if you have the most essential tools readily available like saw, screw driver and the like.
It’s not only damn cheap, its very much like the same gaming / racing wheel that you purchase for 100+ dollars. The only major difference is that our gaming / racing wheel has got no force feedback mechanism. Its no big deal unless you are a very serious gamer and has got enough money to spend on a Logitech G25 or the like. Here go the highlights and features that the gaming / racing wheel you build will have
· Steering wheel with around two full rotations (720 deg) in both directions as in a real car
· Separate Gas, Brake and Clutch pedals
· A gear box with sequential shifting
Constructing the Steering wheel:
Fetch a plastic / PVC pipe of 2cm diameter (approx) and length 80cm (approx). Light up a candle and heat the pipe from one end to the other end. While heating, slightly bend the tube in increments so that when the whole length gets heated and bent, it takes the shape of a gaming / racing wheel, with open ends. Now heat one of the open ends of the pipe and push it on the other end, so that the ends overlaps and the pipe closes into a wheel. Let it cool. Now wash the pipe and dry it with a towel. Apply super-glue to the joined ends to strengthen the bond.
Take a plywood piece of length 20cm and width 5cm and place it at the center of the wheel. Use M-seal or any similar hard mass forming adhesive (used in plumbing) to fix the plywood to the ends of the gaming / racing wheel.
Constructing the Steering Base:
Now that the gaming / racing wheel has been made, lets build the steerings base. Take a card board box of approx 30cm x 20cm. Make sure that the box is firm enough. Now take two metal pipes (aluminium preferably). The larger pipe should have around 3cm diameter and the smaller one having 1cm diameter. The larger metal pipe should have a length not less than 20cm and the smaller pipe should have a length not less than 30cm.
Make a hole at the center of the box and pass the larger pipe through it so that only 1/3rd of it remains outside. Place the pipe slanting slightly upwards. Fix the pipe on to the box using the hard adhesive (Mseal). When the adhesives cures, you can pass the smaller metal pipe through the larger one attached to the box. Attach the smaller pipes outside end to the wheel’s plywood base. Now you should be able to rotate the wheel freely on its base. If the rotation is not smooth, you can put more adhesive and file it up near the contact points where the larger pipe meets the smaller one.
Building the steering wheels Internal Assembly:
For constructing the steering wheels internal assembly we need a few more components. We need a 10K potentiometer and a pair of gear wheels. The 10K POT you can purchase from any electronic spare parts shop. The gear wheels you can either purchase or get from some old toys. The gear wheels should be such that one is at least four times larger than the other, but at the same time their teeth should couple well.
The large metal pipe extends to about half of the boxes inside. Cut plywood pieces and fix them on to the box using adhesives to support the metal pipe very firmly. The plywood has to be extended to the other end so as to support the potentiometer. The smaller gear wheel has to be mounted at the end of the small metal pipe (passing through the large metal pipe). A thin but strong metal rod can be made hot and pierced through the gear wheels other end so as to act as a pivot. This pivot rod should extend out through the other side of the box. The potentiometer needs to be mounted on the plywood using metal braces. The larger gear wheel has to be glued to the handle of the potentiometer.
Solder a pair of wires to the POTs terminals (center terminal and either of the other). Once the smaller gear wheel is fixed, we can align the larger one so that the teeth are coupled properly. First rotate the larger gear in both directions and find the approximate center position of the potentiometer. Keep the potentiometer at that position. Now adjust the plywood pieces used as support so that the teeth of both the gear wheels are aligned for a proper coupling. They should be tightly coupled. Using sponges below the base plywood support, can give adequately pressured coupling between the teeth.
In order to give the steering a spring force to keep it centered, attach a pair of rubber bands to the pivot that protrudes out of the other side of the card board box.
Building the Pedals:
All the three pedals of the gaming / racing wheel are identical. A 50cm x 30cm plywood piece will be needed to make the pedals base. Three 10cm x 10cm plywood pieces are required for making the pedals. Also three 10K potentiometers, small hinges and three 10cm long thin rectangular wooden bars are needed.
Place the pedals using a hinge to a base plywood piece. Attach one potentionmeter to the hinge of the three pedals, so that when the hinge rotates, the potentiometer also gets rotated. Attach a rubber ball below the pedal so that it provides a spring action. Solder wires to the potentiometer.
Building the Gear box of the gaming / racing wheel:
For building the gear box, you would need a sufficiently large and stable card-board box. (Go for a plywood box if you can afford it). Make sure that the box has sufficient height so that the gear knob will be at a comfortable position when you start racing. Also get a handle like thing (old joystick handle) to act as the gear knob. You need to make a small rectangular slit on the cardboard box for the gears metal stick to slide up and down in it. Attach two metal plates at the top and bottom ends of the slit so that when the gears metal stick touches it when you shift up or down, they act as switches.
Use a thin metal pipe as the gear stick of the gaming / racing wheel and attach the gear knob on top of it. Provide a hole in the gear box for taking in the wires, if your joystick handle has buttons on it.
Provide sufficient support to the gears shaft at the bottom and arrange rubber bands or spring mechanisms to keep it centered.
Steering Wheel Interconnection:
The steering wheel that we build is basically a joystick and hence it connects to the game port of your computer. The gameport has a 15 pin D connector and is located at the back side of your system (mostly near the audio jacks). The pin diagram of the gameport you can find in my websites detailed step by step tutorial to build the wheel. (My website address you can see the the references section or in the authors details)
You need to buy a male gameport connector (DB15 male) to plug into the female connector present at the back of your cpu. The joystick (gameport) interface is a very simple – to – implement interface which houses a few switches and axes. All you need to do is connect your potentiometers to the axes X1, Y1, X2, Y2 and switches to S1, S2, S3 and S4. See the table given to the left. The variation in potentiometers when you turn the wheel or press gas pedal will be measured by the game port and can be used to control your game. You can assign the axes of the gaming / racing wheel and configure them using the windows control panel.
Switches S1, S2, S3 and S4 can be used for connecting to gear up, gear down, horn and hand brake switches respectively. When you shift the gear shaft up, the metal comes in contact and switch gets closed. Similar is the case with the other switches. +5 is nothing but the 5V dc that is available from the game port and G stands for ground.
Configuring the Steering wheel:
The first step is to assemble the three units of the gaming / racing wheel together. Mount the steering unit on to your PC table. Keep the pedal on the floor and the gear box to your side. Connect together the units to the gear box using connectors (relim connector or the like). Connect the 15 wire cable with the male DB15 connector attached, to the gameport at the back of your computer. Once the position is set well, we can proceed to configure the steering wheel in Windows.
Open Control Panel in Windows and open the Game Controllers. This brings up the Game Controllers dialog box. Please note that the steps being mentioned vary in different versions of windows. Hence illustrative diagrams are not given.
In the Game Controllers dialog box, click on Add. This brings up the Add Game controller dialog box. Click on Custom. In the dialog box that appears, choose Race Car controller. Choose the Axes as 4 and Buttons as 4. Enter a name of your choice in the Controller Name field and click OK. Now the new controller should be displayed in the previous dialog box. With the new controller selected, click OK.
If the device works fine, the game controller dialog box will display OK beside the controller’s name. If anything went wrong, a ‘Not connected’ status will be displayed for the device. If that is the case, read the section in the yellow box below. If the gaming / racing wheel is working well, click on Properties button, with the device selected. This brings up the Testing and calibration dialog boxes. If the wheel is not centered in the test area, go to Calibrate and follow the instructions to complete calibration.