Posted in Workshop

How to swap wheels on Hot Wheels or Matchbox – workshop 101

Welcome to my first workshop demonstration! Here I will briefly explain how to do one of the most basic modifications to a diecast car – the wheel swap.

Wheel swaps are great for if your car’s axles have become damaged, the tyres are worn or you simply want to make him look cool with some new shoes.

Before we begin, we should mention that many people will have different methods, and that some methods may work better for you than this one. I won’t be held responsible for any damage you do to your cherished cars!

Tools

First, let us begin with the tools you will need. Unfortunately, most modifications require power tools. As a result, I have to borrow my dad’s garage. If you don’t have your own, see if you can borrow some from a friend or neighbour.

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For this job, I used:

  • Rotary power tool (I am using a Ryobi 2 speed cordless)
  • Drill bit
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knife

Disassembly

Today I will be swapping the wheels on this Matchbox. It is a Citroen CX, and the wheels are distorted and won’t ride properly. So in order to change them for wheels that work, we have to disassemble the car.

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First, take a look under the car. Most, you will find, are bolted together using two “rivets” on the baseplate. In order to separate the car, we have to use the rotary tool to remove the metal rivets from the baseplate.

The key here is to not drill too far into the rivet, but remove enough material from the top and edge that the body and baseplate are able to separate. With practise, your executions will greatly improve.

I used a 3mm drill bit here. Yours may require a smaller or larger one, but I generally find that 3mm works well on a variety of sizes.

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You can see here that I had three of the rivets to undo here, and the two at the back are very small and close to the edge – be extra careful if this is the case, as you don’t want to damage the rear of the car. Take your time.

When it’s time to separate, use the utility knife and putty knife to separate the chassis from the body. They may fall apart easily, but if not, a flat, strong tool will pry the car apart with minimal exterior damage.

Choose your wheels

Old Matchbox are quite easy to work with when swapping wheels – the suspension system involved the axles being pinned down by a flexible cross member that ran down the centre of the baseplate. All you need to do to swap the wheels is lift or remove the cross member and the old wheels will fall out.

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Did somebody chew those wheels? Yuck! Well, they’re in the scrap heap now.

All that needs to be done now is to find some new shoes. I’m using a pair of relatively clean looking wheels I got from an old Zylmex donor – they were the best match for the car in terms of size.

Slot them back in place and you’re golden.

For those swapping wheels on Hot Wheels, beware – the axles are very easily distorted, and the clips used on the baseplate to hold the wheels in place snap easily. I recommend wedging a utility knife under the axle and using it to force the axles up. Try to get it as central as possible, to avoid the axle bending. This only applies to plastic baseplates – if your car has a metal baseplate, it will require the use of a saw or power tool to remove the clamp.

Reassembly

So long as you didn’t make a mess of the drilling earlier on, reassembly should be a doddle. Simply snap the baseplate back onto the body with your new wheels attached. Presto!

Obviously, some cars, for whatever reason, will just not go back together without falling apart. In this case, a soldering iron could be used. But I don’t have one of those. So I use a special super glue (I must stress that glue is your enemy, will go everywhere, and if you have repainted your car, will RUIN it if it touches) but needs must.

And there we are! Our Citroen has been given a new lease of life. And he will finally run on a flat surface.

Good luck with all your own modifications!

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Author:

Graphic designer, writer for Classic American auto magazine, journalist.

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