Demonstrating Friction with Toy Cars

Earlier this year, when Firecracker was on a Mythbusters watching kick, you know before they removed Mythbusters from Netflix and Amazon Prime, we watched some Mythbusters episodes on friction and wind resistance.  After watching those episodes a few times, we were ready to recreate some of the ideas on our own, so this is what we did.

Demonstrating Friction with Toy Cars

If you’re doing to do this, you will need:

  • a couple of toy cars
  • a 2 x 4 (ours is short because it’s just what we had around the house)
  • pennies
  • tape
  • sandpaper
  • wax paper
  • several sturdy books
  • stopwatch

Each of my kids wanted to pick out their own special car to race, which ended up being a great element because differently designed cars go at different speeds.


We began by simply placing each car on top of a book and rolling it on down our board to time it and see how fast each car is.  We’ll call it our base time.

Next, we would incline the cars a little higher and roll them down the board again to see if the angle affected the speed.  Guess what?  It does!! 🙂


Then, we tried a little sandpaper!!  Does it slow the cars down??  You bet it does!  It took some of ours off the track as well at both the high and low angles.

Once we tried the sandpaper, we decided to tape pennies to the cars to weight them down.  This is also something that sent the cars occasionally careening off the track.


Finally, we attempted (what would be the fastest trial of all) to put wax paper on the track and have our cars slide down on wax paper.  That was also a mess of cars off the side of the board, but we got several good trials as well.

051It was a good experiment and we ran a lot of different times and trials together to discover that the friction off the board and from the sandpaper really slowed things down, but there were a few things we could do, like changing the angle or the weight of the car to combat that extra friction.  However, wind resistance occasionally blew these light cars off the track.

We had fun doing this 🙂  If I had it to do over again, I would have seen if we could have come up with a chart or a graph to display our results on, but I just didn’t think about it at the time!!


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