A Guide to CO2 Race Cars

CO2 dragsters are essentially mini race cars, with a crucial difference. They run on carbon dioxide cartridges. The cartridges are pierced at the beginning of the race to let the gas flow. CO2 race cars are a wonderful project to help demonstrate key principles of physics, such as aerodynamics and acceleration. It is usually best for parents or a teacher to help younger students with the project, since there are a few somewhat complicated steps.

Designing and Blueprints

The first step is to come up with a rough design or sketch of the car. At this step, kids can run wild with their imaginations and draw several different models before picking a favorite. It is helpful to include more details rather than less. They should create sketches of the car from different angles. Remember, these drawings will help make up the blueprint for their model. The next step is to break down the car model and figure out how many different parts it will comprise of. Pay particular attention to the parts that need to be carved from wood. Use squared paper to carefully sketch a life-size diagram of each part. Inaccurate or sloppy designs and sketches will inevitably result in a badly constructed car.

Carving Parts

At this stage, adults should carve the wooden pieces when working with very young students. Teenagers who have been trained to use woodworking tools can usually handle this step under adult supervision. Attach the life-size sketch of each part onto a piece of wood. Make sure it is secure. At this point, any required holes should be drilled in. Next, use a saw to cut out each piece of wood. Try to make sure that it remains as true to the sketch as possible so that the pieces fit together well. Sandpaper or a wood file are great for smoothing out each piece. To make the body of the car hollow, use a drill and then sand away the insides.


Painting the car is especially exciting for kids! Adults should show them how to prime the wood with some primer first. After it has dried, start with a thin coat of paint. It helps to refer back to the original sketches so that each part is painted the correct colors. Use several thin coats of paint instead of thick ones so that they dry better. Alternatively, the wood can also be painted with spray paint for a faster, even coat. This should always be done outdoors or in an area with sufficient ventilation. After the base coat has been dried, touch up the car with accents or decorations.

Axles and Bearings

An adult should cut the steel axles with a saw ahead of time. Leave them out for a little while so that they can cool down and then smooth them with sandpaper. A straw can be used for axle bearings by inserting it into the axle holes. After cutting it to the required size, glue it in place.


Eyehooks are used to attach the dragsters to the racing fishline track. Open each eyehook with a screwdriver or pliers. It should attach easily to the fishline. If not, open the eye a little more. An adult should check that each eyehook fits well on the line. If they do not, it can cause the car to fly off the track. The eyehook should be inserted into the center of the car, or just in front or behind the axles, always lined up along the center.


At this stage, students can assemble all the pieces of their dragsters with an adult supervising or helping. Attach each wheel to the four axles. The fit should be tight and secure. Powdered graphite added to the bearings will help the wheels to turn more easily.