Homemade car simulator: how to assemble it step by step

professional car simulator

You sure are a fan of motor racing, of motorsport. And you probably also like racing simulation games. Generally, motorsport fans tend to satisfy their hobby with this type of driving game that is becoming more and more realistic. In addition, gamers are increasingly immersed in global competitions such as eSports, which can even lead to working for real teams.

For example, Nissan has used Gran Turismo as a means of recruiting drivers for its official team. From the best gamers, it selects the winner to race a real car, i.e. to move from a game to reality. Other programs like McLaren Shadow, which is looking for the best gamers to recruit its future development driver for the Woking simulator, do the same. An extraordinary opportunity for the fans.

Well, this type of video game cannot be used or operated with the keyboard and mouse like others, as that would not be suitable for making you a professional. In a real car you won’t have a keyboard and mouse to operate them. Besides, real enthusiasts don’t want to use it, they prefer to use a car simulator or a steering wheel and pedals like the ones from Logitech and other brands. That gives a much more real and immersive experience.

Simulators are usually very expensive, costing up to a few thousand euros in some cases. They are therefore not affordable for everyone. Moreover, if you mount your own car simulator using DIY techniques and you are a maker, you can customize it to your liking and get something you can’t buy on the market.

What is Sim Racing?

The Sim Racing is a concept that encompasses racing simulators, video games that simulate racing and vehicle dynamics with a fair amount of realism. It allows you to drive a car with total realism, but without having to pay bills for tires, real circuit fees, fuel, repairs, and what’s better, if you suffer an accident you’ll be totally unscathed.

Better video games:

rFactor 2 screen capture

The best video games with which to test your car simulator are these that I will show here, for all kind of platforms, from video consoles like Xbox and PlayStation, but also for PC. Besides, they are the ones that usually offer the most realistic sensations and the ones used by racing teams to sign their drivers. The list is:

  • Gran Turismo
  • Forza Motorsports
  • F1 (oficial)
  • rFactor
  • Dirt
  • iRacing
  • Assetto Corsa
  • Juego de coches de serie
  • Rally de Richard Burns

 

Other video games like Burnout, Grid, Need for Speed, etc., cannot be considered too realistic simulators. They are fun, but not for SimRacing…

To run these simulators, you need decent hardware. And if you are going to use them combined with VR or virtual reality like Oculus Rift helmets or glasses, HTC Vive, etc., the hardware will be much more powerful. That is already a step further in the immersion within the video game to make it much more realistic, but it is optional. Many don’t like it, they prefer to put 3 screens or monitors to have a greater angle vision and nothing more than that and their car simulator.

Best steering wheels

Logitech steering wheel and pedals

To have a good simulator, first you must acquire a good steering wheel. You have many, some include only the steering wheel and pedals, others go beyond and include gear lever (H and sequential) or you can add hand brake. There are also F1 specific designs, recreating a real Formula One steering wheel.

If you want good steering wheels and pedals without spending too much money, you can get good products from Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec. However, if you prefer to invest a little more and get much more professional elements, you should go to manufacturers like Frex, Ecci, LeoBodnar and SimXperience. But these last ones are not within everybody’s reach. By the way, some of them already include the complete car simulator…

The complete kits are called cockpits, as the cabins are designated in the real competition. But as I said, the prices are too high. There are several brands, such as Zalem, Fanatec, etc. In these cases, you have comfortable seats, with steering wheels and pedals included (not always, it depends on the models, in some cases you have to buy them separately), and even sometimes structures to hang the screens.

How to create your own car simulator

SImulador de coches casero

You can think about creating your own racing simulator. You can use the existing ones on the market as a reference to get a basic idea of what you want or what you need to build your own.

Materials

All you need for your simulator is:

  • Cockpit: it is the cockpit where the pilot, that is, you, will go. For him you basically need:
    • Structure: you can use PVC tubes that are easy to shape and glue, or if you have a welder, you can use metal as well, although it is more complicated and dangerous, but the result will be much more stable and robust. Another option is to use a 3D printer to manufacture the parts and assemble them, but due to the dimensions of the structure, it is not the best option either. The structure is also a bit personal, depending on what you are looking for. If you want to simulate a F1, you may only want a support to anchor the steering wheel and hold the pedals, and even to hang 3 or more monitors you use for the game. But if you want to simulate a NASCAR, or rally car, etc., you will also need a support for the gear lever and hand brake, if you have it …
    • Seat: the seat can be bought or made by you with a metal or wood structure as you like, and then include cushions or foam to make it comfortable and finally upholstered. If you want, you can order it from a professional. Another option, and perhaps the most appropriate and recommended, would be to choose a gaming seat that is very robust and comfortable for those who spend long hours playing. With it you can adapt it to your structure or integrate it into it. If you do not want the central pillar and the wheels, you can remove it to position it on the floor or on your structure to tilt it to imitate the posture of a single-seater pilot or formulas . Another very popular thing is to recycle an old seat from a real car to use it in the simulator. If you have an old car or if you go to a junkyard, you can find it at a good price.
  • Hardware: you can choose the controller or steering wheel you want. You must take into account that it has to be adapted to the simulator you are going to use. For example, a steering wheel and pedals can be used for a F1 simulator if you use the steering wheel cams to change gears, but it would be preferable to choose a steering wheel that simulates a F1 and appropriate pedals with brake and accelerator only. On the other hand, if you use a rally simulator, you will also need a gear lever to be more realistic, and triple clutch pedals, although you could also use cams for the gears. This would also be to taste or needs you have.
  • Software: here basically would be the drivers for the steering wheel and pedals chosen, and also the simulator or video game you want. This would also leave it to your choice …

Construction

Let’s get to work. Here I offer you an example to use as a guide, but you can modify the steps and adapt them to your taste or needs. As I said, not everyone is looking for the same thing.

  • Use an IKEA Poäng chair. It’s cheap and since it doesn’t have a back support, the seat is quite reclined when you sit down. If you add a raised support for the pedals, you can simulate quite well the position of a F1. If you do it with a gaming chair, remove the central pillar removing the screws under the seat and you can get rid of the wheels. Then find a wooden wedge or metal structure to tilt it back, screw it using the screw holes you have removed and you will have it ready.
  • Look for a desk or a small table (very good options is to use a SpeedBlack or Wheel Stand Pro) of those used to put food trays when you’re on the couch or laptops, etc. This type of folding table or sofa does not have supports on one side, so it is appropriate to anchor under it the pedals and to be able to introduce the legs without the legs getting in the way. In addition, the upper platform or table adapts well to the anchors that are usually included in the steering wheels you can buy.
  • Fix the steering wheel and the pedals to the table. And place it right in front of the chosen seat. A good option would be to hook or somehow stick the table to the seat, because when you force to handle the pedals, it is very uncomfortable to start moving forward and you have to be constantly approaching the table.

Once you finish mounting your car simulator, it’s time to connect the wiring of the steering wheel/pedals and other elements, if any, to the PC or console. And you can start testing it. Surely, on the fly you can make modifications after the first tests. It’s not always as comfortable as it seems when you’re assembling it.

Leave a Comment

*

*