Car & Vehicle Science Experiments

Cars are great subjects for science experiments because they are built to move. Cars need fuel to power their engines. The engine turns the gasoline into mechanical energy that moves the gears. The gears turn the wheels, and then the car moves. It may seem like magic, but cars really move by using the laws of science. That’s why science experiments use model cars to explain the science of movement, like the ideas of motion and rest, force and friction, and action and reaction.

An object, like a toy car, that is moving will continue to move unless something stops it. You can test this theory by putting a small object, like a penny, on the car. Roll the car into a wall with enough force for the car to stop. What happens to the penny? It falls off the car but keeps moving after the car crash. The penny only stops moving when it hits the floor.

You can learn about force and friction by using a paper or toy car, a ramp, and a marble. Roll the marble down the ramp so it hits the car at the bottom of the ramp. You can see that the vehicle moves from the force of the marble. The action of the wheels, or bottom of car, against the surface causes friction, and eventually, the car will stop moving. You can roll a toy car over different kinds of floors and surfaces, like rugs, grass, gravel, or concrete, and see that the car moves faster or slower depending on the amount of friction caused by the surface. Rough surfaces create more friction than smoother surfaces.

Another rule about motion is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You can test this theory by making a balloon car. Attach a balloon to a toy car, blow it up, and then release the air. The action is the air moving out of the balloon and away from the car. The opposite reaction is the movement of the car. The Mentos soda car experiment is another fun way to test action and reaction. Tape the soda bottle to a skateboard. Carefully pour Mentos candy into the bottle and cap it loosely, then set the car down. Use a hammer to knock the cap off. The explosive candy-and-soda combination is the action; it shoots out of the bottle and propels the car the other way, which is the reaction.

Science can be fun, but the only way to test this theory is to try some experiments. Don’t forget to think about safety, and don’t try any experiments with real, life-size cars!

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