Take apart a Hot Wheels car without a drill

I get the question all the time how to take apart a Hot Wheels car without a drill. This trick doesn’t work on older cars with metal bases. But you can indeed take apart newer cars with plastic bases without drilling the rivet. The trick is to use a soldering iron to heat up the rivet and the plastic base enough to let you take it apart. So here’s how to open a Hot Wheels car with a soldering iron.

Why would you want to take apart a Hot Wheels car without a drill? The main reason is to let you put it back together without it being obvious that you modified it. It’s not any safer to do it with the soldering iron than with a drill.

The technique is difficult to master, so practice on some cars you don’t care much about first. You need to develop a feel for how long to hold the iron on the rivet so that you soften the base without melting it. The whole point to doing this is for your work to be invisible.

Open a Hot Wheels car with a soldering iron

Take apart a Hot Wheels car without a drill
To take apart a Hot Wheels car without a drill, you need to use a soldering iron with a fine enough tip to fit the rivet.

To take apart a Hot Wheels car without a drill, you need a soldering iron with a small enough tip that it won’t interfere with you removing the base. A high-wattage iron gets to job done faster but make sure the tip is small enough to fit on the rivet head. Many high-wattage irons have tips better suited for plumbing than for detail work.

If you have a low-wattage iron, plug it in and let it heat up for a good 15 minutes. While you wait for it to heat up, set up some pieces of scrap wood to hold the car steady while you work on it. You need to be able to hold the car perpendicular to the iron while you’re pressing down on it with force.

Place the iron’s tip on the rivet long enough to heat the rivet up. If your iron has a trigger like high-wattage Weller units do, pull the trigger. It usually takes at least 30 seconds for the rivet to heat up and soften the plastic. Carefully grasp the wheels on the car and wiggle them back and forth. You may very well have to wiggle the wheels and the base another 30 seconds before it snaps off. Be very careful not to touch the soldering iron at any point while doing this. It hurts. I recommend wearing work gloves if you wearing them allows you to still get a good grip on the wheels.

Some cars have just one rivet. Others, like the one in my photo, have two. If you car has two rivets, you’ll have to do them both. Do them one at a time, of course.

Modification and reassembly

Now you can swap wheels and make whatever other modifications you want. This may include painting the interior or doing body work. I have more customization tips if you want them.

Clean out the hole where the rivet was. You can use small files, a hobby knife, or even a drill on very low speed. To reassemble properly, you’ll need a smooth, round hole in the base.

As long as all went well, the base snaps back on when you’re done and the car doesn’t look modified. It will take some force to snap the base back on. But once you press hard enough, it goes on and stays on. To remove the base again, you’ll have to pry it off with a screwdriver.

It’s certainly more work to do it this way. But if you want your customs to look like an inside job, rather than a basement special, preserving the factory rivet is a good way to make your customs distinctive.

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