How do I put a chip in an analogue car?

SSD conversion from analogue

Here’s a quick guide to chipping a modern standard analogue car. (This is for non-digital-plug-ready cars). With practice this whole process should take no more than 30 minutes. A chipping guide is provided with every chip, and this is just our variation on a theme. You will probably find you develop your own preferred technique with practice and also depending on the car you are chipping. Tools required: A soldering iron with a fine tip, solder, a small Philips screwdriver, glue, tweezers, and a craft knife, scissors or wire cutters/strippers.

If you are chipping one of the Takara (Quattrox) Japanese JGTC cars from 2016, the plug-in modules for these were not available in the UK so you will have to chip these in a slightly different way using an ordinary saloon chip.

For this exercise we will use a saloon chip which comes as shown. The green and yellow wires run to the little silver feet that thread through the guide blade. The green wire goes to the left side braid and the yellow to the right. The two thinner red and black wires run to the under-car sensor board. The other two red and black wires go to the motor.

Here’s the car we’re chipping, an analogue Aston Martin DBR9. All the latest cars are chip-ready with chip holders and pre-drilled LED holes, so you will find them easier to do than some of the older ones that were out before digital was thought of. But if you can chip one of these, you should have no problem applying the same principles to a car from a previous decade. Start by unscrewing the (usually four or six) screws in the base of the car to separate the body from the chassis and put them somewhere safe. Inside the upturned body is a good idea as long as you remember they are there.

Inside any analogue Scalextric car (excluding any wiring for headlights or other unusual configurations used by other manufacturers), there will basically be two wires running from the guide blade to the motor. All we need to do is break those wires and connect the chip into the gap. Simple! The little bit of factory-fitted sellotape holds the wires flat to the undertray and you may find it useful to keep this.

Underneath the car, a hole has already been made just behind the guide blade, on the car’s centre line, to accept the LED. On earlier cars you will have to make this hole with a bradawl or equivalent. If you are making a hole, make it as close to the guide blade as possible. Sometimes you may be able to use the hole used by the screw for the display case although note that these are not always on the car’s centre line.

Remembering to leave the lighting wires alone, remove the braid plate and unscrew the guide blade so it dangles underneath the car. Cut the wires connecting it to the motor, somewhere around half their length. Slide out the feet of these cut wires from the guide blade (observing how they go, as you will replace them in the next step), and you will have two bits of wire a couple of inches long, with silver feet on the end. Store these safely in your slot car bit box as they may come in handy if you want to return the car to analogue form later. The photo shows the old wires snipped and ready for removal from the guide blade.

Get your chip, poke its pair of silver feet past the front headlight board, through the guide blade area in the car undertray, slide the feet in to the guide blade, and replace the braid plate to keep them in place. The green wire usually seems to go to the left side braid as the car is going forwards, and the yellow to the right. Pull the blade back through into the housing in the undertray and screw it in to the pivot point. You may find that you need to pass the green and yellow wires under the headlight board rather than over as shown in the photo, because of the car’s low nose bodywork.

Next job is to get the little LED sensor board to poke through that hole in the undertray. On this car it’s a bit fiddly because the hole is right by the front axle. A bit of poking and coaxing with tweezers or a craft knife will see it through. Best to do a test seating first so you know how to get it in, then, remove it and apply a small drop of superglue, hotglue, etc. – possibly even Blu-tack – around the hole before pressing it home quickly before the glue dries – the dome should protrude just slightly through the underside of the car. If you don’t fix it in place it can pop out during racing and your car will lose its ability to identify itself to the powerbase. Then the last job is to connect the motor.

You should have the red and black wires from the chip still flapping about, plus stumps of original wires you cut earlier. Strip back a few mm of each wire and loosely twist the red wire to the offside stump and the black wire to the other. Loosely tape over the twists to ensure the two joins do not contact each other for the moment. To check operation, pop the car on track and squeeze throttle ID 1 (all new chips have ID 1) to check if the car goes forwards. If it does, great. If it reverses, just untwist the wires and connect them the other way round, and check again. Also hold down the Lane Change button and run through a lanechanger to check it operates correctly.

Now the soldering. Remove the temporary tape, twist the wires tight and apply the solder to keep them from untwisting whilst racing. Finally a small piece of electrical tape wrapped around the soldered twists will prevent them from contacting anything inside the car (or each other) which could lead to the chip becoming damaged. Then pop the main circuit board edge-on in the holder provided, again a drop of glue will help (earlier cars won’t have a chip holder so you may have to hotglue the edge on those. Sometimes in a tight fit you can leave the chip board floating semi-loose if you are confident about all the other connections).

Now all there is to do is fit the body back on, making sure none of the wires foul the axle or other moving parts. On some older cars there is less room to play with inside and getting the body back on can be tricky, but with these later models it’s relatively easy. With earlier cars (pre-easy-fit guide blades) you won’t need the silver feet, and may have to cut them off and solder wires to some previous configuration of guide blade contact (only cut off the feet, not the capacitor and ferrite choke which are there for radio suppression purposes). Other cars will have their own challenges such as larger driver cages, front-mounted motors, or other bits and bobs inside the car that mean you have to shorten wires or position the chip differently to fit it all in – but stick to these principles and you won’t go far wrong.

Notice that we didn’t go anywhere near the motor, no need to disconnect anything in that area of the car (and risking accidentally disconnecting the lighting circuit for example), and should you want to take the chip out later on, all you need to do is find the wires with silver feet attached, that you snipped off earlier, and twist/solder them back as they were.

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