Don’t Throw Out That Broken Hoverboard — Salvage the Parts for a Project

Jeremy S Cook

Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

290 Articles

By Jeremy S Cook

Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

290 Articles

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So you or your kids got a hoverboard for Christmas. As we’ve seen in quite a few reports online, they tend to catch on fire or throw people off of them. If you’d rather upcycle your board into something else than return it, there is a bonanza of excellent parts inside this contraption. Let’s crack it open and figure out how to cannibalize it for new projects!

Disassembly

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Disassembly of this “Smart Balance Wheel” was actually quite easy. Most components could be unscrewed by Phillips-head screwdriver, and the bearing blocks needed a metric Allen key to take apart. Electrical connectors came out with modest pressure and occasional help from pliers, with the exception of three wires on each motor, which needed to be pried loose with a screwdriver.

If you’d rather fix your board than use the parts for something different, it looks like most components can be replaced with relative ease. I’d recommend disconnecting the battery cable first and (this should go without saying) turn the power button off before unscrewing anything. Here’s video of me disassembling the board:

I recommend using a workbench for disassembly, instead of doing it on the floor like I did — though the cardboard did help pad things. Read on to see what I found inside and what you can do with these excellent components.

Wheel Motors

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The motors for this type of device are inside the wheels, which eliminates many of the mechanical power transmission problems generally associated with powering something. Certainly one could use these on a variety of vehicles, like an electric go-kart or an electric bicycle.

Laser technician, audio engineer, and Make: author Ross Hershberger had a few other ideas for the motors:

“I’ve seen people use a scooter motor as a winder for electrical transformer coils. A microswitch and a calculator were used to count turns.” Perhaps one could even use the infrared sensors seen below for this purpose.

Additionally, he added that, “I thought that would make a neat winch, too.  They have a lot of torque.”

Battery

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As you might suspect, the battery in this hoverboard is a monster, with a labeled power capacity of 37 volts and 4.4 Amp-hours. There is also a charger included, and the appropriate connectors, which could be used with your build or elsewhere.

Hershberger advised that, “The battery pack is probably the choice piece in that teardown. If it has enough power to move a person it’ll probably move a remote control vehicle fast. Plus you would be farther away if it caught fire.”

Frame

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The frame consists of two solid pieces of aluminum with a pivot in the middle that allows it to rotate a few degrees. One obvious hack for this would be to remove the pin in the middle that restricts rotation. Perhaps this could be used for some sort of windmill or even a robotic arm?

Infrared Sensor Device

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In order to control inputs, this hoverboard uses a non-contact sensor setup, with what appears to be an infrared emitter/receiver pair. This type of sensor could be used for general presence sensing, or in a rotary encoder application, similar to how wheel mice work (or used to work, for the most part).

Main Control Board

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The control board is an impressive array of components, but without a schematic, it’s tough to know what to do with this. If it’s fried, one could, of course, harvest components, but, if intact, it might work better as the brains of another device, as discussed further in this article.

LED Packages

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This particular board comes with a pair of interestingly-shaped LED arrays. One with four and one with six lights. My first instinct would be to use these as heavy-duty “throwies,” though some sort of rotary indicator might be interesting as well.

Reuse the Parts Together

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If the idea of rolling with a single wheel beside each foot seems insane to you, you’re not alone. Mountainboards, basically ruggedized longboards with large wheels on them, seem tame in comparison. It would seem to me that nearly all of the electronics could be repositioned to make a powered mountainboard.

The powered wheels would be in the back and the same control sensors (though likely modified) could control forward and reverse. There would be some mechanical challenges, like actually fitting these wheels onto the skateboard hardware, but things should be relatively straightforward electrically.

For that matter, the same sort of thing could be done with an electric tricycle.

At least that’s the theory. I haven’t tried this idea or any of the other hacks suggested here. You definitely do anything like this at your own risk, as none of these ideas have been tested. Additionally, hacking an already suspect hoverboard could exacerbate any pre-existing problems, so proceed with caution!

Share your hoverboard hacks and ideas in the comments below!