Car Design, Modeling & Simulation Software ~ FREE!

Car Design Software

Software Types

Click a software type icon below to go that section, or read the guide below to find out more about how car designing software can help you.

Car 3D Modeling software
Car aerodynamics software
Car chassis design software
Car suspension design software
Car kinematics design and simulation software
Car build project management software
Car project miscellaneous software
 

Guide To Car Design Software and Its Uses

Car design software can be used to model or simulate almost every aspect of an automobiles structure or operation. Use the table below to learn how different types of software are used to engineer a vehicle design:

Software Type Use/Purpose
3D/Solid Modeling Body shape – Model car body shape or bodywork, including sheet metal, for potential later use in aerodynamics simulations (CFD) and build reference measurements.
  Chassis/Frame Modeling – Model space frame tube chassis structure and mounting brackets for potential later testing in structural design simulations (FEA) and build reference measurements.
  Part Modeling – Model general parts like seats, pedals, brake master cylinders for fitment and assembly into a chassis model.
  Suspension Modeling – Model suspension components like wishbones, shocks, springs, steering, brake rotors, axles, wheels and tires for integration into an overal vehicle model
  Powertrain Modeling – Model powertrain components like engines, transmissions, transaxles, differentials, driveshafts, propeller shafts for integration into an overall vehicle model.
   
Surface Modeling Body shape – Most flexible means of modeling complex body shapes or bodywork, including sheet metal, for potential later use in aerodynamics simulations (CFD) and build reference measurements.
   
2D CAD Drawing creation – For basic dimensional drawings of all aspects of a car design to be used as build plans and reference measurements
   
Aerodynamics/CFD Efficiency – Using a 3D Solid or surface model, simulate air flows and assess the drag co-efficient of the vehicle and make improvements before re-simulating.
  Downforce – Using a 3D solid or surface model, simulate air flows and determine lift/downforce at various points of the body
  Discrete Aero Component testing – Using a 3D solid or surface model or 2D section drawing, simulate air flows and determine the lift/drag characteristics of the component
   
Chassis /Structural Design /FEA (Finite Element Analysis) Structural strength – Using a 3D solid model, constrain (Hold steady) one part of the chassis, and apply loads to another part to determine the strength and ultimate buckling characteristics.
  Structural Fatigue simulation – Using a 3D solid model, simulate cyclical loads and determine cycles to failure such as might occur during operation on bumpy roads.
  Torsional Rigidity – Using a 3D solid model, simulate torsional rigidity testing by constraining one end of the chassis and applying a load torsionally and determining the degree of twist.
   
Suspension Design Suspension Geometry – Used to determine the basic suspension geometry before applying the suspension pickup points to a 3D solid model or 2D CAD chassis/frame
   
Kinematics Vehicle dynamics simulation – Using a 3D solid model with defined suspension pivot point and mass distribution, simulate the expected motion of the car in various tests, such as over bumps, around corners.
   
Project Management Task identification and Critical path identification – Identifying tasks that must be performed to build the car and where bottlenecks may occur that could delay the project.
  Task management – Managing the people and tasks to ensure they are completed in the order they should be and in the time duration expected.
  Planning – Determining the course of the project through the development of high level tasks through to detailed level tasks.
   
Miscellaneous/Office Software Conceptualizing – Preliminary ideas relating to a whole car design or to components.
  Documenting – Documenting ideas, decisions, plans and todo lists.

Car Modeling/3D Modeling

Software for creating models of your car concept or detailed design.

3D Solid modelers provide the ability to create parts, connect them to make assemblies, and ultimately a complete vehicle if desired. If they are “parametric”, part dimensions and properties can be adjusted using parameters or even other parts, enabling things like auto-sizing.

3D surface modelers enable the creation of what are called NURBS curves, which form complex flowing shapes that are useful in creating stylized bodywork. Some modeling software provides both solid and surface modeling capabilities.

2D CAD software provides 2D drafting capabilities.

Autocad 360

CAD software from Autodesk which runs on desktop or laptop via your web browser, or download the iOS or Android app to access it on your smartphone or tablet.

Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Autodesk Fusion 360

A cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM tool for product development that combines industrial and mechanical design, collaboration, and machining in a single package. Available in commercial and free student version as of this writing.

Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Blender

A free and open source 3D creation suite primarily used for surface modeling such as that used to style bodywork and visualize race vehicles.

Free For All
All Types
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FreeCAD

FreeCAD is a parametric 3D modeler. Parametric modeling allows you to easily modify your design by going back into your model history and changing its parameters. FreeCAD is open-source and highly customizable, scriptable and extensible.

Free For All
All Types
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LibreCAD

Free open-source 2D CAD application for Windows, Linux and Mac

Free For All
All Types
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QCAD

Free open source 2D CAD for Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Free For All
All Types
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Aerodynamics Design and Simulation/CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics)

Software for simulating the flow of fluids (Air in the case of car design) around a 2D or 3D object. Frequently used for testing whole body shapes, wings, ducts and underbody floors on cars.

ANSYS Student (Fluid Physics)

Free use of CFD simulation as well as other ANSYS engineering products including Structural Physics and simulation workbench. Free renewable student license good for 6 months at a time. At this writing, supported only on Win 7 or newer 64 bit OS.

Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Autodesk Flow Design

A virtual wind tunnel that enables visualization of airflows around vehicles and objects with support for a variety of CAD file types. Available in commercial and free student version as of this writing.

Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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EasyCFD

CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) Software for analysis of aerodynamics. Provides import of DXF or other geometry point data.

$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Elmer FEM

Elmer is a free open source multiphysical simulation software. Elmer includes physical models of fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, electromagnetics, heat transfer and acoustics, for example. These are described by partial differential equations which Elmer solves by the Finite Element Method (FEM).

Free For All
All Types
Aerodynamic_Resource
Flowsquare CFD

A free CFD software. According to the developer "Flowsquare is a two-dimensional computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software for unsteady, non-reactive/reactive flows. The aim of this software is to provide a handy CFD environment so that more people can get to know what CFD is like and simulate flows for their educational and/or academic interests"

Free For All
All Types
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MicroCFD

2D and 3D Virtual Wind Tunnels software packages for Microsoft Windows.

From the maker: "MicroCFD analyzes 2D and axisymmetric subsonic, transonic, and supersonic flow (Mach 0.1 to 10) over multi-element configurations on a Cartesian cut-cell mesh. Flow visualization is provided through color maps of local Mach number, density, pressure, and temperature, including streamline plots. An aerodynamic force line instantly reveals the center of pressure of any configuration.

MicroCFD can model vehicles in ground effect through a 2D simulation of flow along their centerline. Bodies of revolution such as spherical projectiles, bullets, space capsules, or rocket nozzles are tested in axisymmetry mode. Airfoil cascades can be set up for compressor or turbine blade profile analysis, and both supersonic ramp and spike inlets can be modeled. The free nanoCAD allows for easy geometry creation and DWG / DXF imports.

The 3D Virtual Wind Tunnel imports stereolithography (STL) files, a standard CAD format based on surface triangulation. It runs a boundary layer modeled, viscous, compressible flow solver for high Reynolds number flow with turbulent wakes.

Free For All
Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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OpenFOAM For Windows

A free CFD software package that utilizes OpenFOAM (originally designed for Linux) along side a Microsoft Windows user interface.

Free For All
All Types
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simFlow

A CFD software that is available as both a free node-limited version and an unlimited commercial version.

Free For All
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Chassis/Structural Design/FEA (Finite Element Analysis)

Software for analyzing the structure of a 3D model by constraining the model and applying loads. Often used in car design for analyzing torsional rigidity and load bearing.

ANSYS Student (Structural Physics)

Free use of structural simulation as well as other ANSYS engineering products including Fluid Physics and simulation workbench. Free renewable student license good for 6 months at a time. At this writing, supported only on Win 7 or newer 64 bit OS.

Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Autodesk Finite Element Analysis

3D Finite element analysis software including free education version for students.

Free For Students
$$$ Commercial
All Types
Chassis_Resource
Elmer FEM

Elmer is a free open source multiphysical simulation software. Elmer includes physical models of fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, electromagnetics, heat transfer and acoustics, for example. These are described by partial differential equations which Elmer solves by the Finite Element Method (FEM).

Free For All
All Types
Chassis_Resource
FreeCAD FEM Module

FEM module for FreeCAD parametric 3D modeler

Free For All
All Types
Chassis_Resource
LISA

LISA is a free node-limited finite element analysis package for Windows with an integrated modeler, multi-threaded solver and graphical post-processor. A commercial version is also available.

Free For All
$$$ Commercial
All Types
Chassis_Resource
M3d FEM

Free Finite element software for analysis of structures such as car chassis or other mechanical objects.

Free For All
All Types
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Suspension Design

Software for designing and analyzing suspension systems and geometry. Some software includes kinematic capabilities that simulate vehicle dynamics using the designed suspension. Suspension design software is invaluable in car or truck design as it does the heavy lifting when it comes to the many iterations of manual calculation that are usually needed to find the ideal geometry.

OptimumKinematics

Suspension design software that enables 3D suspension geometry definition, setups and simulations. OptimumG also sells vehicle dynamics simulation and tire modeling software programs.

$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Racing Aspirations Suspension Geometry Calculator

Online web-based suspension geometry calculator

Free For All
All Types
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Susprog3D

3D suspension design software for more than 40 variations on independent and live axle suspensions. Visualization of the suspension motion, centers, tires and attachment points.

$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Kinematics

Software for simulating motion physics in either 3D or 2D. Used in car design for problem solving and simulating vehicle behaviors on or off road.

CarSim Mechanical Simulation

Commercial-level software (also in use at Universities used) used to model full vehicle dynamics.

$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Rigs of Rods

Rigs of Rods is an open source vehicle simulator which uses a soft-body physics model to simulate vehicles, machines, objects. According to the maker website the vehicles/machines/objects are "simulated in real-time as flexible soft-body objects, giving the simulation an extremely accurate behavior which entirely depends on the physical construction of the vehicles or objects you create."

Free For All
All Types
Kinematics_Resource
Working Model 2D

A two-dimensional motion and physics simulation tool that includes motion sources (motors, torques, etc.), and mechanical elements (gears, levers, etc.) and physics (gravity). Very useful for solving 2D "what-if" problems without constructing a physical model.

$$$ Commercial
All Types
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Project/Process Management

Software for managing tasks and schedules, in either a single person or group collaboration environment. Useful in automobile / race car design and construction for documenting tasks and timelines if need be.

Freedcamp

Free online project management and collaboration site

Free For All
All Types
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GanttProject

Another free project scheduling and management application to manage tasks and schedules for your car project.

Free For All
All Types
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ProjectLibre

A free open source replacement for Microsoft Project. Useful in managing tasks and schedules for your race car project. Run on Windows, Linux, Mac and other OS.

Free For All
All Types
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TaskJuggler

A free, open source project management software for managing the tasks and schedule for your race car project.

Free For All
All Types
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Miscellaneous

Software that provides general usefulness for car designers and builders.

LibreOffice

A free open source office suite compatible with Microsoft Office and available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It includes a MS Visio-like application called "Draw" which can be used to create diagrams in addition to the usual office applications for word processing and spreadsheet.

Free For All
All Types
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OpenOffice

Free open source Microsoft Office compatible suite for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Includes an MS Visio alternative program called Draw in addition to the usual productivity applications like word processing and spreadsheet

Free For All
All Types
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Suggest a Sofware

Have you found a great piece of software that has benefited you in your car design and construction, but isn’t shown above? Please let us know! (We especially love free stuff!)

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