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How to Make a Fast Pinewood Derby Car

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Packs nationwide are gearing up for their annual Pinewood Derby. There are a variety of ways to make your Pinewood Derby car go faster. Explore the following tips to optimize your car’s performance and gain a competitive edge in an upcoming race.


The possibilities are endless when it comes to picking a shape for your Pinewood Derby car. Before you begin, consider the following general guidelines:

Avoid Pointed Noses: A pointed nose will make it difficult for your Pinewood Derby car to rest on the pin at the starting gate. It may also cause your Pinewood Derby car to get bumped around when the pin drops, and it can create problems for electronic timing systems at the finish line.

Weight Distribution: Leave ample wood in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car so you can place additional weight there. Concentrate the majority of the weight in the rear for optimal performance.

Maximum Weight: Aim for the maximum allowable weight, typically limited to 5 ounces in most races. If your car falls short of this weight, strategically add coins or other weights to meet the requirement.

Clarity in Orientation: Clearly distinguish the front and back of your Pinewood Derby car. In many races, the race officials — not you — will actually place each Pinewood Derby car on the track. Sometimes the officials put the Pinewood Derby car on the track backward because they can’t tell which end is which.

Aerodynamic Design: Select a design that facilitates smooth airflow over and around the Pinewood Derby car body. Pinewood Derby cars with aerodynamic profiles go faster.

See photo galleries of hundreds of Pinewood Derby car designs.


You don’t have to strive for the fastest Pinewood Derby car to have fun competing in your Pinewood Derby. But if you and a helpful adult are willing to put in the extra time and effort, these tips are for you.

1. Bake the Block: Start your Pinewood Derby car project by baking the wood block at 250 degrees for two hours. This removes moisture and lightens the block, allowing you to place more weight at the rear of the car where you actually want it.


2. Crafting the Design: Outline your Pinewood Derby car on paper, cut it out, and affix it to the wood block.

Remember, a rectangular car is not an aerodynamic design. The most basic aerodynamic design is a simple wedge. If you don’t have time to design a complex car, a wedge will work just fine.

Download a Pinewood Derby car template PDF to help you create your design.

3. Rough Cut the Design: Use a coping saw or enlist the help of a responsible adult with a power tool to cut out the rough shape of your Pinewood Derby car.

4. Shape Your Car: Smooth edges and shape your car using sandpaper. An adult can assist with a rotary tool or other shaping tools.

5. Sand and Paint Creatively: Reduce friction by smoothing the car’s surface and paint an awesome design to make it look great.

How to paint your Pinewood Derby car to give it a shiny finish.

6. Axles and Wheels Alignment: Make sure they are aligned perfectly straight. You can test the alignment of your axles by pushing your car across a smooth floor or table. It should roll smoothly in a straight line.

— Consider a Three-Wheeler: Raise one wheel about 1/16 inch higher so it never actually touches the track. Less friction = more speed. Rules vary from pack to pack, so make sure to check your pack’s Pinewood Derby rules to make sure three wheelers are allowed in your race.

— Extend the Wheelbase: Maximize the distance between front and rear wheels. Again, make sure this is allowed in your race.

Learn about polishing Pinewood Derby axles and wheels to reduce friction.

7. Secure Axles with Glue: Glue the axles firmly in their holes to ensure that they stay perfectly placed, but make sure you don’t get glue on your wheels.

8. Strategic Weight Addition: Remember to make your Pinewood Derby car as heavy as the rules allow. In general, it’s best to place weight to the rear of your car because a heavier rear increases speed.

Learn scientific Pinewood Derby speed tips from a former NASA engineer.

9. Use Graphite: Add graphite or another dry lubricant to reduce friction. The less friction between the body and wheel, the better.

10. Have fun! And finally, remember the most important rule of a Pinewood Derby is that it’s supposed to be fun. While you should always strive to do your best, don’t get caught up in winning or having the fastest car. Just enjoy the ride.

Adapted from the book “Pinewood Derby Speed Secrets,” DK Publishing, $12.95 softcover.

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64 Comments on How to Make a Fast Pinewood Derby Car

  1. Most Districts require that all four wheels make contact with the track.

  2. Lookout dummy // January 11, 2019 at 12:19 pm // Reply

    Try gloss paint

  3. Lookout dummy // January 11, 2019 at 12:18 pm // Reply

    Try an old drill bit through the back and leave it there

  4. It is super,great,fun fantastic,spectacular,smart,amazing,cool,awesome and good!πŸ€—πŸ€€πŸ€‘πŸ˜ΊπŸ˜ΈπŸ˜ΉπŸ˜»πŸ˜½πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ€ŸπŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘ΆπŸΌπŸ‘§πŸ½πŸ§’πŸ½πŸ‘¦πŸΌβ­οΈπŸŒŸβ˜€οΈπŸŒˆβœ¨πŸŒžπŸ₯‡πŸ’ΈπŸ’΅πŸ’΄πŸ’ΆπŸ’·πŸ’³πŸ’³πŸ’ŽπŸ—žβ€οΈπŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™ πŸ–€

  5. It is AWESOME won my derby last year!!!!!!!!!!you should try it.

  6. What is the total time, on average, to make a Pinewood Derby car, start to finish?

  7. apple farm productions // April 23, 2018 at 11:41 am // Reply


  8. apple farm productions // April 23, 2018 at 11:39 am // Reply

    it did not help?

  9. wow it is amazing

  10. does the 1/16 of an inch work well?

    • Bloodninja // March 12, 2018 at 4:06 pm // Reply

      Yes! If your Council allows it, you should raise one wheel and then make the car steer slighting to that side (making the wheel that’s touching the track rub up against the rail).

      Doing this allowed my son’s car to go 0.11 seconds faster at the District race than he did at the Pack race. (same exact track). He got 1st in Wolves at the pack race, but did not place overall. At the District race, he place fist overall!

      We’ll see how he does in a coupe months at the Council race.


  12. Three wheelers and changing the wheel base are not allowed. Just sayin.

  13. Been doing these for years and my boys still bring home 1st in den and pack every year. Two more to go till youngest moves on. Like they say wheel and axle prep is everything.

  14. around here slow and steady does not win the race

  15. You need to run the car a time or two after applying graphite to remove the excess.. Also after prepping your axles and wheels, burn your wheels in by putting the wheel on the axle and put in a drill. Run the drill and dump the graphite on. Hold the wheel a little to allow the axle to spin in the wheel.

  16. fast is the winner

  17. These tips will defenetly help me, thank you!

  18. ileagle to raise the wheel

  19. pollycracker20 // February 20, 2017 at 3:27 pm // Reply

    I did mine like a wedge

  20. irish wrist watch // February 14, 2017 at 6:36 pm // Reply

    this is gonna help hopes up πŸ™‚

  21. My son lost!!!

  22. once the car has been posted, where can we go to see it on line?

  23. i won first in my den

  24. raise the third wheel so it doesn’t touch the track

    • I’ve done that before. My car (called broken thunder) had one of it’s wheels dislodged, but it didn’t get fixed ’til after the 3rd race. After that, I didn’t lose a single race.

  25. Anonymous2003 // January 10, 2017 at 7:06 pm // Reply

    Great Advice!!!

  26. nicknamebuster // January 7, 2017 at 7:46 am // Reply

    never tried this, gonna tonight

  27. I won my pack in 2nd place πŸ™‚

  28. i should use tires

  29. Mario is awesome // November 23, 2016 at 2:14 pm // Reply

    Never forget the wheels on your car!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Mario is awesome // November 23, 2016 at 2:13 pm // Reply

    I did pretty much all this and I came in 1st for my pack and in 5th for the district races. It was just my first year and my dad had a friend who did this when he was in scouts.

  31. Lst yr I won first prize in the sibling race(when my Dad was cutting my car frame,he accidentally cut it too thin).

  32. I did 2 races and i won both with the same design.

  33. Make it smooth and slick.

  34. GOATS ARE COOL // April 26, 2016 at 1:07 pm // Reply

    I will use this and make an ultimate goatcar

  35. does the car have to have 4 wheels or can it race with 3

  36. does the car have to have 4 wheels or can it race with 3

  37. putting wheels and weights on just a block is actually really fast. believe me. One just won our derby.

    • harry potter fanatic // October 11, 2016 at 3:33 pm // Reply


    • I have done the same. Made a Minecraft block with the square wooden block. Polished the axles and wheels as per regs and put graphite on the axles. Came in first for speed in my Den and third for speed overall

  38. Canted wheels reduce friction (bonus: rail riding is good not bad)

  39. nice going try using wood glue

  40. put an engine in it

  41. put a rocket on it

  42. put wheels on it

  43. number 3

  44. ya baby zoom zo // February 23, 2016 at 4:05 pm // Reply

    this is the best 2nd pine wood derby here i come

  45. Gramzon Dragon // January 27, 2016 at 4:15 pm // Reply

    make it look like a racecar, like the general shape, thats what i did and i won first place.

  46. BigTimeReader // January 21, 2016 at 6:44 pm // Reply

    first pine wood derby, so this will help a lot!

  47. duck tape works very well on a car

  48. tires…are what wins the race

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