How to Make a Fast Pinewood Derby Car
Packs around the country are preparing to hold their annual Pinewood Derby. There are many ways to make your Pinewood Derby car go faster. Here are some of them.
Basic Guidelines for Pinewood Derby Car Design
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 designs with a pointed nose. 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.
Leave enough wood in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car so you can place additional weight there. You will end up placing most of the weight in the rear of the Pinewood Derby car.
Make the maximum weight. Your car should weigh as much as it’s allowed. In most races, a Pinewood Derby car’s weight is limited to 5 ounces. If your car weighs less than that, add coins or other weights.
Be sure that it is very clear which end of your Pinewood Derby car is the front and which end is the back. 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.
Choose a design that allows the air to move over and around the Pinewood Derby car body in a smooth manner. Pinewood Derby cars with aerodynamic profiles go faster.
Click here to see photo galleries of hundreds of Pinewood Derby car designs.
Designing and Building a Winning Pinewood Derby Car
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 with your block of wood, and before you do anything else, bake it in the oven at 250 degrees for around two hours to remove moisture and make it lighter. This will allow you to place more weight to the rear of the Pinewood Derby car where you actually want it.
2. Create the Design: Draw the outline of your Pinewood Derby car on a sheet of paper, cut it out and attach it to your block of wood.
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.
Click here to download a Pinewood Derby car template PDF to help you create your design.
3. Rough Cut the Design: Use a coping saw to cut out the rough shape of your Pinewood Derby car. You can also ask a responsible adult to make these cuts using a power tool.
4. Shape Your Car: Use sand paper to smooth your car’s edges and shape it to your design. An adult can also use a rotary tool or other tool to help you.
5. Sand and Paint the Pinewood Derby Car: Make it smooth to reduce friction and paint an awesome design to make it look great.
Click here for tips on painting your Pinewood Derby car to give it a shiny finish.
6. Install Axles and Wheels: 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.
— Make 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: The front and rear wheels should be as far apart as possible. Again, make sure this is allowed in your race.
Click here to learn about polishing Pinewood Derby axles and wheels to reduce friction.
7. Create Glue Holes: 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. Add Weight: 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.
Click here for scientific Pinewood Derby speed tips from a former NASA engineer
9. Lubricate the Wheel Well: Add graphite or another dry lubricant to reduce friction. The less friction between the body and wheel, the better.
And finally, remember the No. 1 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.
HOT-DOG CARS ROCK!!!! 🙂
Last year I beat everyone in my school and opposing school and got the GIANT TROPHY!
To many of these races are being won by DAD BUILDT cars. Remember this is for the boys. Dads only help!!!!!!!!
Our council forbids 3-wheelers; I believe most councils do. You can buy axles (nails) in bulk from various on line stores. I believe the car (including axles, wheels etc) needs to be crafted by the cub scout with some help and guidance from an adult (especially when safety is a concern). Buying pre-made cars or professionally modified parts on line defeats the purpose of this exercise and definitely sends the wrong message to your scout and others.
Thank you for sending your tips in. They are very help full. Heres one, Bake your car at 250 degrees for 2 hours.
your cars are the coolest .My pine wood derbyis cool to plese
If you have to take your wheels and axles to a Machine Shop to make them faster then you have forgot the meaning of scout fun the idea is to make it with your son and use the tools that would be found in any garage not a machine shop.
If you buy it over the internet then you still don’t get the point.
those coments are cool
Well said Derby Guy
my brother has past all the ranks in all scouting. he very rarey lost any races all thanks to his pinewood derby secrets. he still has all his cars in a glass boxes. i stink at making fast cars! for some reason i allways win space derby. bye guys! big-d
WHAT HE SAID
It is a little silly to suggest making a car from 20 axles when 4 come in a kit. Buying 5 kits is over the top.
I like the tips and have used most of them with success. However, I strongly disagree with extending the wheelbase. I believe the stock axle position should be mandatory. Not all parents have the ability or the tools to re-locate axle slots.
ABC are selling cars are ready to race right out of the box. Each car is tested on there track. they can’t guarantee that your car will win but it is very fast. These cars are selling fast. What a farce…
thanks for the tips
build a mini pick up my son tryed it and it won 1st place
These are some useful tips
weve been trying to get a better car thanks ill try it when it comes
hey thanks for the tips, i never knew abou the “3” wheeler thing until now and im sure to beat my classmates in physics! thanks again for the advice
Please reconsider some of your tips. My scout used tip #5 – Extend your wheel base. We had to move them at the council race because they were further apart than permitted. As a result the wheel wasn’t very secure and wobbled/rubbed agains the car.
I came up with a speedy design nicknamed “Hawkspear” its 6 and a half MPH
Don’t put the axles in all the way let the car teter it makes it fast
My car is going to win
I loved the pinewood derby when I was in cub scouts.Now I’m a boyscout.But you do alot of fun things in boyscouts.GOODLUCK to all of you.
Why do they have to put lead under the cars? Does the weight give it better stability and speed? The first Pinewood derby race I did, they filled an entire hole full of lead, and I won first prize.
can you grease the wheels when you’re making adjustments to your car?
i looked in the book of the rules you can put there wheels. It’s just evebody thinks its not aloud but it is. My son made one and it won first in the pack and first in Arizona.
I won 2 in state go tips
hey blue lightnig dude! my design isn’t blue lightnig. But it’s as fast as you say your’s is!
I have a secret design no one will see it coming!
These are great tips! The big thing to remember is that this is for the boys. Dad’s, HELP the boys don’t build the cars for them. They must learn on there own, guide them, that is how they grow. I always sugest and have a race for dads and tag alongs! Remember to check with your district an cub masters for the rules and guidelines!
thanks for the help
I’m glad they gave hints
Is it legal or not to extend the lenght of your wheel base on you Pinewood Derby car? The car has grooves where the axles go when you recieve the car in the box.
It isn’t clear in the Kit instructions?
can the car be built with just 3 wheels?
Hey! I am making a peanut car.
hey i won the race going backwards
I used these tips and i won 1st place speed in pinewood derby.
I already know these hints.
hey i’m making a ufo for a car what are you making?
That is so cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hey, I got a funny storie. I went with my freind to a derby once and i had to use his car from the year before because i wasn’t even in scouts(I’m a tenderfoot now) and i won first place against him!
No you can’t, wizland! My cars were Blue Lightening (last year) and this year Blue Lightening II. BUT! The first car I made in Webelos 2. In my (or my little brother’s now) pack if you have a little brother in cub scouts then you can race in the “unlimited” section.
I was reading and flipping the pages of Boy’s Life Magazine when I got to the page with the picture of the wooden and painted Pinewood Derby car and that reminded me that the Pinewood Derby was coming up. I noticed that the page had Speed Secrets printed on it, so I asked my dad if I could do my Pinewood Derby car right away!Luckily he said yes. When the car was finished, I waited a couple of days, until the Pinewood Derby started I got FIRST PLACE!!!and I only got in second once during the whole entire race!(not including the championship race but I was in the championship race) for Bears in 2008. You should really try these speed secrets!
Where can I get several axels to choose from? Somebody help me quick!!!!!
AWESOME!! LUV IT
Hey, blah. You can still be counted in with Webelos 2 if you’re in boy scouts. (:
Thanks for the tips. I won 1st place last year and i’m hoping to win again.
awesome tips they really helped me