10 Tips and Tricks to a Fast and Cool-Looking Pinewood Derby Car (2024)

10 Tips and Tricks to a Fast and Cool Looking Pinewood Derby Car

There are stacks of books and loads of articles on how to build the fastest Pinewood Derby car out there, so we wanted to compile a few of our favorite tips!

10 Tips and Tricks to a Fast and Cool-Looking Pinewood Derby Car (1)10 Tips and Tricks to a Fast and Cool-Looking Pinewood Derby Car (2)

10 Tips for a Fast and Cool Looking Pinewood Derby Car

  1. Bake your block
  2. Max out your weight at the regulation 5 ounces
  3. Use all of the graphite
  4. Sand and polish your wheels and axles
  5. Check alignment
  6. Spend time sanding
  7. Use a high-quality paint
  8. Add decals
  9. Mount headlights, taillights, and running lights
  10. Use floor wax and shine to a high-shine finish

Bake Your Block

Baking your Pinewood Derby wooden block helps to remove the moisture so that you have more wiggle room to add extra weight at the end. Remember, every little bit of weight in the right place makes a difference! Bake it in the oven at 250° for about 2 hours.

Official Pinewood Derby Car Kit - Save yourself time and Get all the Pinewood Derby essentials delivered straight to your door! This is the official BSA Pinewood Derby car kit that has been the choice of Cub Scout champions for more than 40 years.

Pinewood Derby Car Kit:

  • One wooden block for the car body
  • Four Wheels
  • Four Axles
  • One set of small, black number decals

All other paints, decals, and cutting tools are sold separately!

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Max Out Your Weight at the Regulation 5 Ounces

Yes, it may take more time and effort, but those extra couple of ounces have proven time and time again that they make a difference. Place all of the weight you can about an inch in front of the rear axle. The closer the weight to the back, the faster your car will roll (but you don’t want it too far back, or your car will be popping a wheelie). For a more aerodynamic build, have a drill and a spade drill bit on-hand to put your weight up and into the bottom of your car. Various weight types are available, and I have also seen pennies used!

Pinewood Derby Scale - Compact, portable scale is handy during the design phase but is essential for conducting a smooth and fair race on derby day.

Stylish in design and color; accurate digital scale displays in pounds, ounces, or grams with an 11 lb. capacity and tare feature.

Operates on 2AA batteries (included) and has auto shut-off for longer battery life.

Includes an easy-to-use operation manual. Other uses include home office and kitchen applications.

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Use All of the Graphite

Dry lubricant is usually allowed but check with your local Pinewood Derby Race committee. Coat it everywhere – all over the axles, where the wheels touch the axles, on the car itself, where the wheel can touch the car—everywhere.

Pinewood Derby High-Speed Graphite - Get ready to take speed to the next level of fast with this lubricating powder!

High-carbon graphite is used to lubricate the wheels of a Pinewood Derby car for increased speed and performance.

Tube-O-Lube is an odor-free, extra-fine dry powdered lubricant that is dark grey/black. Graphite should be used with adult supervision only.

Check local race rules for regulations regarding the indoor use of graphite.

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Sand and Polish Your Wheels and Axles

You can use a mini file to remove any major ridges on the axles because we all know that the less friction, the faster the car! For best results, mount your wheels onto an electric drill so that you can polish at a higher speed and reduce the likelihood of adding accidental imperfections.

Pinewood Derby High-Speed Polishing Kit - This high-speed polishing kit helps minimize friction between the wheels and your Pinewood Derby car body.

Design the fastest car at the Pinewood Derby and prepare for a fun race against other Scouts!

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Check Alignment

If you want to get in-depth with this, and it is not against your pack’s rules, adjust your car to allow it to ride a rail – this is better than your car bumping back and forth between bumpers. Another way to pick up speed is to ensure that your car has a true straight alignment. Level one, just run your car down a level surface and ensure it doesn’t pull one way or another. Level two, use an Axle Press Tool to ensure straight axles. You can also glue your axles to ensure there is no wiggling out of place – just make sure not to get glue anywhere near your wheels!

Scout Shop is Your One-Stop Shop for Pinewood Derby Gear!

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Spend Time Sanding

The smoother your car is, the more friction is reduced and the faster your car can slice through the air. Start with a coarse grit, move to a medium grit, and finish with a fine grit. It is helpful to wrap the sanding paper around another block of wood for better grip and to help prevent the addition of unwanted dips in your car. You can also up the ante by wet sanding the car after the first coat of paint (so primer, then paint, then wet sand). We have used 1000 grit ultrafine carbide sandpaper. After this, proceed on with painting the rest of your coats!

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Use a High-Quality Paint

I have found the most amazing paints. TheTestors Enamel Paint Sethas AMAZING coverage, plus a great shine. TheTestors Glow-In-The-Dark Paint Setand theTestors Fluorescent Paint Setare also awesome options. The KEY to the best coverage and results: START WITH A GOOD PRIMER! Especially if you are using the Glow-in-the-Dark or Fluorescent paints. The next tip on painting is to use a wide sponge to paint. It creates a much smoother surface.

Add Decals

Use a credit card to press out all of the air bubbles, and then seal everything in with a clear gloss paint. Be sure to check to make sure it won’t curl your decals first! You can test it off to the side by sticking a decal to a piece of plastic and spraying it with the gloss paint.

Pinewood Derby Pre-Cut Orange Flames Decals - This year, fast-looking stickers are the ideal accessory for your super-fast PWD car! These decals come in peel-and-stick format, so they are simple to use.

This race car decal accessory kit has two sheets - the main decal sheet and an accessory sheet. The decals include orange flames, numbers, and other car accessory stickers! This kit even comes with a car template printed on the back packaging panel to assist with cutting your Pinewood Derby car to the exact shape.

Pair with the Race Car Sound Accessory sold separately.

Peel-and-stick format; no cutting necessary!

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Mount Headlights, Taillights, and Running Lights

Pinewood Derby Head and Tail Light Kit - This kit includes a head and tail light accessory kit for your Boy Scouts of America Pinewood Derby cars.

This accessory kit contains a battery pack and four lights: two headlights and two tail lights! It has an easy-to-use On/Off light switch. Assembly is required using various tools. Weighs 0.5oz.

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With black lights and glow-in-the-dark races being the next big thing for Pinewood Derby races, adding headlights, taillights and under-mounted glow lights will look so cool!

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Use Floor Wax and Shine to a High-Shine Finish

You do need to make sure that your coats of paint are completely dry before you do this (think about a week). This final coat will make your car extra glossy and even more aerodynamic!

Shop Pinewood Derby Gear at Scout Shop

Most importantly, give yourself the gift of TIME! We all know Pinewood Derby season starts soon, and so there is no harm in getting a head start in building! Allow yourself and your Cub Scouts the space to make mistakes and start again if necessary – plus, it is a great lesson in time management for them (and let’s be honest, for adults too!)

Happy racing, you speed demons!

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10 Tips and Tricks to a Fast and Cool-Looking Pinewood Derby Car (2024)


10 Tips and Tricks to a Fast and Cool-Looking Pinewood Derby Car? ›

Use a final gloss clear paint coat to give your car an extra shine. Some people use car wax but clear paint gives better results. You will get better results if you give your car several light coats of paint rather than one or two thick coats. Sand your car lightly after the first coat of paint dries.

How to make a Pinewood Derby car super fast? ›

5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car
  1. 5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car. ...
  2. Lubricate the Wheels with Graphite. ...
  3. Bake the Wood Block. ...
  4. Use Axle Guards. ...
  5. Smooth the Axles. ...
  6. Choose the Right Car Shape.

How do I make my Pinewood Derby car shiny? ›

Use a final gloss clear paint coat to give your car an extra shine. Some people use car wax but clear paint gives better results. You will get better results if you give your car several light coats of paint rather than one or two thick coats. Sand your car lightly after the first coat of paint dries.

How do you win the Pinewood Derby? ›

In order to win, your Pinewood Derby car needs to maximize the gravitational pull, reduce friction, and let air flow around it with the least resistance possible. The physics of how this happens is simple: the Pinewood Derby car turns potential energy into kinetic energy.

How to improve Pinewood Derby wheels? ›

If there are flaws on the tread surface or inside edge of the wheel, then use a Pro-Wheel Mandrel and some fine grit (wet) sandpaper to polish the wheels. On some wheels, a Pro-Hub Tool can be used to round the inside wheel hub. Finally, polishing and waxing the wheel bore also reduces friction to increase performance.

What is the fastest shape for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

No need to get crazy here, but simply having a wedge-shaped Pinewood Derby car instead of the standard block out of the box will equal a 1.4-car advantage at the finish line.

What is the fastest Pinewood Derby car time? ›

“He set the track record in NYC with a 2.93 second run, which wasn't even approached by any other car up there.” JJ's car was apparently the only car at the event to average under 3 seconds. Brewster says 3 seconds is sort of the “holy grail” of the Pinewood Derby Racing Leagues.

Should I wax my Pinewood Derby car? ›

Bore waxing as the final step of wheel preparation has shown to be a significant speed benefit in Pinewood Derby car racing. It leaves a very slick final finish that reduces friction for smooth, quick starts and faster overall runs. Prepare your wheels and polish the hub before applying the bore wax.

Should I sand my Pinewood Derby wheels? ›

Use the high grit (1000) sandpaper to sand the edge of the wheel while spinning it with the drill. Do not over-sand; you want to sand just enough to remove the flashing. With modified wheels, you'll want to sand off any burs from the cutting process but don't round over the edge.

Why should I bake my Pinewood Derby car? ›

Bake the wooden block, usually at 250 degrees for two hours. This removes moisture, which allows you to apply weights when the block is finished. A heavier car is a faster car, but you can't go over that 5-ounce mark.

Should I glue Pinewood Derby axles? ›

Slide the axles and wheels onto the car and glue into place. Use an epoxy or nonresin glue, and make sure you don't get any on the surface of the axle where the wheel rides.

Which wheel should be raised on Pinewood Derby car? ›

The wheels are a significant source of potential energy drain on a Pinewood Derby® car. Raising the non-steer wheel (typically the front left) so it does not contact the track reduces the amount of energy used to start the wheels spinning.

Why is my Pinewood Derby car slow? ›

Your pine wood derby car moves from the force of gravity and is slowed down from friction. Friction acts like brakes. Reduce friction and your car goes faster. Increase friction and your car slows down.

Can you use wd40 on Pinewood Derby wheels? ›

No wet lubricant is allowed. (Ex: NyOil, NyOil II, WD-40) Only one lubrication is allowed before the beginning of the first race, and then once again before the beginning of the first race of the semi-finals and finals.

How tight should Pinewood Derby wheels be? ›

How close should pinewood derby wheels be to the car? The hub of the wheel should be a credit card thickness (about . 03") away from the car block but can be as much as . 1".

Should Pinewood Derby wheels be closer to front or back? ›

Regardless of the track type, I would still use the slot closest to the end as the rear of the car. Then you can position the COG where needed based on the track type it will run on. Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

What factors might affect the speed of a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The following parameters made pinewood derby cars faster: using graphite on the axles and wheels, using lightweight wheels and polished axles, lifting the left front wheel and bending rear axles also raised speed.

Where is the best place to add weight to a Pinewood Derby car? ›


Science says the heaviest part of your car should be about 1 inch in front of the rear axle. The idea is that the farther back the weight is, the more potential energy you have because your center of mass is higher up on the track.

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