5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car|Boy Scouts of America (2024)

5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car

There's no better way to keep your Scout's mind engaged over the holiday break than by helping them build the ultimate car for the upcoming Pinewood Derby season. Mind you, our team isn't composed of top-notch physicists or race engineers (though we do have some impressive BSA alumni you could read abouthere), but make no mistake—we know a thing or two about designing a fast car. To aid your Scout with the perfect build-out, here are five simple tips for creating a fast car for the Pinewood Derby.

5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car

  1. Lubricate the wheels with graphite
  2. Bake the wood block
  3. Use axle guards
  4. Smooth the axles
  5. Choose the right car shape

1.Lubricate the Wheels with Graphite

When designing your car, it's essential to remember that friction is not your friend. Too much friction slows the car as gravity helps it race down the track. To reduce friction and ensure an ultra-fast car, lubricate the metal axles.However, ensure you follow the rules so your Scout isn't disqualified! Although regulations may vary by Troop, rule 6 of the BSA's Pinewood Derby Car Building Rules states, "No lubricating oil may be used. The axles may be lubricated with powdered graphite or silicone." Fortunately, you can purchase affordable, high-carbon graphitehereat the Scout Shop.The Pinewood Derby High-Speed Graphite is an odor-free, extra-fine dry powdered lubricant. Scouts must use graphite with adult supervision.

2.Bake the Wood Block

Ideally, a fast car is one with a lower center of gravity to the ground. In anutshell, the lower the center of gravity, the more stability your car has throughout the race. Per the Pinewood Derby rules, the car's weight shouldn't exceed 5 ounces. One way to ensure your car doesn't exceed the weight limit is to bake the block! Naturally, wood holds water, and water adds weight. You'll want to help your Scout by baking the block in an oven at 250 degrees for one hour. Let the block cool overnight. Then, weigh the block quickly and accurately with a Pinewood Derby scale. Evaporating the water inside the wood allows you to distribute the weight differently, ideally toward the car's rear.

3. Use Axle Guards

Consistency is the key to success. After your Scout builds an awesome car, help ensure it operates at peak performance after more than one race. Frequently, cars leap off the tracks, knocking the axles out of alignment and ruining hours of precious work. Consider thePinewood Derby Axle Guardto save the day and keep your Scout's car in tip-top shape. The axle guard installs easily, and the under-car plate has a ridge that slides right into the pre-cut axle groove to secure the axle to the car's body. Its unique design allows for adequate track clearance and has no interference with car performance!

4.Smooth the Axles

Axles often arrive with slight imperfections, bumps, and grooves that should be smoothed out. The smoother the axle, the less friction it generates and the faster the car travels. Thankfully, sandpaper does the trick. The Scout Shop has this convenienthigh-speed kitthat contains three different sandpaper grits and allows you to mount the wheels on an electric drill for better sanding results. We recommend medium grit sandpaper for smoothing.

5. Choose the Right Car Shape

The truth is there are many ideas online, but with so many car designs, how do you decide what car shape to use? To make your Pinewood Derby car-building experience much more accessible, we've compiled a short list of 5 essential car shapes that you can read more about here. When deciding on a car shape, slim isn't always better. Instead, focus more on the weight distribution of the Pinewood Derby car. For a fast car, you want the add more weight to the rear. The arrow car shape, for example, has a definite pointier front and slim body with cut-in sides that lead to a flared back end. You will want to ensure that the weight is slightly heavier near the rear wheel axle, so add weight to the flared back end. With so much of the wood cut out, the weight department leaves plenty of space to add weight back precisely where it counts!

Pinewood Derby Car Building Safety is Top Priority

Building a car is lots of fun, and the project provides the perfect opportunity for parents to make lifelong memories with their Scouts. To help everyone stay safe, monitor your Scout's use of tools, always wear goggles to protect the eyes, and don't wear loose-fitting clothing!Here’s a list of some useful safety guidelines found on the Scout Shop website.

  • Gather your safety essentials: dust mask, goggles, and latex gloves.
  • Wear eye protection at all times.
  • Monitor Cub Scouts' use of tools.
  • Wear a dust mask when appropriate.
  • Work in a well-lighted and well-ventilated area.
  • Consider wearing gloves when using sharp tools.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Do not melt lead; handle lead with care.
  • Follow all safety rules and precautions listed on your tools and products.
  • Keep your work area clean and organized.

Readyfor the Pinewood Derby

Order the official BSA Pinewood Derby car kithere. The kit has one car body (woodblock), wheels, axles, and one set of small, black number decals. Do you know any tips and tricks to build the perfect Pinewood Derby car? Drop them in the comments below, and remember to shop all your Pinewood Derby gear at ScoutShop.org—the official online retail store of the Boy Scouts of America!

5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car|Boy Scouts of America (2024)


5 Tips to Building the Fastest Pinewood Derby Car|Boy Scouts of America? ›

Raised Front Wheel

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.

Which wheel should be raised on a pinewood derby car? ›

Raised Front Wheel

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.

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.

Where is the best place to put weight in 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.

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.

Do heavier Pinewood Derby cars go faster? ›

Assuming all other factors are equal, a heavier car will be faster than a lighter car. The Pinewood Derby rules limit the weight of each car to 5 ounces.

Should you bend Pinewood Derby axles? ›

We recommend installing axles with a 1.5° bend for the front of the car and 2.5° bend for the rear. The axles heads are marked in the direction of the bend.

What is the best angle for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

The rear wheels should be set at a 3-degree angle (camber). This angle reduces friction as only a tiny portion of the wheel makes contact with the track.

What is the best shape for a Pinewood car? ›

The wedge is a classic and probably the easiest shape (besides keeping a block) to build your Pinewood Derby car. The Wedge is the foundation of many cool car designs, and it is designed to be aerodynamic and is a one-cut wonder.

Should I bake my Pinewood Derby 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.

What is the fastest derby? ›

Legendary horse Secretariat boasts the fastest finish in the history of the Kentucky Derby with a time of 1:57.40. The story behind the horse was adopted into a hit Disney film in 2010. Trailing behind Secretariat is Monarchos with a time of 1:59.97.

What is the best length of Pinewood Derby track? ›

The most popular length of track is the 42ft. track followed by the 35ft. and then the 49ft. track.

How can I make my Pinewood Derby car faster? ›

Be sure to double-check your pack's rules before your first cut into your pine block.
  1. Put all of your weight in the back. ...
  2. Lube the car at the body/wheel friction point. ...
  3. Spend a fair amount of time on axle prep. ...
  4. Make sure your wheels are ready. ...
  5. Finally, once your wheels are mounted, check their alignment.
Feb 25, 2009

Can you put too much graphite on a Pinewood Derby car? ›

Applying too much lubricant will slow your car down. How to use: Put one drop of lubricant on an axle. Tip the axle so down and let the lube flow to the end of the axle.

Can weights go on bottom of Pinewood Derby car? ›

The weight should not extend past the rear of the car. Glue bottom weights to the bottom of the block to bring the total weight (including wheels and axles) to 5 oz. Install some of the weight behind the rear axle and the rest in front of the axle. The weight can be broken apart with pliers.

What is the fastest shape for a car? ›

The most aerodynamic shape in nature is a teardrop, it has a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.04. This is the reason why so many aerodynamically efficient cars often look like a well-used bar of soap.

How to make the most aerodynamic Pinewood Derby car? ›

  1. Bake your block in the oven at 250 for 2 hours which. helps to remove moisture so that you can add extra. ...
  2. Shape your car for Aerodynamics. The world's most. ...
  3. Spend time sanding. ...
  4. Max your weight out at 5 ounces! ...
  5. Coat everything in powdered Graphite. ...
  6. Use floor wax and shine to a high-shine finish.
Nov 22, 2022

Do fenders make Pinewood Derby cars faster? ›

Fenders can help efficiently direct the air around the wheels resulting in more speed. There are a few different types of fenders: Leading Edge Fenders: These fenders are placed in front of the wheels and help direct air over them, leading to a faster car.

What is the best wheelbase for a Pinewood Derby car? ›

For example, on a smooth aluminum track, a wheelbase of 4.75” offers a good balance between speed and stability. For a rougher track where instability could be a concern, the Race Team might consider going with a 5.0” to 5.25” wheelbase. New axle holes must be made to move or extend the car's wheelbase.

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