The technicians at Hobbymasters have been building and assisting with Pinewood Derby cars being built for over 30 years. We've seen every trick, tip, and myth out there. And we've seen the results.
Pinewood Derby Tips:
Tips with a red *are critical building a fast car.
Tips with a green *can be helpful for just a little more edge:
*Get your pinewood derby car as close to 5 ounces as possible without going over. This is a must. Use a digital scaleand weigh to the 1/10th ounce.
*You want the car to balance on the side of a pencil just in front of the rear wheels. So most of your weightswill be located towards the back of the car.
*Most people put the weights under the chassis so they don't ruin the look of the car. Make sure you keep the ground clearance. There is some merit to putting a few weights high up in the back, such as a weighted spoiler.
*Get the wheels to point as straight as possible so your pinewood derby car doesn't rub the siderails of the pinewood derby track during the race. One good way to do this is to fill the original slot with wood filler, then re-drill the hole using a guide tool.
*Graphite lubricant is a must. Put some inside the wheel holes just before inserting the axles. Do it again just before handing your car into the judges. Spin the wheels a few times to work it in.
*Perform a wheel alignment when inserting the axles and again before handing the car in to the judges.
*Stock BSA wheels often have burrs on the treads from manufacturing. A wheel tuning kit will remove them and ensure the tread is smooth and round. If your pack allows, there are aftermarket wheels that are made burr-free. Use axles that are manufactured by the same company that makes your wheels.
*Polishing your axles will let the wheel spin faster.
*Many stock axles have a burr from manufacturing just behind the head, which will slow the wheel from turning.
*Speed Axlestrap graphite powder in a reservoir, making the car faster. They are not legal in many packs so check with your local BSA rules first.
*Historically the fastest cars have wedge-shaped bodies. This is mostly because they help keep the weight balanced just in front of the rear wheels (the optimal place). We encourage originality and many packs have awards for Best in Show. Design it how you like, keeping the weight distribution in mind.
*Aerodynamics is always a question with such small cars at low speeds. For an extra help though, be sure to wax your car for an extra smooth finish.
* Most BSA packs will check for and not allow the following:
Sanding the edges of the wheels so there is less tread touching the track.
Allowing a car to only have 3 wheels touching the track.
Bearings or bushings on the axles.
*The most important part is to remember that this is a project to help your son learn how to build a car and compete as a good and fair sportsman. Don't get so caught-up in winning that you forget to enjoy the race! HAVE FUN!