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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.



The possibilities are endless when it comes to picking a shape for your pinewood derby car. Before you begin, consider the following 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 putting 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, that’s 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.



You don’t have to strive for the “ultimate pinewood derby car” to build a fast car and 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.

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.

pinespeed4Create the Design: Select a fast design. 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.

Cut 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.

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 this is allowed in your race.

Extend the Wheelbase: The front and rear wheels should be as far apart as possible.

Determine Weight Placement: A heavier rear increases speed. Add weight to the rear of your pinewood derby car. Remember to make your car as heavy as the rules allow.

Create Glue Holes: Glue the axles firmly in their holes to ensure that they stay perfectly placed.

Sand the Pinewood Derby Car: Make it smooth to reduce friction.

Lubricate the Wheel Well: The less friction between the body and wheel, the better.



The quality of your axles and wheels may be the most important factor in building a fast car. Here’s how to choose and polish your axles and wheels.

derby2.jpg1. Start with a set of raw axles.

2. Can you tell the difference between the axles in the top row and the ones on the bottom? The ones on the bottom aren’t straight and will slow your car.

3. To tell which are straight and which aren’t, mark each axle with a marker about 1/2 inch from the pointed end.

4. Have an adult clamp a power drill into a vise, a device that will hold it perfectly still.

5. Have an adult help you clamp each axle into the drill at the location you marked in Step 3. Have the adult turn on the drill.


wobble-200x2006. Bent axles will wobble as they turn in the drill. Straight axles will hardly wobble at all. Pick the ones that wobble least.

7. Once you’ve selected the four straightest axles, use a file or fine-grit sandpaper to remove small burrs and mold marks that can cause friction and slow a car. These imperfections should be removed from both the axles and the wheels.

8. Use polishing compound from the auto supply store to polish the wheels and axles. One easy way to do this is to clamp the axles back in the drill and let the drill spin the axle while you polish it.

9. When you install the 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 in a straight line.

10. Don’t forget to add graphite or another dry lubricant to your wheels and axles.

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. Just enjoy the ride.

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

More pinewood derby fun:


Comments about “How to make a fast pinewood derby car”

  1. asd says:

    HOT-DOG CARS ROCK!!!! :)

    MAKE ONE!!!!!

  2. gamer1101 says:

    Last year I beat everyone in my school and opposing school and got the GIANT TROPHY!

  3. Webelos Den Leader says:

    To many of these races are being won by DAD BUILDT cars. Remember this is for the boys. Dads only help!!!!!!!!

  4. Super Dad says:

    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.

  5. wheels says:

    Thank you for sending your tips in. They are very help full. Heres one, Bake your car at 250 degrees for 2 hours.

  6. james says:

    your cars are the coolest .My pine wood derbyis cool to plese

  7. Cub Master Mike says:

    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.

  8. colo says:

    those coments are cool

  9. hi says:

    nothing worked

  10. FastCars says:

    Well said Derby Guy

  11. big d says:

    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

  12. BIBLE BOY says:


  13. Joe says:

    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.

  14. Dist Commish says:

    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.

  15. Robert says:

    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…

  16. marine boy says:

    thanks for the tips

  17. good guy says:

    build a mini pick up my son tryed it and it won 1st place

  18. Cub Scout 530 says:

    These are some useful tips

  19. Anonymous says:

    weve been trying to get a better car thanks ill try it when it comes

  20. anon says:

    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

  21. Scout Mom says:

    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.

  22. Chinadude says:

    I came up with a speedy design nicknamed “Hawkspear” its 6 and a half MPH

  23. Past car racer says:

    Don’t put the axles in all the way let the car teter it makes it fast

  24. tbirdly1 says:

    My car is going to win

  25. Brian says:

    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.

  26. Dominator says:

    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.

  27. X-PIRED says:

    can you grease the wheels when you’re making adjustments to your car?

  28. a dog a yo yo says:

    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.

  29. yo72witha what what says:

    I won 2 in state go tips

  30. X-PIRED says:

    hey blue lightnig dude! my design isn’t blue lightnig. But it’s as fast as you say your’s is!

  31. X-PIRED says:

    I have a secret design no one will see it coming!

  32. Cub Master North Star says:

    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!

  33. Anonymous says:

    thanks for the help

  34. cool kid 98 says:

    I’m glad they gave hints

  35. Crystal Scouts says:

    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?

  36. leanonspeed says:

    can the car be built with just 3 wheels?

  37. shadow2000 says:

    Hey! I am making a peanut car.

  38. donald duck98 says:

    hey i won the race going backwards

  39. @%$# says:

    I used these tips and i won 1st place speed in pinewood derby.

  40. Bry says:

    I already know these hints.

  41. donald duck98 says:

    hey i’m making a ufo for a car what are you making?

  42. Blah Blah 444 says:

    That is so cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. caspian991 says:

    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!

  44. BlueLighteningDude says:

    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.


  45. Anonymous says:

    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!

  46. tumpus says:

    Where can I get several axels to choose from? Somebody help me quick!!!!!

  47. hi peeps says:


  48. Wizland says:

    Hey, blah. You can still be counted in with Webelos 2 if you’re in boy scouts. (:

  49. Wizland says:

    Thanks for the tips. I won 1st place last year and i’m hoping to win again.

  50. 123456789 says:

    awesome tips they really helped me

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