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Where to Add Weight to a Pinewood Derby Car to Make it Go Faster

There are some questions that have plagued mankind since the beginning of recorded history:

  • Why are we here?
  • What’s the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything?
  • Where should I place my weights on my Pinewood Derby car?

While we can’t help you with the first two, here’s what we know about the third.

MAX OUT YOUR CAR’S WEIGHT AT 5 OZ

First, the basics: 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.

As far as where you should attach those weights to your car … well, let’s just say opinions differ.

PUT MOST OF THE WEIGHT IN THE BACK

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. (Don’t put it too far back, or your Pinewood Derby car will become unstable and pop a wheelie.)

Our expert says if you do this correctly, you will beat a Pinewood Derby car built exactly the same — except with the weight toward its front — by 4.6 car lengths.

That’s a lot of car lengths.

And you can’t argue with science, right?

PUT MOST OF THE WEIGHT IN THE FRONT

Well, we’ve heard from multiple field testers who claim that they’ve finished near the top of multiple Pinewood Derby races by placing the majority of their weight near the front of the car.

The idea here is that putting the weight near the front of the car gives it the tiniest bit of “head start” over a car with its weight near the rear. Or, perhaps placing the weight on the front of the car — in these cases, at least — forces the car to ride smoother down the track.

So where should you place your weights on your Pinewood Derby car? The ultimate answer is: It depends on who you ask. Our advice: Put your weight wherever you want, and spend most of your time polishing your axles. That’s a great way to reduce drag and increase your speed.

Good luck!

9 Comments on Where to Add Weight to a Pinewood Derby Car to Make it Go Faster

  1. Mechanical Engineer '01 // March 10, 2018 at 2:01 pm // Reply

    If every car has identical weight, wheels, axles, alignment then the resulting winner is the one that has maximized the available potential energy. The one variable in the car design is its center of gravity which is the only factor used to calculate the potential energy. The math gets fun when you start to factor in a 30 degree assumed ramp angle. Basically You gain more energy the higher you cg is placed in the car, not just keeping it at the “ideal” one inch ahead of the rear wheel. Overdue due it on the super high weight position and you battle with lost stability, friction braking. Testing over multiple builds is the art in finding balance between high rear weight position and a counter balancing low front weight position to keep you pointed down the track.

  2. Overall Fastest in Pack, 2 years in a row // March 9, 2018 at 3:39 pm // Reply

    weight in the back… all day

  3. I evenly distributed the weight between the axels and we dominated and are going to district!

  4. I don’t bother with a PWD car.

  5. Yes. The answer to the universe is 42.

  6. Answer to the second question about life, the universe, and everything is 42.

    Perhaps you don’t understand what the question really is.

  7. Please do not put your weight in the front. A car with weight in the rear will ALWAYS beat a car weighted in the front!

  8. The shape of the track also has an effect. Some tracks have a steep hill and a long flat. Others have a more gradual slope and a shorter or no flat.

  9. My track at home proves that weight at the front slows the car down by .2 of a second

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