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9 Steps to Winning a Pinewood Derby

For decades, the pinewood derby has been a dad’s running ground to show his son—and the ward—his mechanical savvy. Pretty obvious when you say it, but winning really lies in the pinewood derby designs. Here are some easy tips to consider when planning your car.

1. Follow the pinewood derby rules. You can’t win if you don’t get the chance to race.

2. Pick one of the many pinewood derby designs. This is your chance to design a car that looks unique and creative. Choose from a popular design, or create your own.

2. Consider aerodynamics. Cars with a low profile offer the least air resistance. You’ve got to sacrifice hood ornaments for a more practical pinewood derby design.

3. Let’s talk axles. The biggest issue is turning the wheels and axles. Cars weighing 5 oz. don’t have much weight to keep their wheels moving, and let’s face it, the nails in the box are rough and slow down movement. Try filing off the rough spots with a drill to decrease friction, making them as smooth as possible. In addition, use a good, dry lubricant that will allow for a faster spin on your wheels.

4. Make sure your car is tracking straight. Cars that bump the lane guide are slowed down. Once your wheels are mounted, check their alignment by letting your car down a homemade 6’’ long board at an incline. If your car moves significantly to one side, or your wheels have moved in and out, move the axles up or down to adjust your alignment.

5. Check your wheels before you race. Spin each wheel with your finger and let them run to a stop. A good wheel should take about 20-30 seconds to stop completely. If it’s sooner, try rubbing dry graphite around the wheels and on the surface of the car body where the inner wheel hub touches. Decreasing friction will always help.

6. Put your weight in the back. With such a short track, heavy equals fast. Putting your weight in the back of your car will maximize your speed on the flat of the track.

7. Don’t race your car on the ground or concrete. This can ruin your wheels.

8. Be careful of modification. Once you’ve achieved a fast car, don’t make any changes. You don’t want to ruin a good thing.

9. Keep a good attitude. Once your car is ready, head to your race, check your wheels, and let it go!

With these pinewood derby design tips, you’re sure to have success on the tracks!