Free Pinewood Speed Tips

The products and construction methods below will maximize the performance of your Derby car.  Before building your car using these Free Pinewood Speed Tips, please consult your local derby rules, as some methods and/or products may not be allowed.

Free Tip #1 Reducing Contact Surface Area

One important thing you can do to improve the performance of your car is to reduce the contact surface area between the wheel and the axle. This is especially important if you are using a liquid lubricant.  Figure 1 shows how to reduce the contact surface area.

Free Pinewood Speed Tips

 

 

 

 

 

The part of the axle where the groove is cut never touches the wheel. This feature significantly improves the performance, especially when using liquid lubricants but also has benefits when dry lubricants are used as well.

Follow these steps to create lightning speed axles:

1: This free speed tip is best accomplished with a drill press. However, if you are very careful and precise you can do it with a power drill as well. The cuts you make in the axle must be absolutely straight. If you cut the groove on an angle,  the wheel will tend to wobble as it turns.

Free Pinewood Speed Tips2: Place a dark mark on the axle at 1/16th of an inch from the head. Place a second mark at 1/4th of an inch, as shown in Figure 2.

3: Clamp the axle in your drill press or power drill.

4: If using a drill press, line up the press table with the marks you made on the axle, as shown in Figure 3. Using a flat file, gently cut a groove in the axle to a depth of about 1/16th of an inch. Don’t cut the groove too deep, as it will weaken the axle.

5: Polish the axle using the method shown in this YouTube Video.  The final product should look similar to the one shown in Figure 4.
Free Pinewood Speed Tips

Free Tip #2 Spin your wheels prior to final selection

Wheels are made with an injection molding process. During this process, the plastic can blister due to heat of the mold or moisture content in the plastic chips. Those blisters cause imperfections in the wheel.  Before you start all your truing, be sure that your wheel is the best one that you can race with.  Spin it. Imperfections increase friction.

In 2009 BSA produced a new wheel mold. With the improvements to previous designs, today’s Pinewood Derby® wheels require little preparation to be race ready when compared to previous molds. Unfortunately, most of your competitors will have the exact same wheels that are equally fast. After 12 years of production the molds are showing signs of wear. Thus, it is important to inspect your wheels prior to racing. No wheel mold is safe from flaws. Having good wheels helps a lot to get you to the finish line quicker.
• Use this method to sort out of round pinewood wheels
• Use this method to sort out flawed wheels

Free Tip #3 Polish Axles Until They Shine Like Mirrors

As the car moves down the track, the wheels turn and rub on the axle shaft continually. It is essential that the axle surface be as smooth and shiny as possible. You need to polish… polish… polish! Polish the axles until they shine like mirrors! All competitive cars have polished axles, but some are polished better than others. Below, I will show you two methods for polishing axles, the Ultimate Polish and the traditional polishing method. We have used the Ultimate Polish method for several years and find it to be vastly superior to any other method out there.

P.S. This is a really great place for your child to do a major portion of the work. Be sure to teach principles as you work. It’s important that they understand why each step in the building process in being performed. You might even have a contest to see who can make their axles shine the brightest! Remember to make the building process FUN!  Follow this Free Pinewood Speed Tip to make the best possible axles.

  • Clamp your drill in a vise as shown in Figure 6. Be careful not to tighten the vise too tight (you might damage your drill by doing so).
  • Insert an axle into the drill, leaving about half an inch exposed. Be sure the axle is tightly secured in the drill.
Free Pinewood Speed Tips
Free Pinewood Speed Tips

The Ultimate Polish

  1. Cut a piece of 400 grit sandpaper into strips 1/4th inch wide and 4 inches long.
  2. Turn on drill. Dip a piece of the 400 grit sandpaper in water to make it moist. Use the sandpaper strip to sand smooth the axle as it spins in the drill. Be sure to sand all of the axle, including the inside surface of the head, as shown in Figure 7. This step should take about 15 seconds.
  3. Turn off drill. Look at the axle with a good magnifying glass. Are there any deep scratches left? If so, then turn the drill back on and polish some more! Do not move to step 4 until all deep scratches have been removed.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 using a strip of 600 grit sandpaper. Be sure to look at the axle with a magnifying glass after each step to be sure the axle shaft is as smooth as it can be after each step.
    *** Note: this is where the two methods separate. From here on the Ultimate Polish method is superior to the traditional method.
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3 several more times using 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000, 2500, and 3000 grit sandpaper. Please note that sandpaper with grit over 1000 are not normally available at your local hardware store. These are industrial products sold by companies which specialize in selling abrasives. You can also obtain these products by visiting Our pinewood derby accessories area.

Traditional Polish Method

  1. Cut a piece of 400 grit sandpaper into strips 1/4th inch wide and 4 inches long.
  2. Turn on drill. Dip a piece of the 400 grit sandpaper in water to make it moist. Use the sandpaper strip to sand nd smooth the axle as it spins in the drill. Be sure to sand all of the axle, including the inside surface of the head, as shown in Figure 7. This step should take about 15 seconds.
  3. Turn off drill. Look at the axle with a good magnifying glass. Are there any deep scratches left? If so, then turn the drill back on and polish some more! Do not move to step 4 until all deep scratches have been removed.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 using a strip of 600 grit sandpaper. Be sure to look at the axle with a magnifying glass after each step to be sure the axle shaft is as smooth as it can be after each step.
    *** Note: this is where the two methods separate. From here on the Ultimate Polish method is superior to the traditional method.
  5. Apply a final finish by using some type of polishing compound. Most people use a paste made of pumice. Put the compound on a strip of smooth cloth. Use the cloth to polish the axle until it has a high gloss finish. If using pumice, you will need to mix with water to make a paste, kind of like runny peanut butter.

Why does this Free Pinewood Speed Tip work?

The advantage in using the ultra fine grit sandpaper is clear. Polishing compounds, like pumice, are really on the same level as 1800 grit sandpaper. The traditional method recommends that you use 600 grit paper, and then complete the process by using something like pumice (1800 grit). To go from 600 grit to 1800 grit is a huge jump. You simply are not going to be able polish those fine scratches left behind by the 600 grit paper, if you skip all the way down the line to a polishing compound that is 1800 grit. By using successively finer sandpaper you obtain a much higher quality polish!

Finally, by completing your process using 2500 and 3000 grit sandpaper you will obtain the Ultimate Polish, which pumice cannot provide! These are higher quality, finer abrasives. Your axles will shine so brightly, you might need to wear sunglasses when looking at them. You will be amazed at the difference!

Free Pinewood Speed Tips #4 Extend the Wheel Base

In order to accomplish this modification you will need to drill a new set of axle holes in your wood block. The holes must be perfectly straight and aligned with each other on opposite sides of the car. This is best accomplished by using a drill press or a tool specifically designed for drilling axle holes. If you don’t have access to a drill press, contact a local wood shop or cabinet maker. They will have a drill press on site and will most likely be willing to help you drill a couple of holes.
Free Pinewood Speed Tips

Extending the wheel base will give your car two powerful advantages over other cars. First: It allows you to place the weight farther to the rear of the car. The farther back you place the weight, the faster your car will go. The reasoning behind this tip is that as you push the weight farther up the track, your car gains potential energy. More Energy = More Speed

Second: A longer wheel base will make your car travel in a straighter line as it rolls down the track. The straighter it rolls, the less likely it will be to weave around and bump into the center guide rail. The shortest distance between the start and finish is a straight line. Fewer Bumps = More Speed

How to make long extended wheelbase car

The holes need to be drilled 5/8th inch from either end of the block and 1/8th inch up from the bottom, as shown in Figures 10 and 11. The holes should be drilled using a #44 sized drill bit.

You can also visit our pinewood derby pre-drilled blocks where pre-drilled pine blocks and wedges are for sale.

Note: Please note that when you extend the wheel base, the center of gravity rule still applies. The center of gravity for your car should be between 1 inch and 1 ¼ inches in front of the rear axle. In this case, that location will be located farther to the rear of the car.

Speed Tip #5

This photo (Figure 10) illustrates what happens immediately after the starting pin begins to drop. Notice how the second car from the left is already out in front of the other cars by almost an inch. This isn’t an accident! It will happen every single time, in every single race! It’s a speed tip I call “Quick Start.” Would you like to make your car do this? It’s totally legal and works like a charm!

Free Pinewood Speed Tips Speed Tip #6

Did you know that all BSA® axles are not created equal? Did you know that some BSA® axles will make your car go faster than other BSA® axles? It’s not magic. There are differences in the axles when they first come out of the box. The photos below in (Figure 11) show two sets of axles. One set is bad. The other set is good. The “Bad” axles could do a lot to help your car lose. The good axles could do a lot to help your car win. Can you tell the difference? The differences are subtle and not always visible to the naked eye. unless someone who knows the secret shows you want to look for.
Free Pinewood Speed Tips
Axles should be straight. Mount each axle in a drill and spin it. If the head wobbles, the axle should be replaced or you can use our Pro Axle Press to straighten the axle.

Speed Tip #7

Gravity provides the energy that makes your car roll down the track. It’s the engine in your car! However, did you know that some cars have a much larger gravity engine than other cars? They have more energy, which in turn makes them go much faster!  AND it’s not because they are heavier. Two cars that weigh the exact same amount, can have vastly different amounts of potential energy when they are placed on the starting line.  Fast cars are designed to maximize the amount of energy gravity can provide by adjusting the balance point closer to the rear axles.

Free Pinewood Speed Tips –  Make sure that you have a well balanced center of gravity.  Which car will be yours the fast one or the slow one? Based upon my experience, I would guess that over 95% of all cars have much less potential energy than they could have, if some small changes were made. Most people have never thought about this concept and don’t have a clue how to make it happen. Would you like to know the secret to maximizing the amount of energy your car has on the starting line?

Click here to Learn More about Center of Mass Gravity

Derby Speed Tip #8

Would you like to know how to completely eliminate 25% of your overall wheel friction?  If one of your wheels is not performing as well as the other three, your car could lose a lot of speed! Did you know there is a very simple test you can perform to be sure this doesn’t happen to you?  Spin those wheels!  Use the bad wheel as a high wheel if you can.

3 wheel racer makes a faster car.  Raise one of the front wheels so it doesn’t touch the track.

Pinewood Speed Tip #9

The next step is wheel prep. This is important to get the most out of your wheel. Polishing the inner bore is a step that every league racer does, and most average BSA racers skip. If you need to get the most out of your race, take the 30 mins to polish the bores.  Our wheel polish kit contains all the bits and pieces to do a few wheel sets and give you the advantage over others.  As explained earlier, polishing the inner bore reduces friction and increases speed.  Reducing friction is key to maximizing your potential energy.

Kick it up a notch by sealing the polish with a sealant or wax to even further reduce friction.

Free Pinewood Tip #10

What we want to do is reduce that kinetic and static friction forces.  During the race, the wheel hubs will rub on the axles.  In addition to manually reduce those friction forces through axle and wheel preparation.  However, even if after you have properly prepared and polished your axles and wheels, there can still be more done to reduce friction.   Choosing the best lube is the final step.  Every millisecond adds up!

Your scout rules will probably require that you use a dry lube. If so, use quality graphite, such as Derby dust Dry Lube graphite powder.  We must lubricate all friction points when installing wheels and axles.  And then even take it further by “breaking-in” those parts.   Most rules that I have read address this specifically: graphite or oil. This will tell you 2 things: what lube you need and what polish level your axles need to be at.

Check out our High Quality Graphite Lube

Speed Tip #11

Did you know that there is a totally legal way to give your car an energy boost when it reaches the bottom of the “ramped” portion of the track? Yes, it’s totally legal everywhere! Our cars get this little boost of energy every time they race! I’ve actually had fathers lean over to me during a race and say, “What’s up with your son’s car? It accelerates at the bottom the ramp!” I just look at them, smile, and say, “Yip.. It sure looks that way.” Do you want to know the secret?

Make sure you have 20z of weight behind the rear axle, and then balance your center of mass gravity to track specific evidence as raced my thousands of events.  The extra weight in the back allows for the maximum allowable transition of stored kinetic energy.