Grand Prix Racing - How To Make A Fast Pinewood Car

Lubricate the Axles

Preparing axles and wheels can be difficult - there is much to do.

Besides polishing the axles and wheel bores, lubrication is the most important factor in the speed of your car. But just lubricating may not enough. If you use a dry lubricant, you must apply it to your axles BEFORE you attach them to your car! Many Grand Prix participants who might other wise win, lose because of failing to do this one simple thing. Care must also be taken not to apply too much lubricant. The best lubricant over applied can be worse than none at all. Lubrication is essential but can be tricky.

Oily, Wet Lubricants

In general, oily or wet lubricants (even WD-40) are worse than none at all, especially on axles that have not been polished. After a while, they can soak into the oils in your wheel and become sticky. If you must, apply them the day of the race.

Dry Lubricants

Dry lubricants are powders. Powders include PTFE, pure graphite and graphite with additives like molybdenum. Some have used talcum powder. The problem with powders is keeping them on the axle. There is a "dry" white lubricant (PTFE?) sold in some hobby stores for Grand Prix cars. It claims it stays put better. It sure does, it sticks. It's worse than using none. Apply these when you attach your axles and wheels to the car. Further application will make little difference.

Go On Wet, Thin Film Lubricants

These are the best. They spray on wet and "dry" onto the surface forming a thin coat around the axle and wheel bore. It comes with silicon and teflon. Some are completely synthetic. The best part is that you can buy them in the hardware section of your local department store. Avoid those that claim to "penetrate" - it will soak into your wheels and gum things up. Over a period of time, they become sticky, so apply them an hour or so before the race so it has time to dry but not gum things up.

For the Winner
To relubricate for your wider area event, begin by melting the glue around the axles with your glue gun. Strip any glue left on the axles off. Re polish the axles and wash in denatured alcohol to remove any debris. Soak a lint free paper towel in denatured alcohol and twist it through each wheel hub to clean them. Follow the advice above to lubricate as you remount and realign your axles and wheels or to wait just before the event.

In order to lubricate your axles with a dry lubricant:

  1. Lubricate the axle BEFORE putting it on the car. Failing in this point will mean a slow first race. Subsequent races will usually be faster as the lubricant works in, but they will still be slower than they could have been. Follow the instructions on the container. Be sure to wipe off excess.
  2. Lubricate the wheel bore before putting the axle in the wheel.

In order to lubricate your axles with a thin film:

  1. Lift your car up to work on it. This opens the wheel - axle interface.
  2. Tear a piece of paper towel and insert it over the wheel around the hub to keep the spray off the inside of the wheel.
  3. Spray the inside wheel bore area. The lube will spread over the bore and to the back of the axle head.
  4. Now turn your car upside-down and spin your wheels a few times to get an even coat. It dries in a few minutes.
  5. Rub a bit on the inner edges of the treads. It may help to reduce friction with the lane median on some tracks.

Take a test spin

While holding your car upside-down, give your newly lubricated wheels a spin with your finger. Feel the vibrations? They should spin for more than five seconds with very little vibration, or none at all.

Hot Tip
Use hot glue to glue in your axles! If an axle/wheel does not spin freely for a few seconds, most lubricants can be removed by lightly repolishing the axle or by cleaning with denatured alcohol. Remove your axle by applying a hot glue gun to melt the glue. Remove any glue stuck to the axle and clean it. Try applying less of the lubricant until the test is satisfactory.

Avoid getting lubricant on the wheel tread. If you do, lubricant may wipe onto the track. Your car might be disqualified! It is no speed advantage either.

In order to reduce friction between the body and the wheel once the wheels are attached, lubricate the area of the body on the sides of the axle grooves where the wheel bore end will rub the body. This is especially important if you cant your axles downward.

For the serious competitor
You can time your car in a 10 foot rain gutter with end caps or other straight 10 foot ramp. Raise one end 6 inches and put supports down the length of the gutter (ramp). Your car should be able to roll down this ramp in 4.3 seconds. The faster the better.


PTFE (Polytetrafluoro-ethylene) is sold in Scouting stores. It is another name for the plastic Teflon or Fluon. In general, plastics can be made more "slippery" by mixing them with additives like graphite and molybdenum disulfide. It is not certain whether a mixture can produce a better lubricant.

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Grand Prix Racing - How To Make A Fast Pinewood Car
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