how to put graphite on pinewood derby wheels

how to put graphite on pinewood derby wheels
how to put graphite on pinewood derby wheels

Applying graphite to Pinewood Derby wheels is a common practice to reduce friction and improve the performance of your Pinewood Derby car. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply graphite to Pinewood Derby wheels:

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Pinewood Derby car with wheels
  • Graphite powder or graphite lubricant (readily available at hobby stores)
  • Small brush (such as a paintbrush or a dedicated graphite brush)
  • Plastic bags or newspaper (to catch excess graphite)


  1. Prepare a Clean Workspace:
    • Find a clean and dry area to work on your Pinewood Derby car. It’s a good idea to cover your workspace with plastic bags or newspaper to catch any excess graphite.
  2. Remove the Wheels:
    • Carefully remove the wheels from your Pinewood Derby car. You may need to gently pry them off using a screwdriver or a wheel removal tool if they are tightly attached.
  3. Clean the Wheels:
    • Before applying graphite, it’s essential to clean the wheels to remove any dust, debris, or oils. You can use a mild soap and water solution to clean them thoroughly. Rinse and dry the wheels completely.
  4. Apply Graphite:
    • Using a small brush (a dedicated graphite brush or a paintbrush works well), apply graphite powder or lubricant to the inside edge of each wheel where it contacts the axle. Be sure to apply it evenly and thinly. It’s crucial not to overapply, as excess graphite can be counterproductive.
  5. Spin the Wheels:
    • After applying graphite, spin each wheel on its axle several times to distribute the graphite evenly across the wheel’s surface and the axle. This helps to reduce friction.
  6. Repeat the Process:
    • Repeat the application process for all four wheels. Ensure that each wheel is adequately coated and evenly distributed.
  7. Wipe Excess Graphite:
    • Using a clean cloth or paper towel, gently wipe away any excess graphite from the wheel’s exterior. You want to keep the outer surface clean to prevent smudging or transferring graphite onto your hands or other parts of the car.
  8. Reassemble the Car:
    • Once the wheels are properly coated and any excess graphite is removed, reattach them to your Pinewood Derby car. Make sure they are securely in place.
  9. Test and Fine-Tune:
    • Test your Pinewood Derby car on a smooth and level track to see how it performs. If needed, make any adjustments to improve the car’s balance and alignment.
  10. Reapply as Necessary:
    • Over time and with use, the graphite coating on the wheels may wear off. You can reapply graphite as needed to maintain optimal performance.

Remember that the goal of applying graphite is to reduce friction between the wheels and axles, so applying it correctly and evenly is crucial. Be mindful not to overdo it, as excessive graphite can create a mess and potentially slow down your car. Always follow the rules and guidelines of your specific Pinewood Derby event regarding lubricants and additives.

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