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Pinewood Derby Weight Q&A

Why do I need to add weight to my pinewood derby car?
If there were no friction or air resistance, then added weight would not be needed. But since friction (and to a lesser extent, air resistance) exists, weight is needed to help your car overcome friction. This is especially important on modern tracks which have an initial slope followed by a long flat section. On this type of track, the pinewood derby car reaches its maximum speed at the bottom of the hill, and then begins to slow down. Without added weight, the car will slow down much more quickly.

What is the best weight for pinewood derby cars?
For cars with less than one-half of the original block remaining, lead or tungsten weight is generally required. For minimalist cars (very little wood), tungsten is generally needed to attain proper weight. For cars with one-half or more of the block remaining, then steel or zinc will work fine.

What is tungsten?
Tungsten is a metal with one of the highest densities. It is 1.7 times heavier than lead. Only gold, platinum, and a few other rare and expensive metals have a similar density. Tungsten is non-toxic and environmentally friendly so it is gaining increased use in weighting applications where lead is not appropriate. For example lead has been banned in many streams, so tungsten is often substituted for lead weight on fishing flies.

Can I drill, melt, or reshape tungsten?
Not easily. Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals in pure form: 3422 C, 6192 F. To cut or drill tungsten generally requires diamond cutting tools. So, I recommend using the appropriate shape of tungsten, and creating pockets or holes in the pinewood derby car to accept the tungsten weight.

Is lead safe?
Lead can be toxic if taken internally (Click Here for Safety Information). However, if handled and used in a safe manner, the health risk is quite low.

Why do you not offer a greater variety of PineCar weights?
PineCar weights are made of zinc, which is a metal with a very low density. This low density makes proper weighting difficult to impossible on cars made of less than one-half of the wood block.

What is the best location for added weight?
Added weight should be placed such that the final balance point of the car is between 1 and 1-1/4 inches in front of the rear axle. To achieve this balance point, a good "rule of thumb" is to place of one-third of the added weight behind the rear axle, one-third on top of or just in front of the rear axle, and the final third about one inch in front of the rear axle.

Is it better to put the weight high or low on the car?
Low weight is better, as it gives the car greater stability.

What do I use if I don't have time to buy weights?
If you are in a jam, use pennies, or steel screws and washers.

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