How to Embed Graphite Into a Pinewood Derby Car

By Denise Bertacchi
Carved wooden cars for pinewood derby races can be very elaborate.

Dry powdered graphite is a common wheel lubricant used for Pine Wood Derby cars. In fact, in many Scout Councils it is the only legal lubricant that can be used for a Pine Wood Derby race. There are many tricks and tips to getting your Scout’s car to run faster, and using graphite is perhaps the most important. Please remember that many Packs do not allow messy graphite in school buildings, so it is important to apply the lubricant when assembling the car and before race day.

Place a sheet of newspaper on the work surface to collect graphite dust.

Before setting the axles into the car body, gently rub graphite into the wood closest to the wheel. This will reduce friction if the wheels should touch the car’s body.

Apply graphite to the inside of the wheel, where the axle is inserted. Use a small crafting paint brush for this job. Tap the wheel on the newspaper to remove loose graphite dust.

Place wheel on the axle and attach to the Pine Wood Derby car. Squirt more graphite into the wheel’s hole next to the axle. Spin the wheel several times to get a good coating of graphite around the axle. Carefully tap excess graphite onto the newsprint. Repeat the process for the other wheels.

Tip

Make sure the car's paint is completely dry before using graphite to avoid graphite dust from sticking to the car. If the car will be used at a second race (like a District event) reapply more graphite between tournaments. Pipe cleaners can also be used to get graphite inside the wheel's axle hole.

Warning

Graphite is messy and can leave gray smudges on cars if applied in a sloppy manner. Graphite will gradually wear off--do not allow the Scout to play with their car until after the race is done.