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How to align your wheels

January 4th, 2006 · 13 Comments

Most blocks that come in pinewood kits don’t have straight holes cut for the axles. They’re all manner of crooked, so you’ll need to make your own holes using a miter saw or a drill press. You can also use a carpenter’s square and a hand saw to square up the holes, but it’s a lot more work and the results aren’t as good. When you put the axle holes in, make sure they’re a perfect 90-degree angle to the car’s body.

To install the wheels, use a steady pressure making sure you don’t bend the axle one way or another. The straightest holes in the world won’t help if your axles are bent.

The easiest way to test if your wheels are straight is to raise one end of your kitchen table slightly. Put a book under the legs of one end and you’ll have a little slope. Then place a ruler or other straight edge at the edge of the table and line up the car’s left wheels against the ruler. Let your car roll and see if it moves closer to the edge of the table or more toward the middle. Make sure you don’t let the car fall to the ground!

If your car pulls to one side, you need to check your alignment. Hold your car on its side with the two wheels hanging free. Take a ruler and gently lay it on the inside hub of the wheels. If one end of your wheel has a gap between the wheel and the ruler, you need to straighten that wheel.

Checking wheel alignment with a straight edge

To straighten the wheel, push on the wheel gently. You don’t need to push very hard. Make lots of small adjustments instead of a few big ones.

Aligning a wheel

Retest and recheck the alignment after every adjustment.


13 comments so far ↓

  • Reed C // Mar 29, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Aren’t you afraid of breaking the axles? Or damaging the wheel bore?

  • norm // Sep 1, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    What is the best car design?

    Also, you said put the weight in the rear end rather than the front?


  • Anthony Russell // Oct 25, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Whe I step on the brakes about 35 miles per hour, the 1995 (4×4) yukon’s left fron tire(I think) starts to shake real bad. I feel some pulsating. But this morning it appears that when one of the wheel/ tire is set straight forward, the other appears to be slightly outward. What do you think could be the problem? I already changed the rotor, the brakes and the upper ball joint. The four wheel works good, I don’t hear the bearings grinding or anything like that. Your suggestion, if you will!

  • Michael Blue // Jan 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Research “rail riding”. 2.5* negative camber in back, 1.5* negative camber in front, and adjust the caster on your dominant front wheel so it tracks slightly to the non-dominant side (4-6″ per 6′). There’s an awesome video on YouTube that explains perfectly. There are specifically-made tools for this procedure as well, not too expensive, and worth it, if you’re after a trophy and plan to run more than one year.

  • New2Pinewood // Feb 19, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Love the guy asking for alignment advice about his 4×4 Yukon. That tickled me.

  • Todd C // Mar 13, 2011 at 9:40 am

    There is no caster on a Pinewood car, only camber and toe. Caster is an angle obtained by drawing a line through the upper and lower balljoint or lower balljoint and upper strut mount as viewed from the side of the car. Just trying to help.

  • Gonzo // Jan 19, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Adjusting is a science. Measuring is emperical…

    I place a 4 x 8 sheet of hardboard on my driveway. The slope of the driveway will allow the car to roll slowly but consistently. I snap a line down the center and rotate the hardboard to align the snap line with the path of a smooth blue hand ball released at the top the hardboard. When you let the car roll down the hardboard the steering effect of the front wheels is quite evident and can be acurately measured and subsequently adjusted.

    BTW, this will not work so well with a Yukon.

  • Bill Klingler // Feb 11, 2012 at 10:54 am

    This one was humorous about the Yukon. I kept waiting for the joke.
    Buy the tool with the #44 drill bit to get the 90 degree angle and then buy the axle insertion tool. Let’s not spend a lot of time for nothing. I don’t use my Royal typewriter anymore. I’ll bet you’re asking, “What’s a Royal typewriter”?

  • Bill Klingler // Sep 29, 2012 at 4:18 am

    If you’re building a rail rider the dominant front wheel should have 1 1/2 degrees of Positive camber, not Negative camber. This will allow the bottom of the wheel to ride against the rail. If you have Negative camber you are taking a chance of having the wheel dig into the rail if the sections are not perfectly aligned. Caster can be defined as “The forward or rearward tilt of the Kingpin”. If you bend the nail to achieve toe in and camber would you not be changing the Caster?

  • Herb Bowers // Jan 14, 2013 at 5:30 am

    How the heck do you make axle holes using a miter saw?

  • Bill Klingler // Jan 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    When the word “holes” was used I think he actually meant “slots”.

  • Joe Doctor // Jan 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Isn’t this supposed to be for 8-year-0lds?

  • Bill Klingler // Jan 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I believe the age range is 6 to 10 years of age. If your scout starts as a Tiger and continues on in the Derby he is able to teach Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion at the College level, along with the Cycloid of Constant time. These little guys are smart.

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