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Polish your axles and wheels

January 4th, 2006 · 5 Comments

When you get your car kit, take a look at the axles and wheels. A lot of kits have burrs and mold marks poking off the wheels and axles. Every one of those will slow your car down. Friction is enemy number one to your car. Smooth axles and wheels have less friction.

You can use a file to trim the mold marks off the axles. Then you can use some fine-grit sandpaper to take the rest of the mold marks off the axles and the wheels. Finally use some polishing compound from the auto supply store to polish up both the axles and the wheels.

The easiest way to sand or polish the axle is to put it in an electic drill and let the drill spin the axle at a low speed while you polish it. Kids, get your parent’s help with power tools.

There’s three places on the wheel that need polishing. Even rules that don’t allow you to modify the wheels will usually allow you to sand off and polish the mold marks. The wheel treads, where the wheel makes contact with the track is the first one. You need to sand off the mold marks. The easiest way to do this is to buy a mandrel at a hobby shop. A mandrel is a little tool that lets you attach your wheel to the end of an electric drill. You also need to sand off any mold marks on the inside and outside hubs of the wheel where they’ll make contact with the axle and the car body. And you’ll want to polish the inside of the wheel, where the axle runs through. The easiest way to do that is to put polishing compound on a pipe cleaner or a bit of cloth and run it through the wheel hole. Give the wheel a few light spins and then wash it out.


5 comments so far ↓

  • Bruce Edney // Apr 4, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Wheel spacing:
    I have proven with literally hundreds of timed test runs on my 39 foot track with more than 15 different derby cars that I have made that you will achieve faster times by maximizing the space between the outmost position of the wheels and the car body. Move the heads of the axels out to the max allowable width of 2.75 inches. This allows the wheels to drift freely with less time in contact with the axel head and car body. Each time the wheel contacts the car body or axel head it slows the car.

  • Bruce Edney // Apr 4, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    Wheel alignment:
    This is in conflict with all published advice that I have seen. Yes, wheel aligment is truly critical but running in a straight line is not necessarily best. I have built more than 15 cars and have incorporated adjustable axels to achieve the best times on my 39 foot test track. I use a timer accurate to .0001 sec. I run ten runs for each alignment test and average the runs. With one wheel raised (the right one) I typically get the fastes runs with a car that pulls slightly to the right. I first run the car on a carefully leveled six foot long sloped board. I find each car to be slightly different but typically a car aligned to pull to the right about 4-6 inches over the 6 foot test run will be fastest. Adjustments of just a few thousands of an inch can make a difference! And, most importantly, you must not influence the run down the sloped board by touching the car. This is very tricky and you must be able to time your car on a real track to determine the best alignment. For this reason unless you have the ability to time your adjustments it will be kind of a hit or miss proposition!

  • William Schneider // Oct 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    What have you learned about wheel wobble? My son had a very fast car (we really polished the axles!) that would create a racing lead after traveling two thirds the way down the track. Invariably the car would bump the center rail and a wheel wobble would start, slowing the car. I never figured out how to prevent the wobble. Any ideas?

  • carl // Jan 9, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Try as I might, I’m not sure I’ve found enough detail on how to remove the burrs with a file without leaving a flat spot. Can anyone elaborate more on this, perhaps with photos?

  • Gregory // Jan 12, 2010 at 11:31 am

    The new 2009 wheels don’t have the burr on the flat part of the wheel anymore. If you can go get some from the scout store $2. Else, put the wheel on a drill press and spin it slowly with your file remove material from the whole wheel until the burr is gone.

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