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Align the axles on your Pinewood Derby car. It's as easy as ABC! 

Example of pinewood car


How to use the Rail Rider Tool to improve Your Car's Performance

Pro Rail Rider / Wheel Alignment Tool

Pro Rail Rider

The Pro Rail Rider is designed to help the builder in building a straight, fast, easy to align a Pinewood Derby car even without a test track. This tool was also designed to accurately set up the alignment to gently ride the center guide rail with a result of increased speed.  Watch the video

The Pro Rail Rider is used with a Pro Axle Press (not included). For best results, prepare the axle slots (or drill axle holes) with a Pro Body Tool.  Then straighten the axles with the Pro Axle Press and polish them as desired. Then perform the following steps:

Aligning the axles on your Pinewood Derby Car

1. Use a marker pen to place a location dot on one side of each axle head.

2. Install a axle into the Axle Press, with the axle head extended out about 1/2 inch. Rotate the axle so that the dot on the head is located at 6:00 (down) position.

3. Slide the Pro Rail Rider Tool over  the top of the axle press. Locate the axle shaft in the groove of the Rail Rider. Use the 2.5 side of the tool for rear axles, and the 1.5 side for front axles.  Press the axle head against the tool. Make sure the dot is still at the 6:00 position.

4. With the assembly on a solid surface (concrete floor is best), hold the axle head against the tool with your thumb and place your index finger on the opposite end of the tool.  Squeeze firmly and tap the top of the tool with a hammer lightly three times.   This will accurately bend the axle the indicated 1.5 deg or 2.5 deg.

Tuning the Alignment of Your Pinewood Derby Car

  1. Assemble the car with the axle head location dots at 12:00.
  2. Check Rear Wheels - On a clean, level surface that is at least 6 feet long, roll the car forward and backwards one to two feet. and make sure that the rear wheels stay against the axle heads.  This is an indicator of correct rear alignment. If a wheel moves towards the body, rotate the axle head slightly and retest until the wheel stays against the axle head.
  3. Determine the front dominant wheel - If one front wheel is off the ground, the wheel on the ground is the dominant wheel. If both wheels are on the ground, then press gently on each of the front wheels. If the car rocks slightly when pressing on one of the wheels, the other wheel is the dominant wheel.  If the car does not rock, rotate on of the axles just enough so that the other wheel is dominate.
  4. Aligning the car - The goal of Rail Riding is to gently steer the car into the center guide rail with the front dominant wheel. Gently roll the car across the test area and notice which way the car drifts.  Rotate the front dominant axle slightly, then retest until the car rolls 5 to 6 feet with approximately 1 inch of drift away from the dominant wheel (if the front-right wheel is dominant, the car should drift to the left; if the front left wheel is dominant, the car should drift to the right). Builder' note: Narrowing the body 1/16" around the area of the the dominant wheel will keep the rear wheel from touching he guide strip and help reduce friction.
  5. Once the correct drift is established, glue the axles in place if using axle slots.

Rail Rider Tool Video

Watch this video for more information on how to use
the Rail Rider tool to align the wheels on your pinewood derby cars.

Rail Rider Tool Video Transcript

The Pro Rail Rider Tool is designed to help the builder accurately bend the axles to camber the wheels, to reduce friction by eliminating contact with the track and the tread-face, and giving the builder the ability to adjust the car to steer in the direction needed for correct alignment. The rail riding alignment procedure simply consists of guiding the car down the track with the dominant front wheel used to steer the car. By gently steering into the guide strip the car will track straight and correctly down the track while maintaining the rear wheels off the strip for the fastest running car.

To use the Pro Rail Rider tool, first mark each axle with a Sharpie. Next insert the axle into the Pro Axle Press with the mark downward at six o'clock. Next select the degree of bend you would like for that axle. We recommend a starting point of 2 and a half degrees in the rear, 1 and a half degrees for the front. Insert the tool over the Pro Axle Press, push the axle against the base of the Pro Rail Rider tool, and strike firmly with a hammer 2 or 3 times to accurately bend the axle.

When assembling a rail rider, one thing to keep in mind is that the rear wheel behind the dominant wheel needs to stay off of the rail of the track. This can be achieved in two ways. Number one, while building the body, the front of the car on the dominant side can be narrowed up to 1/16 of an inch or the rear wheel behind the dominant wheel can have an extra amount of wheel gap to keep the rear wheel off the rail as the car travels down the track. Test roll the car on a flat service. Look for the rear wheels to stay out on the axle heads and the front wheel to steer the car approximately 1 inch toward the dominant wheel over a 4-6 foot surface roll. Next roll the car rearward again watching for the rear wheels to stay out against the axle heads. This demonstrates zero toe or correct rear wheel alignment.

Once the car has been assembled and you have completed your forward and rearward rolling test, a small amount of adjustment may be required. If, when the car is rolled forward, the wheels migrate in towards the body this indicates the car has toe in. Using a pair of axle pliers slightly turn the axle to the rear of the car and retest. If when the car is rolled rearward the wheels migrate in towards the body reverse the procedure and turn the axles forward a small amount and retest.

Now for the final adjustment we are looking for the car to drift one to one and a half inches towards the dominant wheel over a 4-6 foot roll. Small adjustments again in the steering or dominant wheel can be made using a set of axle pliers once the rear adjustment has been established.

This year we decided to try the 3-wheeler approach. Our front right wheel was slightly higher than the other 3 tires and never touched the track. The car ran great during the 3 preliminary runs. The first run at 200.5 Miles an hour and the other two at 199 miles per hour. Then there were 3 final runs for the championship. At the end of the 2nd of these (5th overall) that wheel broke off the car at the hub. The car still won that heat. If it had been any of the other 3 wheels we would have been in trouble. But since that wheel was not touching the track anyway, it caused no harm. Then we ran the final heat as a true 3-wheeler (missing a wheel) and still won....Bill L.