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What Are the Official BSA Pinewood Derby Rules?

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Looking for the “official” BSA Pinewood Derby rules for Cub Scouts? Find out all about the rules and inspections with printable examples.

cub scout pinewood derby rules

Did you know that there are no national Boy Scouts of America official Pinewood Derby rules?

Even though each car-building kit comes with a “rules and instructions” printed insert, they are suggested rules. Your pack's race committee will decide on the official rules for the race.

However, if your pack winners can move on to compete at either a district or council Derby, you'll probably want to use the rules for that event.

That's what we did in my pack. I would have hated for a Cub Scout who won our pack Pinewood Derby to get to our district Derby only to be disqualified because his or her car construction didn't conform to the district Derby rules.

Our pack purchased an Official Grand Prix Pinewood Derby Kit for each Cub Scout. These were handed out usually at our January pack meeting along with a copy of our district's rules.

We made sure that our new Cub Scouts understood the importance of following the district rules at our pack's Derby.

So, if there aren't any official BSA Pinewood Derby rules, what are the recommended rules?

Pinewood Derby Recommended Rules

First, there are certain specifications for the car.

  • Width 2 3/4″
  • Length – 7″
  • Weight – 5 ounces maximum
  • Width between wheels – 1 3/4″
  • Bottom clearance between car and track – 3/8″

You can use this handy Revell Pinewood Derby Wheel Adjustment Tool to perform 7 different checks of your cars.

Next, there are thing that are permitted or prohibited on a Pinewood Derby car.

  • Wheel bearings, washers, and bushings are prohibited.
  • The car shall not ride on springs.
  • Only official Cub Scout Pinewood Derby wheels and axles are permitted.
  • Only dry lubricant is permitted.
  • Details such as steering wheel and driver are permissible as long as these details do not exceed the maximum length, width, and weight specifications. 
  • The car must be free-wheeling, with no starting devices.

Cars must be inspected.

  • Each car must pass inspection by the official Inspection Committee before it may compete.
  • If, at registration, a car does not pass inspection, the owner will be informed of the reason for failure and will be given time within the official weigh-in time period to make adjustments.
  • After final approval, cars will not be reinspected unless the car is damaged in handling or in a race.

And that's it for the recommended Pinewood Derby rules.

But there are lots of other considerations. According to the Boys' Life website, here are some of the questions that you might want to answer in your rules.

  • Must the car be built during this Pinewood Derby season? Or can racers reuse a car from previous years?
  • Is it OK to use a completed car that was purchased in a store or on the Internet?
  • Does your pack have a height limit for cars?
  • Does it matter which materials are used to make the car? Does the chassis need to be wood, or can it be made of plastic or metal?
  • Is it OK to adjust the wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheel)?
  • Does the car need to have four wheels? Do they all have to touch the track?
  • Can the car’s front end protrude beyond the starting pin?
  • What adjustments are OK for the wheels? Can they be shaved, shaped or narrowed?
  • Can the axles be polished? Any requirements about axle length or diameter?
  • Which lubricants are permitted?
pinewood derby kit contents

You can get all the tools and supplies your Cub Scout needs to build their Pinewood Derby car in my Amazon store!

But these aren't the only considerations. Your rules should address things such as:

  • Are Bent Axles legal in Pinewood Derby?
  • Can you put weights on the bottom of a Pinewood Derby car?
  • Is the Scout required to wear their Class A uniform?
  • Can second year Webelos participate?

Check out these 17 ideas for Pinewood Derby-themed treats to serve at your event!

Printable Pinewood Derby Rules

Here are some printable Pinewood Derby rules examples that I've collected. You can use these as a resource when you create your own.

Natchez Trace District

Thunderbird District

South Mountain District

Northern Star Scouting

Pinewood Derby Check In & Inspections

Before your derby starts, you'll need to have check in and inspections. Some packs will hold these the night before the derby and will give the Scouts an opportunity to race their cars before the official event. This is a great idea if you can leave the cars at your facility overnight. 

You may want to have an inspection checklist for your pack. Here are three great examples.

Historic District Pinewood Derby
Inspection Checklist

Pack 355 Pinewood Derby
Inspection Checklist

Pack 320 Pinewood Derby
Inspection Checklist

My pack didn't have a place where we could leave the cars, so we had our check in and inspection right before the derby started. Make sure you plan enough time so that you can get everyone checked in before the derby starts.

Our Cub Scouts lined up with their cars. Our inspection table was usually staffed by 3 people. 

Here's the process we followed:

  1. Person 1 checks the wheels to make sure they are official Scout Grand Prix wheels. If they are, Person 1 then weighs the car.

    If car is over 141.7 grams (5 oz.), Cub is directed to the Pit Stop to drill or pry off weight. 
  2. If car is 141.7 grams (5 oz.) or less, car is given to Person 2 unless Cub Scout wants to try adding some weight.
  3. After car has passed the weight and wheels inspection, it is given to Person 2.
  4. Person 2 measures car.  Overall length cannot exceed 7”. Width (including wheels) cannot exceed 2 ¾”.  Minimum width between wheels is 1 ¾”. Minimum bottom clearance is 3/8”, and the overall height cannot exceed 4”.

    If car passes inspection, Person 2 gives car to Person 3. 
  5. Person 3 puts a number sticker on the car and writes the number by the Cub’s name on the spreadsheet. They then give the Scouts a “pit pass.”
  6. Person 3 gives the car to one of our Boy Scout helpers who puts it in the holding area.

These fun (and free!) Pinewood Derby printable activities can help the time go by faster for the kids who are waiting.

We called our adjustment area/table the Pinewood Derby Pit Stop. There we had graphite, weights or some pennies, scales, superglue, duct tape, wood files, basic hand tools, and a drill for parent use only so that the Cubs could make adjustments. 

One of our grandfathers would be responsible for the table so that he could help the Scouts (and their parents) make any necessary adjustments. Because it would get busy, we also had a couple of parents there to help him.

Cub Scout Winning Pinewood Derby

Often, a Scout who was crossing over would have graphite and weights that they didn't need anymore, so we would ask their parents to donate their extras to the pack so that we wouldn't have to purchase them. 

I would love to add your pack's rules to the examples in this post. Feel free to send me a copy via email at [email protected]

Yours in Scouting,
Sherry

P.S. Check out all my Pinewood Derby resources!

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