Adding Weight to a Pinewood Derby Car Quickly and Cheaply.

I was looking for a quick, easy way to add weight to a Pinewood Derby car. You can use lead or tungsten, but they are relatively expensive ($1 - 2 per ounce), come in odd shapes, and you have to figure out a way to attach them to the car. Pennies, which are 97% zinc cost about $0.10 per ounce (or free if you find them under the sofa). An ounce of penny is the same weight as an ounce of lead, so why not go cheap. What you loose in increased volume needed for the same mass, you make up for with the utility of a uniform size and weight object. 

Disclaimer: This is my daughter's car, so no comments about pink or the hearts, please!
Also, no pennies were harmed in the process of this Instructable!

Step 1: Supplies

Things you need:
 - accurate scale.
 - 3/4" drill bit and drill.
 - some loose pennies.
 - masking tape (optional).
 - hot glue or epoxy (optional).

Step 2: Weight the Car

Pennies are exactly 3/4" in diameter and weight about 0.1 ounce each.

Weigh your car and then add pennies to the scale till you reach the desired weight.

I've been told there are two rules to the Derby:
 - If your car is overweight, you are disqualified.
 - If your car is underweight, you loose.

For our derby, 5 ounces was the limit, and her car started out at 4.5 oz, so we only needed to add five pennies to get close.

Yes, the car does say "I love you Dad and Mom" on the bottom. That makes it go faster.

Step 3: Drill Away

If you are unsure of your abilities to eye-ball the depth to drill, measure the thickness of the pennies you intend to use and mark your drill at the correct depth with masking tape. Five pennies are about seven millimeters in thickness. You want to be very careful here that you don't drill through the bottom (or top), or into your hand! You might take the wheels off and place it on a spare piece of wood.

My daughter wanted her pennies mounted on top, but I would put them on the bottom if you want it them out of site. If you need to add a lot of weight, you could add more than one hole. Most people recommend placing the weight toward the back of the car.

Step 4: Add the Pennies

Add the pennies and double-check the weight. Drilling removed a little bit of weight. If you decide to glue them in, it will add at little weight, so leave some room to spare. We ended up using six pennies.

With the pennies a snug fit, and the hole on top, we didn't even bother with glue. You can get the pennies out by slapping the car against your hand. This would allow you to remove weight if the track scale show a different weight at the race). Your track official may require them be glued. The standard rule is no loose objects, so it is a judgment call. 

As the final touch, we put a penny from the year she was born on top. You could also use a new penny to help remember when the event was in years to come.

Total cost (minus drill bit): $0.06

There is my two cents!  As promised. Cheap and easy. 

Hope this helps you out!



    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

      Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest
    • Games Contest

      Games Contest

    7 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Our car was so light and thin I needed to use larger coins and two holes. A 1" spade bit worked for quarters (actually Chuck E Cheese tokens).

    Also if the coins are not snug, instead of glue you can wrap in masking tape as many times as necessary (twice in my case).


    3 years ago

    Nice idea! The weights would be more effective at the back of the car. This increases the height from which the weight falls and in turn increases the amount of potential energy of the car.


    4 years ago on Step 4

    Thank you so much for this!! This was our first year in scouts and we waited until the last possible moment to add weight. It was such a great idea! So simple! So easy! Thanks for bailing us out!!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    yes, superglue and small change is way cheaper than purchased weight.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Other coins that equal an ounce:

    5 quarters
    5 nickels + 1 dime
    12 dimes

    For weighing our cars, we take them to the Post Office and use the self-serve stamp machine, since we don't own our own postal scale.

    It's always good to have some pocket change on hand on race day (along with crazy glue or tape) for that last-minute adjustment in case the race scale doesn't agree with yours.

    Great idea to post here, and happy racing!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    "I love you Dad and Mom" on the bottom. That makes it go faster.
    I like that, and coinage is good for weights.