Why graphite coated axles are Smoke and Mirror

Graphite Coated Axles – Axles which are pre-coated with graphite are a popular item today. But think twice before using them. Graphite works well as a lubricant because the graphite particles slide easily on each other. But when graphite is mixed with a binder (so that it adheres to metal), it can no longer slide freely. Thus, the lubricant power of the graphite is severely compromised. There are application where this type of product is of benefit. But in a pinewood derby race (where speed is critical, and wear and tear is not of concern) any graphite paint or spray will provide less lubrication than powdered graphite.

Highly polished steel axles lubricated with powdered graphite will generally provide better performance than pre-coated axles.

I am more than positive that we will get tons of “fan mail” from this post. Just to clarify, we can make graphite coated pinewood derby axles if that is what we intended to do. However, we believe they are just a gimmick with short term gain. Therefore, we have chosen not to offer this type of product.

For the DYI, it is a simple process same as coating bullets with moly. You FIRST have to prep the axle to the level of polish you desire. The next step is basically impacting the graphite into the pwd axle with steel tumbling media. It will require more costs to invest in getting the right equipment than the average DIY will want to spend. In this sense it will be cheaper to buy the product outright if you choose to go this route. We do not believe it is the best bang for your buck.  This will coat the entire axle from tip to head….

Now if you want to do it even easier than that.  This is probably the method I would do.  Buy a can of Frankford Arsenal 6 oz. Aerosol Drop Out Bullet Mold Release.  Place your axle in something that spins (lathe or drill).  Clean the axle with some sort of solvent that will not leave residue.  Spin the axle, spray it down with the mold release.  VERY LIGHT COATING.  DON’T DOUBLE COAT IT.  You’re done …  and that stuff stays on, but is not the answer.

Are the graphite coated pinewood derby axles faster than stock? Yes. How long will the graphite applied in this matter last? Usually less than 5 or 6 races. You will run this many simulated races just by spinning the wheels at home. The graphite is never applied in rotational layers needed for your car to perform at its top potential. You can review many comments on multiple sites that will tell you they are good for a few races, but loose their edge after a few runs. Since most pinewood derby cars will race at least 6 times or more to compete to the finals, think about a different way to make those axles faster than buying a gimmick. We have had great results with our treadmill tuning/break in technique. It’s FREE! Costs you NO money and is the best and easiest way to tune your car without a track or tuning board. Watch your car run in real time at its top speed!

AGAIN…. If this was the holy grail for speed, you would see it on the pro racers forum.  But a highly polished axle, with a sealant or wax of some sort is the answer.  Again the special sauces….  2 coatings that ALWAYS are mentioned for graphite racers….  Lemon PLEDGE and Krytox spray on.  We now offer both.

The impact graphite application for pinewood derby axles does not yield the same results as applying the graphite to the plastic wheel. Most believe since the pinewood derby speed axles are “coated” with graphite, no additional work is needed. How wrong they are! We have tested many different methods from burnishing, to high levels of polish. We have tried many different lube coatings from firearm lubes to state of the art nano-lube applications. There is really not too many applications of spray on graphite, that really work to your PWD car advantage.

Finding a sealant or wax that will reduce the co-efficient of friction of the metal axle is the key to axle lubricant.  Besides the special sauces for oil…  Lemon Pledge or a Krytox spray on is the key coating for graphite.