What Are The Best Wheels For A Soap Box Derby Car?

Building an amateur soap box derby car with wheels from bicycles, strollers, and lawn mowers, with tips and safety precautions for installing them.

All boys, and many girls as well, enjoy building and racing their own soap box derby car, whether they're seven or seventy, and the proper wheel can make all the difference between a fast-moving vehicle and a sluggish one.

If you are building an official racer, which will be used for an authorized Soap Box Derby race, your wheels will need to follow strict specifications. As there is a limit on size, shape and construction of an official racer, there is a demand that the wheels be officially approved Z-Glas wheels.

However, if you are building a racer for fun, or if you want to start at an amateur level and get in some practice before going for the big time, any wheels will do. But some are better than others, and if you're serious about going for the big time, you'll want to get the best wheels you can for your practice sessions.

In the early days of soap box racing, people used old baby buggy wheels for their racers. These are excellent, as they are large and sturdy, and the rubber on them makes for good traction when going down hills. On some on-line auction sites people are able to buy the steel wheels formerly used on official derby racers, which are no longer manufactured. These look like large disks, made of metal, with a small hole in the center for the axle. They are either white or red. Around the rim is a rubber tire edge, again for traction. These wheels are heavy, about fourteen pounds more than the new standard "glass" ones used on racers.

Another good wheel to find is a bicycle wheel from the front of a small child's bicycle, approximately sixteen inches in diameter. You can't use the rear tires because they are equipped with gears for the chain of the bike, but the front ones work perfectly. Of course, you'd need to find four abandoned bikes so you could remove their wheels, and they'd need to be identical.

For smaller children, stroller wheels will work, or even lawn mower wheels, as the racer is not going to be made for speed, just entertainment for a small child. These wheels are excellent for a little sidewalk coaster.

You'll need wheels that an axle will be able to fit inside easily, and be fastened with a cotter pin and washers. If you have to, you can put larger wheels on the back and smaller ones on the front.

Safety is the key when installing your wheels. Make sure they're attached securely and can't come off when the racer is going down hill. If you are making a racer for a toddler or infant, you'll want one that can be towed or pushed, and you should be in charge of it the entire time. Never push a very young child down a hill because you don't know what mishaps could occur. The racer could tip over, the child could fall out, or another racer or vehicle could accidentally hit the small racer. Larger children, and even adults, should be strapped in securely to avoid mishaps. If your wheels are not attached securely and one falls off, it could make the racer drop and tip sharply, sending its occupants out onto the roadway, or flip over and trap them underneath.

If you plan to build a professional Soap Box Derby racer, however, you will need to contact their organization and get the exact specifications for the type of equipment you'll need. Sometimes, backyard racers can be more fun than the real thing, and it's a challenge to find the bits and pieces needed to put them together.

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