Air hockey is a fast-paced arcade game where many casual players will aim to hit the puck as hard and as fast as they can to catch the opponent off guard. Better players obviously use skill to score but as a casual player, the go-to option is to hit the puck as hard as you can and hope to score.
When you see the puck flying around the air hockey table at speed, a common thought is usually how fast the puck is traveling. This isn’t an easy thing to notice by eye so in this article, I’ll cover the interesting question – how fast does an air hockey puck travel and see if it’s possible to make it faster!
How Fast Does An Air Hockey Puck Travel
The average speed of an air hockey puck is not usually measured during casual games, but players have recorded hockey puck speeds of about 80 miles per hour (mph) at the highest.
Although air hockey pucks can reach these high speeds, this 80 mph pace depends on a variety of different factors that work together to accelerate or decelerate the puck.
The Air Holes Increase Speed By Reducing Friction
They made each air hockey table with holes that blow air across the table’s surface. This air slightly lifts the puck from the table, creating a gap between the puck and table to make the puck glide.
This helps to increase the speed of the puck by reducing the friction that the puck and table would normally have if the puck were to slide directly across the table.
The Force of the Hit Can Determine the Speed of the Puck
When you strike something, the item you hit reciprocates the force of your hit with an equal force of its own. It is the same when you hit your air hockey puck.
The strength of the player and the force of their hit directly affect the speed at which the puck flies across the table.
Many serious players like to increase their force output by using as much of their arm as they can to increase the velocity of their swing.
The Puck’s Size in Relation to the Table’s Size Matters
The puck’s size does matter in terms of the puck size to table size ratio. The bigger the table, the bigger your puck should be. On the other side of that, if your table is on the smaller side, your puck should be smaller too.
This is because the airflow is stronger with larger tables than it is with smaller ones and the bigger pucks have more surface area for use on the big tables.
If you use a large puck on a small table, there will be more friction and the puck will move slower because the airflow for the small table is not strong enough to lift it. Likewise, if you use a small puck for a large table, the distance it will have to travel for its size with be longer, making your puck slower.
How to Calculate Your Air Hockey Puck Speed
If you have a way to record the time it takes your air hockey puck to travel from one side of the air hockey table to the other and you can measure the distance between both points, you can calculate your average puck speed.
The formula is this: Distance x Time = Velocity or Average Speed
The difficulty is of course actually timing this! For most people, a stopwatch is the best way to try and track this for a cheap and manual option but when you consider how short the distance is between two sides of an air hockey table, you’d need lightning-fast reflexes and hand-eye coordination to even get close to an accurate measurement.
If you really want to measure how fast your air hockey puck can travel, the best way to do this is to use a speed gun. Speed guns can track how fast something is traveling (even over shorter distances) but can set you back $75 – $100 even for a basic one so it might be hard to justify this purchase for 99% of the people reading this!
If you do want a speed gun – you could check out this highly rated model here
How to Make Your Air Hockey Puck Move Faster
If you play air hockey and worry that your puck moves too slowly, there are a few things that you can do to improve the speed of your puck.
Performing Routine Maintenance on Your Table Can Improve Puck Speed
If you regularly play air hockey, it is a good idea to routinely maintain your table. By performing a few tasks on a regular maintenance schedule, you can ensure that your puck and air hockey table stay in the best conditions for breaking through to those top puck speeds.
Dust Off the Fan Blades of the Air Blower
Over time, dirt, lint, and dust get sucked into the fan blades of the air blower and need to be cleaned out. This will improve the airflow and decrease friction between your puck and the table, allowing your puck to travel faster.
Clear Out the Air Holes of Any Blockages
Just like with the fans on the blower. Dust particles can build up and get trapped in the holes, slowing or even stopping the airflow. This will slow the speed of your puck. Cleaning out these holes will ensure that your puck is being levitated properly over the table.
Clean and Polish Your Table Regularly
Dust, grime, small bits of hair, fibers, or dirt can slow an air hockey puck to a halt. Cleaning and waxing your table regularly will help you make sure that your table is friction-free and ready for your puck.
For a good polished finish, try using a little silicone lubricant. This lubricant lowers friction and will make your table slick, which will help to increase the speed of your puck.
Treat Yourself to Some New Pucks
The air flows over your table and under the smooth underbelly of the puck. If your air hockey pucks wear out, they can fray and disrupt the airflow under the puck, causing friction. The older your puck is, the more they fray and the slower it will become. Replacing that puck with a new one can greatly improve your speed.
Work to Improve Your Hit Force and Your Aim
As I said before, the force of your hit determines the speed of your puck.
The harder you can hit your air hockey puck, the faster the puck will travel down the table. So, if you want to improve the speed of your puck, improving your swing is a good place to start.
Likewise, if your swing is off and your hit is off-center, the full force of the hit will not be transferred to the puck, so making sure that you hit the puck dead on will dramatically improve your speed.
Being able to strike an air hockey puck with power and speed will give you an undoubted advantage. If you can strike the puck faster than your opponent can react then this will give you an edge.
While this isn’t something that’s monitored regularly, the average air hockey puck travels at an estimated 80 mph – which is of course quite fast! If you want to improve the speed that your air hockey puck travels there are a few key ways to do this:
- Get stronger (the force you can hit the puck with will increase its speed)
- Improve your accuracy (hitting the puck in the center will transfer the most force and increase speed)
- Ensure the table is well polished
- Clean air holes to ensure the table has no blockages and has a maximum airflow