begins on the Bracket Racing 101 page HERE)
that I’ve always been a racer on a budget, I’ve
always been keen on staying on top of maintenance in the
present in order to avoid expensive and catastrophic failures
in the future. However, I know many racers who put their
cars away during the off-season and never go through them
when they have the chance; instead they just bring them
back out in the spring and keep racing them. I can’t
race like this: I’d hate to start a new season with
any question marks around my equipment. Case in point: a
few years ago in the off-season I was vacillating between
leaving the motor in and pulling it to have everything checked.
My budget was tight and I was sure everything was fine and
would just be spending money that I could have applied toward
the coming season, but something told me to spend the money
and pull it anyway. Lucky thing, because we found a crack
in the crank which surely would have failed early in the
season, and probably would have taken the block, rods, etc.
of pulling your motor, here are some basic checks that you
can do for very little money in the down time between seasons.
Shedding light on potential problems when you have the time
to fix them is much easier than trying to deal with them
while in the midst of a points chase at your track.
using a dial-indicator, check the thrust of the crank (ideally,
this would have been initially checked when the engine was
new so as to have a reference point). Using an oil filter
cutter, remove and cut open the filter and check for particles.
Using an on-engine valvespring pressure tester, test your
spring pressure for uniformity. Also check valve lash for
uniformity. If all the adjustors are tight yet you have
a valve that’s way out for no apparent reason, you
might have an issue that could lead to an early-season failure,
like perhaps a cam lobe that’s going away. Other basic
checks include a compression check, a leak-down test, and
a coolant pressure test, which can uncover a crack or a
bad head gasket. After you’ve checked everything and
it’s time to park the car for a few months, it’s
not a bad idea to close all the valves by backing off the
adjustors. This can prolong valvespring life, and it also
seals off the cylinders to help keep moisture out.
AND REAR-END: dump the trans fluid and pull the
pan. As the fluid is draining, get some on your fingers
and smell it to see if it’s burnt. Check the pan for
excessive material. Some clutch material is probably not
a big deal, but lots of particles and speckles might be.
Dump the rear gear oil and pull the cover to check for odd
wear patterns on the teeth.
STEERING AND SUSPENSION: Just as important as checking
the drive train for potential failures is keeping on top
of the condition of the brakes, steering and suspension.
Every winter you should inspect your race car’s wheel
bearings, brake pads / shoes, brake lines, steering components,
ball joints, and rear suspension components to make sure
nothing has worked itself loose. Check the bolts for the
shocks, ladder bars or four-link, control arms. Check all
the bushings, and inspect any welds to the chassis. By the
way, bolts and bushings that are loose or worn aren’t
just a safety issue; they’ll rob your vehicle of reaction
this is Maintenance 101, but I’ve heard many racers
say that they put their cars away at the end of one season
and don’t even look at them until opening day of the
next season. Why leave your season to chance like that?
Don’t let an otherwise successful season be derailed
due to a failure that could have been caught and corrected.
Winning races is hard but is made easier when your equipment
is in top working condition.