Unless you are familiar with the critical tolerances of a steering gearbox, it's probably not a good idea to break one open yourself for regular maintenance. CJR recommends you send your gearbox in for a thorough check every 1,000 miles. For a Nextel Cup team, that's a single race weekend, but for a Saturday night racer, that's probably an entire season of racing. You can note that 1,000-mile mark if you haven't banged up the car. The biggest cause of problems is front-end damage to the car. Anytime you have banged wheels hard or been in a wreck that caused the front end to get tweaked, it's probably a good idea to send your box in for a checkup.

There is a visual inspection you can do yourself. Look for cracks in the housing or bent splines on the input or pitman shafts. To get a good look, you'll probably need to take off the pitman arm. While it's off, check it for damage, too. Besides cracks, the most common sign of damage on pitman arms is in the main coupling to the pitman shaft, which will be stretched into an egg shape. The arm itself can be twisted, so lay it on a flat surface to check for a torsional twist. You will want to have a professional check the rest of the system. CJR recommends magnafluxing everything to find cracks before those cracks become dangerous. The last thing you want is a failure that leaves you without steering.

One final note: The latest trend in race car setups is the soft front spring/big sway bar package. When done correctly, the setup works, but a lot of racers don't realize how many things can be affected when you cut your front spring weights in half. The car rides a lot lower, and parts that normally have plenty of clearance are now scrubbing the track. On the front of the car, the pitman arm is often the first thing to hit the track. Be very careful if the bottom of the pitman arm looks like it has met up with a grinder; it's rubbing the track, which can cause serious damage pretty quickly. If this is the case, you may need to make some modifications to your front clip to raise the gearbox up a bit.

The mistake most often made with power steering pumps is over-spinning them. Jason Fletcher, who builds all the pumps for CJR, says you can save some serious power by not working your power steering pump any harder than you have to.

"Pumps usually have enough flow by 1,500 rpm," he says. "If you exceed 4,000 rpm, you are just wasting your power because, after that, they go into bypass mode. We've had some racers who think that if they spin the pump faster they will get more pressure, which will help driver feel. That's just not true. Divide the diameter of the main pulley by the diameter of the pulley on the pump, and then multiply that number by your racing rpm. If you are in that zone between 1,500 and 4,000 rpm, then great. If not, you need to adjust the size of the pulley on the pump."

Also remember that, like engine oil, power steering fluid breaks down with extended use and heat. At a minimum, you should flush the power steering system once a year and replace it with fresh fluid. CJR recommends using a DEX 3 transmission fluid for its exceptional properties.

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