The 2013 racing season is starting and in all of the confusion created in getting the car ready, we might overlook some important engine-related items. Here are 10 tips that can help you keep going and avoid engine stoppages and failures as the year progresses. Some of these might be new to you and some might be old hat. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to review our procedures each year so we don't forget important information.

I've worked with many different teams and there is always something coming up that surprises the crew. Simple things like a bad “new” spark plug or buying great used oil lines only to find out that the last engine the lines were installed on blew up leaving bits and pieces embedded in the lines. Or wires crossed on the MSD ignition that caused an awful rattle in the motor. No, the blue and purple wires do not go together on the older systems.

To avoid all of those problems, we need to learn from the experts who probably made these same mistakes at some point in their careers or has knowledge of someone who did. Many of these tips may seem simple stupid, but some may surprise you. Take it all in and apply what is applicable to your particular type of racing.

1. Timing
Always check your timing at the track and before you run the car. There are several things that can cause the timing to change. A worn distributor gear is one of those and that can happen during one race, the last one.

Loose distributor lock down bolts are another area where the vibrations of racing will undo many connections and bolts that may not have an impact on your engine, but with the distributor, any slight movement of the housing will seriously affect your timing and power.

2. Plug Wires and Plugs
Purchase a wire tester specifically for plug wires and use it often. Many times a loss of power can be traced to a faulty plug and/or distributor wire. Let's face it, the wires are under a lot of stress. Not only do they pass along high electrical loads, they bounce around a lot, especially in dirt racing when the track is rough.

As you are testing the wires, move them around by bending and twisting them. Some wires could be compromised to the extent that in one position they will test OK while in another they will test bad.

Plugs too can be bad, even new ones. If you have installed a new set of plugs and the engine misses, immediately do the plug wire one-at-a-time removal to find a possible bad plug. It has happened and will happen again. Always check the gap on your plugs before installing them.

3. Valve Gap and Springs
With high rpm built motors, the valvetrain is under a lot of stress. Wear occurs all along the way from the cam to the valve seats. Minute wear and stress stretching does change the clearance from the rocker to the valve stem.

Recheck and reset the valve clearance often on these types of motors. While you are under the valve covers, inspect for broken springs, cracked rockers and problems with the retainers. It's also a good idea to remove and check the spring rate on the valvesprings every five races or so. Do this in the shop where the environment is sanitary.