Having a durable engine that will run strong throughout the entire racing season is important to any racing driver for some very simple reasons. First, not having to fix an engine after every race helps keep your costs down, and most important, if you're running at the end of every race, your chances are that much better that you'll win more.
Engine durability is not an accident. Plan your engine combination for the type of racing you do, how many races you will run and what you can afford. A Winston Cup engine may have the power you dream of having, but it is designed to last one weekend before a rebuild and requires maintenance every time it runs. This is not the engine for a Saturday-night racer who needs to run an entire season.
In order to give you some ideas on what you can do to your engine, Circle Track went to a few experts to get their ideas on what you need to do to stay in the hunt for the long haul. We talked to Dave Pletcher from Pletcher Racing; Charles H. Jenckes, formerly the engine engineer for Joe Gibbs Racing and now an engineer for Barry Grant Inc.; and Marc Boni, Wheeler Motorsports' performance specialist, to get some answers. Check out the tips over the next few pages to help you through the season.
Start out with high-quality parts. Starting with better parts means your engine will be built better, which in the long run ends up costing you less. Using the latest, trickest part that doesn't have the track record of a proven part will most likely let you down. Let someone else be the R&D department. Valvetrain components are the most highly stressed parts in the engine and have a huge impact on performance. Work with a manufacturer and make sure that all the valvetrain parts are designed to work together.-Charles H. Jenckes/Barry Grant Inc.
Warm Your Oil
Before you start racing around the track, use an oil heater or let the engine run to warm the oil up to normal operating temperature. Cold oil is thicker and will not flow through the oil filter as easily, minimizing the lubrication of the engine.-Dave Pletcher/Pletcher Racing, Inc.
Preparation And Records
Check everything. Do not assume that the parts you just received are the same as the last set you bought, and don't assume that anything is labeled correctly or is the correct size. Check and double-check to maintain high quality control. Measure everything twice: The wrong clearance or end gap can kill an engine. Keep a build sheet for every engine with all its critical dimensions clearly written. This type of record-keeping is basic, but can reduce variation and allow you to understand what affects your engine. Make sure you know how much time or how many laps or cycles each part in the engine has and replace the parts before their service life is over. This can only be done with good record-keeping.-Charles H. Jenckes/Barry Grant Inc.
Check the timing before each race. If the timing is advanced too far, detonation will occur. The end result can be a melted piston. If the timing is retarded then the engine can run hot, creating overheating problems.-Dave Pletcher/Pletcher Racing, Inc.
Check Valvespring Pressure
Valvesprings are probably the most taken-for-granted, misunderstood and abused part in any race engine. Valvespring maintenance is an important job that will help lengthen engine life and give you peak engine performance. Checking valvespring pressure should be a weekly task along with checking valve adjustment. Valvesprings will not retain their pressure year after year. The valvespring allows the valve to close and also allows the lifter to keep contact with the cam. It is important that the valve closes with as little bounce as possible and that harmonics associated with the valvetrain are minimized. If spring pressure is not maintained, horsepower and durability suffer.-Marc Boni/Wheeler Motorsports