Check the end of the fuel...
Check the end of the fuel pickup. If it uses a cloth filter, make sure it is clean and undamaged. Courtesy of ATL
"Disassemble and clean out the fuel filter. Inspect it very closely for debris. If you find any, you need to find out what it is-especially if it is steel or aluminum-and determine where it came from so you can resolve any problem. Finally, I recommend taking advantage of the off-season and sending the barrel valve and nozzles back to the manufacturer. We can flow-test them, make any corrections if necessary, and send them back to you. That way you will know that they will be ready for the start of the season."
The last piece of the puzzle before packing the car away for the season is to clean the fuel cell. This is actually something you should do at the end of the racing season no matter if you are racing gasoline or alcohol.
The first thing to note is that all fuel cells are not created equal. If you run alcohol in a standard cell constructed for holding racing gasoline, mechanical troubles will be in your future. The methanol actually breaks down the foam used in a standard container. It is also damaging to the rubber bladder. Craig Mitchell of fuel cell manufacturer Aero Tech Laboratories (ATL) says that alcohol will cause standard foam to become gummy within a week or two. Shortly after that it will dry the foam, making it brittle. When this happens, parts of the foam will flake off and can become sucked into the fuel system. The result is a clogged fuel filter and potentially clogged jets in the carburetor. If you run alcohol, you should use a fuel cell constructed for alcohol. Those cells use special materials that are more resistant to alcohol racing fuel. It's always a good idea to drain all the alcohol left in the fuel cell after a night of racing instead of allowing it to sit in the fuel cell all week long.
After allowing the foam to...
After allowing the foam to air dry, reinstall it inside the newly cleaned bladder. Courtesy of ATL
Besides draining the alcohol from the fuel cell during the week, after every race you should visually inspect the exterior of the fuel cell for dents, rips, or holes. Any of these, or a leak, will necessitate disassembly of the cell for further inspection. Otherwise, you are good to go.
If you have fuel cell damage, it is a good idea to break your fuel cell down into individual components and inspect everything thoroughly. This should be done at the end of the season, too. "First, drain the fuel out," Mitchell says of ATL's recommended end-of-season procedures. "Then rinse the cell thoroughly with water. That will dissipate any fumes that can cause an explosion. Now the fuel cell should be safe, so you don't have to worry about a spark. Disassemble the components and pull the foam out. The foam will be soaking wet with water. Just allow it to air dry. You don't want to try to wring it out or apply heat. Pull the bladder from the container and wipe it out so it is nice and dry. Wash out the metal container with soap and water to get out any dirt or rust. Wipe it dry, too.
"After everything has dried out, go ahead and reassemble the fuel cell. Give your foam the pinch test. If you can pinch it with your fingers and some of it comes off into your hands, you need to have it replaced. If it springs back to shape, it's still OK. Give the bladder a visual inspection. If it's a rubber bladder, look for any dry cracks, like in a tire. Also check to see if there are any scrape marks from installing and removing the bladder into the metal container. If the bladder is fabric, see if there are any loose fibers or threads hanging out. If you have any dents in the metal container, go ahead and flatten them back out now. You don't want to have anything that can rub the bladder and wear it down.
Slide the fuel pickup back...
Slide the fuel pickup back into place in the very bottom of the cell in the right-rear corner. Courtesy of ATL
"If you have any doubt about anything, send the cell back to the manufacturer to have it further inspected. If not, you are ready to begin reassembly. We recommend installing the bladder and foam into the container and then positioning the pickup tube where you want it. Obviously, in circle track racing that's going to be the right-rear corner. Before attaching the line to the fill plate and bolting the fill plate to the container, take a moment to check the sealing washers. Sealing washers are the nylon washers that seal the bolts that hold down the fill plate. Make sure they aren't cracked or squashed out of shape. Also, we recommend you change the cork gasket that seals the fill plate against the container every off-season. You don't find out the fuel cell leaks at the gasket until you are upside down, and that's not what you want."
After your fuel cell has passed all the checks, continue bolting up the fill plate. Cap off all the lines so that everything is sealed and place the fuel cell in a protected, dry area of your shop where it will be out of the way until you are ready to reinstall it at the beginning of the next season.
Don't take a chance on an...
Don't take a chance on an old gasket. Use a new cork fill-plate gasket every time you disassemble the fuel cell. Courtesy of ATL
Reattach the pickup line to...
Reattach the pickup line to the bottom of the fill plate. Courtesy of ATL
Before bolting the fill plate...
Before bolting the fill plate down, make sure all the nylon washers are still in good shape. They are critical to the prevention of fuel leaking out of the cell around the edges of the bolts. Also, the fill-plate bolts should only be tightened to 40 in-lb. Courtesy of ATL