Editor's Note: Circle Track recently caught up with master engine builder Jay Dickens and asked him to pen a list of critical tips that short trackers need to check on their motors before turning that first lap of the new season. In creating this list, we asked Jay to assume that the motor ran well in the previous season and that there were no major or obvious issues. We also told him to assume that the engine would not be rebuilt and that all the work would be done by the racer. So, without further ado, here are 21 preseason engine tips from Jay Dickens to help you and your motor get off to a healthy and strong start for the 2009 racing season. The tips are in no particular order of importance with the exception of No. 1. While you're performing the check of your motor, learn the limits of your engine and remember where they are. Keep in mind that if you ever have any questions during the maintenance of your motor, consult a professional builder like Jay.
1.TAKE YOUR TIME You will get out of it exactly what you put into it. I know that's a clich but you can always tell who spends the time and works on their stuff. From Hendrick Motorsports to Joe's Garage, those are the racers who rarely have failures. Maintaining your engine takes a lot of attention and time. Don't assume anything is OK. If you have any doubt about a particular component or system, take your inspection process a little further and check it out to make sure its OK. There's a lot you can do in the shop to prevent a failure on the track.
2. GETTING STARTED I like to start at the firewall and work forward. Make a list and keep notes that way you won't miss anything. Remember, if you have a 300-400 horse engine, you can get away with stuff that's marginal but the margin for error gets real small with a 9,000 rpm 15:1 motor. In those motors, you have to make sure everything is perfect. But in reality, attention to detail is important regardless of the engine you're running. Good habits are formed early, so if you get into the practice of being methodical about your 300 hp motor, when you graduate up the ranks to a high horse motor, you'll be ahead of the game.
3. QUALITY OF FUEL Never assume that the fuel you have stored in your shop is good. Even if it's sealed and capped in the proper container, the likelihood is that it has gone bad, especially if it has sat for any period of time. Some guys could have fuel sitting around for a couple years and think it's still good. This goes for the fuel in the tank also. Hopefully you didn't store your car over the winter with fuel in the tank, but if you did, you'll need to clean the whole system out before you turn the motor over. Bottom line: get new fuel for your new season.
Making a list is critical to not missing anything during your preseason preparations. John
4. FUEL LINES & FILTER Following on the quality of fuel concept you need to inspect all of the fuel lines and replace the filter. This is important even if you checked all of the lines in your post-season prep for winter storage. Inspect the lines for cracks, cuts, sharp bends, and/or crimps. Debris from the track can come up and damage those lines in spots that are easily missed by a quick glance at the track. Perform a detailed visual inspection of every inch of every line.
5. VENT YOUR TANK During storage, it's really important to cap your vents on the fuel tank to prevent debris or foreign material from contaminating the system. However, it's even more important to make sure there's a fresh clean vent on that fuel tank when it's time to go racing. Your fuel cell should have a vent at least #6 AN, preferably #8 AN. We had a customer who put a brand-new fuel tank in his car before the season but he forgot to put in a vent (it was capped). He ended up running the motor lean and burnt a piston. That one little mistake of not properly venting the system cost him several thousand dollars.