This is probably the most important factor for Saturday night racers. Newer fuels containing a percentage of ethanol are becoming more and more common at racetracks, and ethanol is known to attract water. Rollins says you don't have to purchase fuel that is already contaminated by water--simply allowing it to sit for any length of time will mean that it draws some amount of water. Plus, in-ground fuel tanks at racetracks are notorious for contaminating fuels. The more of that stuff you can keep out of your carburetor, the better off you will be.

Read the Clues in Your Oil Filter

The fuel filter's job is to catch contaminants and water in the fuel before it gets to the engine, but the oil filter's job is to clean the motor oil any particles shed from engine components that wear or flake away as the engine is running. If it's small enough, any metal that has been shaved off of a part in the engine, or even shards from something that broke will find its way to the oil filter if doesn't get stuck somewhere else first. Because of this, by taking a close look at the "stuff" getting caught in the oil filter, you can gain a good idea of anything that might be going wrong. It's sort of like reading the tea leaves of your race engine, except without the incense or the strange old lady.

High-end race engines with dry sump oiling systems utilize a screen filter, commonly referred to as an "oberg filter," which can be easily cleaned and inspected. Simply open the top of the oil tank, remove the oberg screen and take a look to see what is trapped in the mesh.

But things get a little trickier with a wet oiling system using a conventional oil filter. These filters are sealed and not meant to be broken open, but that doesn't mean you can't do exactly that. And the information you can glean from a canister oil filter is just as valuable as what you can learn inspecting an oberg.

Of course, the trick is getting a used oil filter open so you can take a look at what it has filtered out of the oil. The sealed steel casing is designed to be pretty tough in order to prevent leaks, but that means it's also a pretty tough nut to crack. You can get one open with tin snips or a saw, but the result is just about guaranteed to be a huge mess.

Instead, use a cutter designed specifically for splitting open an oil filter like the one we sourced from Powerhouse Products. There is no way to avoid making at least a bit of a mess, but the Powerhouse oil filter cutter helps minimize it, and the device also greatly reduces the chances of you cutting up anything (like your hands) besides the oil filter.

You should definitely consider cutting open and "reading" your oil filter for clues any time you are breaking in a new engine or notice that your old engine isn't running quite right or seems to be down on power. If your engine is broken in and running well, cutting up every filter probably isn't necessary, but continuing the practice at least occasionally is still a good idea to help you catch small problems before they become big ones.

Once you have the filter element loose from its protective steel case, you can check to see what it has caught. Small metal shavings can be difficult to see in the oil-soaked filter media, so you need to use a discerning eye. Spread out the folds in the filter material so you can see if anything has been caught deep in the seams.

What you find depends on what is going on with your engine. During the break-in process, having some small amounts of material from all parts of the engine isn't unusual. This is simply the byproduct of the parts mating together. If the engine is built correctly and running well, that should end fairly quickly.

But if you never stop finding metal in your filter--or it begins out of the blue--determining what you've found can be more difficult. One of the easiest tests is to use a magnet to separate the magnetic (or ferrous) metals from the non-magnetic metals. If it sticks to the magnet, that means it is steel, and steel can mean it came from the cylinder liner, lifters, piston rings, or any number of other components. Bits of aluminum usually come from the pistons, but they may also come from aluminum cylinder heads, if you are running them. Titanium--from valves, springs or retainers--is also non-magnetic.

Another test is to rub the material between your fingers. Aluminum is soft and the shavings will bend under the pressure between your fingers. Steel is stiffer and more likely to break, and also not as shiny as aluminum. Titanium, on the other hand, is shiny like aluminum but breaks instead of bending like aluminum.

Small amounts of metal shouldn't usually cause too much concern, but if you suddenly start seeing increased levels of magnetic shavings, it could be a sign that you are losing a cam lobe (if you are running a flat tappet design). Aluminum flakes are usually less of a concern because they are almost always from the piston skirts. If you're running OEM style bearings, aluminum may also come from the bearing surface flaking. High-quality race bearings, however, normally have a copper-colored inner babbitt layer which also makes it easier to spot.

Remember when inspecting your oil or fuel filter to take your time, keep a keen eye on what you're looking at and do a thorough analysis. That way you will be sure to spot any potential problems long before they contribute to a catastrophic failure.

SOURCE
Powerhouse Products
3402 Democrat Rd.
Memphis
TN  38118
800-872-7223
www.powerhouseproducts.com
FST Performance Products
407-323-0122
www.fstperformance.com