It's nice winning that first...
It's nice winning that first race or championship, but whether you have or have not, you still need to maintain that racecar during the off-season.
At this time of the year, most racing series have wrapped up their seasons and Thanksgiving has come and gone. Throughout the winter months we take some time off to prepare for Christmas and spend some quality time with our families. Nonetheless, we will always have the race team in the back of our minds.
To help you plan out your off-season activities related to the preparation for the 2008 season, we have put together the ten top areas for maintenance. We not only include the car, but around the shop as well. Tag along and develop the right mindset for making the new season even better than the last.
The following are intended to instill the idea that no mechanical device can go indefinitely without proper maintenance and/or replacement. Our racecars go through extreme conditions and all of the moving parts will eventually wear out or fail if we do not make frequent checks and repair or replace parts. We should have been doing this all along throughout the season, but now is a very good time to catch up and make things right if we have fallen behind in our duties.
Remove and inspect the seat...
Remove and inspect the seat and seatbelts, especially the portions where they enter the seat openings. Check the date on the belts too. Most tracks and sanctioning bodies have rules governing how old your belts can be. If your seat is out of date, buy a newer one with better supports.
1. Safety Items - We normally put this section toward the back of articles like this. Because it is so important, we have decided this is where we should start our inspection and maintenance. Safety should be priority number one in any racing endeavor.
For safety purposes, we need to look over the seatbelts and seats. Stress from hard racing might have done damage to your seatbelt system. Completely remove all belts, the seat, the window net and all rollbar padding. Install new padding later.
There should be no fraying or tears to the material. The mounts must be stress-free and not bent from the original location. The seat should be crack-free and if not, sent back to the manufacturer to be repaired or replaced. Check the dates on the belts to be sure they have not expired. Each track and/or sanctioning body has rules governing how dated your belts can be.
Remove the fuel cell and inspect...
Remove the fuel cell and inspect the metal container for rust and/or damage. A cracked seam or broken side can allow fuel to spill if the cell is damaged. Inspect the cell and the foam insert. Note the date on the cell and replace if out of compliance with the rules.
Inspect your head and neck restraint system (you are using a HNR system aren't you?) and your helmet. We know of one case where a hard hit damaged a helmet at the front, from the head moving forward, so hard that it dented and cracked the material inside the helmet. Luckily, the HANS device the driver was wearing stopped his head from moving forward to prevent any serious injury, but the helmet was junk afterwards.
Fuel cells are a safety item. At least once a year, remove the fuel cell and inspect the container for rust or damage that might compromise the cell itself. The fill-tube assembly should be removed from the cell as well as the foam. Clean the inside of the cell and get all of the dirt or other foreign material out.
The foam should be replaced. The fuel pickup should be inspected and cleaned. If you have a fuel pump that pushed fuel to the engine, as some cars do, inspect the wiring and general condition of the pump.
Check all of the steering...
Check all of the steering components for wear and tightness. Tie rod ends and drag links can become loose from wear. Check the end-play by turning your steering wheel and observe the tie rod movement. Most steering boxes and racks have adjustments to tighten the system.
Fuel cells have a certain life span. Some newer fuels have been known to eat away at the seams under certain conditions. Inspect your cell to make sure this is not a problem.
Don't forget to recheck that fire suppression system to see that it is fully charged and will work properly when needed. The fire bottle is rarely needed, but when it is, things can get real urgent in a hurry.
2. Suspension and Steering - We need to remove all of the control arms, steering assembly, spindles, etc., if we haven't done that before the cleaning. Lay the parts out on the garage floor and carefully inspect each one for any signs of cracking, bending or breaks at the welded seams.
Remove all of the heim joints, ball joints, idler arm assemblies (on a drag link system), and test for excess looseness and wear. Replace all of the joints that are worn. Check the steering box or rack for excess play and worn seals. It might be a good time to overhaul the steering rack or box, or send it back to the manufacturer for a rebuild.
The driveline must be removed...
The driveline must be removed and inspected at the year's end. The U-joints will need to be replaced. Make sure the driveshaft is not bent or dented. Look to see if any balancing weights have fallen off. If so, have the shaft rebalanced.
Install heavy-duty U-joints...
Install heavy-duty U-joints if you haven't already. These units take lots of abuse and will hold up where "stock" ones will not. See the difference in construction between the "stock" unit and the heavy-duty ones on the left. The driveshaft and pinion yoke will need to be replaced also when opting for the larger U-joint.
The rear suspension must be...
The rear suspension must be disassembled and gone through just like the front. Check the panhard bar heim joints, adjusters, trailing arm pivots, pull bars, lift arms and any other system in the rear. Never use aluminum heim joints in any of the high-stress areas.