Upgrade Questionnaire
1. Is this item going to save me valuable____
time, so that I can accomplish more onYesNo
the car during race season?  
2. Is this item going to save me money,____
so that I can invest more into my car?YesNo
3. Is there income potential with this item,____
with the ability to produce additional fundsYesNo
that can be invested into my race program?  

Your shop or garage says a lot about you and your race team. Let's face it, we have all walked into someone's shop and thought, Wow! How does anyone accomplish anything inside this garage? These shops might as well be hanging a sign from the door stating, Abandon hope all ye who enter here. Trust me, no one wants to have this type of shop.

Use your time and money wisely this winter and invest in your car or shop. If you choose the latter, you must make certain the items you purchase are those that will accomplish at least one of three very important aspects. Namely, each piece of equipment should either save time, save money, or make money.

So address three important questions when considering shop upgrades:

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you can justify the cost of the equipment because there is a direct benefit in purchasing it.

Now, just because the answer is yes doesn't mean you need to go out and purchase this item. You should spend some time examining your budget and determining if it's a wise investment for you and your race team. For instance, if you've determined that you can spend around $4,000 during the off-season, then you might not want to purchase a plasma cutter because it will use at least a quarter of that budget. The wiser investment might be an air compressor, or a toolbox. Be certain that you are making wise purchases so you still have money to race on next summer.

I have compiled a list of five shop upgrades that deliver a "yes" to these questions. Some of these might not apply for your type of race vehicle. For instance, a sheetmetal brake likely wouldn't be a wise investment if the body of your car is fiberglass. But if you know a lot of teams that need to use one and you can produce some income by having this piece of equipment, then it might be a wise investment after all.

1. Toolbox As obvious as this sounds, if your garage or shop is constantly a place of chaos with tools scattered on the floor, then a new toolbox will serve you greatly. Simply being organized will save you time. By taking $400-$500 and investing in a good, solid toolbox, you can eliminate the time usually spent hunting down the tools that are commonly lost (provided you put your tools away, that is).

I suggest purchasing a toolbox with rollers because this could act as your racetrack toolbox as well. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a toolbox that might cost a little more but come stocked with basic tools like wrenches and sockets.

2. Plasma Cutter This item is a lot simpler to understand than the name implies. Plasma cutters have been around since World War II and have become very common in most of the elaborate Cup shops. A plasma cutter looks similar to a MIG welder but, as the name implies, it's a cutter. It's much more efficient and faster than a regular cutting torch, which uses a gas, like argon, and simply burns the argon to heat and cut the metal. A plasma cutter works by using argon, nitrogen, or oxygen that is forced through a small channel. In the center of the channel, a negatively charged electrode receives power and is touched to the metal, actually creating a powerful spark that can reach temperatures upwards of 30,000 F. This will reduce metal to slag.

So what's the point of having one? Well, if there was one tool that you could answer yes to all three of the above questions, without a doubt it would be the plasma cutter. Having one on hand can save money by opening doors that allow you to do more work in your shop instead of having to pay someone to do it. Let's say the sheetmetal that makes up your firewall is in rough shape, with holes all through it and wrinkles from different accidents. Well, simply attach the ground wire and cut out the area that's damaged. The nice thing is, the cut will be much cleaner than if you were using a cutting torch.

So why doesn't everyone have one? Well, the downside is the price. You'll be hard pressed to find a plasma cutter under $1,000. The cheapest I've found is Miller's Spectrum 125C which will run you roughly $1,100.

3. Air Compressors When I say air compressor, I don't mean one of the portable units you see at the track that will hold 80-100 psi. A wise investment is an air compressor that can handle all your needs in the shop. A 60-gallon unit will provide many ways for you to save time. Just think, you can start using angle drills, air sanders/grinders, and even paint your car by simply having a quality air compressor.

On top of what you have to pay to purchase the air compressor, there will be some added expense. You will have to also plumb the inside of the shop with hoses and lines to carry the air to where it's needed. This part of it isn't really all that expensive, just tedious work to install the lines. A good air compressor will run you around $500.

4. TIG Welder Most shops have a normal MIG welder, but very few have a TIG welder that is used to weld aluminum. By not having a TIG welder, anytime you need anything repaired that is made of aluminum (e.g., a radiator) you have to go outside your own shop and pay to have it done. The TIG welder burns at a slow, controlled rate which makes it perfect for aluminum and soft metals.

Of course, welding is a true skill, but if you learn how to TIG weld, you can start saving money by doing more work in-house. For instance, let's say you run over a rock and put a small hole on the bottom of your aluminum oil pan. The oil pressure drops, you kill the engine, and there's no harm done, right? But now you either have to pull the engine or take the entire car somewhere to get the oil pan repaired, which means lots of time and some money. A TIG welder is all you need to repair the hole.

The downside to having a TIG welder is you must learn to operate it. This takes time to properly learn, and even more time to master, but the more you use it, the better you will become. A TIG welder will cost somewhere between $1,100-$1,500.

5. Sheetmetal Brake If you invest in the right sheetmetal brake, it will do more for you than just cutting a piece of metal. I suggest purchasing one that allows you to bend and shape the metal. Having a brake will allow you to do more in-house than you ever dreamed.

A lot of people associate the brake with using sheetmetal only. But one of the most common uses is replacing and repairing crush panels, which are usually made out of aluminum. A sheetmetal brake will cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000, depending on size and cut length.

Times are tight right now with the economy and high gas prices, so any purchase has to be looked at as an investment. You can find yourself racing a lot longer than you ever expected if you purchase the right equipment. Ultimately, don't we all want to save time and money while making more money? With that combination, we can all have more time to race.

SOURCE
Miller Welders Sears Auto Center
1225 Rte. 9 N.
Old Bridge
NJ  08857
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