Maintenance for race cars is an ongoing regime. Recording the amount of use of the various components helps us know when to address the lubrication, preventive maintenance, and replacement of parts before they become failures and cost us a race win or worse.

We have put together a list of what we consider the most important items for maintenance. We not only include the car, but driver safety and equipment around the shop as well. Once we understand the various areas of maintenance, we can develop a better mindset for making the season more successful.

The following list is intended to instill the notion that no mechanical device can go indefinitely without proper maintenance and/or replacement. Our race cars are subjected to extreme conditions and all of the moving parts will eventually wear out or fail if we don't make frequent checks and repair or replace parts. We should do this throughout the season, but if you've been lax, then now is a good time to catch up and make things right.

1.Safety Items - Because safety is so important, we have put this item at the front of our list. Safety should always be priority number one in any racing endeavor. We can't have fun if someone gets hurt.

We need to look over the seatbelts and seats on a regular basis. 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 for repair or replacement. Check the dates on the belts, too, to be sure they haven't expired. Each track and/or sanctioning body has rules governing how dated your belts can be.

Inspect your head and neck restraint system (you are using an H&N 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 spinal cord injury, but the helmet was junk afterwards. Having done its job, it was time to repair or retire it.

Fuel cells are a definite 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 pushes fuel to the engine, as some cars do, inspect the wiring and general condition of the pump.

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 or serious leaking can occur.

Don't forget to recheck that fire suppression system to see if it's fully charged and will work properly when needed. The fire bottle is rarely needed, but when it is, if it doesn't do its job, things can get ugly in a hurry.

2. Suspension and Steering - We need to remove all of the control arms, steering assembly, spindles, and so on, if we haven't done that before cleaning the chassis. 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 worn joints. 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.

Inspect the engine mounts, front hoop tubing, upper control arm mounts, and any areas where fatigue might have caused cracking or breaking of the metal. Once all of the inspection has been done and all repairs have been made, it might be a good idea to paint the front clip. If you plan on doing a complete repaint of the car's frame, do the rest of the inspection first.

Make sure you inspect the components for the rear suspension too. The Heim joints, shock brackets, pull bars, lift arms, and other devices need to be checked out, cleaned and serviced.

3. Driveline Assembly - Inspect the entire driveline. If the driveshaft is not damaged, then just remove and replace the U-joints. This should be done at least once a season. These parts are subject to high stress and are too cheap to take a chance on failure.

Inspect the yokes and transmission tailshaft to make sure everything is all right. There are high-performance shafts and yokes available that weren't a few years ago. If you're looking for a little more performance and reliability, check out some of the new stuff.

The rearend should be removed, and all mounts cleaned and inspected. Replace all grease seals, axle bearings, and pinion bearings where necessary. Check the axle tubes for damage and see if they are straight. Shock brackets and trailing arm brackets need to be inspected for damage or wear. All Heim joints should be looked at and replaced if worn excessively.

Look over the Panhard bar mounting brackets to see if they are bent or cracked. These mounts take a beating, especially when small hits are experienced during a race. Not much attention is paid after the race, but we can all remember incidental contact that was made that might have caused some damage.

4. The Brake and Clutch Hydraulic Systems - The brake system should be completely gone through at the end of the season. Remove the brake and clutch master cylinders, inspect and flush the lines and do a rebuild of the cylinders. The last thing you need is brake failure, or clutch failure for that matter.

If your brake lines have been banged up or otherwise damaged, you might consider replacing them while the car is apart. At least replace the flex lines which may contain degradable synthetic hose inside the woven stainless steel.

Look over the clutch and brake pedal bushings and replace if they are worn or if there is excess play. Look over the brake adjuster and clean and lubricate the cable.

If you don't think your brake bias was totally correct during the season past, now is a good time to rethink the master cylinder and caliper sizes. Adjusting these components can bring your brake bias into a more balanced state. Your brake adjuster is only intended to be used for fine tuning the bias.

5. Cooling System - During the past season, the radiator may have suffered collisions, beating and banging or just nicks and scrapes from working on the car. It needs to be pressure tested and inspected thoroughly to make sure it will perform for another year.

Replace hoses, belts, pressure caps and anything else that might give you problems at the worst time, like when leading the race. Nothing is more frustrating than those little annoyances, such as a water leak or a thrown water-pump belt.

6. Wiring and Switches - To ensure your car doesn't stop running at the wrong moment, all wiring and switches must be fresh and free of corrosion. The vibrations that go on during a race can cause the wire connections to break or come loose. Wiring is fairly simple stuff and it would make good sense to have someone rewire the entire car during the off season.

Recheck the grommets where the wires pass through the firewall or other panels. Cycle the switches and notice if they feel tight or corroded. Replace the ones that are suspect. Many races have been lost due to a cheap switch or connector.

7. Carburetor Maintenance - Remove your carburetor and disassemble it. Do a thorough cleaning at the very least. Inspect all of the moving parts. Order a new gasket kit and consider replacement of all of the parts that can and do go wrong at some point in time. These include the power valves, the accelerator pump, seals, and more.

Look outside the carb and inspect the linkage from the gas pedal to the carb. Replace the return springs no matter what they look like and also the ball sockets if they appear to be worn. Now might be a good time to send it off to an expert to "tune" it for more performance.

8. Rearend Maintenance - When disassembling your rearend, make sure you note the condition of all of the parts. When first draining the rearend grease, run it through a filter to see if there are any tell-tale metal bits or pieces that may indicate a part failure.

Look over the gear wear pattern as well as the bearing play and any obvious cracks in the housing that may only be seen from the inside. Now is the time to decide whether to replace the center section, a right or left bell side or one of the axle tubes.

If you're running a Detroit Locker-type of rear differential, note the age of the springs. These must be replaced periodically. Ask your manufacturer how long you could expect yours to last under your racing conditions.

Other aftermarket differentials designed for traction enhancement should be looked over closely. There are lots of moving parts, some of them built out of aluminum, that need close inspection. It would be a good idea, since you now have the time, to send these types of units back to the manufacturer for rebuilding and/or repair.

The same goes for the transmission. The bushings and bearings in the tranny will wear out. Don't expect a transmission to last a lifetime. Be sure to match that tailshaft bearing to the proper yoke. Roller bearings require a special hardened slip yoke.

9. Shocks - Shocks are one of those items that can make your setup ideal or, when they fail, ruin an otherwise great package. You must check every shock you use on a regular basis to make sure they are not leaking and that the internal parts are functioning properly.

At the end of the season, either return them to a repair facility or rebuild them yourself. The oil will need to be changed and the seals will need to be replaced. These parts are not intended to last very long. The heat and force the shock is subjected to is extreme.

Once the shocks have been rebuilt, make sure they are run on a shock dyno and keep a record of the rates. You will be referring to these many times in the future when you are deciding which shock should go on which corner of the car.

10. Shop Layout and Requirements - One of the ingredients for a successful racing operation is the space in which you will work on your car. The tools and layout of this area will contribute to how efficiently you set up and maintain your race car all year long.

Every shop should have enough space available for all of the functions needed throughout the season. A surface plate or an area level enough for setups is a must. All of the tools as well as a pneumatic source and an electrical source should be within easy reach.

A well designed shop has all of the maintenance and replacement parts and spares available. Spare radiators, hoses, carburetors, alternators, rearends, transmissions, ignition parts, spindles, and control arms and tie rods, are just a few of the parts that should be on-hand in the shop and the race trailer and available if needed.

You might consider setting up a separate engine room if you build your own motors. This clean room could serve as your shock dyno and computer room too. Here, you can clean carburetors, rebuild shocks, provide storage for sensitive electronic equipment and keep notes stored away for future use.

Check all of your wiring to detect worn or frayed wires. Where the wires pass through the firewall or other partitions are areas of concern. Replace the rubber grommets and wiring if necessary. You want to feel comfortably sure that a short will not ruin a good night of racing.

Maintaining the carburetor involves all of the internal components as well as the linkage and return springs. Check for smooth operation of the throttle linkage and make sure there's sufficient clearance between the throttle arm and the air cleaner (no throttle sticking here). While under the hood, note the location of the plug wires, check hose clamps, make sure the fuel lines are tight and not leaking, too.

Conclusion The most important thing to remember is that we need to find any structural or mechanical problems with the chassis or other components that are bolted onto the chassis. We need to correct any driver safety related problems that involve wear or age of the seatbelts, restraints, fire suppression system, helmet or seat. And we need to consult the manufacturer partners we have established so they can help us keep everything up and running.

At various times during and at the end of each season, we need to thoroughly go over our race car. During the winter months we can do a complete overhaul so that when we hit the track again in the spring, it will be just like a new car. Establishing a comprehensive maintenance plan can help you avoid failures that could prevent you from having the success you desire. This is all a part of racing and most teams really enjoy the working on the car part of it.

If you have the tools, tear down your rearend and do a full maintenance routine in the off-season. The differentials need to be inspected by the manufacturer and repaired if necessary. I've seen a lot of problems traced back to the diff. lately.

It is always a good idea to ship your shocks off to the manufacturer to be rebuilt and dyno'd after a full season. This will ensure that the seals will be tight, the oil will not leak and the rates are what you need. The rate can be altered if you desire something different. Check the shock mounts for cracks, binding or movement

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