If you have a special application, there are many tools on the market that will help you drill the hardware yourself. These tools are available for either drilling holes in the threaded portion of the bolt or drilling the head of the bolt on the hex portion or through the corners on the nut. These products are essentially drill jigs and help to hold the bolt or nut in a rigid fashion while you drill. Drilling holes in a standard bolt is not the best solution, as it can severely weaken the bolt. I would suggest obtaining hardware designed with the holes already drilled. They do not cost that much more, and your time may be better spent doing other value-added functions rather than drilling holes in bolts and nuts. However, racers being racers, many of you may opt to do the drilling yourselves.
Remember that bolts have a hardened external surface and the internal material is softer. Drilling through bolts will dull a drill in short order or may even break the drill bit off in the bolt. It is sometimes advantageous if you grind a couple of flats on the outside diameter of the bolt. This serves two purposes. It removes the layer of hardened metal on the bolt and it gives the drill a flat surface on which to start. This just makes purchasing the right bolt an even more attractive proposition from the outset.
The tools required to do a great job of safety wiring are not that complex, and you probably have the majority in your toolbox right now. First, you need some quality safety wire and pliers. They are available at most race shops, specialty tool shops, and the majority of the mail-order parts houses that advertise in this magazine. Make sure you get a wire of good quality. Do not go to the local hardware store and buy framing or bailing wire, or any other type of wire that may look like safety wire. It will fail.
You do not have to have a pair of safety wire pliers, but it makes the job easier. These pliers pinch the wire with their jaws, and all you have to do is pull the handle-the pliers do the twisting. If you don't mind spending some big dollars, you can get right- and lefthand safety wire pliers. Just as the name implies, the pliers twist the wire to the right or the left. This is handy when you are wiring multiple bolts or nuts, and the direction of the twist of the wire helps keep the loop from working up and over the bolt end. This is not a common problem in race car applications. You can save money by winding the pliers by hand in the direction they will not spin.
You also need some other simple hand tools; a pair of side cutters and a good pair of needle-nose pliers help a great deal. A good pick with one end that is bent at 90 degrees proves beneficial. I have a collection of several cheap screwdrivers on which I have ground some special features that help route and/or bend the wire and make sure there are no other interference issues.
With any skill in racing, the more you do it, the better you get, and safety wiring is no different. There are a few cautions, though. You can twist the wire too much and cause the wire to harden and fail. Try to twist the wire to no more than 12 twists per inch. Be very careful with the cut end of the wire. Make sure that after you cut off the last twist, you bend the wire over and into itself to form what is called a pigtail. Failure to do this usually results in a very nasty puncture wound to the finger or palm of the hand at a later date. You have been warned.
Try to not have any wires longer than 3 inches between bolts. If you find that you have a bolt or set of bolts that have wire distance of more than 3 inches, try to locate a closer point to the bolt to secure the wire and bolt/nut. This may require you to drill some holes to secure the wire, but be careful and think before you drill.
You can often look at other cars in the pits and see how they have accomplished the safety wire process. It never hurts to look and learn and even ask a few questions. This is a skill set that will serve you well and keep you racing. Remember to keep the pull in the correct direction and do not overtwist the wires.
This is a selection of safety...
This is a selection of safety wire pliers. The one on the bottom is a lefthand set. These pliers come in different sizes and brands, and you may be able to locate a pair for less than $25.
Once you've cut a piece of...
Once you've cut a piece of wire and threaded it through a nut or bolt, grip the wire with the pliers and twist. If the wire needs to be adjusted, remove it from the pliers and wind or unwind by hand to the correct length. Then, thread the wire through the next nut or bolt and twist. Cut off the excess wire and use needle-nose pliers to bend the end into a pigtail.