This is a scary situation....
This is a scary situation. I was able to knock this jackstand over with very little effort. There is no mechanical jack holding up the front of the car, and it is now resting on just three jackstands. Imagine the result if you're on a creeper and knock a jackstand over while underneath the car. Just how safe is your shop?
The average race car has about a dozen different pieces of safety equipment, each designed to protect part of your body if and when something goes wrong. These safety devices are there because of the dangers of racing, and everyone wants to be as safe as possible. Just the safety innovations in the past 10 years have been incredible.
But what about the area where you store your car? How safe is it? There are a few things that any racer can do to make the shop safer. Whether you're just getting into your first shop or you've been in one for years, don't have the mindset that an accident won't happen. A simple spark that falls in the wrong place or a car that falls off the jack can be disastrous.
A few of these steps are very simple and almost redundant. For instance, having a fire extinguisher inside your shop is as basic as it gets. But when was the last time you inspected it? First, make sure that the gauge is in the green, and if it has fallen into the red area, spend the money to have it refilled.
Remember as well to always have jackstands in place when someone is working underneath your car. Never allow someone under your car-under any circumstances-while it is being held up by a mechanical jack. Take an extra five or 10 seconds to slide a jackstand underneath the frame as a safeguard against the car falling off the jack.
A simple 3-inch piece of steel...
A simple 3-inch piece of steel square tubing welded onto the bottom of the chassis will provide a great resting point for the jackstand. This will prevent the jacks from sliding out from underneath the chassis.
A trick to make the use of jackstands even safer is to weld a 3-inch piece of steel tubing on the bottom of the chassis toward the back of the car. This provides a place for your chassis to rest in the jackstand instead of merely resting on top of it. Sometimes while you're tightening, say, a truck arm bolt, you will be applying a lot of pressure and, depending on the type of car you are working on, you can actually slide the entire chassis on top of the jackstands. The 3-inch piece of steel, however, will prevent that from happening. It will also stop someone from knocking the jackstand from under the car. This is only a good idea for the back of the chassis, as there is typically too much travel in the front of the car to put the steel tabs on the front of the chassis, and you will be running the risk of dragging the bottom of the chassis while on the track.
Next, make sure the work area is clean. A race shop isn't known for being the cleanest place around, but we have all seen Nextel Cup shops and thought, Wow, look at how clean it is in there. Your shop could be just as neat and clean. Sure, you may not have the bright white floors, but who truly needs that? The reason Cup shops are so clean is that having a clean shop is the first step toward having a safe shop.
During the off-season or when your series or local track has an off week, you should push your car(s) out of the shop and spend a day cleaning the area and organizing tools. Then, take five minutes to put up all the tools and throw away the trash after every subsequent work session. You will greatly improve the safety of the shop. Plus, it'll look a ton better when you have that random visitor race shops seem to attract.
Whether you choose to smoke or not is a whole different article. Nonetheless, one of the smartest moves you can make is not allowing visitors or workers to smoke inside your shop. A simple flick of a cigarette could start a huge fire. So don't make it an issue-limit smoking to outside of your shop.
A safety shut-off valve like...
A safety shut-off valve like the one shown here needs to be connected directly into the quick disconnect. If something goes wrong, you merely turn the valve off instead of trying to unhook the quick disconnects.
Wayward Air Hose
An air compressor is such a great way of opening up options inside the shop that it has almost become a necessity in today's racing world. If you choose to install a large air compressor inside your shop, make sure you run the lines to the main work areas. You don't want to have air lines all over the place because it creates undesirable situations. For instance, let's say you're underneath the car finishing work on the rocker panel and your coworker has run an air line beside you while he's working on the workbench. Then, you accidentally drop a pair of cutters and slash a pea-sized hole into the air line. With upward of 100 pounds of air pressure running through it, the cut line will go berserk, flying wildly through the air-not to mention trying to slap your coworker with whatever tool he was using on the workbench.
This is why it is necessary to install a shut-off valve within reach of where the air line is run. Without the shut-off valve, it would be necessary to try to undo the quick disconnect while the air line is flying around uncontrollably. When you turn the shut-off valve, the line will drop immediately and you can safely undo the quick disconnect without having to worry about the line firing off.
Creepers are great tools for the shop as well. They provide a handy way to stay clean and access a lot of area quickly while underneath your car. However, when you torque a bolt or nut, using a creeper can be dangerous. When you torque the bolt, your leverage will actually move the creeper, which in turn might run you straight into one of the jackstands. Keep in mind, too, that a particular corner of the car may not have as much weight on it as another corner, so when you push the creeper into it, even a slight bump could knock the jackstand from underneath the chassis. This is bad news not only for the car, but also for you.
Remember, if you're going to be using a creeper, make sure your jackstands are secure under your chassis. And, if you're going to torque bolts, it would be much safer just to lie down on your back without the creeper.
Over time you can have an amazing shop, but it all has to start with guaranteeing you and others have a safe working environment. Take an in-depth look at your shop and make the vital changes to ensure that you have the safest shop possible.
A fire extinguisher is a must-have...
A fire extinguisher is a must-have in your shop. You should inspect it at least every six months.
Close inspection of this fire...
Close inspection of this fire extinguisher's gauge shows it is overcharged. The gauge will start to drop after a while, but once it falls out of the green area you need to spend the money to have it refilled.
I would suggest putting the...
I would suggest putting the tabs on the rear of the framerails only. If you weld them near the front, you will run the risk of dragging them on the track because of the travel in front of the car.
Whenever someone gets underneath...
Whenever someone gets underneath the car, take the extra 10 seconds to slide a jackstand underneath the chassis. You should never have anyone underneath the car when it's being held up by nothing more than a mechanical jack.