The Saturday night racer faces some very real issues with the fuel systems in their cars. The demands on the fuel system can make or break a racing program depending on the level of preparation that the racer places on the system.

From a systemic perspective, the fuel system isn't that complex. The whole system will usually include a fuel cell, some fuel line, a filter or two, either a mechanical or electric pump, and the fuel delivery device, either a carburetor or possibly fuel injection. Depending on the complexity of the fuel delivery device there may also be a fuel pressure regulator, a fuel pressure gauge, and a return line to the fuel tank or fuel cell. The higher the power level of the engine, the more complex and involved the system requirements will be.

It's a simple equation: As the power levels climb, the fuel system will get more and more complex.

For Saturday night racer applications, the fuel system doesn't start in the car, but at the point we as racers start to control the fuel. In this case, that's the point of sale for the fuel. Racers may bring their own fuel to the track or they may purchase fuel from a vendor at the track.

The fuel may be transferred several times prior to it ever reaching the fuel cell or tank in the car. It's in this manner that we can introduce variation into the fuel system through contamination by dirt, water or by mixing different grades or ages of fuel. Any way you look at it, we have the opportunity to maintain or degrade the quality of the fuel. So for the Saturday night racer to more precisely control the fuel system, we need to really understand the process of how we move and use the fuel.

Once the fuel is in the tank or the fuel cell, we still need to be concerned about the cleanliness of the fuel. Fuel cells don't last forever and the foam inside the bladder can break down over the course of a season or sooner, depending on the fuel you are running. If this happens, the fuel will be contaminated by the foam and can cause system problems. The foam should be replaced at the intervals suggested by the fuel cell manufacturer. Racing fuels can be very caustic depending on the chemicals used as additives in the manufacturing process.

By the same token, if you're still using the OEM tank, you're not home free just yet. It's entirely possible that the tank has seen a good number of over-the-road miles and is possibly or more than likely contaminated with rust and scale after many years of use as a grocery getter. You may want to remove the tank and have it cleaned. The truth of the matter is that once the OEM tank is removed, you might as well think about installing a fuel cell just for the safety that this type of tank offers.

Some gasoline blended for the racing industry is very hard on the rubber components of the fuel system. This can be the lines, gaskets and any diaphragms. These "rubber goods" are especially sensitive. They're synthetic rubber and plastics, but they're not completely impervious to the chemicals in fuel. Depending on the type of fuel you run, it can cause some rubber goods to degrade and the performance of the car will suffer.

You also need to be concerned if you're running alcohol, as alcohol is hydroscopic, meaning that the alcohol will absorb water out of the air. So if you live in an area that has high-ambient humidity and you're not exercising great care to prevent your fuel from undergoing exposure to the air, you will get water in your fuel. Alcohol is also very corrosive to aluminum parts. If you allow fuel to sit in the lines or in the carburetor for extended periods, you will get corrosion. Even the steel portions of the fuel system are subject to rusting from alcohol fuels due to the higher instances of water in this fuel. The use of alcohol fuels will require greater fuel system maintenance just to keep the system clean.