It has been a long year, and your race car has the battle scars to prove it. It is easy to
As much as we love racing, it happens to all of us: After several long months of competition, the weekly workload required just to keep your car on the track continues to pile up, and by the time the season ends you are ready for a vacation from racing. That's fine, but the mistake too many of us make is that we keep extending that "vacation," and before we know it the new season is about to begin and the race car has hardly been touched since it last left the racetrack several months ago.
Don't let this happen to you. Yes, it's OK to let the car sit for a bit during the offseason while you decompress from a long-and often grueling-racing campaign. But even if you don't have major wreck damage that must be repaired, there can be a lot of wear and tear, which adds up on any race car over the course of a season. As a result, there are several areas on the car that should receive attention, and they probably aren't on your weekly checklist.
All steering components, especially the tie rods, take a beating in stock car racing and s
To get a real-world view of the types of inspection and maintenance that should be done between seasons, we went to Charlie Barham of FNO Race Cars. FNO, by the way, stands for "Failure is Not an Option," and Barham means it. "A lot of racers feel like if a part on the race car isn't broken or falling off, then it's good to go again the next week," says Barham. "After the season, some may just reskin the car or put a fresh coat of paint on what they've got, but that's a good way to guarantee problems. Even if you are racing an older car, there is no reason it cannot be as dependable as a new car if you take care of it."
Barham builds everything from Mini-Stocks to ARCA Speedway cars, and he maintains some cars for customers in-house. But he also splits his time between building cars for Saturday night racers and hanging bodies for select Nextel Cup and Busch Series teams (exactly who he keeps to himself), so you know his work is good. Combined with Barham's suggestions, we've compiled a list of areas on the race car that should at least be inspected before the wheels hit the track again for 2007. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is definitely a great place to start. You can decide, based on your own experience and knowledge of your race car, if there are any other areas that need attention. So go ahead and take care of the high-wear areas on your race car during the offseason, when you don't have to rush to get everything done and time is finally on your side.
U-bolts and universal joints are easy and cheap to replace. So, instead of inspecting them
You don't have to completely strip every nut and bolt off your car and rebuild it from scratch, but you should at least consider pulling your engine. If you have gone all season without a rebuild or at least a refresh, now is definitely the time to get that done. For more information on engine maintenance, read David Vizard's companion article ("Budget Winter Rebuild," page 50).
Just like the engine, the transmission and rearend should also be rebuilt. Heat is the enemy of gears in the transmission and rearend, and even if you have regularly changed the gear oil, you may need to replace the gears. Inspect the gears in both units for heat discoloration (blue or brown marks), cracks, chips, or other signs of damage. You should also check the bearings and axle seals for excessive wear. Consider sending both to a gear specialist to be rebuilt. If you don't have spares of both and don't have the ability to rebuild them yourself, a broken transmission or rearend can put you out of commission for weeks while you wait on repairs. Avoid this situation by having preventive maintenance done.
The suspension pivot points on a tube-frame car are usually much more solid and dependable
Barham says some areas of the drivetrain don't require inspection and should just be replaced as a matter of course after a season of racing. These parts include U-bolts on the driveshaft and the universal joints. They are some of the least expensive components on any race car, but they are critical. Pick up a new set at the local auto parts store the next time you are out to lunch.
Finally, when you pull the engine, tear down the clutch and take a look at it. Check the friction disks against the manufacturer's specs to see if they are still good. You can also check the splines on the plates to make sure they aren't worn. If you use a throwout bearing, check for leaks and other problems. If you use a mechanical clutch fork, make sure the bearing still spins smoothly, and regrease the pivot ball. Finally, check the pilot bearing in the end of the crankshaft before sending the engine out to be rebuilt. If the pilot bearing is worn, it can lead to poor alignment angles in the clutch and cause excessive wear. This is another cheap part that should be replaced if there are any doubts. Whenever possible, always use a roller-bearing pilot rather than a bushed pilot.
If your shocks check out at the correct rate and show no obvious signs of damage, they sho
When tearing down and rebuilding the brake system, thoroughly inspect the flex lines. They
Wheels and hubs can take a beating over the course of a season. Look for fatigue cracks wh