Every team has to try to save...
Every team has to try to save money and time during the season. By possessing skills such as welding, each race team can save that time and money to invest back into the racecar. Photo by Karice Voorhess
A number of times each season, our race team unloads our car at the chassis manufacturer because of the quality of work the company can perform. However, we lose valuable time while the car is there, not to mention the money we spend having our car worked on. Depending on the work requirements with the chassis, it takes from one to three weeks for everything to be finished. We are not able to accomplish anything else on the car during this time, and it almost always puts us behind on getting the car ready to make the next race.
Make no mistake about it, sometimes you have to make the decision to let a professional work on your car or the pieces that make up your racecar. But you can save some serious money and time by developing a few skills on your own. Some might require class time in order to learn how to do it properly, or in some cases you may need to purchase equipment. Either way, you are guaranteed to save money by doing the work on the racecar yourself, and you'll have a lot more money to invest back into the car.
For starters, welding is an excellent skill to have in your arsenal. Being able to make a quick welding repair at the track can be crucial at times. At some point during the year you will end up unloading your car after a race and, whether it's sheet-metal or the chassis, a repair needing a weld is a given.
A classic MIG welder will go far in helping you keep costs down by allowing the work to be done in-house. Miller Electric's Millermatic 180 will weld anywhere from 24 gauge steel to quarter-inch aluminum. The great thing about the 180 is it costs $958-a cost effective price when you consider the utility of the unit. And, again, keep in mind that this is money you will save by not having to pay labor costs to an outside source.
I can hear the naysayers: "I don't want to make the repairs to my car. I don't trust my welds." At some point, you will have to have some serious work done, and it might very well require a professional. But some simple to moderate repairs-such as repairing a bumper bar, some light sheet-metal work, or fabricating and repairing a fender brace-you can perform with a welder and some basic welding skills. There is only one good way to get better at welding, and that is to keep welding. Over time your hand will grow steady and you will find yourself more comfortable with complex chassis repairs. Not only will these skills help on the car, but they will also help when doing work on the trailer or around your home.
This is a worst case scenario...
This is a worst case scenario from a driver/team owner's perspective. It will require time and money to get this car put back together. How much of this car could your team put back together and how much would you have to pay someone else to do it? Photo by John Gibson
TIG welding is another beast in itself, used mostly to weld aluminum. It can be very tedious and requires a lot of experience to learn how to do it correctly. But if you can master this skill, you can save a lot of time and money by being able to weld aluminum and not having to pay someone else to do it.
Whether you are running a sheet-metal body or a fiberglass/composite body, you should have some basic painting, fiberglass, and Bondo skills. Bondo, of course, is a patching material that will help you make the races week to week without having to spend money on a new door or quarter panel.
If you are running a fiberglass body, Bondo can be used to repair small holes, but it will be better in the long run to learn how to patch a hole or tear in fiberglass, and it's fairly simple. Head to any local auto parts shop and buy a fiberglass repair kit. Just like with Bondo, there will be a hardener to mix with the fiberglass.
Not only will the fiberglass patch the area, it will strengthen the cracks and tears that inevitably happen throughout the season. Remember, though, when using fiberglass patches to patch the backside of the body, because it will make a mess and you will have more to clean up if you patch the front of it.
I once knew of a team that would take Rhino-Liner, the truck bed lining, and roll it on the inside of the nose of the car to strengthen the fiberglass. This team didn't have to buy a single nose for the entire season.
Being able to weld will not...
Being able to weld will not only help your race team, but it can also help when you're doing any type of repairs to your trailer or around the house. Courtesy of Miller Electric
Painting can be difficult,...
Painting can be difficult, but it is a skill you can master by doing it often. Photo by John Gibson
Having a good understanding...
Having a good understanding of Bondo and fiberglass repairs can save you a lot of time and money when working in your shop. Photo by John Gibson