This car has undergone a lot...
This car has undergone a lot of stress. But often it's not as noticeable as this.
Is there anything worse than being under a ton of stress? We have all felt it, whether at our jobs or dealing with family members. Whatever the case, how you handle stress determines how hard it is on you. Your racecar is not much different. Sometimes your vehicle will be under stress and you might not ever see or hear it, but your performance on the track will change greatly.
It goes so much farther than just tightening every nut and bolt on your chassis and chassis components. This, no doubt, is extremely important. But the teams that are typically experiencing success have a checklist of tasks performed regularly on the car. Some might be more obvious than others, but all of them are equally as important if you are serious about winning.
When inspecting welds, look...
When inspecting welds, look for cracked paint or cracked welds like the one shown here.
The following are just a few areas that you should be checking throughout the race year. Some of the areas need to be checked every week while others you could get by with only checking once every few races. The important thing to do is to keep a steady eye on them and make a checklist that shows how often you check them.
Our team has created a list that we tape to a window on the car once it is unloaded after a race. Then when a task is completed, we check it off and the person who performed the task leaves their initials. This helps make sure that everything is done, but it also helps hold that person accountable for the work.
Notice that the first place...
Notice that the first place the chassis broke was where a bolt had been drilled for the shock.
A chassis can be extremely finicky. One bent bar can drastically change the way the car handles. But that bent chassis component may not always be visible, and that is why you should regularly check the welds on the chassis to see if you notice any chipped paint or cracks. If you can, then it is time to put the chassis on a jig and make repairs. Or take it to a mechanic who can repair the chassis.
Your upper and lower control arms undergo a lot of stress as well. They also determine a lot about how well the car handles, as they control caster, camber, toe, and wheelbase. So if the upper or lower control arm is bent, you will have major problems with your setup. A lot of the time it is extremely hard to see a bent control arm. But one dead giveaway is when you are checking your setup notes from the previous race, you notice that the camber has changed considerably although you didn't make any camber changes. Then you can count on either the upper or lower control arm being bent, if not both. Any time you hit another car or encounter the wall with either the right- or left-front wheel, you should be checking the upper and lower control arms.
The upper and lower control...
The upper and lower control arms dictate caster and camber. If one is bent, it will drastically change how well your car handles.
A bolt hole placed in the chassis to hold additional equipment will weaken that part of the chassis. So anytime there is a hard impact around that area, the first place it will bend is around that bolt. It is important to regularly examine the chassis and chassis components to ensure they are up to par, not only for performance sake, but also for your safety.
Motor mounts are another area deserving close attention. Just a simple glance from week to week will do. Like the welds, you should look for cracked paint or hairline cracks. If you happen to discover either, then more than likely your engine has shifted due to an accident or other stress at some point.
I was involved in a pretty bad accident last year where the entire rear clip had to be replaced. It was a bunch of work but we got the car back to form and repaired everything we saw wrong with the car. We unloaded at the next race and thought we had everything right. But as soon as I went out on the track the car was shaking severely. The yoke on the driveshaft was bent. That's something we would never have been able to see with the naked eye.