Tech Talk #1: Preparing for the Competition Season

Date: Mar 24, 2007
Source: SBR SCCA Blog
Author: UFP Pyro
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Preparing for the Competition Season

This is the first in a series of articles by SBR Autocrosser Adam Lewis.

Tech Talk
by Adam Lewis

It’s almost that time of year again folks!! The weather is getting warmer, the birds are returning home, and the garage doors are virtually buckling with anticipation to release the 4-wheeled beasts they’ve kept captive these long winter months. That’s right, the 2007 South Bend Region is on the verge of kicking off another fantastic season of SCCA Solo competition!

I can almost see it now. One hundred plus autocross competitors converging on The Tire Rack, or Lakeshore High School, or Grissom, anxiously awaiting their turn to unleash havoc on some unsuspecting cones. I can almost smell the fuel rich exhaust of a “mod” car. I can almost feel the warmth radiating from the course. I can almost hear the screams of protest from tires, that never dreamed they would be pushed to their limits by a “stock” vehicle.

Almost, but not yet. We still have just over a month before the first car breaks the timing beam. Since you still have some time on your hands, you might as well bring your autocross machine out of it’s winter slumber. If it’s been sitting for a while, it’s a good idea to go over it now, to make sure everything is in working order. If you drove your vehicle this winter, it still would be to your benefit to go over some basic inspections. Following are a few things you can do when getting your car out of storage, or switching it from winter to summer “mode.”

First and foremost – Change the engine oil. If the car was stored try to do this before you even start it. While your car was sitting these past few months, all of the oil has made it’s way back into the oil pan. At the very least this means your piston rings, rod and main bearings, cam(s) and rocker arms are dry of most, if not all oil. Also, oil sitting undisturbed for a long period of time will separate. All of the good lubricating molecules in engine oil will “float” to the top, while the gunk will be at the bottom. It’s also possible for water condensation to form inside an undisturbed engine, which will sink to the bottom of the pan. There it will hang out with the gunk by the oil pump pick up, conspiring an evil plan to make its way through your engine first. While this probably won’t destroy your engine, it certainly isn’t good, and causes unnecessary wear and tear. Changing the oil before starting a stored vehicle eliminates these threats.

If for one reason or another, you are unable to perform this task, there is one other option. There is a product on the market by the name of “Engine Restore.” It can be purchased at Autozone, Advance Auto, Wal-Mart, Meijer and most other stores with an automotive section. It’s available in 4, 6, and 8 cylinder formulas. For this purpose, no matter what engine you have, you want the four cylinder version. First, check your oil. If the oil on the dipstick is a half inch or more above the full mark, do not perform this option, and seek assistance with the oil change. If your stick reads below, at, or slightly above full, you’re good to go. Take the engine restore, give it a hardy shaking, and pour about half of it into the oil fill. The purpose for this is to at least get some of the internal parts coated, and to stir up the oil in the pan. Engine restore also helps to break down sludge and other gunk that might have formed in your engine. After completing the rest of the steps below, you can move the car out into the open and let it idle for 5 to 10 minutes, then drive to your oil/lube shop of choice for an oil change.

Check your tires. If the car sat directly on the tires, they may have developed flat spots. If the tires you plan to compete on are stored off the car, it is still a good idea to check them. They may have more wear on the tread than you remember, or may display the early signs of dry rot. A clear indication of dry rot is tiny cracks on the sidewall of the tire. Also be sure to check your tire pressure before driving.

Check all other fluids. Are coolant levels correct? How about brake, transmission or clutch fluid?

A few final things to do before you fire it up: Push the brake pedal a couple times. You don’t have to mash on it, just make sure it has a firm feel to it. If your car is equipped with a manual transmission, and a hydraulic clutch, go ahead and pump it a couple times also. If your car is fuel injected or is otherwise equipped with an electric fuel pump, turn the key to the “ON” position. You should be able to hear that tiny little electric whine for a few seconds. That’s your fuel pump priming. Once it stops, turn the key off, and once more back to “ON.” Wait once more for the pump to stop, and then fire it up. This is only to ensure your fuel lines are properly primed, and shouldn’t be necessary on vehicles that are driven at least once or twice a week or more. While it’s running, check the brake pedal once more, and allow your new oil to circulate for a couple minutes.

Congratulations, you’ve brought your car out of hibernation! Go take it for a spin. Listen and feel for anything abnormal, and be sure to correct any issues that may have arisen.

I certainly hope you found at least some, if not all of the above helpful. If you feel I have made an error, omitted something relevant, please feel free to contact me. Also, if you have a question you would like answered in a future article of “Tech Talk” please let me know. While my automotive experience is a bit above average, I certainly am not a “guru” yet. However, I have a broad range of resources, so if I don’t know the answer, chances are I know where to find it.

Respectfuly Submited,
Adam Lewis
South Bend Region SCCA Chief Tech Inspector

(Note from the author: This article is intended as a helpful guide, and nothing more. Every precaution should be taken concerning safety when performing any of the above tasks. If you are unsure about performing any of the above tasks, it is advised you seek the assistance of a professional. The “Author”, “The South Bend Region SCCA” or the “SCCA” CANNOT be held liable for any person(s) injured while performing these tasks, or be held liable for any damage to any vehicle(s) directly or indirectly resulting from the advice in this article.)

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