Preparing Your Racing Equipment for Winter

With winter and cold temperatures arriving, we decided to reach out to our experts to get advice on best practices for protecting your racing equipment so that it is ready when the season starts again.

Engine: The biggest problems that engine builders see when an engine hasn’t been stored properly include rust in the engine and cracked blocks. To combat these problems, Steve Hendren of Hendren Racing Engines recommends the following procedure:

  • Start the engine. Pour oil into the carburetor until the spark plugs foul and the engine begins to smoke. This process ensures that your entire engine is fully lubricated and won’t rust.
  • After the above procedure, drain all water from the cooling system or make sure that the system contains an adequate amount of antifreeze to keep your engine block from cracking when cold temperatures strike.
  • To get your engine race ready again in the spring, you will just need to refill the cooling system with water and start the engine. When the smoke stops, remember to change the plugs.

Carburetors: Proper care must be given to your carburetor before storing it for the off season. Willy Krup of Willy’s Carbs recommends that alcohol carbs be cleaned out and drained of all fuel. Then, fill with gas (no ethanol) to break down the alcohol. Follow this with a good quality lubricant.

Al Walters from Friesen Chevrolet adds that it is a good idea to store carbs in a heated space for the winter.

It is highly recommend to send alcohol carbs in for a yearly rebuild. It is also a good idea to do the same for gas carburetors. Keeping them maintained properly will ensure the best performance. The best time to send in a carb is as soon as possible at the end of the race season. As the off season goes on, carb shops receive higher volumes of rebuilds, and longer wait times can be expected.

Brakes: Jim Bernheisel of Bernheisel Race Cars recommends draining all of your brake fluid for the winter. Replace it just before going racing in the spring. Brake fluid tends to pull moisture from the atmosphere. Water in the brake lines causes a spongy pedal and brake fade.

Safety: Safety expert Randy LaJoie from The Joie of Seating recommends checking all of your safety equipment. Check the dates on all SFI labels. Check your seat belt system. If there are any frays or cuts, it is time to replace them. And, when you do, check out the 7-point systems on the market. The 7-point systems secure your thighs so that your hips don’t bounce around in the event of a crash.

Chassis & Suspension: Greg Noah from Old Man’s Garage recommends cleaning and lubricating all chassis parts, especially heim joints. It is also a good idea to replace the bearings in your birdcages.

While cleaning heim joints, Buck Parker of Daytona 1 cautions against the use of WD-40. The carrier contains accelerants which means that the product will evaporate allowing the joints to dry out. A better choice is Daytona 1’s Professional Spray Lube (Available in the Crate Insider store). It is specifically formulated for this application. Spray and wipe to clean. Then spray again to lubricate. Use it on heims, linkages, metal parts, as well as any other moving parts.

Jim Bernheisel of Bernheisel Race Cars recommends checking your drive flanges closely. They often show a lot of wear and a winter time replacement is inexpensive compared to a race failure.

Shocks: Winter is a good time to send your shocks in for a rebuild. They are just like engines in that they have valves, seals and oil.

Springs: Now is the time to get all of the weight off of the springs. Bernheisel recommends having them checked and rated. A quality spring will last a long time, but knowing beats guessing every time.

Tires: Tires have two enemies: air and light. The best storage policy is to wrap tires in plastic to keep the oils in the tires and to keep them from drying out. Store in a location that is out of direct light.

Headers: We spoke with Greg Fuesler at AFCO/Dynatech for tips on header maintenance. He recommends that racers check the headers for cracks and leaks. Now is a good opportunity to make repairs if the damage isn’t too extreme. Look at the tubes. If there is noticeable heat damage, it can be a sign that one of the cylinders is running lean. If you run a series that allows rebuilding your engine, this is good information to share with your engine builder.

Radiators: Greg Fuesler from AFCO/Dynatech recommends draining your radiator. To clean it, replace the cap and drain plug and soak it in a container of water such as a baby pool. Soak it for a day or two, if feasible.

When the radiator is clean, check it for damage. Heat damage starts in the middle of the radiator. When tubes are overheated, they expand. To check for blockages, cut a piece of poster board and slide it between the fins and tubes. If there is a blocked spot, it is a sign of an internal expansion issue.

Following these tips will help you get off to a great start in the Spring.