Seven things to do this offseason that will payoff big next season

It’s the off season, it’s time to relax right?  Wrong!  Here are my seven things to do this offseason that will payoff big next season.  The time to start them is now.

Planning

While this post is mostly geared toward those that race their car, these items will payoff big next season for anyone that is involved with car events.  There’s little doubt that if you are involved in car related activities your 2019 plan is starting to come together.  You’ve probably selected the events you’ll be at.  You’ve reviewed test day schedules and have begun to outline your 2019 racing calendar.

A successful offseason is very important to a successful race season.  Everything you do now will impact how your race season starts off and having the right plan in place is best place to start.

So what should you plan for?  Everything!

How should you plan?  Well, that depends on you.  For some it’s a clipboard and paper.  Others like to

Offseason prep
One of lists from the last race car I prepped.

use tools such as Evernote, Word, Google Tasks.  There are so many planning and task management applications out there – if you have one that works for you, use it.

The best way to start is to sit down and begin brainstorming about everything you need and want to do.  Get every idea and every item that needs to be addressed onto paper.  (We’ll use the paper model of planning going forward) Just get as many items out of your head and onto paper as you can.  You’ll organize them later.  Don’t think just about the car.  If you tow, what about the truck and trailer?  Do you need to request off of work?  Renew a membership?  Register for your events?  If you are part of a team do you need to schedule team meetings?

Your plan will change over time and it should.  Sometimes you’ll determine some items don’t need to be done and other times you’ll find that one item leads to another, so be flexible.

Having a plan also helps with delegating work.  If you are lucky enough to have people wanting to help, having a detailed plan will make it easy for you and them to see what needs done and keep everyone moving.

Tools

If you are like me, weeks will go by before you clean out the truck and tool box after the last event.  Before you get started with your plan, it’s best to get your tools organized.

I have three different tool boxes and that has made my life a little crazy.  I have two race boxes at the shop and my main tools at home.  This offseason I decided to bring everything home to sort through and organize them.  Now that we aren’t karting I can live with two tool boxes.  Sometimes I’ll work on projects at the shop and other times I’ll be working at home.  Guess what?  The tool I need is rarely where I need it when I need it.  Ugh!  Since I won’t be racing this next season I will have less issues having the right tool in the right place.

As you clean out your box and organize all of your tools write down any missing or needed tools and plan those purchases.  Think about what you didn’t have at the track and needed – add it to your list.  If something is missing, figure out who borrowed it and get it back.

Read

Whether you are campaigning the same car or even a new car, read the rule book for the next season.  Be familiar with what changes are taking place and what may have been added or removed.  Don’t be caught off guard!

Also, take time to read through the on-line forums for your race series and any racing related magazines like SportsCar and Grassroots Motorsports for ideas and insights.

Parts, Equipment & Spares

There’s a word I yell at myself when I buy something I already have, INVENTORY!  There has been too many times that I failed to check what I already had or since I didn’t have it organized enough to know that I had it already.  Take the time to go through your spare parts, your track equipment, and your supplies.  As you go through your spare parts, think about what else you might need at your events.  We got caught off guard this season by not having enough lug nuts.  Time waster!

Race Storage Tote
My Storage Tote!

For organizing my spares and pit equipment I found these black and yellow storage totes at Home Depot and they work great.  If I were to do it again, I might find something similar that has a studier top.  All of mine seemed to have developed a crack.

Having a storage and inventory system will make transporting, storing, and organizing your equipment, parts, and supplies super easy.  Plus, you are less likely to forget something or buy a duplicate of it.

I developed a checklist in Evernote to help me pack everything I need for my events.  It’s also a great way to track inventory of needed parts and supplies.

Your Car!

WARNING, the off season is shorter than you think!  So this means, get working!

Now that you have read the rule book and put your plan together it’s time to work on the car. 

If you haven’t already – perform a proper inspection on the car.  Your plan probably includes items you already knew about, but there could be issues you aren’t aware of yet.  Get the car up on jack stands , pull the wheels and begin inspecting everything. Inspection items should include brakes, steering, suspension, fluid leaks and underside damage.  Inside the car check all wiring, your safety harness, fire bottle, seat mounts and controls.  If you find something that needs to be addressed, add it to your plan. 

It’s easy to postpone work until after the holidays and then say let’s wait until next week – this will go on forever!  Follow your plan and make sure that you execute that plan.  My advice is to do something to the car weekly.  This will allow to you stay focused on your projects and allows time to research items, order parts and even round up help.

Trailer

If you use a trailer to haul your vehicle to events, the offseason is a great time to take care of required maintenance.

Check all the lights, inspect the tires and test the brakes, if equipped.  Also inspect the trailer wiring and all welds.  It seems as if once or twice a season I find a fender weld that needs to be re-welded.

If it’s an enclosed trailer, clean it out, organize it and think about how you can best utilize the space for next season to make it easiest to work at the track.

Conditioning

The offseason is a great time to start up or continue your conditioning for race season.  Depending on the type of driving you do, it’s important to have good cardio and upper body strength.  As an endurance driver, I need to be able to handle the car, the traffic, and the heat for two hours.  Running and cycling helped me prepare for these longer stints.

Cardio training is very important for race car drivers and establishing a weekly workout routine will help you condition your body for the demands of motor racing as well as help with mental focus.  Sprinkle in some weights and sit-ups to strengthen your core and you’ll be amongst the fittest in the paddock.

However, I understand that working out isn’t for everyone.  If you aren’t the athletic type, perhaps walking a few times per week and eating healthy will help you perform better in the next season.

I hope these seven things to do this offseason will payoff big for you next season.

 

April is National Car Care Month – Come Hear Me Speak

Bill Snow Car Care Talk

Happy Car Care Month!

Every April and October we celebrate National Car Care  Month.  It’s a way to call attention to how to best maintain your vehicle so that it will serve you well and stay on the road longer.

This April I’ll be giving two Car Care talks at local libraries.  I really enjoy these presentations and I love educating attendees on how to best take care of their vehicles.

Today’s vehicles are more complex than ever and the need for a maintenance plan is more important than ever before.  This is one of the areas that I cover.  I also cover what certain Malfunction Indicator Lights mean and why it’s important  to have them investigated.  Weather permitting, we’ll walk around a vehicle to learn more about the quick areas that should be checked each week.

Monday, April 9th in Wickliffe
Bill Snow Wickliffe

Learn more about the event at the Wickliffe Public Library HERE.

 

Thursday, April 12th in Mentor

Bill Snow Mentor

Learn more about the event at the Mentor Public Library HERE.

5 Tire Storage Tips To Ensure Better Results

Who has tires to store?  Many people do.  Snow tires continue to be used in wintery climates which presents a storage requirement for vehicle owners.  Weekend racers and Autocrossers also have the need to store their extra tires and wheels.  These tire storage tips are  important to make your tire investment last.

Here are my five tips to better tire storage.

1. Find A Cool And Dry Place

Where you store your tires is key.  It must be dry, cool and secure.  Make sure the tires won’t be exposed to direct sunlight.  If you are storing track or competition tires make sure it’s a place where the temperature won’t drop below 20 degrees.  Also, keep all tires away from furnaces and large electrical equipment as the Ozone developed by this type of equipment can damage tires.

2. Clean Is Key

Once you’ve determined where you’ll store your tires, it’s time to prep them for storage.  It’s recommended to wash your tires with soap and water and a car wash solution is just fine. If the tires will stay mounted on wheels, make sure that the wheels are clean as well.  If needed, use an approved wheel cleaner to get any road grime or brake dust off of your wheels that the soap won’t.  Make sure to throughly dry the tires prior to storage.

3. Bag Them

Today’s tires contain oils and chemicals that are important to the durability and longevity of use and when exposed to the elements these chemicals evaporate.  This leads to dry rotting and compound cracking.  When storing your tires it’s a good idea to place each tire into a plastic bag.  The more airtight, the better.

There a many ways to bag them.  The easiest and cheapest would be some large trash bags.  Just find a way to get the air out and seal them up with tape.  Another idea is to invest in tire storage bags like these (click on picture to get full details):

Another option is the tire tote.  Tire totes are a great way to store and transport your tires.  They are made from durable materials and include handles.  If you attend track days or Autocross events these will make life a little easier and keep your interior cleaner too.

4. How To Store

Tires are best stored upright rather than stacked.  However, if you are unable to store them upright stacking them is not the end of the world as long as you keep them off the concrete/ground, keep them in bags and protect the wheels from hitting one another.  Don’t stack more than four tires high either.  The weight on the bottom tires can actually push the sidewalls in and make remounting more difficult.

Need a rack?  There are many low cost, wall racks that will securely support your tires.  Check out this one here: Tire Rack for Garage.  This is one of the more expensive ones, but it’s worth the extra money.  I had this one in my garage at home and moved it to the shop.  It’s worth spending a little extra for it.  Yes, there are ones that cost less, but the quality drops off and the last thing you want is a failure that results in heavy tires and/or wheels crashing down in your garage.

5. Still On The Vehicle?

If you are storing a vehicle for the winter it’s a good idea to  move it once a month to move the tire position.  The weight of the vehicle on the same portion of the tire for extended periods of time can damage the tire.  Even just rolling the vehicle back 8-12 inches will help.  This is true for motorcycles as well.

Follow these tire storage tips and when the spring season returns your tires will be ready to go and in great shape.

Cabin Air Filters and Mice

Warning…If you don’t like mice ?, the pic below might offend.
 
We see this from time to time – evidence of rodents. These two pics are from different cars that we saw this month.

In one case we actually found the mouse! In most cases we just find the evidence that little critters have been in the vehicle.

mouse in car
Yikes! A mouse

 
For example, the cabin air filter below has quite a large amount of Koi food in it. A little critter was stock piling food in the cabin air filter.

cabin air filter piled high with koi food from a mouse
Piled high!

cabin air filter mouse
Koi Food Filled Cabin Air Filter!

 
A clogged cabin air filter slows down air filow, strains the blower motor and the passenger cabin may not smell as fresh as it should.
 
How do these guy get in your car? Most times they’ll stay in the engine area. They seek the warmth of area during the cold months. We’ve actually found nests from where they’ve build a second home. They may jump in your car at work or at home in your garage. Mice and other rodents like to eat wires which can lead to big issues – so find ways to keep them out – such as dyer sheets, moth balls or perhaps a large cat ?!
 
Prior to our road trip this month I checked  the cabin air filter in the #Odyssey2Indy and it was time for a change!

dirty cabin air filter cavity
Dirty Filter Cavity

 

new air cabin filter
Old vs. New

 

It’s not uncommon to get leaves, debris and dirt in the air box/cavity and the filter.  That’s the purpose of the filter!  Make sure to haver it checked every oil change.  Cabin air filters need to be replaced about once per year.   In some cases we see them getting replaced every six months.  This general occurs when a vehicle is parked under a tree or driven in very dusty environments.

 

SaveSave

Happy Mother’s Day!

Many times mom played a role in our life with cars.   Perhaps she drove you to the parts store when you needed something.  There may have been a time or two she took you driving to help you learn.  And of course those times she didn’t tell dad about certain things that may have happened.

To the moms that support us in our car affairs – Thank You and Happy Mother’s Day!

Don’t Plug a Tire!

Twice this year we’ve seen tires that have failed due to a failed rope plug.  While plugs were once the norm in tire repair, they are now outdated and the plug patch system is the better and safer way to go.

Tire Plug Patch
Tire Plug Patch

Cooper Tires recently published an article that highlights proper tire repair.

If you have a tire that’s losing air, have it inspected by a professional to determine the correct repair.  Your tires are what keep your car connected to the ground – don’t risk your safety with an outdated plug.

Ask Bill – Pre-Purchase Inspections – 7 Steps To Buying Confidently

Our clients trust us with their cars and when it comes time to purchase another used vehicle many times they’ll call the shop to see what we’ve heard about certain models and if we have any vehicles for sale.  We also receive many questions regarding how to go about finding a good, used vehicle for sale.  Regardless of where you may find a car for sale I will always recommend a Pre-Purchase Inspection.

About a year ago I wrote about used vehicle purchases and inspections  here.  In today’s post I will focus on the Pre-Purchase Inspection.  Buying a used vehicle can be a huge trap if you are not careful.

This time of year means two things; tax season and used car season.  The used car market swells this time of year as many enterprising individuals and companies want to take advantage of cash in people’s pockets.  Some car lots will start stockpiling cars in November and December in anticipation of their busy season.  Sometimes they need to put some work and repairs into these cars and if quality work isn’t done, you’ll end up with a headache.

As a Licensed Ohio E-Check Repair Facility we see many cars that have failed E-Check and in many cases these cars were just purchased.  Talk about frustrated!! Now these folks own this problem.

Why is a Pre-Purchase Inspection important?  Having trained eyes on your potential purchase can help you avoid a mistake or confirm that you’ve found a gem.  This small investment will help identify any potential headaches.

So what gets inspected?  I’ll explain how we approach a Pre-Purchase Inspection.

Digital Used Car Inspection

  1. We test drive the vehicle.  We’re listening for anything that doesn’t seem right such as noises and rattles.  We’re checking the alignment, how it steers, how it accelerates and how it stops.
  2. Once in the shop we inspect the exterior, wipers, the glass and the lighting.
  3. Under the hood our technician is looking for the condition of hoses, belts, ignition components and the air filter.  Fluids are inspected.  We test the alternator and the battery.
  4. Inside the car we’re testing all electrical components —> lights, horn, HVAC, radio, windows, etc.  We test the heat and the A/C.  We also investigate the dash cluster for any lights such as check engine, TPMS, ABS, TSC, VSC, and air bag.
  5. Under the car all steering and suspension components are inspected and tested for looseness.  Brake and fuel lines are looked over for rust and potential leaks.  The technician is looking around the engine and transmission for leaks.  He’s checking the axles and, if equipped, the transfer case and differential(s).  An inspection of the exhaust will uncover any holes or issues.
  6. We remove the wheels and tires to inspect the brakes.  Checking the condition of the pads, rotors, calipers and hoses will identify any braking issues.
  7. Lastly, the car’s computer is scanned for codes.  We’re looking for pending, history and current codes that might suggest a recent repair was made or if there’s an issue  lurking.

All of the  information and notes that our technician takes is recorded into a three page report which is reviewed with our client.  I also encourage our client to talk with our technician about the inspection and take a walk around and under the vehicle to better understand the inspection results.  As you can see in the picture above we are moving to digital inspections which are performed on a tablet and results can be texted and emailed.

Buying a car is a big investment.  Investing a little in a Pre-Purchase Inspection will help make sure you are investing your money wisely.  How much is an inspection like this?  Usually between $45 & $90.  Well worth it

 

About Ask Bill…

As you may imagine, I receive many car related questions at the shop.  Phone calls inquiring about noises, dash board indicator lights and maintenance related matters. So I thought I’d turn those questions into future articles.  Stay tuned…