7 Tips to Prep For Solo Tech To Make It Easy

Tech is a part of every SCCA Solo event and to make your morning a little easier, I’ve put together my tips to make Tech easy.

Why Tech?

Tech signs make it easy to find
Look for signs for the designated Tech area

There are two purposes for Tech; Safety & Identification.

The main reason for inspecting a vehicle is to make certain that it is ready for the demands of running a Solo event and that the driver, passenger, and other attendees are not in an danger of a failure.  The secondary reason for tech is to check that the number and class are clearly identified on the vehicle.

Who Techs?

Most regions have a Chief of Tech.   This Chief is in charge of Tech and will generally have a few other volunteers to help during the event morning.  The Chief is responsible for making sure that the vehicle and helmet meet the latest SCCA rules and guidelines.   If the Chief has any concerns they will be discussed with the driver and the Chief Safety Stewart.

Annual Tech

Some regions will have an annual Tech option.  This is generally reserved for SCCA members and is either performed at the first event or a special Tech day.  An annual tech inspection saves time throughout the season as the Tech’d vehicle and helmet will have a sticker affixed showing that they’ve been checked.  Just because a car has gone through annual Tech does not mean that it won’t be exempt for being checked at events during the season.  These vehicles will be randomly spot checked – so be prepared.

Tips To Make Tech Easier

1.  If you are an SCCA member go through the annual Tech process.  This will make your event mornings a little less stressful.  Plus you’re helping the event staff make their mornings a little easier too.

2.  Check your vehicle yourself or ask a friend to help.  Do this at least a few weeks prior to the season starting and then follow my 6 Steps To Maintaining Your Solo/AutoX Car during the season.

What to check?

  • Battery – Make sure the battery tie down / hold down is secure and that the terminals are tight.
  • Fluid Leaks – Leaking fluids will fail your car.  Fluids that leak from your vehicle  pose a safety concern for other competitors and could lead to failure on the cause or worse yet, fire.  If you spot leaks have a qualified mechanic repair them.
  • Lug Nuts – Believe it or not I have seen a car or two arrive with missing lug nuts.  It you swap wheels and tires for events make sure that you arrive to Tech with the wheels and tires you intend to run with.  Torque those lug nuts too!
  • Loose Steering & Suspension Components – Wheel bearings, tie rod ends, strut/shock mounts, and stabilizer bar components must all be tight.  Any looseness is grounds for failing.
  • Tire Condition – old or damaged tires are a sure disaster for running Solo.  Make sure your tires are in good shape.  They should not be older than six years and should not have any dry rot present.
  • Throttle Cable – If your vehicle is equipped with a throttle cable, it must be free of any restrictions and must return to it’s original position when the pedal is released.   Vehicles with electric throttle control must also have a pedal that returns to it’s original position.
  • Brakes – Your brake fluid reservoir must be full of clean brake fluid.  The pedal must have a solid feel and no lines should be leaking.  No mechanical brake components should be broken or missing parts.

3.  Inspect your helmet.  First, make sure your helmet is not damaged or extremely worn.  Second, make sure that it meets the current season’s requirements.  Every year the SCCA publishes the Required Helmet Certification Decals document.  Refer to it to make sure you are good to go.

4.  Remove loose objects.  Some people like to do this the night before an event.  Go though your car and remove any loose objects from the passenger compartment and the trunk.  Items like sunglasses, garage door openers, radar detectors will become projectiles while driving through the course.  In the trunk or hatch area take time to remove any loose items and check the spare tire area to make sure that the tire and tools are secure.  Obviously, some items need to remain in your car and those can be removed at the event and secured in a tote at your paddock spot.  It’s also a good idea to remove your driver’s side floor mat.  If it slides around it could interfere with your pedal operation.

5.  Check the SCCA Solo Rule Book for your vehicle to confirm your class.  If you are in a category, check any specific safety or vehicle requirements you may have for that category.

6. Have your class and car number clearly identified on both sides of your vehicle.  If you will be a regular participant in Solo events consider investing in

Class Numbers should be applied prior to Tech
Use contrasting colored class numbers and letters

a set of magnetic numbers.  First timer?  Contrasting painter’s tape or large numbers and letters printed out on paper will work too.

7. Present your vehicle and yourself ready to go.  When you roll up to Tech make sure you have everything ready.  If you change wheels and tires, have them mounted and the lug nuts torqued.  Using a Go Pro?  Have it mounted.   Open your hood and trunk.  Be ready to answer questions.  The individual performing inspecting your car may  have to ask questions about your car.  Be polite and courteous.

Remember, the Tech process is not there to give you a hard time – it is intended to help make you and the event safe.

 

6 Tips For Maintaining Your Solo/AutoX Car

So you ran an SCCA Solo event.  You had fun and now you’re looking at the Facebook Pics  that everyone took and you’re searching for the next event to run.  There’s one more item to consider – your car!

It’s always a good idea to look over your vehicle after a Solo event.  Also, it’s a good idea to step up the maintenance on your car during the Solo season.  Follow the tips below to  keep your car in good shape for the road and ready for the next Solo event.

  1. Check your fluids. Check color, condition and level.  Top off when needed and change the engine oil and filter more frequently.    Oil breaks down due to heat and while the course may only be 25-40 seconds long, those high revs can break down oil faster than normal driving.    Also, look for leaks.  If you spot a leak, get it looked ASAP!
  2. Re-torque your lug nuts.  Before, during and after events always check your lug nuts.  Torque them to the OE spec.
  3. Check your vehicle’s  recommended maintenance schedule and make sure that you are up to date. Failing to perform routine maintenance items like fluid and coolant flushes, timing belt changes, and tune ups may leave you stranded at the starting line.
  4. Listen for noises while the engine is running and while you are driving. If something doesn’t sound right, inspect it.
  5. Spend time with your car. While your spouse may get jealous, it’s time well spent.  Take the time to look around and under the car.  Look at the steering and suspension components.  Keep an eye on the axles and boots.  The more familiar you are with your car, the more quickly you’ll notice any changes which will allow you to address them prior to the next event.
  6. Lastly, ask for help. If you don’t have the space or tools to work on your car – find a shop that you trust and that understands Solo.  Another idea is to ask a friend or another SCCA member to help out.

Have you ever been to a Solo event where a mechanical failure held up the event?  Not fun, right?  Don’t be that guy or gal.  Take care of your car and it will perform well.  Remember, you can’t win if you don’t finish!

 

Windshield Wipers

Keep Those Wipers Working!

Inspect your  wiper blades monthly.  Check to see if they are worn, torn or cracked.  My father’s advise –  Replace them when you change your clocks – once in the spring and again in the fall.

Old or damaged  wiper blades won’t adequately remove water or snow which can impair a driver’s vision.  This is a big safety issue!

Wiper blades typically last  six to nine months depending on exposure to heat, dirt, sunlight, acid rain, and ozone.  Your wipers should not streak now make any  noises – if they do – place them!

The windshield washer fluid reservoir should also be checked monthly. Top it off with a pre-mixed solution.  Do not add water to the fluid – even in the summer.  Every where we get about a dozen cars that have frozen lines due to old fluid or watered down fluid.  Avoid those repairs!

Also, test the washer spray nozzles for proper operation and aim before leaving on a trip.

5 New Year’s Resolutions For Your Car

It’s that time of year again, when we start making resolutions for the New Year.

This year don’t leave your car out of your resolutions…

Simply changing a few habits can help your vehicle last longer, command a higher resale price, pollute less, and burn less fuel.

Here are some of the things you can do for your vehicle in the New Year that will pay your huge dividends down the road:

  1. Clean out your vehicle.  Less weight means you’ll use less fuel, so remove unnecessary items from the trunk.  Remove that rooftop cargo carrier.  You’ll cut down on that fuel-hogging wind resistance.
  2. Check your tire pressure once per month.  Tires with low pressure cause the engine to work harder and burn more fuel.  Poorly aligned wheels and improperly inflated tires also wear out faster, costing you money in replacements.
  3. Follow your maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual.  A neglected vehicle burns more fuel and will break down more often than a well-maintained machine.  Fouled spark plugs and clogged filters waste fuel.  Routine oil changes will keep your vehicle from aging before its time.
  4. Be proactive.  Cold weather magnifies existing problems like pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.   Keep your fluids changed on a regular basis.  This includes differential fluids, transmission fluid, steering and brake fluids, engine coolant, and windshield washer fluid.
  5. Look for a high-quality repair shop.  A quality auto care facility can recommend services to keep your vehicle in top running condition.  A quality facility will have the equipment needed to properly diagnose your vehicle’s problems.  When you are choosing a shop to care for your vehicle remember that you’re not just paying for the cost of the part and the time it takes to install it, but you’re also paying for the professionalism and technical expertise to fix it right the first time.

Check Your Tire Pressures

Check the Air and Wear of Your Tires

83% of American do not know how to properly inflate their tires, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.  It’s important to check the tire pressures for all of your tires, including the spare tire.  How often?  At least monthly.  Properly inflated tires help with fuel economy, proper ride, and will help make sure that your tires wear evenly and last as long as possible.

Many drivers don’t know what tire pressures to use.  The owner’s manual for you vehicle has the pressures and there’s a sticker inside your driver’s door jamb that lists the pressures as well.  Do not use the pressure stamped on the sidewall of the tire – that’s the the maximum pressure for that tire. Also, it’s important to  highlight  that the pressure levels on some cars are different for the front and rear tires.

If your vehicle is equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) you may see a dash light, like the one on the left, illuminate when the tire pressures drop.  No need to worry.  Just inflate the tires to proper pressure and the light will reset itself.  If the light flashes that may indicate that one of the sensors has failed.

Be sure to check the tread depth on each tire by placing a quarter upside down in the tread grooves. If the top of Washington’s head is exposed at any point, it’s time to start shopping for new tires.   4/32″ is the recommended replacement in wintery and wet climates.

Also, look for uneven tire wear when checking the tread. This can be an indication of suspension, wheel balance or alignment problems that need to be addressed.

Lastly, every driver must be prepared to address a flat tire.  Spend sometime to learn how to  change your tire, where the spare is located and make certain that all of the tools are where they are supposed to be.

This Will Charge You Up! Battery Care

It’s winter and your battery needs a little extra attention.

These tips will make sure your car will start every time.  Maintaining your car’s battery is an important to keep your car on the road and you safe.

Keep the battery clean: Clean the battery terminals on the top of the battery every three months or so with a wire brush. This ensures there’s nothing between the terminals and the connectors to interrupt the power supply. Also, ensure the terminals are nice and tight to prevent power drainage which may make it difficult to start your car.

Disconnect when not used: Disconnect the connector from the negative terminal of your battery if you know the car will not be driven for two weeks or longer. This will help prevent a gradual loss of charge from powering the vehicle’s clock, and other passive electrical items. Make sure you keep the connector away from the battery when you close the hood.

Start up and drive occasionally: The alternator recharges your battery when it is being driven, so try to start and drive for at least 20 minutes twice a week. Too many short trips without sufficient drive time will shorten the life of your battery, so make sure you start AND drive your vehicle to keep the battery fully charged.

Consider a trickle charger.  This electronic device connects to your wall outlet and your car’s battery and keeps the battery’s charge “topped off”.

Check That Brake Fluid

When was the last time you checked your vehicle’s brake fluid?

Believe it or not, your brake fluid may be ready to lead to a brake failure…

  • Brake fluid attracts moisture and within 18 months may contain 3% moisture.  Left untreated, it climbs to 10% after several years.
  • Moisture in your brake fluid  leads to corrosion which can lead to costly brake line repair.
  • In some countries brake fluid is checked annually by inspectors to make sure that it meets the minimum requirements.
  • Many experts and manufacturers recommend brake fluid flushes every two years.   This will help get rid of contaminants like moisture and dirt as well as make sure that your brakes are working properly.

It’s a good idea to have your brake fluid checked regularly and to get on a schedule to have it flushed.

AutoX/Solo Event – What to bring

Alright, it’s the end of the season and we have a few months off so I thought I’d post about what I like to bring and how I prepare the night before an SCCA Solo Event.  This is being directed towards the driver that is not trailering a vehicle.

To make things easier on you and the event organizer – pre-register!  Many organizers will use sites like MyAutoevents.com and Motorsport.reg to help with event registration.  Pre-registering will save you time & money.  Even if you unsure about the weather still preregister.  Many events allow you to pre-register, but pay the morning of the event.

Most of your packing should be done the day (not night) before.  In past I’d wait until everyone went to sleep and then I’d pack my tools and supplies only to find out that I might have not had everything I needed.  Perhaps a friend had my tire gauge or my hat was in my gym bag and that was still at the office.  Waiting to pack up the night before might not yield you the best results.

Solo event 1991
Solo event 1991

When I first started participating in SCCA Solo events I was 17.  I had a 3″ x 5″ index card with what I needed to pack.  I guess I was a little geeky back then.  Having a list made it easy to gathering everything up.  Today I use Evernote.

To the left is a picture of my 1982 Datsun 280ZX at an Autocross event in 1991.  I believe that it was held at Geneva High School by a region club.

 

 

Here’s my “Master List” of items you should bring.

  • Your driver’s license
  • SCCA membership card
  • Pad and pencil (to draw course map and write down advice)
  • Business cards (You’ll meet lost of new people)
  • Helmet
  • Neck support
  • Driving shoes
  • Numbers and class markings (magnets or decals)
  • Storage bin
  • Tire pressure gauge

    Bill's Evernote Packing List
    Bill’s Evernote Packing List
  • Portable jack
  • Torque wrench
  • Tools in case you need to repair something
  • Portable air tank
  • Chalk or white shoe polish to mark your tires
  • Windex and paper towels
  • Work gloves
  • Painter’s tape
  • Clean towels
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra clothes, hat, rain gear, umbrella
  • Tarp or garbage bags (to cover things if it rains)
  • Folding chair
  • Drinks (water bottle, Gatorade, soda)
  • Cooler with lunch and/or snacks

This list is a good starting point.  I recommend that you develop your own list and add to it.  For example, some people will bring pressurized sprayer pumps filled with ice water to cool the tires and their intercooler between runs.  You’ll have to see what works for you and what you need during the day.  Here’s the cool thing.  If you forget something – no worries. Solo people are very nice.  Someone will lend you what you need, well maybe not Chapstick though.

During the off-season I’ll be posting a few more articles about my perspective and ideas on SCCA Solo.

Ready for winter?

Winter’s almost

MINI under snow
MINI under snow

here.  Is your car ready?

  • Catch up on your vehicle’s recommended maintenance.  There’s a reason why your manufacturer recommends these items.
  • Address engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. — corrected at a reputable repair shop that employs ASE-certified repair professionals. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.
  • Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
  • Change your oil and oil filter as specified.
  • The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. This is also a good time to check hoses, clamps, and the radiator cap.
  • The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
  • Replace wiper blades regularly.  Stock up on windshield washer solvent — you’ll be surprised how much you use during the winter months. And don’t forget to always carry an ice scraper.
  • Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs. Replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses.
  • Exhaust fumes inside your vehicle’s cabin can be deadly.
  • Worn tires are dangerous in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure once a month.
  • Have your brakes checked periodically for safety and to prevent costly repairs that can be caused by neglect.
  • The transmission is often neglected until a major failure. Routine checks and fluid changes at prescribed intervals can prevent very costly repairs down the line.

Following these tips will help keep your car on the road and you safe.

Gas Saving Tips

Although fuel prices are relatively low right now, it doesn’t hurt to squeeze a little more fuel economy out of your vehicle.

Here are 8 simple ways to help make your vehicle a little more fuel efficient…

  1. Monitor tires. Under inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels waste fuel by forcing the engine to work harder. (Let the tires cool down before checking the air pressure.) A vehicle that is out of alignment will wear the tires more quickly and is harder to drive – which decreases fuel efficiency.
  2. Remove excess weight. Remove unnecessary items from the vehicle. Store only essentials in the trunk. Less weight means better mileage.
  3. Consolidate trips and errands. Some trips may be unnecessary. Also, try to travel when traffic is light so you can avoid stop-and-go conditions.
  4. Limit excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family.
  5. Observe speed limits. Speeding decreases your miles per gallon.
  6. Drive gently. Sudden accelerations uses up your gas.  Anticipate traffic patterns ahead and adjust your speed gradually.  Try to coast when possible.
  7. Use windows and air conditioning wisely. Your mileage should improve if you keep the windows closed at highway speeds, since air drag is reduced. This is true even with the air conditioning on-assuming that the system is in good working order. But turn the air conditioning off in stop-and-go traffic to save fuel.
  8. Keep your engine “tuned up.” A well-maintained engine operates at peak efficiency, maximizing gas mileage. Follow the service schedules listed in the owner’s manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended; have engine performance problems (rough idling, poor acceleration, etc.) corrected at a repair facility. Given today’s high-tech engines, it’s wise to have this type of work done by auto technicians who are ASE certified in engine performance.