The winter rebuild of your dirt late model

As we roll into winter it is time to start considering what we need to do to kill time until the race season starts again. For some of us our wives have an entire winter of activities planned to fill the void. Maybe even others have their husbands planning all that time off they have on their hands. Fun. But, maybe we can come up with something to bide our time or get us out of the house and back into the garage, which is where we want to be in the first place. Why don’t we go take that whole car apart and put all back together again? Yea, I think we could make that last four or five months until racing starts again.

Well I think the first thing to do is a total disassembly. Take some time and keep things organized. If you need to take pictures, or draw diagrams to help you remember where everything goes, then do it. A little time now will save you a ton of time later if you can’t remember how everything goes. Keep the bolts and spacers together, right in the parts they came out of. What I like to do is getting one of those rolling parts carts. As you take the car apart, separate the parts right on the cart. Front end on top, back end on the bottom; motor parts on top, and suspension parts on the bottom; you get the picture.

Cleaning up parts

The next order of business would be to clean everything. If you are lucky enough to have a parts washer, just start scrubbing the parts down. Be careful not to use brake cleaner or parts washing solvent on plastic or Teflon lined rod ends. This can sometimes swell the Teflon and cause the rod end to bind. A little Teflon based lubricant on a rag and you can clean the rod ends just by working them around in the rag. This also goes for shocks. Many of the shock rod ends and the shaft seals, that seal the shaft to the rod guide, contain Teflon and brake cleaner should be avoided on these parts. I went to a shock seminar once, and they recommended using an electrical cleaner because it will not harm the Teflon. This stuff was made to be used around electrical wires or motor windings.

After everything gets cleaned, inspect all the parts and get a game plan together as to what needs to get rebuilt, what needs to get replaced, and what you will just reuse. I believe that if you use the inexpensive steel on steel rod ends, these need to be replaced every year. The higher price chrome alloy rod ends or some high quality Teflon line rod ends can be used a second year, depending on the type of car you are racing. They still need to be inspected very well for cracks or damage, but these will usually be good a second year. One thing that needs to be discussed here is the amount of slop in the rod ends. Rod ends can stretch. This is especially true for aluminum rod ends and that is why in our type of dirt circle track racing, I don’t believe in them. Rod ends in the rear can be a little more sloppy, I’d rather have them sloppy than any bind what so ever. In the front end, I see no room for sloppy rod ends. If these need to be replaced several times a year, then do it.

Rear end maintainence

This is a good time to talk about rear end maintenance. I usually disassemble the entire rear end every year just to check it out. Quick changes are pretty simple. If everything is ok, and they don’t need any parts, they  can be torn down, cleaned and reassembled in three to four hours. One thing I definitely recommend checking is to see if the rear end is bent. One preliminary way to do this is to remove the rear end from the car and leave the hubs intact on the housing, put tires back on the hubs and place the rear end on two additional tires on the floor, hook a tape measure on the tire tread and measure across the rear end from tire to tire. Have someone rotate the rear end and watch the tape, if the measurement fluctuates as the rear is rotated, it is bent. If it is not bent disassemble the rear end to check the bearings and ring and pinion for damage or excessive wear. If it is bent or there seems to be other problems, you will need to make a decision to have it professionally gone through or if it may be something you want to tackle on your own. Resetting pinion preload, and setting up a rear end does require some specialty tools, and isn’t for everyone. Ford nine inch gear sets aren’t as tricky as quick changes, but will require quite a bit of time if you have never done them before. Maybe one of these times this winter I will outline the procedure to do this, but now we will concentrate on just general car maintenance.

Till next time, happy rebuild.

Kevin