Even in a perfect world, where you don’t crash into anything and the racing surface is free of any and all debris, every car still benefits from a brief inspection after a testing session or race qualifier. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do for your vehicle (obviously outside of complete tear-downs) because it forces you to inspect your car for any cracked or damaged parts that could put a serious damper on your next round of driving. Overlooking a damaged part can create a snowball effect that forces wear and tear on other parts that would otherwise be just fine. Here’s how to avoid all of that.
- Body cleaner
- Large painter’s brush
- Air compressor
- Battery charger
- Bearing oil
- Assorted hex wrenches
INSPECT YOUR SETUP
For the racers out there, inspect your vehicle setup before you start cleaning and surveying your vehicle. You should be checking for ride height, camber settings, toe-in, wing positions, etc. It’s not at all uncommon for springs to settle into position, forcing the ride height to lower itself or camber adjustments to be off with thanks to various tumbles around the track or hard cornering. If they’re off, make the appropriate adjustments and continue with your vehicle inspection.
Ride height, camber, and toe often get affected the most during a practice or race session.
CHARGE YOUR BATTERY
Don’t wait until you’re done going through your car to charge the battery. Have it be the first thing you do when you set your car down in the pits, even if you’re done for the day. This is beneficial for two reasons: 1) By the time you’re done going through your car, chances are the battery will have a full charge and be ready for your next run. 2) The battery will have enough charge in it for proper storage, eliminating the chance of cell damage.
Battery maintenance is key, especially with LiPo cells. If you’re not sure of the best way to care for your packs, check the instructions that came with them!
Screws often come loose and when it comes to gear mesh, a loose screw can equal a destroyed spur gear. Double check to make sure the screws are tight and that the gear’s mesh has not slipped its position. You should have just a nick of play between the spur and pinion gear. If it has slipped, inspect the entire spur for damaged teeth. If you find damage, replace the gear. If not, keep running it.
Having a hard time setting gear mesh? Use a small piece of plain printer paper cut to about ¼″x 1″, position it between the spur and pinion, use your thumb to push the pinion against the spur and tighten the motor screws. Remove the paper and your mesh should be spot on.
A great way to check your servo without disassembling it is to grab the servo horn and rotate it gently back and forth. If it feels smooth then keep driving, but if it feels rough or has tight spots in its rotation, remove the servo and check the gears for dam age. Check the tightness of the screw holding the horn in place, as you want it securely fastened down. Without a properly functioning servo, your car simply won’t work.
You can grab the wheels or hubs and turn them left to right to feel for tight spots in the servo.
CHECK THE BEARINGS
Bearings eventually go bad, so check and replace as necessary. Start by removing the wheels from your car and brush the dirt away from the shields of the bearings. Next, spin the axles by hand, checking to feel for smoothness. If they feel good, leave them alone. If they’re gritty, remove them from the car, remove the dust shields and spray the bearings out with a contact cleaner. Once they’re dry, use a light bearing oil to lube the bearings, reinstall the dust shields and then rein-stall back into the car. If this process still doesn’t free up the bearing, replace them.
Dirty rough bearings can cause more harm then good. So always keep spare bearings around and be ready for replacement.
CHECK YOUR MOTOR
After each run, use a temperature gauge to check motor temps (see the manufacturer’s specs on recommended temperature ranges) and adjust gearing accordingly, if need be. Also check to make sure the sensor wire is securely mounted in its slot, the solder joints connecting the wires to the motor are secure, and inspect the motor can for any damage. Don’t leave it up to chance; if there is a problem, fix or replace without question.
Sensor wires are notorious for coming loose, so always check them.
INSPECT SUSPENSION ARMS
Since the wheels have already removed, quickly run a brush over the suspension arms to clean them; while cleaning, inspect for cracks or possible damage that could lead to a part failing. Also, grab the arms by the outside corners and wiggle them back and forth to see how much play they have. While you’re doing this, check to see if the main pivot holes have become egg shaped or damaged. It is ok for the suspension arms to have a little bit of wiggle, but if the holes are deformed, you’ll want to replace the arm. Be sure to check your front caster block and rear hubs as well. Also, compress the suspension to make sure if moves freely. Chances are, if it doesn’t move freely, you’ve got a bent hingepin that needs to be replaced.
It’s OK to have approximately 1/32″ to 1/16″ of play in the suspension arms. The less friction they have on them, the smoother the suspension works. Go beyond that, and it works against you.
Fastener checks are mandatory. Take your time and go through every screw throughout the chassis, both top and bottom, by hand. Do not use an electric screwdriver for this, even if it has a super sensitive clutch. You’ll typically find loose screws in areas where the chassis flexes the most during driving. Some kits are different from others but after a few passes through your car, you’ll find out which ones are more prone to coming loose. If you have screws that are constantly coming loose, use a small dab of CA glue for screws going into composites and blue thread-lock for screws going into metals.
Check to see that all the screws are tight on your vehicle.
The inspection/maintenance process should take you no more then 10-20 minutes, depending on what you find wrong or the complexity of your car. Not only will you have a greater trust in knowing that your car will hold together, but you’ll also have a better understanding to the overall condition of your car. If you find yourself replace various more parts more often then others, then you’ll have a better idea as to what parts you need to regularly keep in your pit box. Remember that practice makes perfect, and that includes post- run maintenance; after a while, it will become a habit. Perform this maintenance routine and your vehicle will always be ready to go.