Daily Slideshow: 6 Things To Do If You Want To Pass Autocross Tech Inspection
Proper prep means the difference between breezing through tech and sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else have all the fun. Cross these concerns off your list and get ready to race.
Tech inspectors are your friends, they want to keep you safe. Powermad dictators are rare among the breed and usually get yanked out, like the weeds they are, in short order. In fact, the more generous inspectors have been known to lend tools to competitors for easy fixes, and all of them will point you to the nearest parts store in a pinch. While technical inspection requirements vary somewhat from region to region, as well as between local clubs and SCCA events, the following list lays out the most common items on inspectors' clipboards.
The number one reason people get a fail at tech is for a floppy battery. As one inspector put it, "It amazes me the number of people with a 40-pound battery full of sulfuric acid that's held in by gravity and the cables. I have seen them with gouges in the case of spinning engine components.” Your battery needs to be completely secure. Inspectors will grab it and check for movement—if they can move it you won't pass. Bungee cords aren't considered secure enough and will get you sent back to find a more solid solution. Battery trays deteriorate; plastic hold-downs age, fatigue, and crack; fasteners back off; and occasionally hardware gets put aside when changing batteries or battery sizes. Pop the hood and make sure everything is copacetic.
2. Throttle Return Springs
While you're under the hood, check your throttle return spring because—unless your car is drive-by-wire and doesn't have one—the tech police will check it too. Make sure it's there, it's connected, and it's strong enough to fully return/close your throttle. Tech people will check it manually if they can get to it if it's buried under acres of plastic they may just check it at the pedal, and some will check it both places. One other check to make while you are under there, just for your own piece of mind—though some inspectors will have it on their list too—is brake fluid level.
3. Floor Mats, Hubcaps, and Loose Junk
After loose batteries, other loose stuff is the biggest fail category. Even secured floor mats need to come out because what stays put on the street isn't guaranteed to not come loose and bunch up under your brake pedal when you are flying around cones. Take everything else that isn't clamped or tied down out of your car too. Subwoofer boxes are a common culprit. Speaker boxes are hefty and unless they are solidly mounted they have to go. If you have cable running to boxes that could move around and arc out once the box is removed, then tie those down and/or pull the fuse. Hubcaps and wheel trim rings need to come off too—you don't want to decapitate a corner-worker Oddjob style. When checking for loose items, don't forget your factory jack. Make sure it's not just lying around somewhere in the recesses of your vehicle, ditto for your spare—in fact, removing them both will shed a few pounds of dead weight.
4. Wheel Bearings/Suspension
Tech inspectors will grab your tires at 3 and 9 o'clock, and again at 12 o'clock, and wiggle them to check for slop. After loose lugs, the most frequent fail here is any excessive wheel bearing play. Wheel bearings wear and if you miss a periodic check, autocross tech staff will catch it for you. Often it can be fixed at the venue but if you need more grease, a special socket, cotter pins, or a replacement bearing, your day might be over. This check will expose other faults like loose ball joints, tie rod ends, and dangerously loose CV joints. Note that some inspectors will also check for excessive play/slop at the steering wheel as well.
While they are down there checking your suspension for play, your friendly tech people will check to make sure your tires are safe too, and possibly note what tires you are running to make sure you are within the regulations for your class. Obviously, you can't have cord showing, and sidewalls should be in good condition and not cracked or bulging. If you are going autocrossing this is a no-brainer because everyone knows tires are your best friend.
6. Leaks and Rust
Now we're getting into the grey areas. Inspectors will make judgment calls about whether your car is too rusty or too leaky to be safe for you and those around you. Rust shouldn't threaten the structural integrity of your vehicle—they don't want your car breaking in half or, more likely, a transmission cross member dropping down or sway bar mount popping loose. And it just embarrasses all parties involved when your exhaust falls off mid-course. Likewise, though you may get by with a moist engine grime from a slow seep, inspectors don't want to see drips or a pool under your car. One inspector said he failed anything with a "larger-than-MGB-sized-spot" under it.
We didn't include these in our '6 Things' tally because not all organizations will judge these items the same way—but if they do you'll want to be prepared.
• Cracked Windshields. It's a judgment call but your windscreen shouldn't be so severely cracked it would make your car unsafe or obscure your vision.
• Noise Limit. Some clubs have a DB limit. Though it's usually not measured at tech, it's something you'll need to be aware of if your club has a restriction.
• Racing Numbers. Not always checked at tech but they need to conform to regulations. Make sure you're not using shoe polish if it's been nixed by your club.
• Brakes. It's not at all uncommon for clubs to check for a firm brake pedal with no creep.
• 5-Point Harnesses in Open Cars. Some clubs ban these unless your car also has a roll bar, which complicates matters because they likely also have a helmet-to-bar clearance specification that then comes into play.
And of course—protect your melon! Check that your helmet meets event requirements. What was okay last year might have moved to the not-okay column this year. Now get out there and have fun!
For help with service of your car, check out the how to section of LS1Tech.com.