By Evan Lyons
G'day guys and welcome to our first tech tips article for this year. As time goes by I will add or pen tech articles aimed more or less at the lesser experienced or newer guys to superkarting.
Some of the more experienced guys may do well to have a read as well!!
For those of you who have been competing for a while, ask your selves this question, "How often have I been asked for tools and other spares at race meetings by newer or less experienced competitors"?
Plenty I'll bet!
I know I have, and plenty of times too, and nobody wants to seem like an arsehole and dud anyone else out of a days fun and games due to their inappropriate tools or lack of spares, by saying no! Now, superkarts by their very nature, are fiddly creatures and require significant attention between events to keep them in tip top racing shape. So picture this, you are elbows deep into the bowels of your machine and for the umpteenth time Joe Bloggs comes up and says "Hey dude, have you got a such & such and a couple of hoosie whatsits onya"? Through gritted teeth and a very insincere grin "Yeah sure I have mayyyyt" you say, leaving that tricky chain adjustment or leaking coolant hose 'till later. Sure enough, you get involved in Joe Bloggs's kart drama and that chain adjuster, hose clamp or the spark plug you just pulled out and didn't tighten up gets forgotten. These are the simple things that can really easily ruin you day! And you can't really blame Joe 'cause he's a newer guy and doesn't really know his way around the subtleties of a 250cc single just yet and you did end up offering to help after all, albeit with an insincere grin and gritted teeth. So, out onto the track you go, warm up, grid up, flag drops, right foot buried to the hilt, clutch is dumped and about 12500 rpm and 90 odd horsepower tries to get from the gearbox to the back axle, and that chain adjuster that you forgot about decides to allow the engine to shift back on its mounts just enough to allow the chain to jump around the sprocket pulling the teeth off and then the chain gives up the struggle and snaps right at the joining link and bunches up against the crankcase. This usually ends up levering back the output shaft far enough to smash the gearcases to death resulting in the gearbox innards seeing the light of day for the first time and then all the hot oily bits falling out onto the floor tray! All of a sudden, that crankshaft whizzing happily about at about 12 and a half grand has very little resistance and decides to spin it self up till the pipe tuned length and ignition system refuse to allow it any more fun, usually about a zillion RPM's, effectively stretching the big ends about 20 thou out of round giving the needle rollers a little too much room to play with, causing the cages to chatter and break and allowing the bearing rollers to bunch up against one another and the conrod/piston assembly is allowed to move near enough to 1.5mm higher than usual. This activity results in the pistons clobbering the head enough times to mushroom the crowns of the pistons resulting in a nasty seizure and relieving the barrel of some of its nikasil or hard chrome plating!. Consequently, the piston sulks, decides it does not want to play anymore and so stays right where it is and the conrod continues on its merry way down the bore again minus its little end. So, about 3 inches of solid, forged steel flail around inside the crankcase looking for any way out! This fun and games ends up with the crankcases sawn in half and the base of the barrel bashed to death. Irritatingly, the other cylinder didn't suffer any of this foolishness and is still happily producing half of that 90 odd horsepower, ensuring the untimely end of the first half! The engine locks up so rapidly from all the fun and games going on right next door that the still good crankshaft manages to continue to turn on the good side and twisting itself out of the cases, bending that rod and buggering the base of the good barrel as well.
Now, all of this happens in about a poofteenth under 1 second! Not quite enough time for you to lift your foot off the loud pedal that you had buried thru the floor hoping for a good start for a change!
You have just had a very bad day!
OK, so superkart racing engines tend not to rev up that much on wide open throttle with no load before the ignition/pipe length/porting/carby rev-limiting thing kicks in, but, and that's a big but, it has happened! I have seen a kart engine where they got the ignition stators, carbies, exhaust pipes off it and pretty much threw the rest into the garbage bin! This can be a rather expensive exercise if you happen to be running the very latest model RS250 Honda, Yamaha or BRC!
These occurrences can (and do) happen at race meetings due to lesser experienced guys not really knowing what to bring in their toolkit and inadvertently distracting blokes from their own preparation. I speak from experience here. I am the chief scrutineer for superkarting in Tasmania and one would think that I should know better. I have been sufficiently distracted from my own pre-race maintenance checks by help requests and offering to assist and managed to leave all my rear wheel nuts only hand tight on a 90hp twin cylinder F/E class superkart. Needless to say the bastard of a thing took all of 2 laps to destroy both rear wheels and studs and damage the threads in the wheel hubs and I was very lucky that I had spare wheels and studs and was able to complete the day!
So, what we have here is a list of stuff for your own toolbox that represents the bare minimum that should be taken to race meetings, indeed even to a private practice day! Remember, this stuff will often prove quite useful at home in the workshop as well.
A DECENT TOOLBOX - Yeah go on, laugh. I have seen guys turn up at races with a couple of old rusty spanners and a big hammer dumped into an old Milo can! If you have your tools organized into a toolbox you will be able to know at a glance what tools you have (or don't have) and where they are.
SET OF RING/OPEN ENDED SPANNERS - Is your kart assembled with metric or AF nuts and bolts? You should go over you kart from top to bottom and work out what type and size fasteners are actually fitted. Do you need two of some of them? (those pesky engine mounts/chain adjusters)
SOCKET SET - Same as above.
ALLEN (socket head) KEYS - Same as above.
PLUG SPANNER/SOCKET - Its amazing how many turkeys don't have a plug spanner/socket. It is rather important to be able to look at your spark plug to determine correct jetting and they're difficult to remove with your teeth!
SCREWDRIVERS - Once again you need to look carefully at your kart and determine what type of screws/fasteners need what type and size of screwdriver such as flat blade or Phillips.
PLIERS - needle nose, combination type, wire cutters and wire strippers. Circlip pliers if there are any circlips fitted to the kart (engine sprockets).
GOOD MULTI GRIPS & VICE GRIPS - For adjusting that butchered nut.
HAMMERS & CENTER PUNCHES/DRIFTS - Wonderful tools are hammers. A soft face mallet for those alloy bits, a medium sized ball peen hammer and a good sized lump hammer to make those delicate steering component adjustments!
TAPE MEASURE, STEEL RULE and FEELER GAUGES - Handy items for measuring wheel track, tyre circumferences and spark plug gaps.
TYRE PUMP & TYRE PRESSURE GAUGE - Superkarts handle real funny with flat tyres and a tyre pump helps.
FUEL CAN & FUNNEL & SYPHON - Make the can is big enough for a full days racing (20 ltr)
GRADUATED MEASURING CUP - For measuring your 2 stroke oil accurately.
ELECTRICAL & GAFFER (race) TAPE - Cool stuff for reattaching fibreglass bodywork loosened up by a bit of on track jousting! Also makes good temporary racing numbers!
PLENTY OF ASSORTED CABLE (zip) TIES & TIE (lock) WIRE - See above. Lockwire has a wonderful property in that it will prevent gearbox plugs and radiator caps from coming undone and dumping slippery gear oil and other shit all over the track. The motorcycle guys you are often racing with take an extremely dim view to oil dropped onto the track!
FILES & HACKSAW - At least a rat-tail and one small and one large flat file. Use these to repair those buggered wheel stud threads and clean up that axle that you dinged with a hammer and screwdriver while adjusting the rear track!
This tool list can go on and on really and could conceivably end up including battery drills with bits, soldering irons to modify those pesky wiring looms, an engineers vice, oxy set, a small lathe and a partridge in a pear tree etc. etc.
Seriously tho, what I have listed here is a basic tool kit suitable for routine maintenance and hopefully repairing your kart at the track should a minor breakdown occur.
This particular list could go on into next week if you take into consideration every conceivable failure that may occur at the track so I will attempt to list the bits most likely to be needed.
SPARE WHEELS & TYRES - It's amazing how many turkeys load up and go home early due to a punctured tyre! Don't forget to include a couple of spare wheel nuts
AN ASSORTMENT OF APPROPRIATE HEAT RANGE SPARK PLUGS - I wont get into a dissertation here on the correct choice of plugs for road racing karts. As a beginner, just stick with what everyone else is running in the same type of engine and work from there.
PLUG CAP - These things do shit themselves.
FUEL LINE & CLAMPS - Make sure that you have enough to replace the complete system.
FUEL FILTER - They break and get shit in them.
RADIATOR & COOLANT SYSTEM HOSE & CLAMPS - Again, keep enough on hand to replace you longest hose run. I also like to have on hand a couple of short lengths of aluminium tubing that slips inside the coolant hoses. Makes a good temporary repair for a chaffed or cut hoses
ROLL OF ELECTRICAL WIRE - Wiring looms can rub through and get modified by careless wielding of larger hammers.
EXHAUST SPRINGS & PEDAL RETURN SPRINGS - Gaffer tape tends to melt and burn when asked to secure an errant expansion chamber!
THROTTLE CABLE & (if fitted) BRAKE CABLE - You can buy the inner wire with small ferrules already attached and use electrical wire joiners at the pedal end to repair a broken throttle cable. A broken cable can really piss you off if you don't have a spare!
A GOOD SELECTION OF NUTS, BOLTS, WASHERS AND NYLOCK NUTS - You need to have a real good look at your kart to determine what type and size of fasteners are used on your kart. If it's a second hand machine and the previous owner was kind it will be fitted up with either metric or AF type fasteners only. If the previous owner was really unkind you could find any number odd thread types and bolt varieties. This is particularly aggravating as it makes it difficult to choose appropriate tools and spares and you might end up duplicating the whole karts fastener selection. If you are the owner of the unkind previous owner kart type then do yourselves a favour and replace the entire fastener list with a standard (AF or metric) thread and bolt configuration such as hex bolts, Allen head (socket head) bolts and so on. Most guys do tend to use metric thread Allen head bolts and nylock self locking nuts only. Nylocks are a must when used in a high vibration environment such as a superkart. Forget all those irritating spring and star washers that end up missing in action in the dirt anyway. Karts fitted up with these items tend to shed components at an alarming rate and do require the dragging of a really strong magnet on a long rope behind the kart to gather up the bit as they fall off! A reminder tho on Nylocks, do not use them to retain brake discs or exhaust components as the nylon friction insert just melts away on these hot items. There are special metal insert self locking nuts available for these type of applications. Bolt types can be limited to just a few different lengths as they can, at a pinch, be cut to length if necessary using you trusty hacksaw and vicegrips and then filed smooth with you files!! A good way to organize your fastener selection is to use one of those fishing tackle boxes with lots of removable dividers in them
SPARE CHAIN & JOINER LINKS - Broken chains do happen and joining link clips sometimes flick off and disappear into the scenery when you are pushing them on with inappropriate tools such as a screwdriver.
LUBRICANTS - Including 2 stroke, brake, gearbox and chain oil. (Include neck oil in case you do well at the end of the day!)
WHEEL INFLATION VALVE CAPS - Ensure that these are metal.
It is very important to be well prepared before you take that 2 1/2 hour drive to the track and end up going home early because something fell off or broke and you didn't have anything to repair/replace it with. I have seen guys go home due to suspected ignition failure only to find out later it was a buggered plug cap and if they had had a spare they could at least have tried it before packing up! Figure it out for yourself, in Australia, race entry fees are usually at least 100 bucks, add in a couple of hours of traveling, food for the day etc. etc. and this can easily amount to quite a few hundred dollars and is guaranteed to piss you right off if you day is ruined by a breakdown that sends you home early 'cause you weren't or didn't sufficiently prepare. Don't ever rely on other blokes to have enough spares to keep you going in event of a failure. This is especially true if you are doing some private practice where there is the real possibility that you are the only superkarter at the track and if not you don't even know anybody there well enough to bludge some parts from!
I hope that some of this helps some of you.