Scheduled Maintenance

The first step in looking after your buggy is keeping it clean. We’ve all seen buggies turning up to race days covered in dirt and in the same condition as they left the track on the previous occasion.

A former Scrutineer for TORC told us, “if a buggy and the driver’s race gear was presented to me at scrutineering, all covered in dirt, I’d tell the driver to put it all back on the trailer!”.
Apart from the fact it’s just plain unprofessional to present a machine in that condition, it also makes the scrutineer’s job virtually impossible to visually inspect the buggy and ascertain any faults or damage.

Even in the dryer months, the buggies will collect a lot of muck, as the tracks will still have puddles from regular watering. The trip home on the back of an open trailer can dry the mud to a concrete-like state, which necessitates prolonged soaking before it will soften enough to be easily removable.
A quick pre-wash before leaving the track is a must if you want to avoid hours of soaking and scraping with a stick once you reach home. Unfortunately, not many tracks have piped water or water storage facilities for the purpose of hosing down buggies. Therefore, a water storage container should be a feature on your trailer.

I decided to bring my own water supply, hose and pistol grip nozzle to race meetings. I built a simple cradle that sat across the “V” of the trailer’s draw bar, with a chain and padlock with which I could secure the washer.
I “borrowed” a nice shiny new stainless steel beer keg from around the back of a local bar, and I really do mean borrowed, honest….they can ask for it back anytime.

Here’s how to convert the beer keg into a powerful “Beer Washer”.

Push down on the central ball valve in the top of the keg (hold your head to one side out of harms way), to relieve any residual pressure and beer dregs. Attack the valve bung with a cutting disc mounted in an angle grinder.
Once the bung has been cut off and carefully tidied up, hose out the interior of the keg several times to remove any traces of beer and grinding dross.

Next, turn a new bung from some Ø75mm stainless bar stock. The bungrequires a 2mm spigot to protrude into the hole in the top of the keg, and should be about 50mm long overall. Drill a Ø19mm hole through the centre of the bung, and tap it 1/2″ BSP. Machine a 15mm bevel around its top edge, and drill two holes through the bevel into the centre bore, one being 8.8mm, and the other 11.8mm. These opposing holes need to be tapped 1/8″ BSP and 1/4″ BSP respectively.

Measure the height of the inside of the keg, and cut a suitable piece of 12mm copper or stainless tube, and braze it into the hole in the bottom of the bung. Insert the tube and bung into the hole in the keg, and see if the spigot on the bung will seat properly. If the tube is too long, cut enough off the end to allow the bung to seat. The tube should be just above the bottom of the keg. When it fits OK, remove the tube and bung, and cut the end of the tube at an angle to provide a large mouth on the tube’s end. 

TIG weld the new bung into the hole in the keg and allow it to cool down.

Screw a 1/8″ BSP tank valve into one of the small holes, and a 1/4″ BSP 120 PSI safety valve into the second hole.

A pressurised metal container can be a very dangerous weapon. Check the stamping on your keg, as the proof rating may differ from country to country. Do not operate a “beer washer” without a suitable safety valvefitted. 

Screw a ½” BSP hex nipple into the main hole in the bung, and fit a ½” BSP full-bore ball valve onto the nipple.

Finally, attach a male garden hose snap connector to the outlet of the ball valve.
The last components required for the washer are a length of good non-kinking garden hose, a trigger type gun, and a female snap connector for both ends of the hose.

In practice, pull into the nearest service station to the racetrack, and two thirds fill the keg with water using the hose and snap connectors, attached to the station’s tap. Then close the ball valve and attach the station’sairline to the tank valve, and pressurise the keg to around 8 bar (120 lb/in).If the safety valve starts hissing, that’s a good sign it works, and you’ve reached the correct pressure!

To use the beer washer, hook one end of the hose up to the snap connector on the ball valve and snap the trigger gun into the connector on the other end of the hose. Throw the lever on the ball valve to open, and then use the trigger gun as you would with a normal garden hose.
There should be enough water and pressure to give the buggy a reasonable wash. The final wash can be done at home with some truckwash.

Truckwash

As you’ll have a certain amount of aluminium components on your buggy, such as wheel rims, steering wheel, fuel tank, etc, be careful not to purchase truck wash that contains corrosive or caustic ingredients. Seriously, some do!

Truck wash can be bought in 5 litre and 25 litre containers. It’s not expensive, and the 25 litre square plastic drums are useful when empty.
It’s usually recommended to dilute the detergent in the region of 30 parts water to one part truckwash. I have a 16 litre garden herbicide sprayer with a built-in pump, which I almost fill to the line with water, and then add 500ml of truckwash. The bottle requires a bit of a shake to fully disperse and dilute the truckwash.

Before properly washing the buggy, the engine breather and tank breather will need to be removed and their openings corked. One of the dirt bike exhaust plugs is a good idea for the …erm…exhaust.
Always give the buggy a wet-down with the hose first, to soften any remaining hardened mud, and then walk around the buggy with the sprayer, getting the foam spray into every nook and cranny. It doesn’t matter if the truckwash dries before you complete spraying.

When everything has been liberally coated in truckwash, the whole lot can be rinsed off with the hose. Very seldom will you need to re-do an area.
With the strength of the sun here in Australia, the buggy usually dries within about ten minutes, but if you live in the dank cold climes of someNorthern location, you might consider wiping the buggy down with a couple of cloths.
Once the buggy’s dry, embark on a series of visual checks to ascertain any damage or excessive wear.

Post Race Inspection.

ItemTaskProcedure
Air filterRemove and inspectWash and re-oil the foam/paper element as per manufacturers instructions.
Air supplyRemove and inspectReplace filter element. Check hose condition and connection(s) to helmet(s).
BatteryRemove from buggyClean the terminals and inspect for damage. Place on auto trickle charge.
Brake and clutch fluid levelsVisual inspectionTop up if required.
Brake and dust lightsOperate and observeReplace light bulbs if blown.
BrakesInspect brake lines. Inspect brake padsReplace flexible lines if there’s any evidence of crushing. Check whole system for leaks. Replace brake pads if worn or if there’s any evidence of contamination.
BreathersRemove and inspectClean and re-oil the engine and fuel tank breathers.
Control cablesInspect for kinks and frayed endsReplace if there’s any sign of damage. Replace any damaged or missing rubber bellows.
ChassisVisual inspectionLook for obvious damage and hairline cracks in the paint, especially around welds. Any cracks found don’t necessarily mean failure of a joint, but indicates some movement, perhaps from a shunt or roll over. An eye should be kept on the area.
DrivelinePhysical inspectionCheck tension and condition of chains and sprockets. Lubricate chains with a wax productor dry-film lube, never oil. Check CV boots for damage and replace even if only cracked. Ensure CV boot clamps are in place.
ElectricsVisual inspectionReplace any damaged connectors, wiring, switches, warning lights, and replace any broken or missing cable ties.
EngineServiceService the engine as per the manufacturers instructions, though oil and filter should be changed every 8-10 races.
Engine/gearbox oilCheck levelTop up if necessary.
Engine oil linesVisual inspectionCheck for any damage or leaks.
ExhaustPhysical inspectionEnsure all joints are secure and sealed.
FastenersPhysical inspectionReplace any damaged fasteners. Check all fasteners’ torque values. Ensure all jam nuts are sufficiently tight. Don’t forget the front hub nuts.
Fuel systemVisual inspectionCheck all hose clamps. Check for leaks. Clean/replace fuel filter.
Gear stickPhysical inspectionCheck the pivot is lubricated, and there are no tight spots.
Harness(es)Visual inspectionIf any fraying or damage is detected, you must replace the lot.
Pedal boxVisual inspectionEnsure the pedal pivots are lubricated and not over-tightened.
RackInspect for wear and loose fastenersIf the boots are damaged, they should be replaced. Re-tighten any loose fasteners.
RadiatorVisual inspectionCarefully poke out any small stones trapped in the fins, and if necessary, use a hose to gently flush through from the rear.
Rod endsVisual inspectionReplace any that show signs of distortion or looseness.
ShocksPhysical inspectionCheck for correct operation, oil seepage, shaft damage and spherical bearing wear. Ensure the spring perches aren’t seized and spray lightly with Inox or WD40.
Shock limiting strapsPhysical inspectionCheck the straps for fraying and ensure they are limiting the shocks’ full extension by at least10mm.
SteeringPhysical inspectionCheck integrity of all joints. Check bearings run smoothly. Replace foam steering wheel grips if torn.
Throttle return springsVisual inspectionIf weak or stretched, you must replace them.
Throttle stopPhysical inspectionCheck the throttle stop is halting the pedal’s travel, and not the cable itself.
TyresVisual inspectionIf any cracks or holes are found, consider fitting inner tubes, or replacing the tyres.
Wheel bearingsPhysical inspectionGrab the top of the tyre and shake in and out. If any movement is detected, the hub nut may need to be tightened slightly. Spin the wheel by hand to check bearings aren’t binding.

Once all the maintenance procedures have been carried out, a quick spray with a lubricant/water-dispersant such as Inox (or WD40) is a good way to prevent rust forming on exposed steel surfaces. Again, Inox is available in large 20 or 25 litre drums, which often come with a complimentary 1 litre spray bottle.
Spray the entire buggy with Inox (keep it away from Teflon-lined rod ends, harnesses, seat covers and brake pads), and then wipe off the surplus.