This story originally appeared in SportsCar magazine's May 2013 issue. SportsCar is the official publication of the Sports Car Club of America. www.scca.com.
Tools are an investment. Race shops are full of a staggering amount of tools and equipment critical to making their cars faster and, at the track, many of the top teams will have this specialized equipment with them. As luck would have it, the majority of SCCA competitors can get by with just a handful of carefully chosen equipment. So, what do you really need?
The most basic required tool for any competitor is a high-quality tire pressure gauge. A good tire pressure gauge will give you accurate readings, allow for quick air pressure bleed-off, and will be rugged enough to offer many years of service. Your tires are the most important piece of equipment on your car, and being able to quickly and accurately set the tire pressure is invaluable.
“A decent quality tire gauge is a must,” says SafeRacer's Charlie James. “Don't buy the cheapest one, look for one with a swivel connection and a bleed valve to make it easier to use, read, and adjust pressures. If you run in a class where absolute accuracy is required, take a look at the liquid filled gauges, but for most of the racers, they will need something that gives them repeatable information that can be compared between sessions, days, and events.”
Nearly every car comes from the factory with some type of jack, but it's certainly not suitable for regular use. One of the most regularly seen jacks on any competition weekend is the familiar blue aluminum unit sourced form Harbor Freight. As always, however, you get what you pay for, and quality is not always top notch with these inexpensive jacks. Fortunately, there are lots of options when it comes to jacks, and somewhere between the $1,300 Brunnhoelzl one-pump pro race jack and the Harbor Freight unit you will be able to find one that fits your needs.
It goes without saying, but you should never work under your car without it being supported by a set of jack stands. The good news is jack stands are typically the least expensive pieces of equipment you will ever buy, and a decent set should last you a lifetime.
A good quality torque wrench is a must for anyone who changes his or her own tires – or works on any nut or bolt on their car. And, as Tire Rack reminds us, it's a good idea to re-torque the wheel lugs after the first 50-100 miles of driving.
Being able to inflate tires that you have bled down between sessions or runs is a must. There are a number of options when it comes to topping off your tires. A large air compressor is not very practical for trackside use, unless you have one installed in your enclosed trailer. The 12v compressors are a favorite among Soloists. They are typically very compact, inexpensive and, as long as your car has a 12v system, you will be able to use it. An air tank is not a bad choice, but they are typically bulky and, once you have used up your air supply, you will be looking for some way to refill. Nitrogen tanks used for charging high-end shocks can be used to quickly add air to tires, but keep in mind there are sometimes safety rules associated with using a high-pressure tank at SCCA events, so refer to your appropriate rulebook.
These simple products are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to track tools, and as you get more involved you will find your collection growing quickly. If you do your homework before you buy, you may find your tools can outlast your racecar. Need help shopping? Pg. 60 contains a number of advertisers that offer tools to fit your needs.
Search for tools here.
Intercomp Longacre Snap-On Tools
www.intercompracing.com www.longacreracing.com www.snapon.com
(800) 328-3336 (800) 423-3110 (262) 656-5350
Specialty Products Company VP Racing fuels
(800) 525-6505 (210) 635-7744