SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - December 2018

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 87 of 112

FABRICATING IN THE FIELD Tips from the experts on making repairs and welding during a Baja race By Dan Sanchez Photos by Dan Sanchez Breaking down in the middle of nowhere is one of the reasons off-road enthusiasts and racers carry several tools with them. Making repairs is common in Baja racing but some are more severe than others. Hitting a rock at speed, or an accidental roll-over can damage the vehicle’s frame, accessory brackets, or suspension components so badly, that they need to be welded back on in order for the vehicle to finish the race. Fabricators who specialize in off-road motorsports, know how to prepare for these types of situations, and over the years have learned enough to put together some advice for pit-teams and anyone who wants the capability of making repairs in the field. One of these experts is Troy Johnson, founder, and CEO of the Fab School in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He’s recognized as one of the best fabricators in the business and has worked with numerous off-road and NASCAR teams with experience spanning decades of motorsports racing, which he now passes on to his students. Andy Weyenberg, Motorsports Marketing Manager at Miller Electric, is another experienced fabricator who has worked many motorsports events. Over the years, he’s seen first-hand how teams have made repairs in the field and know what types of tools can work best for a pit area, as well as a home shop. Bringing On The Heat There are lots of welders that can be used in the field, but manufacturers are now creating new compact units that are specifically designed for portability. “It’s important to have something compact but powerful,” says Weyenberg. “For example, our most popular machines for motorsports field repairs is the Maxstar 161 STH or 161 STL and the Multimatic 200. The Maxstar 161 is a small, 13-lb. DC Stick and TIG machine that can run off 120V or 240V input power. It can run on a 3K generator or some onboard power inverters. The Multimatic 200 is a 29-lb. portable DC MIG, Stick. and TIG machine that also runs off 120V or 240V input power. The Maxstar is available with a tough case to hold the machine and all accessories while the Multimatic 200 is housed in a high impact plastic case designed for rugged portability.” Since off-road vehicles are built using thicker tubing, Weyenberg also recommends using a more powerful machine if it’s going to be used in pit areas for serious repair work. “Most off-road applications use materials that are thicker than stock-car racing or drag racing so we usually upsize the machine recommendation to handle the higher amperage needs when building off-road vehicles,” says Weyenberg. “Even in pit areas, I’m a big fan of bringing as much as you can. With the inverter technology, welding machines have gotten a lot smaller and their weld power is higher. Now the same machine that you carry in the chase truck can be the same unit that runs in the larger pit area.” Safety First Hot sparks with oil and fuel is never a good combination, so experts recommend taking precautions in the pit areas to avoid any accidents. “Although it might be inconvenient, it’s always a good idea to unplug the vehicle’s computer and disconnect the battery,” says FabSchool’s Troy Johnson. “If your team is making repairs in a pit and will be refueling, it’s important to make all your repairs first, then add fuel. For obvious reasons, you don’t want any gas fumes around while your welding.” Other basic safety steps in any pit area, is to include proper welding gear and equipment. “This includes a welding helmet with the X-mode which senses magnetic fields created by welding, instead of trying to sense the light produced from the weld,” says Weyenberg. “Teams should also have weld blankets for laying on, or covering up, anything you don’t want to be burned during weld repairs. It’s also important to Assorted weld gloves and weld sleeves or jacket. The weld gloves and sleeves are also useful for working on other hot parts of the race vehicle.” Come Prepared As with any pit crew in Baja racing, knowing what to bring starts with the team’s best guess of what they may have to replace. Johnson recommends bringing a variety of items that can be useful in multiple ways. “Teams should always bring a variety of random tube lengths,” he says. “You can slip smaller diameter tubes inside a broken tube with a larger diameter for a rosette repair. You should also bring spare bolts for everything. Keep them on hand in all chase trucks and on the vehicle.” Johnson believes preparation can also take place before the race, by keeping the bolts used in a chassis as uniform as possible. “This way you won’t have to bring so many spares and your list of bolts isn’t a mile long,” says Johnson. “Along with bolts, bring pre-built tabs so you can utilize them for generic repairs.” In his experience, shock mounts and some angle gussets often get broken or bent out of shape, and can be easily cut off and a new one welded in its place. In addition, Johnson recommends making and bringing reinforcement plates that can be easily tacked-on provide extra strength to anything that has been repaired and/or has been weakened. “Bringing 3’x3’ sheet metal is also a good idea to have in your pit,” says Weyenberg. “You wouldn’t believe how many patches I’ve cut out of sheet metal for repairing oil pans.” Both Jonson and Weyenberg also recommend bringing spare wrenches that can be used in a pinch. “Most people have seen the occasional wrench sacrificed and welded in place of a broken tie rod,” says Weyenberg. “I’ve seen a fan pulley welded into where a spring bucket was rusted and broke away. To fix a broken travel limiting strap, I’ve seen a tow strap with metal hooks, wrapped around an axle and upper chassis tube multiple times, and the hooks welded together. One of the most creative is seeing the bottom of an aluminum cooking pan cut-out and welded to the bottom of an LS engine oil pan that got a hole in it.” Spot welding replacement bolts onto critical components, also make it faster and easier to replace them in the field. Johnson showed us an example of a bolt for a Heim-joint, welded onto the edge of the suspension component to save time searching for the correct replacement unit. Extras While most pit areas will have a good supply of tools, Johnson also recommends making sure you have ones that are suitable for making your welding repairs faster and more efficient. “Things like a variety of C-clamps and sheet metal snips and sheet metal clamps come in handy to hold items in place, especially if they’re too hot for anyone to hold by hand,” says Johnson. “A small hand-held grinder will also come in handy to prep metal and smooth off edges. The more you can come prepared with the right tools, the better and faster your repairs will be.” “There’s a lot of grinding and cutting when metal fabricating,” says Weyenberg. “So let’s not forget safety glasses. “The Miller safety glasses are not your normal, hard, uncomfortable glasses that don’t stay on your head when you need them. They’re comfortable and stylish enough to wear all day.” At the end of the day, the most important thing is to make your repairs count so your team can finish the race, and/or get home safely. Both Johnson and Weyenberg agree that having the right tools on hand can make a big difference, but proper training and experience is key to safety and holding your vehicle together. To learn how to use some of Miller’s equipment more effectively, the company offers product education at many of its retailers across the county. For professional training, the Fab School offers full vocational programs for welding and metal fabrication that includes hands-on training and job placement assistance. SJ Sources The Fab School Miller Electric Mfg. Co.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of SCORE Journal - SCORE Journal - December 2018