Micro Sprint Steering Maintenance
Steering is one of the most important components of racing, but it is often of the things that most racers overlook when going through their maintenance. For me, it is always at the top of my list and one of the key things that I focus on every week. The last thing you want to happen is something in your steering to break or jam causing you to go straight into the wall at an alarming rate. Sometimes racers turn the steering wheel, and if it moves, they call it good. I always look deeper into things to make sure everything is up to par and working in a way that won’t fail on me during a race.
The micro sprint world utilizes a rack and pinion type of step up to control the race car. Depending on the location of the rack and pinion, it may cause little pieces of dirt to climb its way inside the box. Usually, this happens when the box is located near the front of the car by the front axle. In my car, it is located just behind the front axle and under the radiator. With that being an open area where rocks and dirt can fly into, I have a problem with dirt sliding up inside the slot of the rack and pinion that could potently lock up my steering. This is why it’s important to make sure you take the steering box out of the car to be serviced fully every three races or after a night where the track was really heavy. This will eliminate from the steering ever locking up during a race.
This process isn’t too hard, but it is one of those things that is going to take some time. Remember, races are won in the shop and in preparation. I recommend removing the steering column that connects into the rack and pinion every three races. Make sure it all slips off easily and nothing is damaged. Once the u-joint is slipped off the steering box input shaft, clean the inside with some brake cleaner. I like to take a toothbrush for the inside to help clean out any dirt stuck inside. I also use this process for the input shaft on the steering box.
Taking apart the rack and pinion is pretty simple. Mine only has two Allen head screws that hold the case halves together. Once open, you will see all the dirt and grease covering the box, making it hard for everything to work correctly. There are a couple of ways to clean everything here. The first is to use a parts washer, which can really come in handy. If you don’t have a parts washer, the second way is to get as much as you can off with rags or shop towels. Once you clean off as much as you can, use brake cleaner and ensure that nothing is in the groves of the gears. I always make sure to get everything that is associated with the rack and pinion as clean as possible.
Once all the fun cleaning is taken care of, it's time to lubricate all the rack and pinion components. I use white lithium grease to lube everything on the inside. You don’t need to cake everything heavy with grease, just a thin coat will be enough. I try not to put any grease on the inside edge of the steering box because that's where dirt likes to pile up. You will be surprised on how little of grease you can use, just enough where the material won’t get too hot and seize up.
You can see how much grease I use in the pictures above; a little goes a long way. With the gears, I try my best to get enough lube inside where it doesn’t clog everything up. It may take you a couple of times doing this to understand how much lube you want to use. Once all of that is done, I re-install everything and then test the steering to make sure it feels right.