July 15 - 18, 2019 in Calgary, Alberta
20 Hours      144 Sessions*     12 Blocks     4 Training Days
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46th Conference SAIT

Valve Cover Racer Tutorial

Valve Cover Racing is a growing “sport” right now.  If one Googles “Valve Cover Racing” many links will be discovered.  Some links tell about events at different venues or rules in different countries while others give examples of successful racers.    It is from those articles and my own experience making my 1st valve cover racer that I will offer this tutorial.

Perhaps the most important aspect of a Valve Cover Racer is that it rolls in a straight line.  It needs to roll in a straight line going down the incline and still be able to stay straight if the track has a transition from incline to level for a run-off area.  The British have discovered that placing springs between the valve cover and axles can help alleviate shear at the transitions, but simple good alignment will work as well.

The wheels and bearings are also very important.  Does a person wish to mill their own?  How about roller skate wheels or roller blade wheels?  What about bicycle wheel bearings inside a couple of empty wire spools?     The important thing is that a person finds what he or she is comfortable with and which they are certain they can adjust to get the racer traveling in a straight line -- and remember, NO METALLIC SURFACE CAN COME IN CONTACT WITH THE TRACK.

It is also important to think about where you want to place the wheels/bearings in relation to the valve cover.  Placing them too low can cause your valve cover to have a high center of gravity and become unstable and placing them too high into the valve cover can cause the racer to “bottom out” if there is a transition area.

The valve cover itself is left up to personal opinion.  Just remember that it has to fit on the race track between the track’s terminal end and the starting gate and your racer’s overall weight cannot be more than 10 pounds as measured by the official scales at the beginning of the event.

  1. Decide well in advance what valve cover you want to use and if you want to turn it into anything with a special design.  This will help you determine how to place the wheels and distribute the cover’s weight.
  2. If using roller skate/roller blade wheels/bearings, decide which level bearing you would like.  Some people prefer ABEC 7 or “Bones “ bearings while others use the wheels off an old set of skates they already own.  Will they need lubricant?
  3. Decide how many bearings you will need.  Do all four wheels need bearings?
  4. Keep the center of gravity low, but test the racer to ensure it will not bottom out if the track switches from a 30 degree incline to a flat run-off.
  5. Test your racer to determine where you want to place the weight…if you want to try to be at the 10 pound maximum.
  6. Test, Test, Test, and Test some more to ensure your racer will track in a straight line.

With those suggestions in mind,  I will provide an example based upon how I made my first Valve Cover Racer for the International Valve Cover Competition for NACAT 2009.  It was not the best, but it was an approach that only cost me $4.00 US.

1.  The valve cover I used was a small chromed valve cover from a GM V-6 engine.  It was very light.
Valve Cover
2.  To try to counteract the lightness I cast the inside of the valve cover with some Smooth-On commercial grade casting resin (adding some fishing weights would have worked as well).  I had extra resin on hand that was about to expire.
3.  To hold the resin weight in place I cut a piece of ¼ inch plexi-glass to fit on the valve cover gasket area.  When screwed down it formed a tight seal that kept the cast in place.
4.  I marked where I wanted the wheels and then drilled the appropriate holes in the plexi-glass and casting resin.  (I used wheels from an old pair of roller skates and kept the trucks on them.  However, this kept the center of gravity high and resulted in some instability at the track transition.)
Valve Cover Bottom
5.  I secured the wheels into the plexi-glass and then attached the plexi-glass back onto the racer. (Note:  This is where I made an error as I did not engineer a quality alignment mechanism.  All I had was the ability to shift the front axle’s aim by slightly adjusting a screw.)
Valve Cover Racer
**As an extra special tip:  2010's winner illustrated that two pieces of angle iron worked very well as a valve cover mount that kept the wheels properly aligned.  View images of it and all of the 2010 entries in photographs at the NACAT Flickr account by clicking here. What unique and winning design will you discover?


I hope this helps you in your journey to create a winning valve cover racer.  It is really a very personal process, but it is a fun adventure to take.  
*144 sessions is our goal. More or less may occur based upon the training facility. An attendee will always have the opportunity to earn 20 hours of Technical Update Training at the NACAT Conference.
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