Buyers Guide: Cool Pit Tools You Need At The Race Track
Everybody takes at least a basic set of tools with them to the track. Unless you’re racing a stock late-model car or something that has a very low potential of breakage or at-the-track maintenance, you should at least have a set of hand tools, a jack and jack stands, and other vehicle specific tools. Augmenting these tools with a cordless impact wrench makes pit life easier and the more experienced racer (or one who plans on working on the car at the track) might bring a generator, air compressor, and even a welder of some sort. Then there are the guys with stacker trailers that NHRA Pro Stock racers would envy with a set of tools straight out of a shop that says Penske on the doors.
Most of us (author included) don’t have serious delusions of having a million-dollar setup in our pit spot and we don’t need all that stuff anyway. But there are some tools beyond the bare bones that will make your life a whole lot easier without emptying your checking account. In light of this, we scoured the aftermarket for some of our favorite tools to present – broken into sections from four different leading manufacturers, including Good Vibrations Motorsports, Proform Parts, Moroso, and Koul Tools.
There are two rules of tool ownership: one, you can never have enough tools. And two, you never know you need a tool until you actually use it for the first time and wonder how you ever got along without it. The tools shown here are examples of the latter. Check ‘em out.
Based in Whittier, California, Good Vibrations caters to the fast street car and big-time racing crowd with performance parts ranging from the tools shown below to mechanical fuel injection systems for blown alcohol race cars. If it’s a high performance part that you know you can’t find at the local auto parts store, there’s a good chance that Good Vibrations has a quality part that will meet your needs.
Spark Plug Gapper
New cars come with spark plugs designed for 100,000 miles. Gapping plugs is a dying art among new car buyers, but racers are well aware of the importance of the procedure. You can use inexpensive feeler gauges or those circular gap gauges with a pair of pliers, but Good Vibrations’ billet aluminum plug gapper (part no. T-1002) saves time and creates a more precise and consistent gap between the center and ground electrodes on the spark plug. It’s brutally easy to use too; just drop the plug into the tool, insert a feeler gauge (not included, but who doesn’t have a set of feeler gauges?) of the proper gap into the plug, and turn the handle to set the gap. Quick, slick, and accurate.
“Our spark plug gapping tool is designed to save you time, and it’s very easy to use.”— Jim Maher, Good Vibrations Motorsports
Leak Down Tester
A leak down tester is very handy in diagnosing piston ring and/or valve seat wear by pressurizing the combustion chamber (through the spark plug hole) with compressed air, then reading how much air leaks out and how fast. Performing a leak down test on a newly-rebuilt engine gives you percentages of leak to record and later reference to tell you how much degradation has occurred. For instance, if the car loses power, a leak down test will tell you if it’s something going on in the cylinder.
Good Vibrations sells the Total Seal Leak Down Tester (part no. T-2002) with an adjustable gauge on the left side, a precision regulator, and a large right-hand gauge to read the numbers. It includes a quick-release 14mm hose, and with an adapter hose sold separately, you can set the leak-down on a mechanical fuel injection barrel valve.
AN Wrench Sets
You can use a standard open-end wrench or, heaven forbid, a crescent wrench, on the swivel nuts of AN fittings, but that’s a sure way to mess up their pretty anodized finishes. In addition, AN fittings are made of soft aluminum that easily gets marred by a ham-fisted mechanic. It’s better to use dedicated AN wrenches and Good Vibrations has several sets that should be in your toolbox. Part number T-1180 is a seven-piece kit with anodized and color-coded double-end aluminum wrenches machined from heat-treated 6061 aluminum. They’re designed to minimize over-tightening hose ends. A similar wrench kit from fitting manufacturer XRP is sold by Good Vibrations with the same-sized, double-ended wrenches, with a radiused edge to fit your hand comfortably. They’re made of heat-treated 2024 aluminum.
Price: $104.99 (T-1180),$89.95 (X-750000)
“The XRP anodized and color-coded wrenches are designed to fit the swivel end of AN fittings and are suitable for heavy use and professional applications.”— Jim Maher, Good Vibrations Motorsports
Dick Raczuk started Koul Tools in 2005 to design and manufacture tools for the AN hose industry with the focus of developing tools to provide new and innovative ways of performing difficult tasks. His other company, Kendick Engineering, focuses on the go-kart and motorcycle worlds, but it’s Koul Tools that got our attention.
EZ-On Hose Assembly Press
Installing push-on AN fittings to hose is not the easiest thing in the world, but it is now thanks to Koul Tools’ EZ-On Hose Press (part no. KT-409) that installs -4 through -16 push-on hose to the fittings in mere seconds. You put the press in a bench vise, setup the hose and fittings, and use a ratchet/socket or a cordless impact wrench to zip them together. There’s a video on their website that shows how it works and it’s brutally simple. The press is constructed of investment cast steel and has a custom carrying case for storage and transportation to the track.
Price: $250 (this tool is also sold though Good Vibrations)
“When installing push-on hose, many people say heating the hose makes the job simpler, but don’t use a heat gun. It can get the hose too hot and it will fail. Our solution is this EZ-On hose press.”—Dick Raczuk
AN Hose Assembly Tools
If you’ve ever worked with stainless braided rubber hose, you know the importance of having Band-Aids at the ready. When you cut the hose to length, there are always little strands of stainless wire just aching to stab your fingers. It’s worse trying to get the hose into the socket part of the fitting assembly—it not only takes some time and effort, but that braided steel can cut the dickens out of your fingers yet again. Koul Tools has this press that makes the assembly a snap. It’s manufactured of a high-tech composite, is basically indestructible, and prevents those ugly vice marks on your pretty AN fittings. Just insert the socket into the tool, twist the hose in, and in less than ten seconds it’s assembled. If you’ve priced braided hose lately, you can understand how the tool can pay for itself the first time you don’t have to scrap some hose because it got too short trying to clean up the end.
There are four different “kits” available with this tool. The Small kit (part no. 468) contains the capsules to install -4, -6, and -8 hose into their respective sockets and includes spacers and sleeves to accommodate different manufacturers’ fittings; The Large kit (part no. 1016) is the same but is for -10, -12, and -16 hoses; the Hot Rod kit is meant to handle the most common street car hose sizes of -6, -8, and -10; and the Pro Combo (part no. 416) consists of both the Large and Small kits to handle all the sizes you’ll need in a race car. The Pro Combo also saves $15 over buying the two kits individually. Finally, you can buy individual capsules for -6, -8, and -10 hose. None of these are meant for Teflon-lined hose.
Small Kit: $75
Large Kit: $90
Hot Rod Kit: $80
Pro Combo Kit: $150
Dick Moroso quit drag racing in 1968 to start a company to design, test, and manufacture parts specifically for racers. Though Dick passed away in 1998, his company is in the good hands of his son, Rick, and is going as strong as ever. Based in Connecticut, Moroso manufactures over 4,000 products for all types of applications.
“This degree wheel was the product of what we experienced at the track working on our own cars and from feedback provided by racers.”—Thor Schroeder
When installing a camshaft, every smart racer degrees it in to ensure their desired installed centerline. It can be risky to take the cam grinder’s word for it based on their advertised information. Moroso’s degree wheel (part no. 62190) is designed for use with the engine in the car at the track and will accurately measure centerline, valve timing, TDC, BDC, and more aspects of cam timing. It’s built from heavy gauge metal with a silk-screened finish so it’ll live in the harsh environment at the track and comes with an adapter to fit virtually any engine. There are optional crankshaft sockets sold separately depending on which engine you have.
Carb-Top Tool Tray
This is one of those things you don’t know you missed until you used it. The tool tray fits on top of the carburetor flange and gives you an organized space to put tools while working on the engine as opposed to putting them on the cowl panel or on top of the fenders. Made of .063-inch aluminum, it sits 2.5 inches above the carb and has a convenient handle, 1/8-inch rubber mat, 16 spark plug holders, eight plug wire holders, and enough room (10 x 13 inches in the tray) to store a lot of small tools. There are two trays: Part No. 5800 fits five 1/8-inch carburetors and part No. 65801 fits seven 5/16-inch carbs.
Price: $126.43 (same price for both of them)
Moroso’s part No. 62030 coil-over shock adjusting tool does just that—it allows you turn the adjusting nut on a coil-over to change ride height or corner weight. Without this tool or one like it, guys typically use a hammer and screwdriver to adjust the coil-over, and that’s just wrong on so many levels. The tool works with Moroso, Competition Engineering, Avo, Hal, Koni, Bilstein, Carrera, Monroe, and most other coil-over shocks with adjusting nuts up to 3-1/4 inches in diameter. Finally, it is made of cast steel with finger indents for a good grip
In the high-performance aftermarket business for over 25 years, Proform says they were the first to popularize affordable and 100-percent new (not rebuilt) starters, alternators, stock harmonic balancers, and distributors. They were also the first to offer the two-piece timing chain cover, first with a two-stage in-line fuel filter, and much more. The company happens to have a totally bitchin’ line of tools that make us drool.
Digital Mini-Spring Tester
“This tool is essential to any racer when checking valve springs before assembly, spot checking after heavy racing events, or even as a normal annual check-up.”— Rick Hobbs, Product Development
Valve springs wear out, especially stiff springs in a high-RPM engine, so racers often test their springs track-side, sometimes to trouble-shoot an engine that won’t rev as high as it used to. Proform’s Digital Mini Tester (part No. 66836) can test springs from 0 to 700 pounds with an accuracy of two pounds. It also has a peak-hold function, a backlit screen so it’s easy to read, and an automatic shut-off mechanism. You’ll need a vice to hold the tester and the spring but you should have one of those anyway.
Oil Pressure Tester
Don’t have an oil gauge in your car or have one and don’t trust it? Proform’s Oil Pressure Tester (part No. 67405) will tell you the engine’s actual oil pressure from 0-100 psi. It has a 24-inch hose to make it easy to maneuver to a point where you can read the dial.
Pushrod Straightness Checker
Bent pushrods should never go back into an engine but sometimes the bend is so slight that you can’t see it with the naked eye. Proform’s checker (part No. 66979) makes it easy to check the concentricity of pushrods by inserting the pushrod between the spring-loaded holders, spinning the pushrod, and watching the included, positionable dial indicator, which reads down to .001-inch.
Tools For Any Occasion
What we’ve shown here is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to super handy tools that will make life at the track much more convenient. For more, look through the online catalogs of any of the companies we highlighted here and you’ll quickly max out all your credit cards. If the significant other complains, just throw in a few toys for the kids, that should keep her happy.