Shocks, Gauges, and Tight Seat Belt Systems with AFCO’s Ben Baker
On this episode of the Racing Insiders Podcast, Kate interviewed Ben Baker from AFCO Performance Group. Ben works in the product development and as a sales engineer for both AFCO and Longacre, which means he gets to test products in the field. He also does seminars, like the RaceLogic Chassis School.
AFCO/Longacre are long time exhibitors at the CARS Racing Show. They can be found in Booth 913, where they will have products on display and will be happy to answer any shocks, gauge, radiator, or tech questions you may have.
Kate and Ben discussed shocks, gauges, and tight seat belt systems. A few topics covered in this interview include:
- Shocks for 604s
- Ben’s Work on Shocks with AFCO
- 5/10, 4/12, and Heavy Valving 14 Series Shocks
- Welding and Shocks
- Ben’s History in Motorsports
- Shock Packages for Low Horsepower Mods
- Adding Rebound to the Right Rear Shock on Dry Slick Tracks
- AFCO Ultralight 16+ Rotor and the Pillar Vane 1.25″ Directional Rotors
- Electrical System Tips and Tricks
- Car Scaling
- Cooling Tips
- Suggestions on Wireless Longacre Scales
- Rebuild Kits for Brake Calipers
- Master Cylinder Issues
Shocks for 604s
Yes, so if you’re running a CALtrack, and you are actually running a 604. You know, there’s a couple of different ways you can go about that. If you’re, you know, ideally, a double adjustable is what we use on all the drag cars, just that gives you a lot more tunability with the car. In your case with that kind of power. You don’t need anything crazy, crazy stiff, by no means, you know, that old school 90/10, for instance, that’s probably a little bit too stiff for the rear on the extension. But your you know, like a 38, the standard 38 series for us or like a 38/70 or something like that, depending on your lengths of everything, we can get you that part number, but that would be the shock that we would recommend for what you’ve got there.
Ben’s Work on Shocks with AFCO
I do long shocks. You know, a lot of our R&D work, you know, I’m putting shocks together for, you know, probably the very first time for a lot of a lot of our different series that we came up with over the years. You know, going out working with working with drivers and tuning those. I mean, that’s what we did at supernationals all last week, that’s all all service work. And it’s all custom tuning, you know? So we’re at that racetrack. And we basically are working with drivers to tune for that very specific race. So yeah, definitely, definitely in and out of our shocks a lot. Probably. I’d say on average, I probably work on 50 shocks a week.
5/10, 4/12, and Heavy Valving 14 Series Shocks
That shock is very, very difficult to get right. So you know, that shock is a all those 14 Series shocks or something that we get from an outside vendor, we don’t have the equipment to weld that shock together, like you get it. So we’re relying on them to build that shock and hit the kind of tolerances that we want to have. And when you get to those stiff rebound numbers in particular, in this case, it’s really really hard to keep it consistent with the environment that they’re putting that shock together. We’ve we’ve gotten a few of them in and cut them apart and look at them and see where the issues are. And there’s just you know dirt and debris and it’s just because of the environment that they put them together and so to keep from putting a bad product out there we decided not to put any product out there for those kind of numbers now. You know, we we do continue to work with them to hopefully get something resolved but I’m not holding my breath that we’ll get to those.
Welding and Shocks
Yeah, so shocks. You see that really nice pretty shaft and you know, they’re, they look like a great place to either A clip or ground on to because it’s gonna ground it really well. Or B when you’re welding on the cars make sure your ground is in the right location. So I probably get anywhere from two to four shocks a month, where someone has a ground on the frame, and then they weld onto the rear end, and rear end supported in most cases by rubber bushings or things like that. And the ground runs right through the shaft of the shock, it’s a perfect conductor. They got the ground on the rear end and they’re welded on the frame or on the other side of the rear end. And that’s something like that. So just be very, very aware when you’re welding to keep the ground as close as you can, and make sure it’s on the same component that you’re welding. So don’t just don’t put it wherever and think you’re gonna be good to go because I had a drag truck you know $750-$900 strut the other day that came in and ahead of it was leaking and you know, customer was upset because it was a very, you know, it was a very new strut. And soon as look at it, you can tell exactly what it was. And it was the day they welded some lower control arm mounts, some limiters on it, and they had the ground on the frame. And they welded on the lower control arm and it arced right through.
I’ve seen cases where people have had grounds on frames, and try to weld a muffler on an exhaust and arc cam bearings in new motors. I mean, there’s just electricity, like it’s not very easy, it’ll arc whatever it wants to arc, whatever is the path of least resistance.
Ben’s History in Motorsports
I mean over 16 years there I’ve worked with just about everything you can think of in motorsports. You know, drag cars, road course, pavement, dirt, northeast modified sprint cars, mini Sprint’s, midgets, we do some stuff for airboats. You know a lot of your street car stuff, pulling trucks- pulling trucks is one actually, I’ve gotten into more in the last few years. I’ve got several guys here, local that I do some, I’ve done some custom tuning with, it’s been really good. It’s definitely different. It’s a lot of fun. But yeah, just you name it. Uh, you know, I’ve worked with Speedway in their autocross team there for a couple years and got to work with Alan Unser Jr. and Robbie Answer. And that was a lot of fun. So I mean, I’ve gotten to do quite a bit of different things.
Shock Packages for Low Horsepower Mods
So if we’re going to go with that 14 series, definitely keep that one pretty basic. You know, we do have that three, eight for the right front. I usually keep that on there pretty well all the time. Left front, there’s a couple of different shocks to play with, I like to tune with the left front shock. You know, standard, I’m gonna call it is more like a five, five or straight five, or, in some cases, we might do a four, six. And then if it’s a really slick kind of more stop and go style racetrack. I’ll do a five, three on the left front, right rear. Usually, just the straight fours are kind of our standard shock and then our slick shock may be a three, five. And then yeah, so if we did 14 series that would cover that rule or really a lot these valvings we can do it on 74s as well. But then the left rear typically just a 9/2 hardly ever, hardly ever get away from that. It just It works really well with a lot of mods, even really the low horsepower stuff really can use that a lot. That’s all non adjustable. No bulbs, well, actually 14 series is non is non take apart in general. But yeah, a lot os those numbers Oh, that that three, eight, right front, the five or five, three, left front, a 435. right rear, just that straight nine to the left for your a pretty well start with that with everybody no matter what series they’re running. And then we can tune from there. You know, so we can say, Okay, this is what I like, this is where I’m having problems with, Okay, well, let’s, and it might not be a shock change, it may be a spring change or other things. We’ll turn around that from there. You can get you get you going better.
Adding Rebound to the Right Rear Shock on Dry Slick Tracks
That’s usually a good thing. You can definitely gain some grip off the corner. The one thing I have ran into is in extreme cases, if you go like really really heavy on right rear rebound, A) it can make you really tighten center where you can’t rotate the center and then you will have drive off. B) if there is any kind of a hole or cushion, you cannot touch it. If you touch it with that right rear with all that extra rebound in it, you’re gonna knock the wall down. And it will definitely tighten the car up in a hurry and it’ll pull the right front over. But it is a good thing to do for sure. You know, if you had a standard four to start with and we went to let’s say a five or a six rebound, it’s going to tighten up some for sure in the center and a little bit off. But if we jumped on up and we went to say like an eight or nine or a 10 rebound, you definitely may get too tight and definitely if you ever hit a cushion with it, you’re in trouble.
AFCO Ultralight 16+ Rotor and the Pillar Vane 1.25″ Directional Rotors
So the 16 Plus rotor is discontinued the source we have for that basically went defunct so we can’t really get that one very easily anymore. The pillar vane 1.25″ they discontinued a lot of those because the there’s really not many cars are running inch and a quarter or anything anymore in the dirt world. Most everybody’s on 8/10 we do have the pillar vane 8/10 back in the stock family. So that’s that’s good to have. But yes, I agree. I liked that ultralight that rotor too. It works good on fronts . If you’re a heavy breaker it wasn’t that good on the rear.
Electrical System Tips and Tricks
Yeah, so I mean gauges in general you know, we’ve learned a lot. I mean, I am aware of gauges and aware electronics and things like that before we purchased Longacre but there’s definitely been a pretty steep learning curve since we bought them. And, you know, the water of course, your worst enemy on a lot of stuff, you know, we learned that real quick with the original stepper motor gauge. And that’s reason why we, you know, redesigned all that and made that completely waterproof. So you know, your stepper gauges today, you’re more high engage, you can pressure wash them, all you want to, and you’re perfectly fine, you take them and dump them in a bucket of water and they’ll they’ll be just fine. Or a lot of the other stepper motor gauges and digital gauges like that you can’t do that. So you know washing the car, you’ve got to A) be very, very careful where you’re directing that pressure washer. But, you know, in some cases, doesn’t matter, just the mist can do it are really high human human day can do it. You know, if you’re racing in southern Louisiana, where the humidity is 99% and 300 degrees it’s probably going to eventually get some corrosion in there and cause problems. So you know, definitely, when you wash the car, be very, very aware of where you’re directing that water, you know, keeping away from electronics, keep it away from switches. I’ve learned some stuff on switches this year to where you know, we’re going to come out with some new stuff at PRI to help combat some issues there that we’ve seen. And it’s not just with our switches, we’ve seen them with other manufacturers as well. But we want to try to keep you know making the product better and address those issues.
That’s pretty hot button with me. Scales are very, very important. You know, everybody thinks, Well, my load numbers are right. Okay. So you took a load number from from a welded point to another welded point that you don’t know is in the same spot after you knock the wall down last weekend. So if you take a lower control arm on dirt late model, for instance, you take a spindle on a dirt late model, that’s a welded fabricated part that’s put together by a human being, that can mess up just as well as anybody else. And you pull your low numbers, and Okay, we’re good to go go the racetrack, you really don’t know. So if you take a brand new car, and you put everything on that car, as you think is the best parts, and you scale that car, and you you get right heights, and you get, you know, different points to the ground locations, you make these notes. Now, when you do knock the front clip off of it or do something to it, and you put all the new parts back on it, you can go back and scale the car and get those numbers back. And then you know where your home base is. So, you know, load numbers are great. I use them all the time. You know, we reference them all the time. But in the end, all those load numbers are based off of scale numbers. You know, every car is going to be a little bit different. So in my mind now used to, we would scale every week. Every single week, you’d scale. Today’s world, we don’t scale that much.
I think the biggest thing with cooling, just keeping stuff clean and clean and properly. You know, we’ve talked about in seminars about you know, getting the kiddie pool, I think Dave Hammond even made like a little tank that he submerged a radiator in. So doing those things and not using compressed air and not using a pressure washer directly. Doing all those things can certainly make sure you keep the radiator in the best condition it can be.
Suggestions on Wireless Longacre Scales
So the biggest thing on the on our wireless scales is that first generation wireless was was basically a line of sight. So on our scales, this side of the scale that has the on off switch, they all need to be facing the same direction. So if you have let’s say you’re standing all of the on off switches need to be facing the left side of the car. And that’ll that’ll keep the connectivity together quite a bit. If it’s the app itself that freezes and shuts down. There are some settings and different updates that you go through Android it causes some of those issues. Make sure that apps in make sure the app and make sure the software in the tablet continuously stays updated. If it gets out To date, sometimes there’s little Gremlins that run around and can cause those issues. We’ve, that’s one area with wireless stuff that is a pain when you’re using those tablets, because you know what’s good today is gone tomorrow in electronics.
Rebuild Kits for Brake Calipers
Depends on which caliper you’re looking at. As far as like four piston caliper stuff, we do have those. The steel GM calipers, we don’t. Those are really just kind of throw away part. If you get to that point where it needs a rebuild kit, it needs a lot of other help as well. So you’re better better money spent just to put a new one on.
Master Cylinder Issues
So in a master cylinder, you’ve got aluminum bore with aluminum piston. You know, yes, they’re anodized and things like that. But you’ve got aluminum part rubbing on aluminum part, there’s an O ring in there that rubs on that same aluminum parts. So if you get a little scratch in it because you have aluminum rubbing on aluminum. And then now that cuts, the O ring that’s in there. And granted are the O ring surface that touches or the ceiling surface that touches is probably almost 20/1000s of an inch wide is all it is. So a little nick makes a huge bypass when you’re dealing with a 400 pounds of line pressure. So it’s just, it doesn’t pay much to cause an issue.
More than 30 years ago, AFCO racing and performance parts first answered the simple need for better racing suspension. AFCO shocks and suspension components quickly earned a reputation for giving a racing team an advantage. Today, the AFCO advantage can be found in thousands of performance products for not only suspension, but also for exhaust, brakes and cooling.
In 2017, Longacre Racing Products joined AFCO Performance Group. Longacre customers include individual racers as well as some of the most respected names in modern-day racing. Longacre products are also distributed through a nation-wide and international dealer network. Longacre has a comprehensive line of race scales, alignment tools, racing gauges, and other products.
AFCO/Longacre can be found online at afcoracing.com and longacreracing.com. They can also be found on Facebook (AFCO & Longacre), Instagram (AFCO & Longacre), Twitter (AFCO & Longacre) , and YouTube (AFCO & Longacre).