Common advice for taking precaution before hitting the tracks will include the installation of basic tuning parts, such as the ever-necessary oil coolers to control engine temperatures.
Without doubt, these do a good job of cooling the lifeblood in your automobile; however, is that really all to it? The lesser known evil of engine blows can be attributed to a poor supply of oil to the engine. There are several factors to a catastrophic engine failure, especially if poor oil supply is pinpointed to be the attributing cause of the problem.
When engine oil does not get circulated around the system quickly, there may be moments of metallic friction between insufficiently lubricated engine parts, especially between bearings and the crankshaft. In short bursts, these can quickly escalate to major mechanical failure. This is especially risky on the track, when the engine is already under a lot of strain and load from the high intensities of hard driving.
In greater detail, the problem begins with the oil pan, located at the bottom of the engine. Normally called a “wet sump” in most commuter cars, an oil pickup is located in the pan to suck up the oil to distribute it to critical engine components that require constant lubrication.
The daily drive to and fro from work does not encompass driving through windy roads, so the standard production oil pan is alright. However, it might be insufficient for the track-going enthusiast, who faces the constant barrage of G-forces while navigating the high-speed turns of a circuit.
During hard-swerving, oil gets swept to the extreme banks in the pan. Out of reach of the oil pickup for even mere seconds spell certain disaster, especially for turbocharged engines where a steady supply of oil is crucial. Imagine this problem amplified by a high-speed turn keeps the engine oil sloshed to either bank of the pan for a sustained period of time…
The answer to this teething problem is a baffle in the oil pan, otherwise known as the oil pan baffle. Oil pan baffles are basically specially designed ‘ribs’ inside the pan to restrict the entire movement of oil from completely sloshing to the sides of the pan. However, oil baffles are not limited to a single design; some baffles have with vertical metal slots to slow the movement of oil, while others have flaps, also known as ‘trap doors’ that only open in a single direction to allow flow into the oil pickup chamber, while preventing oil flow out of the chamber during high lateral G-force situations. These are shaped according to where the oil pickup is located.
Oil pan baffles also have the added benefit of preventing oil splashing around the chamber that causes oil foaming that might result in vapour residue, which the oil pickup might pipe instead of lifesaving oil. Additionally, if one’s oil pan baffle is complex enough, it might even feature a scraper section to contain oil splash from the rotating crank that could travel up the cylinders.
Though a steady supply of oil is extremely essential, especially for a highly tuned and sensitive engine, it is also a recommended tuning part that should be taken into consideration for the avid track-day enthusiast who subjects his/her set of wheels to the tenacious high speed corners of the circuit, regardless of how lightly tuned it is. Remember, prevention is always better than an expensive cure; an engine rebuild, that is!