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As the Dalai Lama will tell you, balance is one of the keys to achieving greater consciousness. For drag racers, consciously building a balanced engine is the key to greater performance. . . or so the Dalai Lama of high performance will tell you.

But unbelievable as it may seem, there are still a number of successful drag racers who believe that a stock original equipment harmonic damper will work perfectly fine with your drag racing engine. Wrong. The fact is that using an original equipment damper is not only a mistake, but dangerous, and could be stealing horsepower potential from your engine. Here’s why.

Vibration can be controlled either by dissipating the energy that causes the crankshaft to twist or by absorbing that energy. A stock damper is tuned to the natural vibration frequency of a stock engine. As soon as you change the internal dynamics of an engine, such as by adding a performance crankshaft or changing the pistons and valvetrain parts, you change the frequency. To return to optimum performance you need to re-tune your damper to your performance engine. Stock cast iron elastomer dampers just can’t handle that task and reduce your performance potential.

High performance, SFI-approved devices like the TCI Rattler are actually tuned to the number of engine cylinders and engine cycles, which means that maximum effectiveness is ensured regardless of engine modifications. Energy absorption, common only to the Rattler, provides torsional control by providing counteracting forces to those that actually cause torsional vibration. Devices like the TCI Rattler actually absorb the crankshaft-damaging twisting forces through the movement of weighted “pucks” that store and release energy as the crankshaft accelerates and decelerates.

Other types of dampers, such as high performance elastomer, dry friction and viscous-type dampers, work like OE dampers by dissipating the vibrations by converting mechanical energy to heat energy through friction. While this kind of damper is a better choice than the stock unit, heat is always the enemy of any engine part and in this case results in degradation of the working mechanism over time.

“Stock cast iron OE elastomer dampers are not made for high rpm situations,” says Stanley Poff of TCI. “Cast iron dampers can crack and break with age ultimately exploding. In addition, that elastomer system often 'slips' and can even move far enough to release the outer ring making for a very dangerous situation. True high performance balancers are made from forged or billet steel and cannot come apart.”

Eliminating torsional vibration improves the acceleration rate of the engine. This means that through high tech engine vibration analysis, engine rpm cycles are smoother and crankshaft and bearing life increases which results in more efficient valvetrain operation. The cost-saving rationale many racers use to justify avoiding the expense of purchasing a high performance balancer just doesn’t work when you think about the added costs incurred when valve train parts and bearings are damaged.

“The part that really amazes me,” says Greg Friend of TCI, “is that guys don’t realize that the factory elastomer damper can wear out. Often the outer ring of the damper has slipped over time. Unfortunately the timing marks for the engine are on this ring. When the racer goes to time the engine, they are not using accurate marks. If your engine performance is lacking and you can’t seem to find the problem and you are running a stock damper, you might just want to check the damper!”

A high performance balancer is a required racing part, as key to high performance as having the right set of rocker arms or making certain the firing order is correct. A stock OE damper may have been just fine in your street machine, but for the serious racer, that balancer represents not only a safety problem, but can also cost you engine life and optimum performance.

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