By Charlie Sparks –

On Saturday, June 20th, Hill Country Region held our first event in the post-COVID shutdown era with a tech session at Werks 11 in Temple. Successfully, I might add.

On the surface, it might seem like an easy delivery. With a limit of 15 registrants and 4 board members for this event, it’s was a far cry from the typical tech sessions which have seen 35-50+ attendees in recent past. But I can assure the readers, this was anything but typical and easy to put together.

As most everyone knows by now, PCA has implemented new rules for regions to follow with any events, since COVID restrictions were implemented by state and local governments back in March. The new PCA requirements essentially dictate that any club event must adhere to the strictest requirements for the particular event location. That meant we, as an Executive Committee, had to ensure we knew the requirements for state and local municipalities in our region, and those local rules could vary by county and city. PCA additionally mandates that our event liability insurance would only be issued with written procedures developed by the region, and specifically for the event in question. A blanket set of procedures won’t work for the insurance underwriter.

Your Executive Committee met several times over the course of April and May (virtually), to understand all the requirements we would have to satisfy in order to obtain PCA event insurance. With all events essentially cancelled, we discussed which types of events we felt we could reasonably restart, while adhering to all the requirements from state/local/PCA entities. We settled on a tech session, but that’s when the real work began.

First, we researched the idea of holding a virtual tech session. I got the idea after watching a few DIY tech videos posted by our National Executive, Vu Nguyen. Tuffy and I enlisted help from James Rossie, our Tech Chair, to determine feasibility for a quality product and interesting topic for our members. It didn’t take long for James to convince us that having someone shoot a video with their iPhone and streaming it on Facebook Live wasn’t going to cut it. Jiggling phones, questionable microphone coverage, instability moving around a subject, etc, were all problems. We needed some professional help. However, it turned out that the cost estimate to hire a couple of media professionals was just too high for our club’s treasurer (we would have had to peel Bruce Harris off the ceiling).

In the meantime, we learned of a few regions who had restarted their own events, all while adhering to all the aforementioned regulations and restrictions. So we decided if they could do it successfully, so could our region. We decided early on to do a very small, limited attendance tech session, so we capped it at 15 registrants plus event observers (board members who could help ensure everyone adhered to all event requirements). Tuffy asked me to craft our procedures, which I did, and I submitted those to PCA along with our usual event liability request. Keep in mind that in the past, event insurance usually took a week or more to obtain prior to an event. This time, with our new COVID-event procedures, the liability insurance was issued and delivered back to me in two days…that’s right, two (2) days! Pretty good indicator that our procedures satisfied PCA national, and our insurance underwriters.

We selected our venue at Werks 11 based on the fact that Temple and Bell County followed only the State guidelines, with no more local restrictions like we found in other cities/counties in our region. We checked with the Bell County Fire Marshall, to ensure we knew what the maximum capacity was for the Werks 11 shop. Tuffy and I agreed that, while Bell County and our event procedures didn’t require masks for all participants, we would make face coverings a requirement for the event. Julian Avent also opened up the shop doors (fresh air is always best), and provided two cars and two lifts side-by-side so that we could split up the participants AND cover the topic in even great detail with two different models.

Oil Changes was the topic, and while Julian narrated the session, Francisco showed the proper procedures on a 986 Boxster, while Jason showed the process on his 1977 911. Suffice to say, while the topic may seem minor to most people, and some people may think they know everything about doing oil changes, everyone in attendance said they learned something they didn’t already know about the topic. So, many thanks to Julian, Jason, and Francisco for sharing their knowledge with us.

For instance, we all know that removing the drain plug from the oil pan produces a deluge of oil draining out quickly. But did you know that waiting an extra 20 minutes for the little bitty oil stream to continue in the Boxster oil change means you get another 2 quarts of oil out? That extra 20 minutes means a more complete removal of old oil. And we learned which parts can and cannot be reused (hint: its more than just the filter).

Or, how about the trick we learned for measuring the oil draining out of the 911 oil tank. Yes, most of the oil sits in the tank, and using a large measuring bucket (not a normal catch can) means you know exactly how much came out of the tank so you know how much needs to go back into the engine. Removing the oil plate on the older 911 is quite messy, and actually very little oil came out (most is held in the separate tank).

We also learned about the typical problems the techs see during oil changes. The standard one is metal filings, and we’ve all heard about that. But they also watch for silicon residue, which is a sign of a really bad previous oil change (using silicon around an oil gasket is a big no-no).

In any event, we got to ask lots of questions about things like viscosity preferences, torqueing the plastic cartridges that contain the oil filter on newer cars, vacuuming oil lines, how to add oil properly for the model car (some accept it slowly, others have to intermittently start the car during the adding process, etc). These are just some of details I never knew, and as I said earlier, everyone walked away better educated.

In closing, it felt good to be back up and running events again as a car club, even on this small scale. Huge thanks to the Werks 11 team, as usual, for helping us educate our members and working with us to adhere to all the state/local/PCA COVID requirements.

Now, if I could just figure out how to make hand sanitizer from used oil, it would be icing on the cake!