What Is SFI Certification?
Chances are if you are racing your Mustang on the road course, autocross, or the drag strip, you need the best safety equipment to ensure you will be safe in case of an accident. If you have ever bought a racing helmet, fire suit, driving gloves, and or a bolt-in roll cage, you may have seen the SFI certified sticker or logo on the product. Just as there are sanctioning bodies for racing series and events, safety equipment regulations certify safety; they are known as the SFI Foundation, also known as the (SEMA Foundation Inc.). The SFI is a non-profit organization established to administer standards and rules for specialty performance and racing equipment components to ensure quality since 1978. The value that the SFI adds to the automotive and racing industry is priceless because, without it, we wouldn't know what is safe enough to use while out on the racetrack. In racing, safety is the number one priority regardless of any racing sanctioning body, including SCCA, NASCAR, NHRA, and NMRA.
The value-added services that SFI provides quality, certifications, and testing criteria for use in motorsports. They strive to put the very best forth of equality and standards to serve manufacturers, consumers, sanctioning bodies, racers, and government agencies through respect, efficiency, and fairness to all. To accomplish this, the SFI uses specific procedures to ensure the equipment manufacturers and racers alike have products tested and certified to industry standards. When an enthusiast or racer has complete confidence in their equipment that will ease the pressure, they will be safer in a racing environment.
To understand how SFI further tests and grades products throughout the automotive and racing industry for safety and quality standards, we must look at how they go through each testing process. Whereas SFI was established in 1978 to begin safety standards in the industry, they didn't have their laboratory to test products and industry standards until the turn of the century in 1999. Located in Escondido, California, it is there to serve the needs of all SFI affiliated manufacturers that are seeking to test their products in an effective and cost-efficient way. Each testing procedure is devised in a way to simulate actual real-world scenarios in a controlled environment.
Furthermore, to understand how each product is tested, SFI does a series of tests. To accomplish this, we will examine how race suits are tested; technicians will use what is known as a Thermal Protective Performance (TPP) machine, which conducts heat vertically and horizontally in a cabinet which is at five-hundred degrees Fahrenheit. The reason to do this is so that SFI can test personal protective equipment such as shoes, gloves, and driver suits. Also, they try for non-protective equipment, including carbon fiber interior components and shifter boots for flame resistance.
Not only does SFI test for flame resistance, but they also test for many other components, including safety harnesses, which is a very vital component to any Mustang or racecar. More than fifty seatbelt manufacturers come to SFI to have their belts tested for rigidity and strength. They will use a machine that will put them through a series of scenarios for retention and strength quality to keep racers harnessed in their seats at all times. They are primarily known for testing personal protective equipment, and helmets, but they test for the following products and components in the automotive industry:
- Thermal Shrinkage and Consumption
- Seam Strength
- Seatbelt Assembly Body Block Test
- Mechanical Properties
- Rotational Integrity
- Supercharger Restraint Assembly Strength
- Window and Roll Cage Net Penetration Resistance
- Webbing Abrasion and Ultimate Strength
- Horizontal and Vertical Flammability Test
Certified Equipment & Inspection
Suppose you're participating in a sanctioning body racing event; chances are there will be a tech inspection for your Mustang or racecar to ensure everything is properly functioning and to ensure safety. These are achieved when each racer meets with a tech inspector at the track, where they will run down a series of guidelines they have to follow to certify your vehicle is ready for competition and can run safely in the race. For example, suppose your Mustang battery or serpentine belt is not correctly working in order and installed. In that case, they can disqualify you from running in the event because the vehicle has safety issues, and it can be a safety hazard for others on the track.
For each sanctioning body, a different set of guidelines and rules that tech inspectors must follow to certify equipment within a class or segment of each racing organization for fairness and equality. In recent decades of pushing for safety and regulations, manufacturers and tech inspectors have a much easier job of knowing what is safe on and off the race track than if they had to inspect it upon themselves. Racing has become easier to access for all Mustang and automotive enthusiasts thanks to the SFI and their integral part in putting safety standards first at every automotive and racing component!
Source Credit: SFI Foundation, Inc