In the NASA Club Codes and Regulations, specifically section 15.6.4, it states that “All roll cage surfaces that may come in contact with the driver’s head, knees, and elbows must be padded with high-density padding such as Ethafoam or Ensolite or other material labeled ‘high density padding’ and manufactured for road racing use.”

That means no pool noodles. You need the good stuff, the SFI 45.1-rated padding that doesn’t deform when impacted by a helmet, knee or elbow.

Compared with the broader task of building a new racecar, adding the roll bar padding is one of those finishing touches that comes late in the process. It’s not terribly difficult and doesn’t require any math or heavy lifting, but you need a few tools and supplies to do it correctly.

First, you need the good padding and there are any number of sources for it online or at your favorite local race shop. You need a hacksaw, something to score the padding with so you know where to cut it and some heavy duty zip ties to hold everything in place.

It shouldn’t take long, but if you take your time and do it methodically, it will look sharp and keep you safe in an impact.

I already had some short lengths of padding leftover from previous cars, and they made it easy to size up some of the shorter segments, such as the main hoop behind the driver’s head.

A hacksaw is good for cutting roll cage padding because the blade has small teeth that don’t shred the foam like larger teeth would. You can cut the foam with a sharp blade, too, but the high-density foam requires a lot of force. The saw cuts through the adhesive protection paper better if you cut it as shown.

Use a pair of pliers to tighten the zip ties, then a pair of wire cutters to cut off the loose ends of the heavy-duty zip ties.

Measuring doesn’t need to be any more sophisticated than holding the padding where it will go and scratching a line for where to cut it. Be conservative. You can always cut off more.

When you install the zip ties to hold the padding in place, always locate the clasp away from the driver area. That way it won’t snag on the driver’s suit during exits, and especially emergency exits.

When you get to the pyramid X door bar or a NASCAR bar, you will need long zip ties to wrap around them fully.

Again, long heavy-duty zip ties are a must to allow you to tighten them enough to hold things in place.

Be sure the wrap the door bar to protect the driver’s knees.

Image courtesy of Eric Green


  1. SFI 45.1 Padding is sufficient for tubbing areas the driver’s helmet may impact however if you are padding to protect limbs and joints a secondary layer of soft impact foam is needed.

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