How to Get Your Car Ready for Racing
If you’ve developed an interest in Autocross or other amateur racing events, chances are you’ve thought about taking your own car onto the track. It would be ill-advised, however, to drive in any kind of race without first performing some basic maintenance to prepare your car for the strain of racing. There are also a variety of optional upgrades you can make to improve your car’s performance, whether this means buying new parts or just stripping away excess weight. Here’s some expert advice on both optional and mandatory steps to take when preparing your car for a race.
First Step: Required Maintenance
Before racing any car for the first time, make sure that you’ve at least taken the most essential steps to keep yourself and the other drivers safe. Put new brake fluid in your car if you haven’t done so recently, and make sure the water and oil levels are topped off. You should also check the functioning of the break pads and the pressure of the tires, remembering to ensure all nuts and bolts are tightly fastened. If you don’t know to do any of this or don’t have the supplies handy, have your car professionally inspected before racing. In fact, an inspection is a good idea even if you’ve raced before.
The other piece of necessary preparation is to check your fuel and fuel levels. While it isn’t required, many drivers use higher-octane fuel when racing their cars, as it can boost their performance. Whether you decide to spend the extra money or not (keep in mind that high-octane fuel can be expensive) remember to fill your car with only the amount of fuel necessary for racing, and for driving to and from the track. Excess fuel will add weight to your car, which will hurt your lap times.
Next: Basic Upgrades
Here are several optional upgrades you can make to your car before you race it:
One popular upgrade choice is to outfit your car with a new set of track-ready tires. Racing tires may be a bit more expensive, but they can make a difference when it comes to lap times. You don’t need to break the bank for the best, stickiest rubber available to see benefits; any new, reliable tires will perform better than a worn-down pair. No matter what tires you use, though, make sure they’re no more than three years old, as the rubber hardens over time, making older tires more dangerous.
Another optional upgrade is to get race-spec brake pads for your vehicle. Brakes are put under excessive strain during races, and adding race-spec brakes can both improve your car’s performance around tight curves and also make racing safer. If you do choose to outfit your car with race-spec breaks, make sure that you also fill it with racing break fluid.
Your car’s suspension, or how high its body rides above the ground, can make a significant difference when it comes to handling. Exactly how high or low you want your vehicle to ride depends on both your car and the track you’ll be racing on, so it’s best to either check out the track beforehand or head to online racing forums for suggestions.
Reduce the Weight:
One other effective modification is to strip all excess weight from your car to increase its overall speed. You’ll of course want to remove any items from inside the car, and many racers choose to remove their side mirrors, but keep in mind that you’ll only see a noticeable increase in speed if you remove about ten percent of the vehicle’s weight. Some common ways to reduce the weight of a car include removing the back seats, the spare tire and the carpeting, and some drivers also switch to a smaller battery before a race.
If you follow these steps, you should have no trouble getting your car ready to race. Beyond the necessary inspections and maintenance, though, how you modify your car for racing is ultimately up to you. If you ever need ideas or aren’t sure if what you’re thinking of doing is safe, you can always turn to experienced racers, or a reliable mechanic, for help.