You don’t have to break the bank to improve your performance at your next track day. While it’s true some car mods can be pricey, there are plenty of low-cost and no-cost ways to improve your track car. Here are 10 you can do on the cheap for increased performance and better safety.
1. Balance the Wheels and Tires
Balanced wheels and tires make for a more comfortable ride, but they also extend the life of your tires and improve handling. If you’ve upgraded to new wheels or tires and haven’t had a professional do a proper balance yet, it’s probably time. Another bonus tip — driving on track generates a lot of heat that can melt the adhesive that adheres the wheel weights to the wheel. After having your wheels/tires balanced, apply aluminum tape (HVAC tape) over the wheel weights to keep them adhered to the wheels during track use.
2. Align the Chassis
A proper chassis alignment can transform a car, giving you more steering control, tire grip and overall handling. If you’ve installed a coil-over kit or lowering springs, make sure to have the car aligned, as the change in ride height of the vehicle will change your camber and toe settings. If you’re not afraid of doing DIY projects and getting your hands dirty, investing in a camber gauge and a “smart string” setup can save you hundreds of dollars by allowing you to perform your own alignments rather than taking the car to a shop.
3. Upgrade the Brake Fluid
One of the scariest situations you can encounter at a track day is when your brake fluid reaches its boiling point — at that point air bubbles are introduced into the hydraulic system, which results in a spongy pedal and significantly decreased braking performance. Invest a few more dollars into upgraded brake fluid which has a higher boiling point and will perform better on track.
4. Cool the Brakes
Another braking related failure that can occur is “brake fade.” This occurs when you exceed the operating temperature of the compound of the brake pad. There are two fairly easy ways to address this. The first is investing in a dedicated set of brake pads with a racing compound that has a higher operating temperature. In addition to this, you might also consider adding a brake cooling kit. A brake cooling kit helps feed cold air directly to your brake rotors and calipers, which can drastically reduce heat in your braking system and likely improve brake performance and durability.
5. Detail the Engine Compartment
A freshly detailed engine looks great when you’re at a tech inspection, but it also serves an important purpose. Leaks and other issues are easy to spot in an otherwise clean engine bay. Detailing may also reduce your risk of a car fire. All it takes is a few rags and cleaning products to start.
6. Replace Your Wiper Blades
Most HPDE events happen rain or shine, so it’s a good idea to have wipers that are in good condition. Fresh wiper blades and a coat of windshield water repellant will solve most issues. It’s also easy to adjust the pressure of your wiper arms and replace worn wiper motors if needed. Bonus tip: apply a windshield water repellant (like Rain-X) to the inside of your windshield, which will reduce interior fogging of the windshield during morning sessions and/or in the rain.
7. Upgrade the Gauges
Whether you have a newer track car or an older one, it is critical to be able to monitor the vitals of your engine to protect your car. Unfortunately, many cars are lacking when it comes to displaying the key vitals of the car. Water and coolant temperature, oil temperature, and oil pressure are the key measures that help you determine if the car is running as it should. If your car is newer, you can likely install a digital gauge that pulls the vitals from the vehicle’s computer via a CAN (controller area network) connection. There are plenty of options for older vehicles, but this will likely involve installing sensors at key points in the engine that will feed the data to a gauge mounted in the cockpit of the car.
8. Choose the Right Engine Oil
Many high-revving cars and cars with forced-induction engines suffer from higher operating temperatures, but certain engine oils or changes in viscosity can help the engine run cooler. Consult with other enthusiasts at your next event that run with the same engine as yours, and you’ll likely get great input from others that have experimented with different oil options that will help your engine run at an optimum temperature.
9. Upgrade the Cooling System
A well-maintained cooling system helps ensure your engine is running at the ideal temperature which can both increase performance and durability of your engine. Cooling system upgrades can also go a long way to managing heat while driving on track. Consider upgrading the water pump, thermostat, radiator or oil cooler for even better performance.
10. Tune up the Engine
Getting an engine calibration performed by a tuning expert can add power and ensure your air-fuel ratio is performing within an optimal range (not too rich, and not too lean). Fine-tuning your track car on the dyno is a great way to get more out of your car and your next experience on the track. To save money at the shop, get things close to spec before you go, and make sure the car is in good working order with a clean air filter and fresh spark plugs.
Protect Your Upgrades
Motorsports can be a pricey hobby, so it’s always nice to save a few bucks where you can. While simple track car improvements like these won’t break the bank, other upgrades, such as coil-over suspensions, brake conversions and performance tires require more investment in your track car.
Luckily, you can protect your whole investment on the track with HPDE Insurance from Lockton Motorsports. Our agreed value basis lets you tell us the value of your car at the time you buy insurance. If anything goes wrong on track, you won’t have to haggle over the value of your vehicle. Just be sure to save your receipts.