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We all love working on our cars, but there’s only so much you can do with it before it’s no longer street legal, and you need to find something else to drive to work. Once you’ve reached that point, it’s time to start getting ready for your next challenge — taking your modded vehicle to the track. What do you need to do to get prepared for your first race? Follow these four steps.
1. Inspect Your Car
You’ll want to start by inspecting your car from bumper to bumper and from top to bottom to make sure everything is working correctly. Put your vehicle through its paces, and once you’re done, go through an inspection checklist.
It may not need to be as comprehensive as this list, but you need to make sure the tires are in good shape, the steering moves smoothly, all your fluids are topped off — we’ll talk about this more in a second — and that all your equipment is ready for the punishment it’s going to take on the track.
2. Check Your Fluids
The oil and other fluids that your car came with won’t cut it on the track. They’re designed for regular use, not for long periods at high speeds or high RPMs. If you’re still running on stock fluids, you need to upgrade to some performance alternatives. Performance brake fluid, for example, has a higher boiling point than standard DOT 3 which helps to reduce brake fade that could slow you down or put you in danger once you’re on the racetrack.
Performance race oil can be conventional, synthetic or a blend of the two, and are formulated for high-temperature operations. Coolant additives raise the freezing point of the coolant but offer additional protection if you don’t have to worry about freezing local temperatures.
Make sure your fluids are topped off and bleed your brakes before you think about heading to the track. Missing fluids can cause engine damage, but unbled brakes can kill you.
3. Invest in Quality Safety Gear
The exact safety gear you need for your race may vary, but you don’t want to skimp on the equipment that could keep you alive in the event of an accident. Make sure your vehicle is equipped with:
- Five- or six-point safety harnesses
- Roll cages
- Window netting
- Arm restraints
- Head/neck restraints
- Fire containment systems
You will likely need a racing suit, complete with gloves, boots and a helmet all made from fire-retardant material. They even make fireproof underwear.
4. Double Check the Track Rules
These are just general recommendations. The specific preparations you need to make will depend on the house rules of the track you’re going to be using. Double-check the track rules and race prep recommendations provided by the track, then recheck them for good measure. The last thing you want to do is show up on race day only to find something is outside of the required tolerances that disqualify you.
Even if you skip every other step — which we don’t recommend — make sure you’re double-checking the track rules.
A Final Note About Your Car on the Track
These steps, tips and tricks aren’t designed to waste your time — they’re designed to help keep you safe on the track and to protect your fellow drivers. If you’ve spent a lot of time modifying your favorite car, then the chances are good that it’s up to snuff and ready for your first trip to the track but don’t take anything for granted. Be thorough, and make sure everything is prepared for your first race, which will likely not be your last.