8 Things You'll Need for Your First Track Day
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We love the idea of people taking their car out to a track day: It’s a great way to learn about handling dynamics and the limits of your car (and your own nerves).
However, going to a track day isn’t just a matter of taking your car as-is — there are things you and your car are going to need. From auto parts, to accessories, to tools, here are some of the basics.
Most track events require head protection, and while it may be possible to borrow a helmet, it’s nicer to squish around in your own head-sweat rather than someone else’s. Check your venue see if they have requirements for helmets; most will require a standard such as Snell SA2010 or 2015. Helmets can get very expensive — you can spend a grand or more if you are so inclined — but there are lots of good helmets in the $150 to $500 range. Don’t skimp: Remember, if it all goes horribly wrong, your helmet is your last line of defense.
Find your helmet for sale here.
A Set of Track Tires
Track use is harder on tires than you can imagine. Not only will you burn through the tread, but you’re going to be putting a hurt on the sidewalls. Instead of racing on your street tires, consider buying a dedicated set of tires on their own wheels that you bolt on when you get to the track. That way you can pick rubber that is best suited for racing, and not have to worry about wearing down your track-specific tread on your commute. And when you do drive home from the track, you’re doing so on tires that have not been subjected to the abuse of racing. (Remember, a tire failure in a closed racing environment is much safer than a blowout on a crowded freeway.)
Find your track tires for sale here.
A Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Tire pressure is critical to giving your car maximum grip and fine-tuned handling. Your car’s tire pressures will change throughout the day, rising as the tires heat and dropping as they cool, so it’s important to keep an eye on those pressures. By monitoring pressures between runs, you’ll know which tires heat up faster, and that will help you choose pre-run cold pressures to fine-tune your car’s performance.
Shop for a digital tire pressure gauge here.
Better Brake Pads
Track driving is just as hard on your brakes as it is on your tires. For the moment, forget about fancy slotted and cross-drilled rotors and concentrate on the pads; they’re doing all the work. Don’t just buy the highest-performance pad you can find, either. Some racing pads are as useless as blocks of wood when cold, and you may not generate enough heat in a few laps for them to be effective. Study up on how different compounds work and consider bringing a couple different types so you can find what works best. Take the time to become proficient at brake-pad changes so you can quickly swap out pads at the track.
Shop for brake pads for sale here.
A Tool Set
With wheels and brake pads (at the very least) going on and off the car, a tool set is an important (and obvious) thing to have along. Racing teams bring along truck-loads of tools, but most weekend racers don’t have that luxury, so bring the basics: A good-quality socket set, open and box-end wrenches, screwdrivers, a breaker bar, cutters, pliers, and a rubber mallet.
Shop for a tool set for sale here.
Lightweight Jack and Jackstands
Obviously, it’s impossible to change tires and brake pads or do any work on the underside of the car while its tires are sitting on the ground. Don’t even think of relying on the spare tire jack; leave it home and get a good lightweight aluminum floor jack that’s strong and (relatively) easy to carry. While this should go without saying, we’ll say it anyway: Don’t even think about going underneath your car unless its secured on jackstands. Bring at least one pair so you can work on your car safely.
Shop for aluminum car jack and stands for sale here.
A Torque Wrench
Tightening bolts to their proper torque value is important any time you work on your car, and you want to be especially careful with the torque of your lug nuts, especially when racing. Too tight, and you can warp rotors or weaken studs; too loose and you may find one of your wheels taking an entirely different line than the rest of the car. Bring a nice big torque wrench (digital or the “click” type for the best precision) and check the torque on your wheels before every track session.
Shop for a torque wrench for sale here.
Zip Ties and Duct Tape
Attend enough track days, and sooner or later you’re going to do things wrong — and there’s a good chance you’re going to need to drive your car home afterwards. Zip ties and duct tape are great for improvised repairs, and they’ll let you secure damaged bodywork to the car so you can get back home home and cry in private.
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I've done track for 2 1/2 decades in everything from 60 hp to 400 hp cars, FWD, RWD and AWD, taught in-car and classroom for Audi, Porsche and a couple of times MB clubs, created the national DE documents for one club, and raced with some success. So I think I'm qualified to comment. What's even more important than bringing your eager butt and a car with solid suspension booshings, good brakes, properly torqued wheels and inflated tires, and non-old/used seat belts is what to LEAVE AT HOME. Your testacles. Detach and put them in a jar of saline on the bathroom sink until you get home again. They will not miss you. Testosterone leads to track tires, suspension upgrades, leichtwicht components and general loss of cubic dollars in sorry attempts to cover up a general lack of integration of butt, feet and hands. No more sure way to ball up your can than to try to shortcut those 10000 hours of skill development by spending money.
The title is "Track Day" yet you continue to refer to this activity as "Racing." I do not think "Racing" means what you think it means.