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As car enthusiasts, you may have pondered what it would be like if you took your vehicle out on the track, or you might have plans to attend a track day at your local facility. Either way, it can be a daunting and intimidating thought process. However, with the right preparation, you can go into your first track day with a properly prepared vehicle and mindset so that you can have a successful and fun track session. A track session can be one of the best investments you can make into yourself in terms of knowing your driving limits and where to learn from them. You will also learn the limits of your vehicle and how hard you can push it in the current state before you start upgrading tires, brakes, suspension, and cooling. Remember, it is not about how fast and powerful your vehicle is, it is about improving yourself so you can be a faster driver with more seat time. Below are vital areas of discussion that you will want to comb through on your vehicle before attending your first track event:

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Brake pads and the fluid are going to be your main concern here. If you're not going to go with a more track-oriented pad, at least make sure you flush the brake fluid with some DOT 4 fluid as it will be able to handle the higher temps of the track without boiling. IF your fluid gets to the point of boiling, you will lose your brakes.

Most stock brake setups would be okay for a novice on a low to medium speed track, and they will give you feedback that they will start to fade. It will feel like your pedal is starting to become mushy, this is a good time to take a "cool off" lap or two to let everything come back to normal temperatures. This also serves as an additional level of protection as it will help keep your engine, transmission, and differential temps in check too.

PRO TIP: Going with a pad that is "track only" may not always be a good thing, these pads demand very high temps to even start to operate efficiently, which a novice driver may not be able to achieve or maintain constant temps where they need to be (same goes for tires, which we’ll get to in a bit).

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This is the time to really start to pay attention to the relationship between your driving skills and how your vehicle reacts to them. Because you really don't know your vehicle until you fully understand the handling limits and how comfortable you are with the current suspension setup. The main goal is to tune your suspension so that you have the maximum tire footprint with the surface of the road. You want to make sure that you have optimal traction in corners. Although achieving the ultimate tire contact patch can face a broad spectrum of suspension upgrades, you might be able to get sufficient results with a simple camber adjustment. And to check to see how efficient your contact patch is, you can come in after your lap session and inspect your tires for inside or outside wear. If you can see more wear on the outside of your tires, or if you can tell that the outside of your tire has more heat, then you need more negative camber. If you have too much heat and wear on the inside of the tire, then you must balance it out with a more positive camber. The goal is to have even tread wear, and a competent shop can perform a corner balance and alignment to your suspension so that your vehicle will handle better at your next event.

PRE TRACK DAY: If you have any aftermarket parts on your car, check to ensure that ALL of your bolts, nuts, clips, clamps, and general hardware are tight and torqued. Then take those tools you used, and put them in a bag, and store them in the back of your car the night before. This will ensure you have the proper tools ready in case things decide they don't wanna stay tight while you're enjoying your track day. Just make sure the tools and extra equipment are OUT OF THE VEHICLE while hot on the track.

DAY OF: Really pay attention to anything out of the ordinary. This is going to be maximum sensory overload as your mind is processing the adrenaline while you're hyper-focused on the driving line, setting up your apex, braking zones, and safety officials. You also have other cars around you with their loud noises while you're trying to process all of these things through the window of your helmet. Make sure you take quick glances at your gauges just to make sure you are not overheating, and that there are no oil lights on. If that is the case, simply pull off at the appropriate exit point or take a cool-down lap. If your vehicle breaks down, pull off the track so that you are not letting fluids get on the track which will endanger other drivers.

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FIRST TIP: Don't get caught up in "track tires", the absolute best tire you can bring to the track are the tires that are already on the car. Now if you want to get yourself a dedicated set of track tires, get a street tire with a low treadwear rating (around the 200 mark) with high reviews. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4S is an amazing track tire that offers incredible grip, phenomenal feedback through the steering wheel, and is easy to tell when the grip is starting to give out. That way you're not surprised with an unexpected spinout mid-corner. Plus being DOT legal, you can put them on at home, drive to the track, and drive home later. This will eliminate the need to swap the tires out at the track.

PRO TIP:Torque your lug nuts before you get on track, re-torque at mid-way, and before you go home. Also if you have plastic center caps that you like, remove them before the track day as they can potentially melt due to the heat.

PRO TIP #2: Bring a decent tire pressure gauge to keep an eye on tire pressure. As the heat comes up in the tire, pressure will also rise. Also, bring a manual or laser thermometer (these are ultra-cheap now) to measure the inside-middle-and outside tire temps (see above in suspension) this will maximize the tire life as well as the grip.

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Bring an extra quart of the oil your car uses, a roll of paper towels, glass cleaner, a small funnel, and some extra water. This is about all you'll need to keep your vehicle happy at the track assuming you have no pre-existing issues in other areas.

Make sure to check your oil throughout the day, as the heat and high revs of the track will often cause your car to use/burn more oil than you're used to. Also, a good idea is to check your radiator overflow. It is normal to see your coolant temperatures at the high mark after a track session, but you should not see coolant coming out of the overflow. As the car cools, it will suck the extra fluid from the overflow back into the system, and once cool, it should read normally again.

Don't forget the most important thing, plenty of fluids for yourself. Often it's hot, and your increased heart rate along with the excitement will burn more energy than you think. Make sure you pack plenty of fluids, snacks, and sun protection for yourself. If you can stay hydrated, cool, and keep your energy up because you're going to have an awesome time. Save those energy drinks for packing up post-track day and after the adrenaline settles. The fatigue really starts to set in right as you're about to pack up to head home, so this is a great time for a bit of caffeine to keep you going.

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No need to pack up the entire shop, but bring as much as you think you will need (see above for a few mentions of specialty tools that are not required, but recommended to get the most out of your car that day). If you just want to enjoy a fun day at the track and have no plans to adjust, measure, or break anything on your car, then you really don't need to bring any tools. But if something does happen, most people there will be happy to lend you what you need, just make sure to bring it back cleaner than you received it.

It is always a good idea to bring a small number of hand tools in case you need to perform a minor fix or adjustment in between laps. Anything can happen but it is important that you are prepared in case you or a fellow racer who may have forgotten their tools have the help. You wouldn't want a simple Phillips head screwdriver coming in between you and your track day. Need help deciding on what type of tools you should take with you to the track? Below is a list of tools and equipment that will become very useful for an all-day event:

  • Lightweight or factory jack
  • (2) lightweight jack stands
  • A 4-way lug wrench or a breaker bar with a lug socket
  • (2) adjustable crescent wrenches
  • A small selection of Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • Pliers, channel locks, vice grips
  • Blue masking tape to make numbers or to protect areas of paint
  • Water to top off your coolant expansion tank
  • Oil
  • Funnel
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Glass cleaner
  • A small cooler with ice packs
  • Drinks for yourself
  • Snacks/food
  • Pen/paper
  • Phone charger
  • Portable lawn chair
  • Hat/sunscreen/sunglasses
  • Mechanics gloves
  • HELMET

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    Most tracks will have you remove your floor mats and anything else that could roll around in the interior that could cause a safety hazard. It is never a bad idea to give the interior a good clean-up the day before, you just want to make sure it's all picked up.

    Show up early and make sure you complete any sign-in requirements first thing, then let them know it's your first time and they will let you know what needs to happen next. There will likely be a mandatory safety/drivers meeting before the event starts that is critical to pay attention to. This will not only help you ensure your safety, but it will also keep you from getting kicked out. You can get away with some silly driving on track, but track officials will not put up with any breaking of the safety rules.

    In conclusion, you're putting your vehicle through long stretches of high-stress conditions where the RPMs will stay in the upper ranges. You will maintain a constant high level of speed, and your brakes are going to work double overtime to fight the heat while constantly slowing your vehicle down.

    You on the other hand will be white-knuckling the steering wheel bright-eyed with a giant smile on your face. With the right preparation, you can have a fun, safe, and responsible track day that will earn you a right of passage knowing that you and your vehicle are more capable than looking good in a parking lot. You don't have to be the fastest in your class and you don't have to set the fastest times of the day. You are learning another level of driving skill that not only applies on the track, but it will make you a more reactive driver on the street.