Garage 101: Track Day Preparation - General Maintenance

So far in this series we have been talking about getting ready to go to your first track day in your own car. We have talked about getting your brakes ready to go and tires. Today we are going to talk a bit about general maintenance of your car. You will want to be sure that you have plenty of oil in your car. You don't need any sort of special oil for a track day, but many choose to use synthetic oils for their improved performance compared to many conventional motor oils.

If you are 500 miles away from needing an oil change, don't worry about it just go to the track and have fun. If you are 500 miles over or haven't had an oil change in a long time, change your oil. Driving your car hard and at higher speeds is tough on the motor and you don't want to lose an engine with lubrication issues.

You also need to consider oil level. Pulling Gs on the race track can pull the oil away from the pickup in some cars, depending on how the oil pan is designed. If you have your car filled to the lower line on the fill range you could potentially starve your engine of oil in a high G corner, leading to disaster. Some Corvettes are known to be particularly susceptible to oil starvation in corners, especially when fitted with sticky track rubber.

You will also want to be sure that your cooling system is up to snuff. Driving at high speeds will make your car run hot and if you are low on coolant, things could go very bad for you. Most tracks (and your fellow track day enthusiasts) prefer you to use pure water in your cooling system. Anti-freeze is very slippery and takes a while to clean if you should have an issue and drop coolant on the track, water on the other hand evaporates and won't foul the track like antifreeze will. Just be sure you have plenty of coolant and you should be fine. If your car tends to overheat during normal driving, definitely have cooling issues addressed before you hit the track.

Often at least one person in the drivers meeting who seems overly concerned about how their car will fare on the track. You can usually single this person out because they will be asking lots of questions about what to do if their car breaks on track. If you are worried about an issue leaving you stuck on the track, have that issue addressed before going to the track.

If you do break down on the track, every track I have ever been to has a trailer or tractor of some sort designated to get people off the track. The immutable law of track days is if you break down on the track, stay in your car. The only time you ever get out of a car on a hot track is if it is on fire. If you break on track, try and coast to a stop off the driving line.

Whether or not you stop off the track depends on how the track is set up and what the track owners want you to do. Some tracks have walls right off the racing surface, leaving no way to pull off a track, in this case get as far off the driving line as possible.

In Texas, the tracks tend to have no walls and be wide open making it easy to pull off. However, often in the summer the grass off the track is so dry that if you pull a car with a catalytic converter into the grass, you will set the grass on fire and may set your car on fire along with it. This is why some tracks tell you to stop on track off the line if you break. If what to do in the event of a break on the track isn't covered in the drivers meeting, and it should be, this is a question you want to ask. Know what you do if your car breaks before you get on the track.