So, you've just completed your first ever track day at your local circuit and you can still hear the sounds of screeching tires and smell petrol in your mind? Congratulations, you've finally popped your track day cherry. It happens to all of us, so don't worry. Even after three days you're still telling your mates about that time you went flat-out at a certain corner or got some opposite-lock action.
Anyway, we recently covered on "How To Prepare For Your First Track Day" and since our recent last-minute private track day that happened last weekend, we're still talking about the session even days after. However, sure your car performed well or maybe it didn't but we rarely see anything about a track day post mortem. Which made us wonder, what should you look for after your track session?
The Big Factors.
Once you decide to track your car, it's already confirmed that you will give it quite a beating. No matter what tires you use or your custom suspension setup, the vibrations and the G-force that the car has to endure will surely rattle a few cans if not the whole car itself. While some drips such as oil leaks are relatively easy to spot, the hardware such as torn boots or items that are concealed in your engine bay would be difficult or near impossible to find without the need of specialized tools or mechanical assistance.
So what is that you should look out for after your track day? First of all, just do an overall check by yourself. A visual and aural inspection will most likely give you many clues on what is it that has taken a beating. In terms of visual, you can check out the wear on your tires or any potential leaks on your suspension or oil pan. That being said, an aural inspection may come in the form of creaks and squeaks which may be difficult to trace.
1. Brake System
Blasting through the main straight into turn 1 before slamming your foot on the brake pedal can be fun, especially when your brakes work. However, going into a corner at nearly 200km/h only to find that your car's brakes are as useless as a comb for a bald man, will ultimately call for a change of underpants. Considering how vast of a subject the brake system is with all the components, we'll try to go through it thoroughly.
For starters, your brake fluid is one of your biggest culprits especially if you didn't bleed them prior to your track day. Repetitive hard braking may cause your brake fluid to boil which leads to forming bubbles that are trapped in your system. These bubbles are what causes your brakes to feel spongy and in time, making them down right dangerous until further action has been taken.
Another part of your brake system is the rotors and pads. Depending on how hard you hit the track, your pads will have wear as well as your rotors. Check out for grooves or cracks on your rotors as they will be a sign to show you whether they are still safe to use or should just be chucked in the bin. Another factor of spongy brakes is your brake line, having something like stainless steel brake hoses which does not expand will help you on track.
Pretty sure this goes without saying but tires may be overlooked by some. A track day session has the ability to destroy your tires for good so it's vital that your tires are safe enough for you to drive home. While having an additional set of wheels and tires may be the best option for track days, it's a hassle to transport it to and from the track. Not to mention, it's a luxury to have that additional set of track tires anyway as it may not be a viable option to most people.
However, the first important check is your tire pressure. Due to the usually high track temperature, the air in your tires will expand over the span of the track day. For example, if you started your track day at around 30psi, the chances of the tires being inflated to 35psi is possible in just after 2 hours. Also, check your sidewalls and the outer edge of the tires to see if there is any damage or scrubbing on your fenders.
It's probably best to get your tires replaced if you see bald patches. As it would be dangerous for you to continue driving around with tires that could potentially send you into the back of another car.
After doing your tire check, the next topic that should be considered right after a track day is your alignment. This would be relatively easy to realize especially on your way back home from track. If you have to drive home the same car that you drove on the track, a misalignment can be felt through your steering wheel. Which includes but not limited to, the car pulling towards a certain direction that isn't straight or even an off-centered steering position.
If your car has been set up correctly, your tire wear shouldn't be too bad. Though, on-track temperature and driving style does play a big role. If your car has understeer or oversteer tendencies, this may cause premature wear on the rubber. Check out for irregularities between all four tires, front to back and left to right. This will be the best time to see what adjustment is needed to ensure proper tire contact.
Firstly, you should know what the bald patch on your tire actually means. If your tire is worn on the thin outer or inner edge, most likely it's an adjustment regarding your toe angle. Whereas if the wear proceeds towards the center of the tire, that would be an adjustment on your camber, worn inner parts will mean there's too much negative camber. However, if it's worn on the center of the tire, it's over inflated while wear on both edges of the inner and outer part of the tire means under inflation.
If the engine is the heart of the car then the fluids are the blood that flows through. From the fuel to even the windshield washer, fluids tend to diminish during an intense track day. Be it through leaks or even evaporation, you have to check the reservoirs of each fluid tank to see whether it is required for you to top-up with some fresh fluids. It wouldn't be necessary for you to service your car after the track day unless it's already due.
Checking the fluids can be done by yourself with nothing more than just a paper towel. Though, you are advised to do this when the engine is cold to avoid burning yourself. However, some manufacturers actually recommend checking the engine oil level while the engine is still warm but that is only for the engine oil. Check your owner's manual or you could ask other fellow owners of the same car.
You could start off with checking the engine oil through the dipstick to see if it's still within a permissible level. Next, you could check your brake fluid reservoir, usually there is a min/max mark on the tank. Check your coolant level on the reservoir to make sure it's not under the minimum value (DO NOT OPEN YOUR RADIATOR CAP WHEN HOT). Also, check under the car for any potential leaks. If any of the reservoirs are low, just top up and routinely check the tanks to see if the amount drops.
This is by far the hardest thing on the list to check without looking through YouTube or mechanical assistance. If you hear any weird irregular squeaks or rattles, it is very likely that it could be your bushings that are worn or have been torn apart. Bushings tend to be overlooked as a suspension component especially in the internet forums. Keyboard warriors will all talk about "suspension and setup etc." but your bushings may already be on their way out.
If your bushings are worn out, you could go with upgrading your bushings to polyurethane (PU) with the likes of SuperPro, Powerflex or Whiteline. However, these are relatively more expensive than your standard bushings. But due to the PU material, you are less likely to have them replaced later. But there is a periodic re-grease maintenance that is required to ensure no squeaks and rattles occur.
While going to a trained professional would be the best option but you could check some by yourself but it all depends on the car itself.
Post Track Day Blues.
Once you've gone through all those, it's very likely that you're willing to go for another track day in the near future. It's always fun to unleash a car to its full potential while also being safe in a closed course. Just make sure you don't bring a car that has it's lower arm dangling under the car and get yourself black flagged. Anyways, you can take it to the next level by understanding the track through a professional race car driver for the next session.
Written by | Danial Malek