How to avoid killing your car at a track day
Track days are amazing, getting to drive your maaad car fast in a safe environment and enjoy all your hard work modding its little heart out. But they aren't without risks, as we've all seen cars leaving midway through the day on the old vulture truck (tow truck).... like the boys experienced in the latest episode when the BRZ, STi and 2SEXY all left on trucks.
A track day can sometimes show up short-comings with your cooling system after you've made mad mods, so the first thing you should do is turn the heater on and get out of the throttle. Marty found this out the hard way AT THE LAST TRACK BATTLE when 2SEXY started going rogue on him when the coolant temp started climbing under boost. So what causes overheating, and how are some of the ways you can fix it?
Back in the pits and once the car has cooled down, double-check you have enough coolant in the radiator. If you know that's OK you may need to add some shrouding around the radiator to help channel air directly through the radiator, like Marty did to 2SEXY
Factory radiator and fan set-ups basically pull all the air coming through the radiator through the fans, because radiators work by having air running through them and then moving the air out the back.
If you're confident in the radiator on the car, make sure the fans can pull enough air. Modern factory fan sets like the Ford Falcon units below are well-engineered, can pull huge amounts of air, are generally very cheap to buy and easy to adapt, and are fantastically reliable.
It's also worth doing a health check to make sure your radiator cap and thermostat are both new and operating correctly. Cheap noname parts can bite you here, as they might fail right out of the box - be careful and test them if you can!
FInally, if you've done an engine swap or upgraded your mad motor with a lot more power you may need to open up the airflow on the front of your car. We wouldn't normally recommend taking a holesaw to your car, but Marty is prepared to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of chopping BRZs.
Other areas where cars often fail at track days include the brakes, tyres and suspension which all cop a hammering at the track. Stress from cornering G-forces can over-heat brakes and tyres which will wreck discs, pads, boil brake fluid and destroy your tyres. Doing a couple of slow laps of the pits after each session can let everything cool down nicely and reduce the risk of breakages, and keep an eye on your tyre pressures through the day too.
When a wheel bearing starts going bad you can sometimes hear it as a rumbling or growling noise that gets louder when you turn in one direction. As wheel berarings are a highly stressed part of the car in all-wheel-drive applications it pays to make sure they're in good condition before you go to the track, taking a few minutes to also check your CV shafts are also in good nick (replace torn boots to avoid dirt getting in and wearing the joints out!)
Many people grenade engines - particularly big-end bearings - through the oil level getting low and the stress of the track. I shouldn't need to write this, but check your oil. Before you leave for the track day, and then after a couple of sessions too. While you're under the bonnet have a look around to make sure nothing is melting or broken, and none of the fluids are low.
To be fair to Marty, 2SEXY didn’t actually break, it just limited it’s performance because of the (lack of) cooling. I’m not sure if it’s road legal any more, but it probably could have driven home ok.