The terms track inspired, track build, or even track stance have no doubt been gaining popularity over the last few years. This is all apart of the scenes evolution, and people trying to be different or stay relevant by having a “track car” that is insanely built but will never see the track. Or, it only does one day at the track never getting close to its full potential and then all of a sudden it’s justifiably a track car. “hey, I took it to the track.” Is what they say. This all goes hand in hand with people trying to justify their show car build as a functional car build, because to many people were throwing shade at dudes that just build pretty cars that never do anything. The saying “track prep” has also become a very popular thing to say on social media, It lets people know around the world that you are a track racer and you’re prepping for the track. But what does “Track Prep” actually mean? Has the phrase “track prep” strayed too far from its true meaning? “I bought new tires” #TRACKPREP! “I bought a new shift knob” #TRACKPREP!, “I put on coilovers” #TRACKPREP! All of these are common things you would do for “track prep”, but too many people are slandering the term “track prep”. Just because you are upgrading a part of your car, doesn’t mean you’re truly prepping for the track.
For me, “Track Prep” has a truly functional meaning. In this article I will go over most of the stuff I’m looking for when I do track prep, and what precautionary steps I take to help safeguard my car against catastrophic failure on the track. The most basic of all track day prep for me is changing all my fluids. Yes, maybe it’s not necessary for you to change everything that I change. However it helps me feel better while I’m out on the track pushing my car past the limit of what it was designed to do. Before and after every event I make sure I change the Oil, and Trans fluid, the coolant maybe every year, and the brake fluid just really depends on how many track days I have done.
- Oil, the life blood of your engine! You should ALWAYS change this before you hit the track. You want to make sure that the oil hasn’t degraded or lost any of its lubricating properties from getting dirty or being old and having its molecular structure broken down. YES, motor oil does break down. Oil additives are consumed and combustion byproducts build up in the oil. Changing your motor oil on a consistent basis removes combustion byproducts and replenishes the additives. I also use a magnetic oil drain plug, just for that extra peace of mind to make sure that any foreign objects or debris are collected. For my Oil filter, I use an OEM Honda oil filter. Everyone has their own preference for oil filters, and like religion try to force others to believe why theirs is best. There is never going to be a correct answer, and anyone can find flaw in any filter out there from the cheapest fram-to the highest dollar HKS ones. For me, I figure if Honda is putting their name on something then it has to have passed some rigorous testing to make them want to solely use that filter for pretty much every car they make. I know that there are different ones, the a02 (manufactured by Fram/Honeywell) or the a01 (manufactured by Filtech) which is supposed to be the best “Honda” one. For my D16y8 though I just use whatever Honda has in stock at the parts counter. CHECK OIL LEVEL AFTER EVERY SESSION!
- Trans fluid. I forget which Japanese video I saw this on, but Ichishima san talks about how important it is to change your trans fluids. The trans fluid is often neglected or even forgotten about. You see the transmission (we are speaking of a manual one) has no filters, and no way of cooling it. So therefore its having to deal with the most extreme of conditions while in a track scenario. Let’s be honest… changing the MTF (manual trans fluid) isn’t even that hard on a FWD Honda, nor is it that expensive. Its only takes anywhere from 1.8-2.5 quarts depending on what series engine you have. Just like the oil I use a magnetic drain plug in the trans as well.
- Coolant flush. I only use HONDA OEM type 2 coolant, and I use no additives. If you need to use additives, or other aids for cooling then you should look into upgrading your whole cooling system. (thermostat, radiator, fan, fan switch, and radiator cap.) I would say that a coolant flush isn’t 100% necessary, and you should be able to get quite a few track days out of it before you “need” to change the coolant. Like I stated above though, I just prefer to not have any doubts lingering in my mind while I’m on the track.
- Brake fluid. I did a whole post about brakes, brake fluid, bleeding brakes, pistons, calipers, rotors, and pads that you can read about by clicking the link. http://functiontheory.com/2019/03/10k-words-about-brakes-everything-you-need-to-know-about-every-part-of-your-brake-system/. Normally I use Motul 600 in my 4 door since its doesn’t have the speed or power that my EG has. This time around I opted to run the Project Mu G four 335 fluid. Brake fade is all too real of a thing, and fluid plays a huge role in that. Since brake fluid is naturally hygroscopic it pulls the moisture from the atmosphere. having too much water is in the brake fluid will cause it to boil under extreme temperatures and thus creating steam. Steam is a gas and the gas is more compressible than the fluid, this will directly affect the feel of your brake pedal, the travel, and greatly reduce the amount of clamping pressure in the caliper. This very over complicated explanation is one of many aspects of brake fade. Brake fade is one of the easiest ways to lose your confidence, speed, and see an increase in lap times while at the track.
those are all the fluids that I change before any event, just to give me peace of mind while demanding so much from the car. The next major thing that should be addressed as “track prep” is to check all your bushings, bearings, and ball joints. I do this by jacking up the car on to 4 jack stands and removing the wheels. Once up on four stands I’m checking:
- Spin all the wheel hubs to check for excessive play in the wheel bearings.
- Check around the entire engine bay looking for leaks of any kind.
- Inspect all ball joints to ensure that: the nuts are tight, there is no play in the ball joint itself. I Gently cycle the suspension by hand (lifting up and pushing down) just to listen for any clunks, clicks, or squeaks. or you may even feel a clunk or click.
- Inspect the axles to make sure there are no cracks in the axle boots, or no grease leaking out.
- Check the brake pads to make sure there is plenty of pad left. Remember that more aggressive brake pads will wear a lot quicker, especially under extreme temps that will occur during a track event.
- I check all nuts/bolts that hold my suspension to the chassis. (I just throw a ratchet on and try to turn it, if its tight I don’t tighten more)
- I check all the nuts/bolts on my motor mounts, trans where it bolts to the engine, and shift linkage.
- Inspect all my engine hoses for cracks, or any area where its rubbing on something that would potentially cause hole then create a leak. Stuff that has been fine on your car for years with no issue will really be put to the test at a track day, just because it’s been good for you while you have been driving the car daily doesn’t mean that under the extreme track conditions it won’t fail.
- Check your alternator/power steering belts to make sure they are not all dried out or cracked. Also check to make sure there is the proper belt tension on them.
- Make sure your battery is properly tied down, and holding a good charge
- This one is really important… Put gold heat reflecting tape over your wheel weights. Some will say duct tape, or HVAC tape but I have only use gold heat tape. The extreme heat caused by heavy braking makes it super-hot in the wheel, this will cause adhesive to lose its ability to adhere the weights to the wheel, and when you come in to the pits the weight’s will literally just fall off.
- It should also go with out saying that you need to have good tires… meaning not cracked, and plenty of tread left. like brake pads, you will be going through the rubber much faster once the tires get hot, and are working near their limit. Having lower tread ware tires will yield more grip, but they aren’t necessary and you can still have fun with a 400+tw tire.
- Another that goes hand in hand with tires is a good alignment. The bare minimum is to make sure that the car is at least tracking straight, and true. having a “race” alignment isn’t really necessary either. Just regular OEM alignment specs will do fine, until you start to get more seat time.
Of course all of what is mentioned above is just a guide. Some people will say check more, some will say check less. I know for sure that there are people that don’t check half of this stuff and they have been without incident. No matter how much prep you do, there will always be some issue. Whether its a small issues like the wheel weights falling off, or something major like a blown engine. Keep in mind that if you are knowingly going to an event with issues not sorted on your car, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Don’t be that guy and check all your shit.
This time around I also changed my clutch fluid to the Project MU g four 335 fluid (previously it was the motul 600), while doing this I’m also able to bleed the clutch to ensure proper engagement, and make sure that the clutch is working without issue. I also decided to swap out my OEM radiator for a Skunk 2 aluminum one. I definitely had some reservations about changing out the radiator in the short amount of time I had before heading out, because I wouldn’t be able to throughly ensure proper function of it. (this makes me a bit nervous.) I was equally scared that the OEM plastic end tanks would blow (it’s supposed to be pretty hot at the event), so I felt that the skunk 2 radiator would be a better risk to take. The primary reason for changing to an aluminum radiator was simple; aluminum radiators are more efficient in terms of their thermal properties. Aluminum radiators dissipate heat better and more effectively than an OEM one. I also figured that the thicker radiator and would allow for more fluid capacity to help aid with cooling.
Since I first did the Y8 swap last year, I have always hated this stock Z6 intake tube that came with the swap. It’s too small of a diameter and I feel that it doesn’t truly maximize the APEXi super induction kit. It’s never bothered me enough to actually put forth any effort into changing it, I just knew I didn’t like it. The car ran fine as is and since it’s a single cam I knew changing it would yield very little power gain. But since I’m doing a track day, I wanted to maximize every ounce of power possible. I decided it was time for the OEM Z6 tube to go! I found an OEM LS Integra tube on offer up because I wanted to keep the OEM look, but increase the diameter of the tube to help increase air flow and velocity going to the engine. As it turns out the OEM LS tube is a 3.5″ inlet coming from the air box and the APEXi super induction was 3″. there was no way this was going to fit, and where the OEM LS tube went onto the throttle body is was slightly larger than my OEM Y8 throttle body. I had to scrap this idea, and go another route. I went to a local Speed shop in town and picked up a 3 inch 45* piece of aluminum tube, a 3″ straight coupler, and a 3″ to 2.5″ reducer that fit perfectly on my throttle body. With only one minor cut to shorten one side of the tubing I was able to make a just what I wanted.
I am missing a few hose clamps, but don’t worry this was just for mock up. I have it all clamped up now.
I have a full write up on the blog about changing trans fluid, but here are the cliffs notes. On the OEM drain bolt it will be just at the square end of the ratchet to loosen it. Since I have Spoon drain plugs its a 17mm. pull the bolt out, and the fluid will drain out (I also remove the speed sensor to help reduce any vacuum that might slow the draining of the fluid.) Replace the drain bolt, and then remove the bolt half way up the trans.
Once removed this is how you will know when the trans is filled up to its proper level. (the fluid will start to leak out the hole, thats how you’ll know its full) As you can see I put the blue funnel in the speed sensor hole and thats where I pour the MTF in.
Next is on to the Oil, Make sure when you install the Spoon drain plugs you take note that there is one with a longer magnet, and one with a shorter magnet. No one really knows which one one goes where. when you look it up on the internet, you instantly see two conflicting answers. What I did was go to ICBmotorsport’s site, because they sell them individually. They clearly state the longer magnet is for the engine, and the shorter one is for the trans. (note that it does work either way though, and I’m not sure the exact reason why one is longer and one is shorter.
You can see here this one is the longer magnet, and thats the one I’m using for the oil.
I usually don’t splurge on synthetic oil for the D16. But since I know I’m going to operating my Econobox car at race car levels, my conscience will rest easy knowing I did everything I could to maximize the reliability of my motor. Without getting into a full blown oil debate, let me just feel like this will help.
The Skunk2 radiator I had was just an extra one I had taken off a car previously, its in perfect working condition but I figured that spraying it with some coil cleaner foam spray would help maximize cooling efficiency by cleaning out any bugs, dirt, debris, or gunk from between the fins. As you can probably tell I’m pretty nervous that my car will encounter some issues.
It’s worth noting that the SOHC radiator hoses are a smaller diameter than the DOHC radiator outlets. This means that I stretched the smaller SOHC hoses over the larger DOHC radiator outlets. I am a littler concerned that this might cause some issues, so I am bringing some extra DOHC hoses with me just incase those don’t work out. I will just put the DOHC ones on and clamp the larger diameter hoses onto the smaller SOHC water outlets coming off the head , and the Thermostat. Thats not an ideal fix, but it will work enough for me to get the car back home. If I had decided a few weeks earlier that I was going to swap radiators I would have figured out a better solution.
To apply the gold tape over the wheel weights, first clean the whole area with alcohol
you should apply the tape with enough excess around the wheel weights so the tape will have enough surface to adhere to.
I also choose to wrap the gold tape around the ball joints, and secure it with safety wire. This will help prevent the rubber boots from prematurely failing, and allowing grease to potentially escape and get on the brake rotor.
Here is a basic list of things I bring with me to the track.
- Jack, jack stands
- 1/2″ breaker bar, lug key.
- tire pressure gauge
- wrenches 8mm-19mm
- 3/8″ ratchet, extensions, sockets from 8mm-19mm and a 32mm for axles
- allen wrenches 5mm-12mm
- screw drivers (Philips and flathead)
- duct tape, zip ties
- OIL, MTF, coolant, brake fluid, WD40, glass cleaner
- dykes, tin snips, variety of pliers
- big crescent wrench
- Lots of rags, and brake cleaner
- a BFH
- Water sprayer to spray on the radiator after each session to help aid in cooling the car down
- Helmet/gloves/long pants
- big hat to block sun
- bike air pump to inflate you tires incase you need to add more air
- lots of water for you to drink
This seems like a lot but its always better to be over prepared.
If you have the space I would also bring extra parts too
- spark plugs/wires
- radiator/radiator hoses
- brake pads/rotors
- fuel pump
- alternator/power steering belt
- a second set of wheels/tires or a least one full size spare
This is will depend on what kinda of spare parts you have laying around. I don’t suggest buying new back up parts, you just want something that can help fix the car enough to get you home. However most tracks are near enough to a parts store that you could just get a ride to pick up some new parts.
I hope you read this article because you are interested in tracking your car. I hope that after reading this you are realizing that you don’t need to have that wild of a build to enjoy a track day. As you can see my 4 door is mostly stock with some minor upgrades, and with just some conscious preperation, and a little preventive maintenance you can easily be enjoying a track day of your own. The main thing to remember is that the amount of abuse you are going to be putting on the car at an actual track day is no way achievable just by driving around the streets, or “hitting” your local canyon/mountain. You must prepare for the worst, and assume that you’re going to be demanding peak performance through out an entire day, as opposed to peak performance from stoplight to stoplight.
If you have any questions about track racing or anything about this article or anything else. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, @functiontheory on Instagram, or just comment below on the post! I would love to help with anything you got questions about!