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Session Precheck and Postcheck

Before heading out on the track the first time (and before every session), you should be checking several things on the car. Not only your performance, but your safety, and the safety of the other drivers depends on making sure that the car has no problems developing you hadn't yet noticed.

The first time out you should be checking for:

  • tires - even wear, good tread depth, no delamination chunks
  • wheel bearings good (no mechanical wobble in the wheels)
  • lug nuts - verify they are tight
  • brake pedal is firm when pumped a couple times
  • brake lines in good condition (not cracked or ballooned)
  • brake pads - enough pad left for the upcoming day?
  • brake lights working
  • engine hoses and belts in good condition
  • throttle return springs in good condition
  • fluid levels (coolant, oil, transmission, differential, etc.)
  • fluid caps on tight
  • no fluid leaks
  • if you have oil or water overflow cans - empty it to start
  • nothing loose on the car body
  • battery tie-down is tight
  • absolutely every loose item in the car taken out. Check on the floor, the dash, under the seats, and in the trunk. If it's not bolted down, take it out.
  • remove floor mats, empty the glove box and arm rest storage
  • empty the trunk
  • remove the spare tire, jack, and tools
  • if your wheels have any pop-out caps or inserts, take them off
  • tire pressure - be sure to set the cold tire pressures before you drive the car. Generally, you'll want to set them at least 5 psig below your normal street pressures (see our Tire Pressure article for details).
  • shock settings (and other adjustable suspension items) - verify they are where you want them

After coming off the track you should immediately do the following:

  • take tire temperature profiles (see the Tire Notes article for more detail on how to do this)
  • take tire pressures (if you know the optimum hot setting you're trying to tune to, adjust them to that now while they're still hot)
  • grab your note sheet and track map, and make notes about the car's handling for each corner
  • have your lap timer write your times down
  • determine what changes you want to make to the car, and do it now, and write those changes down in your notes
  • reminder: do not use your parking brake, and do not rest your foot on the brakes when you park - this will warp the rotors. Get something to use as a tire stop.

Before each session you need to recheck these items:

  • tires - good tread depth, no delamination chunks (do not race on tires that have started to chunk. A tire that has started chunking is breaking down, and a significant delamination could occur at any time resulting in lost control of the car.)
  • tire pressure - verify that they've been adjusted for the ambient conditions since the last run (see the Tire Notes article for more detail on how to do this)
  • lug nuts - verify they are tight
  • brake pads - enough pad left for the upcoming session?
  • fluid leaks under the car
  • enough gas
  • anything loose on the car body

You may find with your specific car, that there are other things to check and adjust. Create your own checklists, and use them. In the hectic environment of getting ready to get on the track, and in the excitment after a run you may forget something. Using checklists can prevent this.

Read Next Article (Note Taking)

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