Jeff Lacina
April 10, 2013
Photos By: Evan J. Smith

Safety & Performance Items To Check
In general terms, these are the important items on your car to inspect:

(If you are uncomfortable in performing your own brake inspection, have a trusted brake shop or Ford technician inspect them for you). At an on-track event, your brakes are the single most important component. Closely inspect your brake pads for proper thickness—if your pads are more than 50-percent worn out, replace them before the event. And, if you're putting in fresh brake fluid, you will need to "bleed" your calipers and brake lines. Again, if you're not comfortable in doing this, please see a qualified technician.

Brake Rotors
Brake rotors need to be in top condition, free of deep groves, cracks or any unusual wear patterns.

Brake Fluid
Brake fluid should be clean and fresh. Brake fluid should not look like coffee. With use, brake fluid becomes cloudy and dirty. It can also draw moisture, thereby reducing its boiling point. If your fluid is more than a year old, you'll want to fill your master cylinder with fresh fluid and bleed the brakes.

Cooling System
Your engine's cooling system is very important, especially at driving school events, as you will be working your engine very hard and if your cooling system isn't up to snuff, neither will be your fun.

Power-Steering Fluid
Using the recommendations for your specific vehicle (found in the owner's manual), check the level of the fluid in your power steering system. Make sure the fill/inspection lid is closed properly after your inspection.

Battery terminals and hold-down
Make sure the factory terminal connectors and their covers are in good condition. Most late-model Ford products have a rubber cover over the positive (red) terminal connection, make sure this is in place. If your vehicle is older and you've replaced the battery cables, place a cover over at least one of the terminals (preferably the positive (+) terminal or at least, wrap the post and cable end in electrical tape. The purpose of covering one or both of the terminals is to prevent an electrical short caused by a piece of metal coming in contact the one or both of the terminals.

Belts and Hoses
Do a visual inspection of the engine accessory drive belts and all hoses, especially the coolant hoses. Look for signs of leaks or seepage from any of the hose clamps. This is also a good time to make sure all the hose clamps are tight and in good condition.

Throttle Return Spring(s)
This is one item you just take for granted. Screaming down the front straight at 120-plus can be unpleasant with a broken throttle return spring. Make sure that your stock spring is in good condition and attached to the throttle body/carb linkage properly. Also, check the throttle cable and make sure that it is free of kinks and moves without binding or sticking.

Take a good look at the condition of your tires, paying special attention to the sidewall and the "shoulder" (the area where the sidewall transitions into the tread of the tire.) Make sure your tires don't exhibit unusual wear patterns and they are free of any bulges, cracks or cuts. If you are unsure of what to look for in making a thorough tire inspection, most tire retailers or Ford dealerships offer some sort of "tire inspection" service. And, while you're checking out your tires, give a good look at your wheels, checking for cracks, and also make sure the wheel weights are securely fastened to the wheel. If you have aftermarket wheels that utilize "tape-on" weights, it's a good idea to run a length of duct tape over them.

Lug Nuts
Yes, all of them have to be there… and secured properly.

Exhaust System
Make sure all the hangers are in good shape and doing their job and that the entire exhaust system is in good shape, free of any cracks, leaks or excessive corrosion.

Suspension System
Make sure none of your shocks or struts are leaking, all of the bolts are secure and that none of the components exhibit damage or excessive wear. Pay particular attention to the tie-rod ends, ball joints, and sway bar end links, as these items get a lot of use in everyday driving, let alone a track weekend.

What to take to the track
Road course events run rain or shine, so there are a few extra items that you may want to pack up with you. Everyone has different levels of prep, some have a motorhome and a trailer with a shop inside, some drive their cars to the events with the minimal stuff.

Here is our list of things to bring and some extra tips.

  • All registration materials the event organizer sent to you
  • Vehicle inspection form
  • Medial information form
  • Driver's license
  • Helmet (SA-10 or SA-05)
  • Long pants and long-sleeve shirt
  • Shoes, regular and driving
  • Sunglasses
  • Driver's suit – optional
  • Driving gloves – optional
  • Proper Attitude
  • Attend all the meetings / classroom sessions and listen to your instructor
  • Ride with an instructor
  • Get your instructor's name and email
  • Talk with your fellow drivers – compare notes
  • Folding camp chair
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Cooler – bring water or sports drink (avoid caffeine)
  • Change of clothes (for the drive home: post-sweat)
  • Small floor jack
  • Lug wrench/torque wrench
  • Small toolbox
  • Spare brake pads
  • Extra brake fluid and engine oil
  • Gallon jug of water/coolant
  • Tarp/garbage bags (keep stuff dry)
  • Rain jacket/umbrella (rain or shine, baby!)
  • Notebook/pen
  • Camera/video camera
  • Sunscreen/umbrella (did I mention we run rain or shine?)

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