Below are 15 of the most common problems that our local tech inspectors find; from minor quick fixes to weekend ending issues. No one wants to show up at HPDE tech inspection only to be sent away to fix a few items, or worse- sent home.
When your car comes to tech inspection, it should be exactly as it will be when it drives onto track later that day. No “I was going to remove that later” or “yeah, that will come out after the driver meeting .” Tech inspection serves two main purposes; try to preemptively catch any issues that could cause a crash, and try to make sure systems on the car are functioning properly if some sort of crash does happen. It protects both you and the organization if shit hits the fan. I’m not saying crashes happen often but it’s important to make sure your ride is safe.
15) No numbers
Numbers are important: corner works need them to be able to communicate about you on track. Whether you are using painter’s tape, vinyl numbers, or magnets, make sure they are on before you arrive at tech inspection. Different clubs have different size minimums and regulations, but remember bigger is ALWAYS better. Try to get them large and on your doors, numbers on windows are much tougher to see.
14) Uncleared interior: car/console/floormats/EZPass
This is the most common issue with first timers, thankfully it is an easy fix.
If it isn’t bolted down, it’s best to remove it. Your glove box and console should be empty, you don’t want to be distracted by things banging around. Bringing an extra small bag to the track just for console and glove box items helps make it easy and quick to clear out and leave at your paddock spot. All floor mats need to be removed. Remove items stuck to the windshield or hanging from the mirror. Heavy tools loosely sitting in the spare tire? Leave it all in your paddock spot.
13) DOT Rated Helmets
HPDE Tech inspection checks your helmet rating: SNELL approved helmets are required. DOT ratings are not strict enough and are not accepted. (You know those skimpy WW2 German style helmets you see on bikers? Yeah… many are DOT approved.) Clubs typically accept SNELL-M (motorcycle) helmets and SNELL-SA (automobile). SA is preferred, comes with HANS anchors, and is required for wheel-to-wheel racing groups. Clubs allow helmets with the latest two Snell ratings. SA2015 is still current, so 2015 and 2010 are both allowed (until the 2020 ratings come out, most likely mid 2021). Some clubs allow 3 ratings and are still accepting SA2005 or M2005.
12) Loose battery
All cars come with some sort of battery tie down system. Some are snug, others have a bit of wiggle. What is important is that your battery is secure and isn’t going to fall out, even in the case of a severe accident. Over the years mounts can break, lose parts, or someone gets a new style battery that doesn’t fit the factory hold-down. Make sure yours is secured or hard cornering WILL make it go somewhere it shouldn’t.
11) Exposed battery terminals (Also: power wires from sub woofers)
In the event of a severe crash, a lot of metal, plastic, and fluids can move or become free, so it is important that there is no hot battery terminals exposed anywhere in your car. The last thing you want is a spark with a fuel leak. Modern cars come with covers for positive battery terminals, but like tie-downs they are sometimes modified, broken, or lost. A permanent solution is best, but electrical tape can work in a pinch.
Often, people remove heavy car audio systems before coming to the track and leave amp/subwoofer power wires exposed, cover those as well.
10) Overfilled brake fluid
Your brake system will be used much harder on track than the street, some people incorrectly think it would be prudent to overfill their brake fluid. Like all fluids, brake fluid expands as it gets hot. As the fluid expands, you do not want a risk of overflowing fluid leaking from the master cylinder. Your car’s brake master cylinder has a “Low” a “High” mark. When you are flushing or topping your brake fluid with fresh DOT 4 fluid before a track day, make sure you are not filled past the “High” mark. If you are above that mark, bleed some more out of a caliper.
Protip: I sharpie my Min and Max lines so they are easier to see at a glance.
9) Dryrot/cracked tires
Bald or corded tires are an obvious problem. Large cracks should be pretty obvious too, but they still show up. As tires age they lose grip and become brittle, some of this shows its head as dryrot. While severely dry-rotted or cracked tires shouldn’t be used on the street, they definitely should not be subjected to track use.
Check out my “First Trackday Checklist” for some more tips on tire condition and age.
8) Tire Bubbles
Sidewall bubbles are not something to mess with, especially on the track. You don’t want a sidewall to blow out at 110mph. Replace a bubbled tire before a track day.
7) Missing Wheel Studs
While 4 out of 5 lug nuts may not sound bad, “Plenty of cars come with only 4!” The forces that track driving put on your wheels and hubs can cause big issues if there is incomplete clamping force on a wheel. Make sure all your lug nuts (or bolts) are the correct size, installed, and properly torqued.
6) Camera mounts
I understand, you want to get video of your day on track. However, many popular camera mounts use the headrest poles and place a metal pole right in an instructor’s face. Make sure your camera is securely mounted, not obstructing your vision, and not in a place where it can potentially injure someone in the car.
As more and more people are using cell phones for video and data. Don’t forget to make sure they are also secure. The magnetic mount that works for your commute won’t cut it for track use. Tethers are either strongly encouraged or required… and can be a simple as a zip tie.
Issues found more as cars are modified:
5) Racing seat with factory belts (where seat limits belt movement)
Many clubs allow the use of racing seats while retaining factory belts. If this is done, the factory belts must still work as designed. If the belts have to stretch around a seat shoulder or bolster and don’t sit right against you, they won’t do their job and aren’t allowed.
4) Improper sub belt location with race harnesses (not through seat hole or far enough back)
For racing harnesses, one of the most common issues is the sub (crotch) belt. First: It MUST pass through the seat, if your seat does not have a sub belt hole, you cannot use it with race harness (except for a few approved car-specific 4 point harnesses). 5 point sub belt mounting point should be in line, or slightly behind the chest line. 6 point sub belts should be mounted apart, behind the chest line. Always check the specific installation instructions for your belts, as manufacturer recommendations vary. I also recommend bringing a copy of the instructions with you to the track.
3) Incorrectly wrapped race harness buckles
Harnesses must wrap though the buckles in a specific manner or they won’t work as designed. It is surprisingly common to see first-time harness installs that aren’t correctly wrapped. There are plenty of instructional diagrams for proper wrapping. In general you should see just one of the buckle bars when properly wrapped.
2) Missing or not enough roll bar padding
Any part of a roll bar that your head could theoretically touch should be covered with proper high density roll bar padding. Sticks typically come in generous sizes (3 feet) so be liberal with where you need to pad. Note: pool noodles don’t cut it.
1) Batteries in the passenger compartment.
This may not be enforced with every club in every region, and it is a very specific issue, but it comes up time and time again. If a battery is located in the passenger compartment, it must either be a “Dry Cell”, “AGM” style battery, or it must be in a secure battery box. Here’s where kicker: For vehicles with a trunk equipped battery: If you remove the rear seat it usually opens the trunk to the passenger compartment and you must follow the aforementioned battery rule. If you do not want to change your battery or get a box, you may also satisfy the rules by adding a bulkhead or “rear seat delete” to re-cover the hole between trunk and passenger compartment.
E36 BMW’s are the most common vehicle to show up with this issue. Removing the rear seat may save almost 40 pounds, but make sure you have a plan for the battery. The factory trunk battery cover does not really do the job.
When you are coming to your first track day don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have ahead of time. Check club websites for tech inspector contact, ask online if they have an active Facebook page or forum, or ask your instructor when they (hopefully) reach out to you before the event. It’s always best to find and resolve any issues well before you arrive at the track so you’re not stuck scrambling on an already hectic morning.
After this post, some great discussion stirred up 5 more things to watch out for.
When in doubt, the closer to stock you are the better!
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Thanks Jane and Zack for some tips for common items they find in Tech.