7 Tips for getting the most out of your trackday tires: Tires are one of the largest expenses of track days. If you’re trying to do this on a budget, you can’t afford to blow through tires. Here’s a few tips to get the most out of your tires.
7) Buy the right tire
If you buy the wrong tool for the job, it won’t last. Two things may happen if you buy a tire not cut out for track duty 1) The heat and hard use may make it deteriorate and begin to “chunk” much quicker than a performance tire. 2) You’ll be so miserable with the lack of grip that you’ll go out and buy another set, losing a chunk of cash or altogether wasting the first set. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a new set of tires to begin doing track days. If you’re just starting, run on what you have but make sure you know what to look for when you buy a set.
The other thing you want to avid is getting TOO MUCH tire. R-Compound racing slicks sound great, and you can sometimes find used examples listed very cheap… but overall they are not a budget option. R-Compound tires have a very short lifespan of “heat cycles”, even if they have rubber left on them, they may be hard and brittle. So however cheap they are, they may be worse than a decent performance street tire. If you find sticky used or new R-comps their higher grip levels can also wear out suspension components quicker and lead to oil and fuel flow issues. Unless you are in a TT or Racing class that require R-Comps, I recommend against it.
6) Check and watch pressures
A significant factor in tire wear is tire air pressure. Aside from creating a strange and generally poor handling car, extremely high or low pressures can force odd, premature wear. A tire pressure gauge should be in your “MUST BRING” trackday tool bag.
Driving on track generates significantly more heat than regular street use, and with that the pressures rise significantly (6-8psi gain is normal). Many new drivers arrive at the track with the misinformation that you want to start “very high” so the sidewalls don’t roll over too far while turning. Some cars like the Focus RS call for comically high pressures. But if you start high and a track session adds almost 10psi more with the heat, you can end up with a dangerously snappy car. While optimal pressures vary wildly between specific cars and tires… shooting for mid 30’s hot (immediately as you roll off track) seems to be most common. You almost always need to lower your pressures a few psi from normal daily driver duty, make sure you remember to fill them back to normal before you hit the road home.
Check out this article by EJ2 trackrat explaining why tire pressures are important and giving tips how to manage them: A Method to the Madness: Setting Tire Pressures for the Race Track
5) Check and watch your alignment
You obviously want to make sure all your tires are pointed in the correct direction, but with track use there are more factors for how alignment affects tire heat and wear. There are plenty of car setup guides on the internet that tell you how to watch tire heat, wear, pressure, and figuring out your camber needs, Including in the EJ2 Trackrat link above. Do it.
*On track, “curbs” are used simply as extra pavement, but if you’ve ever done a track walk you can see just how harsh they are. Off-Track excursions can also lead to some very abrupt changes in course… You will need to regularly check your alignment, especially if you are using a lot of curbs or have a few wild offs. Marking your eccentric bolts with wax crayon or sharpie is a good way to easily check if your alignment slipped after a wild ride. A set of Toe Plates is a relatively affordable way to double check your toe at the track.
4) Put flatspotted tires in the rear
Flat spots are just that… spots where your tire has a flat area ground into it. Maybe you had a wicked spin, maybe you just had a big brake lockup and flatspotted your tires before your brain could tell you to start pumping the brakes. Either way, your previously round but now Octagonal tires leave you wishing you had ABS in your track car.
If you are lucky enough to have only flatspotted two front tires and those flatspots aren’t worn all the way through to the cords, try putting the worst tires on the back of the car. While it won’t eliminate the effects of a not-so-round tire, putting them on the back may minimize how much you feel it, and in time they’ll hopefully even out just a bit… won’t cure anything but may buy you some extra time on them.
3) Flip the tire on the rim if your wear is uneven
Sometimes you just can’t get to the right amount of camber to get the most out of your tires on track. Class rules, suspension design of your car, or maybe the camber that helps you in the turns wears the inside of the tires under hard braking. Either way, if you are wearing one side of the tire more than the other, consider having the tire flipped on the rim before it gets too bad. (Take tire off the rim, flip it over, and put it back on so the inside is now facing outside)
If you have access to a tire machine or an affordable service this can extend the life of poorly wearing tires… But if you’re forced to pay $40 a tire, it may not be worth it in the long run.
*With directional tires you’re going to need to do this at least in pairs if you plan on ever driving in the rain.
2) Don’t overdrive your car
Another simple, but underrated one here. Tires can sing, and they can scream. When the front tires are plowing (understeering) it often makes a very specific howl and gives unique feedback up through the steering wheel. Large fast modern cars have all sorts of computer gadgets to make you fly around the track and feel like a Rockstar, but often the computers are doing the hard work and the brakes and tires are suffering for it… If you are winning HPDE but the Traction Control light looks like a strobe light, you may be replacing tires and brake pads sooner than you’d expect.
If you are new to Track days, you would do well to learn the difference between singing and screaming tires quickly. Knowing this will not only make you faster and better driver, but it will help your tires last longer.
1) Store them somewhere cozy
Our last post: 4 simple things you need to know buying Track Day Tires Touched on best practices for winter storage and use of track and racing tires. In short, there’s no good reason to leave your track car tires on for the winter. Not only will they be way less grippy during cold conditions and ice skates on snow/ice… using them below freezing could actually form cracks in the tire, which will make it useless even once it warms up again in the spring. Most tire companies say simply storing tires in the cold won’t actually damage them, but you do not want to have them on the car. I keep my tires in my nice warm basement all winter.
So what should you do? Get yourself a dedicated winter set! Whether your car sits in the garage or is still daily driven in the winter. Most of us will already have upgraded our wheels to something wider and lighter for track use, so use your OEM wheels (Or find a cheapo used set online) to mount snow tires. Yes, you are forced to buy another set of tires but you can find some snow tires MUCH cheaper than the performance tire prices you’re used to spending. And if you have two sets to rotate between, both will last longer.
None of these tips are rocket-science, all pretty straightforward ways to maximize your tire life. Do you have any more strategies to maximize tire life?
Want some more tips to get the most for your dollar with Track Days and Racing?