Common among track days beginners are cars with noses taped up like they’re about to duel with a sandblaster. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I don’t blame them for wishing to protect their pride and joy… but I don’t see that much frontend paint damage from stuff getting kicked up on track. The little black streaks clean off easily, but even if you do get a chip here and there… wear that battle scar with honor! I painted my first Miata on a Wednesday and was on track (without a taped nose) that Friday… ~6 years later the front bumper still looks great.
While a scuff or small chip in the paint isn’t a real issue, it can become a problem on your windshield. Track days can be tough on windshields, but racing is brutal on them. This hobby is expensive enough without replacing windshields regularly because of chips and cracks. One simple way to stretch the life of your windshield is to repair chips as soon as you can.
I don’t want someone new to HPDE to read this post and fear imminent windshield destruction. I enjoyed several years of tracking my daily driver without any issues. It wasn’t until I started racing Spec Miata that my windshield started taking damage pretty often. Not everyone fairs as well as I did in HPDE though, and people do occasionally pick up chips…. but
when if it happens, don’t worry: Small repairs are cheap and easy.
The three main factors for windshield risk are:
1) Track Facility/Runoff area surface.
Many tracks have a few turns that people “cut” (IE The inside of esses on NJMP Thunderbolt). Also, the area outside of a major turn often gets churned up by cars dipping a tire or two. Some tracks do a great job of maintaining the area and all you’ll get are puffs of dust/dirt. Other times, tracks have gravel or use a more rocky soil to fill the area… so cars not only kick these rocks into following cars, but pull them onto the track surface to get kicked through the session.
2) How close you follow other cars
The closer you drive, the more likely you are to catch something coming off someone’s tire. Most HPDE drivers aren’t that close to other cars, but during a race the cars are often using their bumpers to push each other around the track. That proximity can mean they are launching debris straight into the following car’s nose/windshield.
3) How aggressively the car in front of you is driving
In a typical HPDE session all of cars are keeping their wheels on the track quite well, offenders are black flagged and frequent flyers may even be asked to leave. In a race, not so much: Whether drivers are running out of real estate (going around a corner 3 cars wide) or running out of tire (Getting greasy after 30 minutes of pushing HARD and no ability to let up), racers are MUCH more likely to be putting 2 tires into the dirt. Each dip is an opportunity to pull windshield chipping rocks onto the track.
There are a few options out there for Protective Windshield Vinyl. It may resist rock chips, but an application can cost a couple hundred dollars (often, more than the cost of a full windshield replacement). They also have a reputation for quickly being destroyed by windshield wipers and the sun. If you own a car with a windshield replacement that costs enough to warrant protective vinyl, you probably aren’t that worried about saving a few bucks.
Most on-track windshield damage starts just with a little chip. Thankfully, if you repair the chip quickly, you can usually stop it before it spreads and claims the entire windshield. If your chip starts with a long crack, sorry, you’ll be looking for a windshield. Your insurance policy likely won’t cover windshield damage from the track, so choose wisely with requests.
There are dozens of kits on the market to repair windshields. I tried a couple different models from the fully disposable kits to ones with reusable jigs. I kept coming back to the same one.
My favorite kit has been the Blue-Star Windshield DIY Repair Kit (2 pack). It has been easy to use, effective, and bonus* is generally the cheapest. Most chips disappeared, a couple bad ones are still somewhat visible but haven’t spread, so I consider them cured… especially on a racecar.
The process is simple and straightforward. Most of the repair time is spent waiting so I usually set timers on my phone for the steps and do the repair while working on a few other things on the car. No special tools or skills are required and the instructions explain it all well.
I even pack one of these in my trackbox so I am able to repair chips at the track if they look concerning enough.
After 4 years hard racing, my windshield may have a few chip repairs but it’s otherwise holding up great. I can’t recommend this kit enough.
At first, the disposable kits seemed a bit wasteful to me: both in terms of wasted resources and unnecessary spending… especially with the frequency at which I was using them. I priced out kits from expensive pro style setups to budget reusable tools and ended up trying a cheaper reusable suction cup style setup from “Rockpro”. I was not impressed.
The Rockpro kit was barely usable with many steps and instructions (including a video) that weren’t especially clear. To get it clean enough to use again would have required extensive, time consuming cleaning… there goes reusing. When I looked for new resin, the company said they were “out of stock”…. that they may have more in another month or two. The one time I used the kit, the tool even seemed to pull so much vacuum (While following the directions to a T) that it actually spread the crack on my windshield a bit. Verdict: I’ll Stick with the disposable kits for as long as they keep working for me. I just ordered 2 more.
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