Chances are great that if you track your car, you likely are not the type of person to buy coffee can exhaust tips or stick-on hood scoops. But that isn’t to say you wouldn’t get swindled by the flashier aftermarket upgrades out there, many of which provide little to no benefit on the track. In fact, most hurt your performance.
So in your effort to shave down lap times and boost your horsepower, remember to avoid these six track car performance upgrades:
Bigger Wheels Usually Aren’t Better
One of the easiest ways to amp up the curb appeal on your exotic vehicle is to beef up the wheel size. Bigger, low-profile tires can be more impressive and make way for some fairly cool-looking wheel designs, after all.
But those smaller treads translate to worse grip on the track. Sidewall flex is a critical characteristic for vehicle handling, and manufacturers count on a certain sidewall width to accomplish their factory-spec performance numbers. Mess with those expected tire dimensions too much, and you could throw the entire traction control system and suspension out of whack, increasing your risk of understeer.
Bigger wheels also add heavy, unsprung weight, removing some of your engine’s ability to handle body motion through its suspension.
Accounting for these factors is precisely why manufacturers like Porsche have specific tire ratings and why you should heed them. Stick with normal racing tires, and you’ll likely stick more to the track.
“Performance” Spark Plugs
Spark plugs are quickly becoming the HDMI cable of the performance parts world: you don’t need gold-plated, double-insulated wires to carry the same signal that a $5 cord could, and you similarly don’t need to shell out ridiculous amounts of money for supposed “high capacity” spark plugs.
A spark plug’s job is quite simple: it makes a spark at the same voltage every time it is asked to. Once again, just stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations and your vehicle will be fine.
Some vehicles are equipped to handle high-octane, leaded racing fuel. Yours probably isn’t one of them.
Fuels with 100 or 110 octane ratings can improve the efficiency of combustion by avoiding premature detonation but only in engines made to do so. Even high-compression vehicles like the Porsche GT3 recommend 93 octane gas, and it can only be unleaded.
Unleaded racing fuels can still have additives that make your catalytic converter work harder, increasing back pressure and sapping horsepower. Yet again, just read the owner’s manual and stick with what they recommend.
Adjustable Lowering Springs
Unlike most of the other “upgrades” on this list, lowering your vehicle can elicit very real improvement during cornering and acceleration.
However, the springs and struts you use should be very carefully calibrated to your vehicle. So-called “universal” kits have nowhere near precise enough tuning to function properly with your suspension system as a whole. Even if you purchase a kit directly from the manufacturer or a certified aftermarket provider, you should have an experienced professional install it so that they can ensure your entire vehicle remains in sync.
Otherwise, you could end up bottoming out your suspension with nearly every lap and eventually blowing out your shock absorber — things no one wants to contend with at the track.
Get the Best Track Car Performance Upgrade Advice and Service at AMP
When you become a member at Atlanta Motorsports Park, you have access to our stable’s most experienced drivers and track engineers. We even have some of the best performance shops in the country right here at our track, including Motor Werks racing’s incredible Porsche performance garage.
Our members are also always eager to provide feedback and suggestions for how to improve your driving or your car. So come to our track today and see why we help some of the best drivers in the county hone their skills. You can book an Atlanta track membership sample today to see what we are all about.