Having your kart’s tires ready for the race weekend is so crucial. Using tire prep formulas is a good way to find some extra speed in your lap times. However, there are some important things you need to look at when it comes to tire prep in karting.
The 6 steps to kart tire prep are:
- Scrub your new set of tires
- Cover your tires in prep formula
- Let the tires air dry for a day
- Apply a second coat and let them dry
- Put your tires back on the rims
- Pump the tires up to the required pressure
Note: Some prep formulas have different requirements
There a lot of different factors to consider. Below, I’ll cover some important details that you need to check off when it comes to preparing your kart’s tires for a race weekend.
Why Use Tire Prep In Karting?
Tire prep formulas are chemical based liquids that will give your tires more traction and more bite when they hit the track. The formula usually consists of a combination of mineral spirits, fuel and acetone. It can also sometimes contain transmission fluid.
WARNING: It is very important not to inhale tire prep chemicals or let it touch your skin, and it is extremely flammable! For this reason, always ensure you're in a well-ventilated area when prepping your kart tires.
These chemicals, once dry, will give your tires much better traction and reduce skidding. So, of course, this will greatly benefit your lap times and your cornering speeds, especially if you are only looking to get a few tenths up on your lap times.
You get different types of tire prep formulas. Each one is different, so some will give you an extra five tenths per lap, but will cause your tires to overheat really quickly, making this type ideal for qualifying. Others might make your tires reach their optimum temperature quicker and keep them there longer, making them ideal to use in the final race.
So, it depends on the type of advantage you are looking for in your tires. The examples I gave are the two extremes, and you will most likely find general tire prep formulas that will cater to both quali and race laps. Some drivers even make their own tire prep formulas. However, you should only do this if you really know what you’re doing, as the chemicals involved aren’t all that friendly!
Is Go-Kart Tire Prep Allowed?
In some karting race series, tire prep is illegal. However, in other leagues they don’t specifically check for it in scrutineering so you could get away with it if your advantage is not glaringly obvious. You should ask your local race organiser or scrutineer if it is actually illegal where you are racing before you use it.
It is better to know than to be caught doing it as it could result in disqualification. Sometimes scrutineering will ask to see your race tires beforehand still wrapped and sealed to show they haven’t been prepped or tampered with in any other way.
KEY POINTS• Tire prep can give you an advantage on the track with increased grip
• The chemicals involved are a bit nasty though, so be careful if you’re using them
• Tire prep isn’t always allowed in race series too, so be sure to check with your local series before you use it
6 Steps For Kart Tire Prep
1. Scrub Your New Set Of Tires
Most people will use a set of brand-new tires, while others might use a set of scrubbed tires from which they’ve taken the rubber coating off. Either way, the first step you will want to take is to scrub your tires. This is because that first layer of shiny rubber is more of a protective coating around your tires and will be gone within two laps of running, so there is no point in treating that.
There are various ways to scrub your new tires. You can either take them out for two or three quick laps around the circuit and then continue the process, or you can use sandpaper to take that first layer off, although this could take a bit longer than blasting around the track a couple of times – and it’s not as fun!
2. Cover Your Tires In Prep Formula
The next step is to apply your chosen tire prep formula. Again, there are various ways that you can do this. Some people like to soak the whole tire in the formula for a few minutes at a time, while others like to take a paint brush or a foam paint roller and carefully and evenly coat the tires in the formula. Both are fine, and it is down to personal preference which method to use.
3. Let The Tires Air Dry For A Day
The next step is to let your tires air dry. The proper way to do this is to put the tires on a tire roller. A tire roller keeps the tires moving, and this can be done overnight or for six hours or whatever you need. Tire rollers do not damage your tires and they can keep going for however long you feel is necessary. For those of us who do not have tire rollers, just leave the tires in a dry place overnight.
4. Apply A Second Coat And Let Them Dry
Once the tires are dry you can apply a second coat. Some tire formulas will recommend two or three coats before you use the tires, so just make sure to check this beforehand so you have enough time before your race meeting. From here you can just repeat the coating and air-drying steps as required.
Also note that some tracks will be grippier than others, meaning you can get away with using less tire prep formula. You may also want to use less on your inner tires than your outer tires, as they'll be worked less than the ones primarily on the outside (again it's track dependent).
5. Put Your Tires Back On The Rims
If you want to go a step further, you can get a syringe and treat the inside of the tires as well. When your tires are back on their rims, you squirt your tire prep into the valves and spin the tires a couple of times. Again, a tire roller would be perfect here to keep them rolling and help the chemical to absorb into the inside the of the tires.
Not everyone will see benefits from this and not all tires will benefit from it, and it’s not a must. Some people also cover their tires in saran wrap after treating them to prevent the chemicals from evaporating, however, this isn’t essential. Whether you do either of these things, it’s then time to put your tires back on the rims.
6. Pump The Tires Up To The Required Pressure
The final step is to just pump the tires up to your preferred tire pressure. From here, you will notice that your tires will give you a lot more grip than before, and hopefully you can take a couple of extra tenths off that lap time.
3 Tire Prep Formulas For Karting
1. PJ Track Bite
This tire enhancer seems to be one of the most popular among asphalt karting drivers. Interestingly, this formula was initially designed for use in drag racing, and due to the amount of grip it can give tires, it has become more common in other types of motorsport as well. This formula can be used in any weather conditions.
2. Pimp Juice
This tire prep formula was designed specifically with karting in mind, so it will be able to give your kart tires great amounts of grip, but you may lose out in the durability department. This formula is biodegradable as well, making it a safer option than most.
3. Pro-Blend Hot Lap
Unlike the other two tire prep formulas, Pro-blend is suitable for all types of karting, including dirt karting. They claim that this formula can take up to half a second off your lap time, while making your tires last 50% longer.
How Track Conditions Affect Go-Kart Tire Prep
There are different types of tire prep formulas when it comes to different types of karting. Generally, asphalt, indoor and concrete circuits can work with the same prep formula as they are all hard surfaces. However, when it comes to dirt surface karting, some hard surface tire prep formulas might not work as well.
You can find prep formulas that are suited to both types, but for the latter, I would highly recommend finding one that is specifically suited to dirt karting. Sometimes dirt kart drivers also cut a small slit along the surface of their tires before applying their prep formula, especially if the track surface will be wet or damp.
How Tire Pressures Affect Go-Kart Tire Prep
When it comes to general tire pressure rules for your race meeting, it is important to do testing beforehand to see what works for you and how the weather and track conditions affect your tire pressures. You should already have a good idea of what pressures you are going to run going into the race.
With tire prep formulas, some of them require you to pump your tires up to specific pressure when coating them and letting them air dry. Although this is not a requirement, it does make it easier to get an even coat on your tires. I’ve seen a few formulas that stated 3 psi as a good pressure when coating.
Tire prep formulas can give you a significant advantage in lap times over someone who is not using them. This has led to many karting organisations banning the use of these formulas. However, some leagues still allow the use of tire prep formulas, and you simply have to check with your race organiser if you can make use of it.
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