Having your 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.
The 6 steps to kart tire prep are:
- Scrub your new set of tires
- Use a paint brush or roller to cover your tires in prep formula
- Let the tires air dry for a day
- Cover your tires in a second coat and let them air dry again
- Put your tires back on the rims
- Pump the tires up to the required PSI
Note: some prep formulas have different requirements
There a lot of different factors to consider. We are going to cover some important details that you need to check off when it comes to your tires in general for a race weekend. You are going to need the right number and types of tires, the right tire pressures, and consider the weather forecast.
What Tires To Bring To A Race Weekend
Your standard race meeting will consist of various different sessions that you need to take part in. In general, there will be a morning practice session, followed by qualifying and heats, all leading up to the final, which is the main event.
It is important to get your tire strategy right for the weekend, otherwise you could end up with the wrong tires, or even worse, not enough sets of tires for the race meeting. Most scrutineering check that you have brand new sets on your kart for the race meeting, this is both safety-related and performance-related.
Of course, you don’t want to wear out your brand-new set before you even reach the final. This is why the number of sets that you bring to your race meeting is important. Ideally you will want 3 sets of dry slick tires. One worn set (15 laps or more) that you can use for practice sessions and maybe your first heat.
You will also want to bring a set of ‘scrubbed’ tires, these tires are essentially still new, but they are perfect for qualifying. Scrubbed tires are tires that have been used for about 2 or 3 laps. These tires are still in good condition, but importantly, the slippery rubber coating has been worn off, and you will be able to set quicker laps earlier on in the session with these tires compared to brand new ones.
The third and final set of tires you want to bring to your race meeting is the brand-new set, which you will run in on your second heat and use in the final. Of course, you could bring 3 brand new fresh sets of tires, but that can be expensive and not everyone has the budget for that.
Ideally you will always want to have at least one set of wet tires available as well. Even if your weather forecast does not predict rain, it is always best to have that set ready rather than to have to frantically scramble to get wet tires when the rain does come down.
Track Conditions And Surfaces
There are different types of tire prep formulas when it comes to different types of karting. Generally, asphalt, indoor and concrete can use the same prep formula as they are both 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; however 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.
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.
What Advantages Will Tire Prep Give You?
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 sometimes also contain some transmission fluids. So, it is very important not to inhale this chemical or let it touch your skin, and it is extremely flammable.
These chemicals, once dried, 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.
That being said, 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 a bit extreme, so you will most likely find general tire prep formulas that will give you an extra tenth or two. Some drivers even make their own tire prep formulas.
Is Tire Prep Allowed?
In some leagues, 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. The best is to ask your local race organiser or scrutineer if it is actually illegal where you are racing.
It is better to know than to be caught doing it as it could result in disqualification at the end of the day. In some leagues it is illegal, but scrutineering does not actively look out for tire prep formulas, so you could get away with it. Some tire prep formulas also claim to be undetectable. Do this at your own risk though; some leagues can be tough on this kind of infringement.
Sometimes scrutineering will ask to see your race tires beforehand still wrapped and sealed to show that there has been no tire prep or tampering done. Either way, if you are so inclined, you could have a second set that has had some prep done on them stored elsewhere.
How To Prep Your Kart Tires
1. Scrub Your New Set Of Tires
Most people will use a set of brand-new tires, 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 do 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 in which you can 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 sanding paper to take that first layer off, although this could take a bit longer than blasting around the track a couple of times.
2. Use A Paint Brush Or Roller To 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 entire tire in the formula for a few minutes at a time, other people like to take a paint brush or a foam paint roller and carefully and evenly coat the tires in the formula. Both are fine, it is personal preference over which method you choose to use.
3. Let The Tires Air Dry For A Day
The next step is to let the 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 more. 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. Cover Your Tires In A Second Coat And Let Them Air Dry Again
Once the tires are dry you can apply a second coating. Some tire formulas will recommend two or three coats before using, 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.
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.
The benefit of this is that the tire gets treated from both sides and will ensure that the chemical doesn’t just wear off after a couple of sessions on track. Some people also cover their tires in saran wrap after treating them to prevent the chemicals from evaporating, however, this isn’t essential.
6. Pump The Tires Up To The Required PSI
The final step is to put your tires back on their rims or, if they were already, to just pump them 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 the most popular amongst asphalt karting drivers (those that don’t use their own, unbranded ones that is). 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, however it does not mention what it does to the tire life of your kart tires. 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.
Tire prep formulas can give you a significant advantage in lap times over someone who is not using them. Think of it as steroids for karting tires. This has led to many karting organisations banning the use of these formulas.
However, some formulas can be difficult to detect. Some leagues still allow the use of tire prep formulas though, and you simply have to check with your race organiser if you can make use of it. If you do, there are some simple steps to follow on how to apply your tire enhancers.
These chemicals can be extremely dangerous, so it is important to always be aware of your surroundings when using them and to be extremely cautious. I hope this article has helped you to form a better understanding of tire prep and how to use it.