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Winter is almost over, IMSA, Formula 1, and NASCAR are all back in action, and that means it’s time for you, dear reader, to try your hand at some race car driving. But if you’re standing in the garage looking at your Golf GTI, Miata, or Toyota GT86 and wondering how to improve your ride into an autocross weapon, we’re here to help. These are the first three mods you should consider for your autocross build, and none of them will ruin your daily drive.

Wheels and tires improve autocross speed and daily fuel economy

Lightweight wheels like those on this Porsche are perfect for improving autocross times.
Lightweight Porsche wheels | Getty Images

It may seem too simple, but anyone with any autocross time will tell you that your tires will mean more in racing than anything else. A good set of wheels and tires, specifically, can serve a dual purpose. Lightweight wheels will reduce unsprung and rotational weight, making your car more responsive to changes in direction, acceleration, and braking. In turn, you’ll improve your autocross times and start building consistency.

Tires help further enhance those characteristics while keeping you stuck to the road, so you can carry more speed through corners, brake later, and accelerate harder without slip. You’ll even notice the improved autocross capability on the daily drive, and even better, you’ll get better fuel economy at the same time.

Brakes pads and brake fluid improve autocross times and daily driving

High-performance brakes
Mercedes-Benz performance brakes | Getty Images

While big brake kits can run into thousands of dollars, you can get a big upgrade in braking performance with just a few simple upgrades. Upgrading your brake pads and rotors to a more high-performance setup will give you improved braking for autocross runs that resists fading even with repeated runs.

Keep in mind, when selecting brake rotors, that the SCCA will move you up a class for brake rotor upgrades that are outside of factory specifications. If your car doesn’t come with slotted or drilled rotors, you’ll have to upgrade with solid brake rotors of the same diameter as your factory build. In this case, you have to decide whether to stay in the Street class or move up to Street Touring with your enhanced braking performance.

Upgrading the brake fluid will help even further, as DOT4 fluid has a higher boiling point than the standard brake fluid you’ll find in most cars. A higher boiling point means your brake pedal will remain consistent throughout the day, improving your autocross experience overall.

The performance pads and fluid will actually improve your daily driving experience as well. For those days of stop-and-go traffic, or your downhill canyon runs, you’ll find your brakes remain more consistent so you can drive with greater confidence.

Coilovers provide more stable handling

Coilovers like this blue and yellow set from Bilstein, will help improve your autocross times.
Bilstein Coilover Kit | Bilstein

Coilovers can be a bit expensive, and they will likely bump you into a higher class if they alter your ride height by more than one inch. That said, there are many brands of coilovers out there that will help improve your autocross runs without ruining your ride.

Regardless of which way you decide to go, coilovers are a great improvement to any track day or autocross build. They limit body movement in every direction, making your inputs more direct and giving you a better feel of the car overall.

A good set of coilovers will come with damper adjustments that allow you to stiffen or soften the suspension quickly and easily. A knob located on the top of the spring perch will let you change damping without tearing the whole car apart. So when it’s time to transition from your Saturday morning cone carving to your Monday morning commute, just a few clicks of a knob will soften the ride over those annoying highway seams.