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In a perfect world, a race car would always hook anywhere.

It would go down the track straight, it wouldn’t rattle the tires, and it wouldn’t lose traction somewhere down the race track. Trouble is, it’s not a perfect world. We’re dealing with a mechanical beast that is operated under all sorts of different track and ambient conditions. Stuff wears out. Track conditions change during the day and so do weather conditions. 

Quite often, a problem with hook develops.

So how do you deal with it? 

There are a lot of factors involved when it comes to tuning a car and actually sorting out the race track. Sometimes those factors can prove overwhelming – even baffling.  And with drag racing, there isn’t a lot of time to make adjustments. 

Thankfully, our pal Jerry Bickel (Jerry Bickel Race Cars) has helped us provide you with a great starting point when it comes to troubleshooting traction issues. Jerry came up with this guide, and it’s a perfect place to begin. 

In fact, you might want to make a copy and paste it on your trailer door!

Here we go:

Jerry Bickel Race Cars Troubleshooting Guide

Possible CausesSolutions
Issue: Tire Shake
Clutch engagement too violentAdjust clutch tension weight, finger height; different clutch setup
Poor shock settingsStiffen shock adjustments; replace worn shocks
Tire PSI too low or highAdjust tire inflation
Instant Center too high or low; no tire spinRaise IC or shorten as required
Instant Center location movingAdd rear stabilizer bar
Wrong weight distributionAdjust weight distribution
Tire shake (automatic car)Lower launch rpm; increase tire pressure
Issue: Crooked Launch
Tire PSI unequalAdjust tire PSI evenly
Tire rollout greater than 1/2"Purchase matched tires
Wheelie bar stagger incorrectAdjust wheelie bar stagger
Pre-load incorrectAdjust chassis pre-load
Issue: Straight Launch but Crooked Out of Water Box
Rear tires have unequal loadAdjust corner weights (spring heights)
Incorrect chassis pre-loadAdjust chassis pre-load
Issue: Narrow Tire Tracks
Tire SpinImprove traction; soften clutch adjustment; change launch RPM
Issue: Choppy Tire Tracks
Tires wadding upAdjust tire PSI, lengthen/raise IC
Issue: Skipping Tire Tracks
Tire shakeSee "tire shake" above
Issue: Straight Launch, CG, Poor Starting Line Traction
Wheelie bars unloading tiresAdjust wheel bar height; lower and/or move CG forward
Poor tire adhesion to trackAdjust tire PSI, change to different tire size and/or compound
Excessive power applicationAdjust clutch, reduce flywheel weight, adjust launch RPM
Issue: Poor Traction at Speed or At Gear Changes
Insufficient weight on rear tiresIncrease rear weight bias, add more wing angle
Excessive torque applicationSoften clutch adjustment, revise transmission ratios
Issue: Excessive Tire Squat (Sidewalls Wadding)
Tire pressure too lowIncrease tire PSI
Chassis planting tires too violentlyAdjust IC longer/higher, stiffen rear shocks rebound setting
Issue: Excessive Chassis IC Too Low (Squat)
IC too lowRaise IC
Issue: Down Track Push/Pull; One Direction
Tires different sizeEqualize inflation; check rollout
Rear-end not square in chassisSquare rear-end
Pre-load incorrectAdjust 4-link pre-load
Front caster staggeredAdjust caster
Dragging brake or tireCheck for brake drag; body or chassis contact with tire
Issue: Wanders/Directionally Unstable
Insufficient casterAdjust caster
Too much toe-outAdjust toe
Excessive bump steerCheck and correct bump steer
Issue: Poor Reaction Time
Front tires too softIncrease front tire PSI
Slow chassis reactionLoosen rear shock rebound setting, shorten/lower IC
Clutch air gap too largeAdjust clutch air gap
Clutch engagement too softAdjust clutch
Issue: Chassis Loses Settings
Components loose or wornCheck chassis and all components; repair and replace as necessary
Issue: Severe Vibration
Tires out of balanceBalance tires
Tires shakingSee "tire shake" above
U-joint misalignmentAdjust pinion angle' check driveline adjustment
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Author: Wayne Scraba

Wayne Scraba is a diehard car guy and regular contributor to OnAllCylinders. He’s owned his own speed shop, built race cars, street rods, and custom motorcycles, and restored muscle cars. He’s authored five how-to books and written over 4,500 tech articles that have appeared in sixty different high performance automotive, motorcycle and aviation magazines worldwide.