Ever Wonder Why Race Cars Tape Headlights?

Ever Wonder Why Race Cars Tape Headlights?

Why do race cars tape headlights? Does it really serve a practical function?

Professional race cars tape headlights to prevent shattered glass from littering the racetrack and pose a danger for everyone on it. Another reason why race cars tape headlights is to protect it from debris on the racetrack.

Race Cars Tape Headlights
Race Cars Tape Headlights

Yeah, this was true in the early days when headlights were made of glass and not the sturdier stuff of today. And most races are done during the daytime anyway so what’s the use of headlights?

But there are night time races and there are 24 hours and more marathon races that require illumination to navigate at high speeds.

For instances like that, race cars today have smaller slits for headlights. This helps them reduce weight without sacrificing the ability to drive at night with the lights on. 

When Did Race Cars Tape Headlights Make Its First Appearance?

Taped headlights appeared as soon as early cars could go faster than the average horse and the youth learned it was fun to go racing. This was done to keep the glass enclosure from falling off, shattering and injuring other people and cars. Back then the tape went all the way to the housing and wasn’t just the x you’d see in race cars today.

As the automotive racing industry progressed, lighter parts, one-piece kits, and more specialized aerodynamic moulded pieces, aesthetics went to the side. Everyone wanted a car that was all go and not for show.

When these parts became widely available to the market, things changed. We can take the ricers for that. Japanese car owners who liked street racers wanted their daily driven fast cars to have a certain look. So, the industry had to change again to acquiesce to the demands of these young car owners. 

Everything had to be sleek, aerodynamic and top of the line. If it didn’t look like it was the latest thing, it was considered not a good look. That included taped headlights.

Rise Of The Hot Rodders

Not everyone wanted a Japanese  car. Some wanted American cars. So, the American car industry also came out with updated versions of their sports cars.

Still, you can’t please everyone.

A huge portion of the car community liked vintage vehicles. Hot rods, European sports cars, Volkswagens and classic luxury cars dominated this scene.

Sure enough, car racing came back for this segment of the car community. And taped headlights became hot again as a nod to classic car racing.

It didn’t really serve a practical function but it really looked cool and the trend has continued to this day. It has even extended over to cars with headlights you wouldn’t normally put on.

Go figure.

Why Taping Over Your Headlights Is No Longer Needed Today

Nowadays, race cars tape headlights for aesthetic purposes. Race car drivers often either remove their headlights to cut weight or place faux headlight stickers on since there is no chamber for actual lights to be installed in. 

Headlights are also no longer entirely made of glass that can shatter from road debris. Plexi-glass is used even on conventional cars for road safety.

Duct Tape: The 200 Mph Tape

What is duct tape? Everyone already knows what it is. You can find it in most homes. 

It is basically a fabric-backed  adhesive. Its primary purpose is to seal off ductwork .

This is pressure-sensitive  tape and has very good adhesion. Its reinforced construction makes it very reliable for high-pressure  work. 

Duct tape has been in use since the 1800s and has found its way all over the world thanks to the military.

Nowadays, you can pick one up at your local hardware or grocery store at a very affordable price. 

Thank NASCAR For Tapes In Technicolor

Duct tape was never meant to be cool. You’d get laughed at if you used it for basic repair especially if you left it as is and never fully fixed the problem.

For all intents and purposes, duct tape should only be used as a temporary fix for stuff. The only reasonable instance duct tape should be used is for, you guessed it, ductwork . 

But NASCAR had other plans. The simple black or silver color just wouldn’t cut it. These sleek machines wouldn’t look as good with tape obviously used for repairs. It was considered downright unsightly.

No, no, no. The black and silver color had to go.

So colored tape came into existence so that quick repairs done to these top of the line machines wouldn’t be as obvious to the bystanders and onlookers. It started out with the basic colors of blue, red and yellow and quickly multiplied to include pink, purple, white and green.

Any imaginable color conceived could be reproduced by tape manufacturers.

Repairs weren’t as obvious as they used to be because the types of tape used easily blended with the car’s theme.

So if you’re wondering why we have an extensive range of tape colors, we have NASCAR to thank for that. We also have NASCAR to thank for the term 200 mph tape.

So if you want to sound cool while making house repairs, you can always claim you’re using the same type of tape the fastest cars use to keep them together. 

Better Uses For Duct Tape

There are times when we use duct tape for other non-aesthetic purposes  on the race track. This is what duct tape really should be used for instead of for show purposes.

Duct tape, however simple it may seem, can make the difference between taking the first place or limping to the last. There’s a reason why it’s nicknamed the 200 mph tape.

Duct tape can be used for these instances:

Improve Aerodynamics By Closing Off The Gaps And Vents

A stock racing car is chock full of holes and vents. The biggest one is the radiator grille. This effectively cuts the aerodynamic qualities of a race car by a great degree. To counter that, there are specially made front panels that do away with the grille entirely.

These are for specialized cars meant to be driven on the race track only.

But, if you’re driving what you brought to the track, duct tape can simulate that to a certain degree.

First off, the grill has to be completely taped off. Next, the hood because that slit, no matter how slim still gathers air. Other spaces that need covering are around the bumper and the headlights. Once that’s completed, you have a simulated one-piece  hood that should shave off a couple of seconds from your final lap.

The downside to this is, your car is going to overheat. All those spaces were meant to help cool your engine. Without any air forced into those vents, your radiator’s coolant and water levels will rise up quickly. So, your fully taped off car is good for a lap or two before you need to shut it down.

Use your car in this manner for qualifying runs only.

For a full race, allow a minimal amount of air passage to prevent overheating during extended runs.

Duct Tape Improves Handling Around Corners

This may sound weird but a piece of duct tape can affect the way your car handles around corners. Vents present on top of your hood are air passages that can affect your vehicle’s total aerodynamic properties. This, in turn,  leads to steering wheel issues.

Preventing air to enter these gaps is the main reason why duct tape is placed on top of it.

Need Repairs? Duct Tape Is The Answer!

Everyone knows that duct tape is an excellent fix-all around the house. Who knew it would work just as well on the racetrack?

Race cars always need some form of repair after every lap. Collisions are rare, but when they do happen, the results can be very devastating. Usually, that’s enough to take any race car off the track. And no amount of duct tape can help remedy that.

But, for those repairs where a part flew off or a panel needs replacing, duct tape can be a great help. Race teams usually have pre-shaped panels ready to put on in case the installed one flew off. This can be pop-riveted into place. Once secure, duct tape is used to further fortify the connection and to smoothen the rough edges. 

Cracks, broken pieces, and holes can easily be plugged with an expert patchwork of duct tape.

Dale Earnhardt used it so it’s race approved.

Cool Is A State Of Mind

All of these concepts can be used for all types of cars. Even non-racing cars can benefit from using duct tape. If you need to hold pieces together temporarily, duct tape can do that for you. Need to tie something down, roll duct tape up into a rope and you have something strong enough for the commute. Need to plug a hole? Use a generous amount of duct tape and your problem’s solved. Piping burst? Duct tape.

And if you work with your imagination enough, you can use duct tape to make your car look cool. You can tape certain portions off before painting (although masking tape is a better option) or create an intricate patchwork of colored duct tape to make your car have a semblance of some artwork.

Or you could just easily tape your headlight with exes and make-believe you have a racing machine too.

Just remember this before you drive at night: 

If you’re going to put duct tape over your headlights, at least remove the fuse so you don’t cook the tape unto the headlight glass. Better yet, just remove the tape altogether. You don’t need it anyway.

Cool is a state of mind.

Related Questions?

Who Taped Their Headlights First? Cars Or Motorcycles?

Did race cars tape headlights first or did motorcycles do it ahead of time? You’d think motorcycles did it first because those you see on the road have x’s on their headlights but this trend actually started with cars. It just looks cooler on motorcycles and that’s why they have them more than cars.

Will I Get Stopped If I Have Taped Headlights?

Putting tape over your headlights is considered a traffic hazard. Although this is considered a personal touch for aesthetic purposes, the law mandates clear headlights at all times for your safety and the safety of others. You’ll get stopped even more often if you taped over your broken lights.

Can I Use Colored Tape Instead Of The Regular Black Or Silver?

The beauty of race cars tape headlights is you have a vast array of tape colors to choose from. You’re not limited to just plain black/silver tape which most people use. You can color-coordinate your tape so it matches the color of your car. You can find these colored tape in local hardware stores.

In Conclusion

If you’re a race car driver, placing tape over your headlights is considered the norm. It’s cool if you do it or not. You can place fake headlight stickers or do away with them altogether. That should help cut down on the weight.

If you have a café racer, placing an x over your headlights will race your bike’s cool factor. It’s also a great tribute to vintage motorcycle racing. Just make sure you remove the fuse so you don’t cook the tape over your glass.

Just remember, race car tape headlights are acceptable on the race track but not on public roads. Remove them if you have to drive your car daily.

Lastly, always bring duct tape. You never know when you’re going to need it. And make sure it can easily match your car’s paint job so that you won’t end up with an unsightly patchwork of silver or black tape on your car.

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