How To Build Your Very Own Kick-Ass Racing Simulator
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A petrolhead’s home wouldn’t be complete without a kick-ass racing simulator. Here’s how you can build one yourself
1. Choose Your Budget
If you’ve got a spare £40,000 lying around, then fantastic; buy yourself an all-inclusive simulator and get cracking. For the rest of us, however, we’ll stick to the ‘built not bought’ approach. Before getting started, you’ll need to research the price of each component and set a spending limit. That way, you prevent being left with a half completed project. If you’re working with a very low budget, consider using existing pieces for now and upgrading as you go. There’s nothing wrong with mounting your wheel to your desk and sitting in an office chair until you can buy a nice seat and mounts.
2. Pick The Perfect Location
The bedroom is a great place for a racing simulator if you’re single or in a student room. If you have someone in your life who thinks the bedroom has better uses than racing, however, stick to a communal area of the house for your setup. An office or spare room is ideal if you play on a PC or want to use a simple desk and chair setup for now, and the living room area is usually preferred if you play on a console. No matter where you set up, keep in mind that it will eat up a lot of space, and be sure to leave room for friends to watch you race.
3. The Wheel Deal
The first piece of the simulator puzzle (and the only piece if you’re following the low budget plan) is your steering wheel. Get familiar with the feedback and control of a good wheel while gathering your other parts. Remember, you can always mount it to a table or desk and upgrade later. Logitech, Mad Catz and Thrustmaster make the most popular and reliable wheel set ups that come with a shifter and pedals. The Logitech G27 wheel is the most widely used wheel among gamers with powerful force feedback, a six speed shifter and paddle shifters on the wheel. When shopping for a good price, be careful buying used wheels because they could have been mistreated or heavily used by their previous owner. The safest choice is to shop around online for a new wheel with a manufacturer’s warranty, just in case you get serious road rage in your first race.
4. The Big Screen
Size matters. So does quantity, refresh rate and clarity. Never has there been a better reason to run out and buy a new curved TV, but there are other options. Shop for the biggest screen within your budget. An LCD with LED backlighting and an anti-glare screen will give the best in-game visual experience. A high refresh rate, or the number of times per second your screen projects a new image, will give you less motion blur. Shoot for at least 120Hz and be careful of some manufacturer’s tricky wording and marketing that will make you think the TV has a higher refresh rate than it actually does. Also reference a third party reviewer like CNET before buying. Want even more? Buy three screens and place the outer two at a slight angle to give you a surround screen feel, but be sure to check first if your graphics card supports triscreen output. Again, if you have something you can use already to save money, then do it.
5. Mount It
Whether you’re moving from a desk to a full cockpit or starting with the full setup kit, there are a few things you should watch out for with screen, wheel and shifter mounts. If you chose a large TV, make sure the mount can support it. The new GTR simulator set comes with a one-screen or a three-screen mount and claims to be improved from the earlier, less sturdy model. This kit and similar products come with a screen mount, an adjustable racing seat, steering wheel mount, pedal support and shifter platform. Playseats, Spec-D Tuning and KMJ Performance offer seat and mount sets that include everything but the screen mount. This is the best option for playing on a big screen because you can mount it directly to the wall and use multiple mounts to build a triscreen. If you’re also going to use the TV for anything other than gaming, make sure you purchase an adjustable mount that can slide up and down and set the TV to the right height for each use. If you want to just sit back on the couch and game with your television where it sits, there are also smaller portable stands available that hold just the wheel, pedals and shifter. For a truly built not bought design, build up your seat box first about 10cm off the ground, then center your TV slightly above your natural focal point looking straight ahead and build a shelf for your wheel at a comfortable distance and height. This will take more than one round of sitting and adjusting until you find your perfect positioning. There is no wrong or right placement for each component. What matters is that it feels comfortable to you.
6. The Hot Seat
Unless you’re competing to build the slickest simulator, there’s no reason to spend a fortune on a seat. Find your favorite race seat online or head to a scrap yard to see what you can pull for yourself to save some money. If you purchase a seat separate from a mounting kit, you will need to be handy with your carpentry skills to build a seat box. Hint: if you have the space, put in a second seat for your ‘passenger’ who is guaranteed to enjoy being part of the action.
7. Final Touches
Why is building your own racing simulator so much better than buying an all-in-one kit? Because you make it your own. Car enthusiasts can appreciate different models for their performance and design in the same way a gaming enthusiast appreciates their simulator. If you are taking the time to build your own set up, get creative. Give it some unique style: paint your frame, add some decals, make a mock roll cage with painted PVC piping and surround your cockpit with speakers for an incredible sound. When you’re all set up (or if you’re set up already) share pictures of your rigs below. This article was written by freelance journalist Kelsey Sakamoto.