Beginner’s Guide on How to Drift a Car

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Only true petrolheads can understand the sacred art that is Drifting. Originated in Japan somewhere in the 1970s, drifting became a popular technique in motorsports and street racing. Other than being considered an efficient way to go around a really tight corner, drifting is extremely fun. In fact, it is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face. It also looks really cool.

Image: Top Gear

Now for those of you who are not familiar with this wonderful practice, pay attention. Drifting refers to an intentional oversteer when going around a corner while maintaining control of the car. Oversteer refers to the car turning more than the driver’s steering input. When a car is oversteering, its rear slip angle is greater than its front slip angle. This is when the back end “comes out”.

If that’s a bit difficult to understand, have a look at the gif below to see it all happening.

GIF: Imgur

As you can see, the rear is pointing outwards as the car drifts around the corner. Also, notice how the front wheels are turned into the opposite direction of the turn. This technique is called a Counter-Steer and its purpose is to maintain control of the car.

Great! Now you all know what drifting is and I bet some of you are anxious to try it out. Well, hold on just there. There are some things to note before actually doing it. First, you need to know the dynamics of the car you’ll try it on. Mainly it’s drivetrain and the amount of power it makes. Then follow the following instructions.

Rear/All-Wheel-Drive

The technique for both rear and all-wheel-drive cars is pretty much the same. RWD is preferred for drifting as its easier to lose grip with it. Other things preferred are a limited slip or locked rear differential. This ensures the torque gets equally split between both the rear wheels as opposed to an open differential which gives all the torque to the wheel with the least grip.

  1. If there’s traction control, completely turn it off.
  2. Put your car in it’s sportiest mode.
  3. Put the gearbox in Drive or 1st (if shifting manually).
  4. Drive normally until you’re cruising at around 30 mph (48 km/h).
  5. When you’re ready, floor the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to drift. If you’re shifting manually drop down to 2nd Gear before flooring.
  6. Once the back end of the car starts to go loose (oversteer), quickly move the steering in the opposite direction (counter-steer) and keep adjusting it to avoid your car from spinning out.
  7. When the car is pointing in the right direction, ease on the accelerator so the rear wheels regain traction. At the same time start straightening the steering.

It’s obviously not as easy as it sounds. You may need multiple attempts to perfect it. But once you do, you’ll know it was all worth it!

Front-Wheel-Drive

For all you FWD car owners out there, you’ll be disappointed to know that there’s no way to drift your car. In FWD cars, the front wheels are driven by the engine, making the rear wheels just trail along. This makes it impossible for them to lose traction while flooring which makes them impossible to oversteer.

However, there is another technique that allows you to have a similar sensation. It’s called a Handbrake Turn. In fact, it’s so similar to drifting that some people actually call it that. In most cars, the handbrake is there to stop your car from rolling down an incline when it’s parked and is in neutral. It’s connected via cables to the rear wheels and locks them into place when deployed.

Image: YourMechanic

In order to perform the handbrake turn, you’ll need to make sure your car has a manual handbrake. Most modern cars come with electronic parking brakes. Their purpose may be the same but they work differently. Which is why this technique is impossible to do with an electronic brake. With that out of the way, onto the steps.

  1. If there’s traction control, completely turn it off.
  2. Put your car in it’s sportiest mode.
  3. Put the gearbox in Drive or 1st (if shifting manually).
  4. Drive normally until you’re at around 40 mph (64 km/h). Keep your car in Third Gear (If shifting manually).
  5. Floor the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to turn and at the same time, deploy the handbrake and hold it.
  6. Once the back of the car starts sliding, quickly counter-steer to avoid spinning out.
  7. When the car is in the direction you want to go, release the handbrake and straighten the steering wheel.

This was it. Again, practice makes perfect. All of it sounds easy on paper but will require multiple attempts to perfect it. You also need to make sure you practice in an open, empty place. Preferably an abandoned parking lot where you won’t crash into anything.

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