Any drifter will tell you that the experience is exhilarating. It’s also quite gratifying, especially after the significant amount of manual work drifters put into building out their cars, not to mention the hours spent practicing the perfect drift. If you’ve scored your first Japanese car with the intention of modifying it for the ultimate drift experience, then you’re probably quite anxious to start. We’ve compiled a list of basic drift modifications to launch you straight into the addicting drift world fully prepared.
How Does a Drift Car Work
We’re hoping you’ve secured a car - and not just any car, but a car with rear-wheel drive. Now, many drivers prefer a manual transmission, but an automatic can still drift. Most people know what drifting looks like because there are hundreds of movie scenes depicting epic doughnuts or the ultimate sideways drift, but what exactly is drifting? It’s simultaneously about complete control and no control at all. A driver utilizes various parts of the car (brakes, gears, steering wheels, throttle, clutch) in a specific, quick order while driving in an over-steered state.
Essential Drift Modifications
It’s time to start off with basic and not-so-basic requirements so you’re on your way to mastering a clutch kick or a standing burnout.
- Tires Your tires are going to take a serious beating as you begin attempting to drift. We highly recommend opting for “drift spares” so you don’t end up working down your everyday driving tires, especially when you’re just starting out. On an even smaller budget? Buy cheap rear tires at the very least. Have a little more to spend? We recommend you grab some spec tires for the front for some extra grippiness.
- Differential A welded differential locks your two rear wheels together ensuring they’ll spin at the same speed. This makes oversteering much easier to knock out. A limited-slip differential allows for better handling and overall improved driveability. Many drifters will opt for LSD since it prevents the wheel with the least traction from receiving most power. A welded differential lock also makes daily driving extremely difficult, so if you utilize your drifting car as your daily car, buy an LSD instead. Now, you have different aftermarket options. We recommend buying a mechanical clutch plate-type with a 2-way configuration. Word of extreme caution: if you don’t have experience welding your differential please seek professional help. Welding your differential and then driving on the road is extremely dangerous.
- Suspension Modifying your car’s suspension will likely be the largest initial investment. While a new set of adjustable aftermarket coilovers can get up there in price, new coilovers will let you have stricter control on the handling of your car. You’ll be able to personalize your setup (adjust ride height) to produce a more balanced drive that makes drifting easier to initiate and control on different circuits. Coilovers can also offer decreased body roll. In addition to coilovers, you can also swap out steering arms, suspension alignment arms and uprated shocks.
- Handbrake Your car already has a handbrake, but several improvements can be made to make things easier. While seemingly a small change, having a longer handbrake handle makes it easier to grab when initiating drifting, so you can easily make a swap for an extended handbrake. If you don’t need a longer handbrake, at least check your current one to ensure there’s no slack in the cable. Strong, taut handbrakes are a must for drifting.
Developing a good drifting technique takes patience and practice, so don’t despair. Get yourself some orange traffic cones and start off with mastering the doughnut. You can then graduate to figure 8s. Once you understand and feel the weight of your car shifting, throttle, countersteering, and the overall way your car responds to small adjustments, you can take on more advanced techniques. A tip that a lot of pros give is to practice on snow or gravel - in this way, you’ll get used to the feeling of sliding.
It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Safety is vital. Wear your seatbelt. Stay on a closed course. Stay off the streets, especially with a welded differential. Using common sense will keep you out of trouble with cops and prevent possible harm to you and others.