Let’s Roast Some Tires and Teach You How To Do a Burnout!
Childish sayings aside, burnouts are one of those things you can love and hate at the same time. They might be fun to do, but you also understand why they have a negative reputation—and why Mustangs are the cliche car associated with the term.
In the right situation, burnouts do have a genuinely real purpose, but that situation is not a busy street or a packed Walmart parking lot. Everybody deserves to try it at least once, and we’d like to help you figure out the proper time and place to do it.
Only attempt burnouts under the supervision of professionals in controlled areas where it is legal. The Drive is not responsible for any damage, accidents, or any legal consequences you may encounter. Likewise:
Attempting a burnout for the first time at an auto show or in some other busy parking lot is the worst possible thing you can do, and you might do some damage to your car and/or others. With a professional on hand, go to a completely empty lot with scarce light poles, and practice doing them with no people or cars around you.
Beware Clutch Burn
If you smell something other than burnt rubber, it might be your clutch. Back off and let it cool down before attempting again. You might not be lifting off the clutch fast enough, and you never want to ride the clutch.
Avoid Areas With Obstacles
Everybody has seen the videos of a burnout turning into an accident that caused tens of thousands of dollars of damage. Never attempt burnouts near poles, walls, curbs, islands, parking barriers, or anything else your car could run into.
People Shouldn’t Stand Around Burnouts
Anytime somebody does a burnout, there are risks of flying road debris, flying broken parts, and rogue Ford Mustangs. Keep your distance if you’re watching one, and make sure nobody is around if you’re doing one.
Manual vs Automatic Transmission Burnouts
Although I don’t have a source on this claim, I feel it’s safe to say most of the burnouts you’ve seen have been in a manual transmission, rear wheel drive (RWD) car as it’s much easier. Just throw the transmission into first gear, push in the clutch, mash on the accelerator to build up the revs, then release the clutch quickly and you’ll be peeling out in no time.
Of course, this will happen providing you have enough power to break those tires loose. If not, you’ll roast your clutch, explode your drive shaft, blow up your diff, or destroy your transmission. That energy has to go somewhere, and if your tires are too sticky, you’ll break something.
How to do a burnout – and a donut
Are burnouts actually cool? Genuinely, we don’t know. We know that failing to do a burnout when you’ve tried to is desperately uncool, at the very least. So we’re thinking that maybe we advise you on how to do one so you don’t have to experience awful, soul-crushing embarrassment. At least, not for your driving skills.
Now, you’re thinking it’s just a case of building revs up and dropping the clutch, right? Nope. That’s a fantastic way to spin the wheels very briefly – probably just enough to lose control – and accelerate at a rate of knots in a direction you probably weren’t intending to go. See also: Mustangs leaving Cars and Coffee. Don’t worry; we’ll clue you in on the right technique.
Goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway) that obviously you should do this only where appropriate, safe and legal – on a closed road/just before getting your backside handed to you by an EV on a drag strip/circuit etc etc.
So, first lesson: spinning your tyres is just as much about your brakes as your accelerator. Without your brakes, you’re not really doing a burnout; it’s more of a wheel-slipping take-off that will – unless you’re in something like a Koenigsegg Regera – peter out as you regain traction.
But, in what would probably serve as the opening chapter of ‘How to be Lord Berkington, leader of pea-brained petrolheads everywhere’, you’re going to need to turn off your traction control, stability control and basically every save-your-skin electronic aid your car has. Now, primed for complete idiocy, it’s time for a burnout. And to Remember. Your. Brakes.
There are two methods for involving the brakes in your burnout. The first way, and the way you’d probably think to do it, is to rev up in first with the clutch in, dump the clutch (take it somewhere public so it doesn’t make a scene) and then put your left foot on the brake. And that pretty much is how you do it, but it does come with a bit of a drawback – the car will inevitably lunge forward a foot or two before you get a chance to stand on the middle pedal.
If you’re looking to do a big, rolling burnout, modulating the brake pedal with your left foot for car speed and modulating your right foot for wheel speed is your best bet, so you can lay long, smoky elevens.
The second – and better – way to start off is to rely on much the same footwork as you would for heel and toeing. So, in first gear, with the clutch in, hold the brake down with the left part of your right foot and roll your ankle over so you can press the accelerator while keeping pressure on the brake.
Then dump the clutch (it was really over months ago) and get the rear wheels spinning. The genius here is that you’ve already got your foot on the brake, so the car won’t lurch forwards, but the rears will light up like a pack-a-day smoker after a 14-hour flight.
But what if you have an automatic? Well, just like they’re easier in regular driving, automatic gearboxes are also helpfully easier if you want to be a complete muppet. Put your left foot on the brake, put your right foot on the accelerator, do the hokey pokey and you turn around. But, in this case, that’s not what it’s all about. In fact, we’d wager that this would be a terrible way to drive a car.
So, with your foot on the brake and accelerator, you’ll be building up torque in the torque converter (those things really are magic), ready to unleash hell on your rear tyres. Then it’s just a case of releasing the brake a little bit – not enough for the car to leap forwards, just enough to allow the torque going to the rear wheels to overcome the brakes, and the grip of whatever surface you’re on.
It probably goes without saying that this is not very kind to a lot of exceptionally important bits in your car. Off the top of our heads, we’d say roughly everything in your clutch will suffer, as well as diff internals, half shafts and all the bushes and linkages that make your car work without sounding like a set of castanets in a dishwasher. Oh, and tyres. But that bit was probably obvious.