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A Beginner Lesson on How to Drift a Car Using the Hand Brake

The author is a car and driving enthusiast who loves to share driving techniques with readers.

Could you drift like this?

Could you drift like this?

What Is Drifting?

Drifting is a driving technique and motorsport where the driver intentionally oversteers the car, causing loss of traction in the rear wheels through corners while preserving vehicle control and a high exit speed.

Before I begin to show you how to drift, you need to be aware of several things:

  • Drifting is considered dangerous, and is illegal on public streets.
  • There will be some potential mechanical breakdown to your car if you drift too many times without proper maintenance on the car.
  • Always practice only where you are permitted to. I recommend finding a local event where there are experienced drifters who can instruct you, so you don't get caught by the police (like I was).
  • Drifting works better with rear-wheel-drive cars with LSD (Limited Slip Differential).
Drifting can be dangerous! Always be careful.

Drifting can be dangerous! Always be careful.

Hand Brake Drifting

There are several techniques that can help you initiate your drift. The hand brake (or e-brake) technique is usually the easiest and most common way to start off with. All beginners will have to get familiar with this technique first. If you are scared at first, you should also practice this technique until you are not afraid of the car sliding. Here are a few exercises to get you started. After your car starts to slide, the rest is all about your steering and gas pedal control.

  1. 180-Degree Turn
    In an empty lot, set up a cone in the middle. Drive up to the cone and rip the handbrake when you are almost at the cone in an attempt to do a 180 turn. Practice until you are no more and no less than 180 degrees from where you started. Remember to practice both left and right 180 degrees.
  2. 90-Degree Turn
    This exercise is very similar to the 180-degree turn, but this requires controlling how hard you rip the e-brake. Practice until you are no more and no less than 90 degrees from where you started. Make sure to keep your car going after the drift.
  3. 360-Degree Turn (Donut)
    Now, this exercise focuses more on acceleration and handbrake control together. You start the same way you would to do a 180. Once your car starts to drift, you need to tap on your gas pedal to give a little more spin to your rear tires so your drift can keep going. This is often a little hard for a beginner, because too much gas will cause your car to oversteer too quickly, and too little gas will not make your car keep sliding. You need to get a feel for how your car is reacting and keep modulating the gas pedal in order to maintain a nice 360-degree turn around the cone. Keep trying until you can reliably turn around the cone without hitting it or straying too far from the cone. Practice in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions.

After you have mastered all three exercises, you should be very comfortable drifting around all kinds of corners with the e-brake technique. Remember that gas and steering control play very important parts in drifting and practice makes perfect. If you happen to spin out your car or lose control, don't be disappointed; just learn from your mistake.

A Nissan Drift Car

A Nissan Drift Car

Final Tips

  1. Take Proper Care of Your Car:
    One last thing I would like to point out is that drifting can damage your car very quickly, and car maintenance is really important. If you are serious, you should prepare your car to handle all the damage that can occur. A lot of your mechanical parts will wear out very fast. The best plan is to install better performance parts for your car. Not only will this help you learn drifting more quickly, but it also provides better performance in general. If you don't have any mechanical skills, you might want to buy a Factory Service Manual for your car. You can learn from the manual and build up your mechanical knowledge about cars. It really comes in handy if you encounter any car problems or want to upgrade your car parts. The manual teaches you step-by-step procedures on how to do these types of things.
  2. Don't Have a Proper Drift Car? Consider buying a used rear-wheel-drive vehicle. There are many low-entry RWD cars available on the market.
  3. Always Practice Safely: Overall, make sure you practice in a safe environment, such as a local drift event, so you don't damage other people's properties or hurt any people. Also, always keep your car properly maintenanced so your car won't be damaged in the long run. Other than that, just go out and have fun!

Happy drifting!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 driftholic