Tips to Building the Ultimate Drift Machine
So you’ve been interested in drifting for a while and are ready to start sliding sideways. You’ve bought your vehicle (a light to moderate in weight car with rear-wheel drive and manual transmission) but before you take it on the track, you are considering prepping it to get the best out of the sport!
You probably know this already, but drifting could get pretty expensive. Before you go crazy breaking the bank to fund for any & every mod there is, and fully dismantling a solid car, it’ll probably be a good idea to take it for a few test runs and track days to get a feel of the sport. For this, you’ll need some essential modifications that will improve the drifting experience by over 1000% guaranteed!
Safety, Protection, and Comfort
Trust us, the last thing you want when you are drifting and testing your car’s limit is to be wobbling in your seat and holding onto your steering wheels for dear life. Unless you bought your car from a fellow enthusiast with the proper seats installed, it is more than likely that your standard car seat design will not provide the full support needed for the extent of drifting. It’ll be better to install a good bucket seat specifically designed for racing.
A bonus advantage to bucket seats is that they tend to be lower than the standard car seats. So aside from the fact that it will offer a more secured seating, you are also able to lower your car’s center of gravity which would make it easier to handle especially during turns and maneuvers.
A proper bucket racing seat paired with a five or six-point seat belt or harness (depending on your level of safety required), will help keep you locked in place and ensure you are safe as you make those extreme turns.
If you are considering a harness, you may need to install a harness bar or roll cage as a mounting handle.
Asides from being an efficient mounting point for your seat harness, installing a roll-cage can serve as a double feature to ensure safety and all-round stiffness to your drift car. The roll-cage will stand as braces to make your chassis as rigid and firm as possible. This would improve your handling as with less chassis flexibility, your car’s suspension will be more effective and predictable.
For a sport that requires swift and constant steering and turning, the standard car steering wheels with multiple button functions and wide spokes are not ideal for drifting. A good steering wheel to consider for drifting would be the deep dish wheels that allow you to keep your hands around the rim while it spins, and maintain better control of your car. The choice of wheels however, is really based on preference, and a stock steering wheel could is also a good option to consider.
In case of any emergency, a 2 lb. or more fire extinguisher is a perfect addition to your drift car. If you have a little more to spend, you can also consider installing a fire suppression system.
These structures are mainly for convenience, they are not necessarily needed when your first start drifting but once you start adding parts like coolers and heat exchangers at the front and rear of your car, they can be considered as a form of protection for your parts.
So that’s pretty much all the basics for safety, protection, and comfort while drifting. Safety is arguably the most important aspect in the sport but there really is no point in spending money on mods without protecting yourself first. So don’t cheap out!
When drifting, we want both car tires rotating at the same speed to help with predictability. As most cars come stock with an open differential, it will be very hard to control your drift without altering or completely replacing them. If you stick with an open differential, this would likely be your result: You step on the gas, put torque on your rear wheels and just one side will spin. However, replacing your open differential with a limited-slip differential (LSD) will help balance the torque between the two rear wheels, giving more power to the rear wheels and allowing for better traction.
Getting an LSD is pretty expensive so if you’re strapped for cash, there are a couple of other alternatives you can consider to achieve the same effect. A budget-friendly and motor-savvy option would be to weld your spider gears solid so that both of your rear wheels rotate at the same speeds at all times. Alternatively, you could also consider installing a spool in the rear end of your vehicle. Although these options cost way cheaper than with the LSD, the only comparable drawback is that the adjustments will completely prevent the rear wheels from spinning at different rates which could be a hassle, especially when going around corners. These issues will obviously be apparent when driving on the street so if your car is solely for drifting, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.
If your car isn’t already equipped with adjustable suspension, it should be considered as this is one of the most important features of a drift car. With an adjustable suspension, you can lower your car’s center of gravity and improve flexibility to tune body control! For tips on buying suspension, you can check out our blog post here.
Tires, Wheels, and Alignment
It’s not news that drifting is a pretty abrasive sport, especially on your rear tires. So, having your tires quickly wear out is inevitable. Essentially, when you start, you could use a set of good grip front tires and partly-worn out rears. Stock on a couple of spare rear wheels as well so you can easily switch.
Once you have gotten used to breaking traction and controlling slides, you can easily progress to using newer tires that offer firmer grips and build on your consistency.
Hand Brake Upgrades
Drifting requires extensive use of hand brakes to quickly switch to rear-drive and initiate a drift. A hydraulic hand brake would be the best option for this function but it is not necessary especially at the beginning of your drifting journey. As your drift car is already equipped with a stock hand brake, your main goal is to ensure that it is strong, durable and reliable enough for drifting. To do this, make sure there is no slack in your hand brake cable. If it might be worn out or stretched, it should be replaced. Your rear pads should also have sufficient meat on them and should respond properly when the hand brake is engaged.
Although a hydraulic hand brake is top-tier for drifting, a temporary and budget-friendly modification to your stock hand brake would be a spin-turn button which would essentially make the initiation process easier as it would eliminate the need to press a button to release the lever.
Contrary to popular belief, you really don’t need to swap your engine or increase your power inputs if you are working anywhere between 100 to 150 engine horsepower. Only at the pro/am level can you start considering higher horsepower (really anything between 300 and 1200). Obviously, with this level of power, there would be more mods and builds required to help withstand the power level.
So there you go! That’s pretty much all you need to go out there dropping some smoky clouds. As you progress, you can gradually add more mods to improve your experience but before then, go drifting! Smoke it up! and shred some tires!