There’s nothing stupider and more awesome than doing a donut in your car. Burning your tires and wrecking your engine to make a ton of smelly smoke and leave behind a circle of rubber on the blacktop is quintessentially American.
Below is a step-by-step guide to pulling off the perfect donut, whether you’re in a rear-wheel or front-wheel drive car—standard or automatic transmission.
An important disclaimer about doing donuts
You shouldn’t. Driving in an aggressive manner in public is almost definitely illegal where you live. Doing donuts is dangerous: You could flip your car, or lose control and crash. It’s bad for your tires and bad for your engine. Toxic tire smoke is bad for your lungs and bad for the environment. It is not safe. It sends a bad message to the youth of America. Other than it being totally rad, there’s no good reason to do donuts at all. What are you trying to prove, man? What are you rebelling against anyway?
A pre-driving guide to doing donuts
Before your begin your drifting adventure, you’ll need the following
A car. Preferably a rear-wheel drive, manual transmission car.
A a good amount of open space on a private property, and permission from the property owner to do dumb things with your car. Could be blacktop, dirt, or grass (but a donut will tear up the turf, obviously).
Some water: Some donut-nuts like wetting the ground (or their tires) first so there’s less traction.
A tune-up. Donuts are hard enough on a car that has been well maintained. A tuneup might mitigate some of the wear and tear.
A traffic cone (optional, but recommended).
A friend to take the video and dial 911 when you crash.
How to do donuts in a rear-wheel drive, manual transmission car
The most classic and satisfying doughnut requires a car with a stick shift and rear-wheel drive. There are two methods of doing doughnuts with this set-up: the easier “pop the clutch” method, and the more advanced “donuts from motion” method.
A step-by-step guide to the easiest donut
Place your cone a few feet from the driver side headlight. So you can see it. This is going to act as your focal point—the center of your circle.
Turn off your car’s traction/stability control (this is vital).
Put the car in first gear.
Turn your wheel to the left. Far, but don’t lock it all the way.
Mash the throttle! You want around 3,500 to 4,000 RPM.
Dump the clutch.
You should now be in your donut, with the rear of the car swinging around. Don’t panic; counter-steer instead.
Using your traffic cone to guide you, and use the throttle and steering wheel to make a perfect circle. Don’t make an oval. Ovals are for losers.
Steering: The wheels will basically follow along with the momentum of the car, but you’ll still need to nudge the wheel to keep things tight.
Throttle: The steering wheel is secondary to the throttle when it comes to controlling a donut. More throttle makes the circle wider. Less makes it tighter. Steering is mostly for fine-tuning your orbit.
Stop when you grow tired of doing a donut or hit a tree. Press the brake or take your foot off the gas.
How to do an advanced rear wheel drive donut
Lay down your cone.
Drive slowly around the cone with the steering almost all the way to the left (but not all the way).
Gradually increase your speed until you feel the tires start to slip.
Take your foot off the accelerator. This will shift the cars weight forward, making the back light and floaty.
When you feel the weight shift, mash the pedal to the floor.
Let the steering wheel turn all the way to the opposite side.
Ease up on the gas to about halfway.
You should now be spinning about, and you can use your throttle and steering to fine tune your circle.
Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work right. Even extremely stupid things take practice.
This guide from car throttle.com goes into greater detail and contains diagrams and troubleshooting tips, but if you do it right, it should look something like the cars in this donut-porn video.
How to do donuts in a front-wheel drive car
If your car is a front-wheel drive, automatic transmission (because it’s your mom’s car), it’s supposedly still possible to do donuts, but you really shouldn’t: it’s kind of lame, and it’s apparently harder on front-wheel drive cars, and your mom will be mad if you mess up her Toyota.
But if you insist on doing donuts, you have two options (and I really can’t say how well either will work, so try both/neither). The first works on automatic transmission and manual transmission cars; the second is only possible in cars with a clutch.
Turn off traction/stability control. This is vital.
Don’t put the car in (D)rive. Put it in 1st, or hill climbing gear.
Drive forward slowly
Turn the steering wheel left or right almost all the way.
Accelerate sharply; the car should start to slip.
Engage the handbrake.
You can control your circle by controlling the throttle and the handbrake.
Reverse front-wheel drive donuts
If you put a front wheel drive car in reverse, it’s essentially a rear-wheel drive car—or so the theory goes. Of course, cars are not designed to drive in reverse very fast or for very long. Your car’s engine and weight distribution were designed for going forward, so this is likely to be very hard on your poor car. But if you must:
Turn your steering wheel in the direction you want the back of your car to go.
Shift into reverse.
Engage the clutch.
Stomp the gas—foot to the floor,
Release the clutch and the front wheels should slips and start sliding around the back wheels.
Jerk your steering wheel in the opposite direction.
Seriously, don’t do this. You’re going to fuck up your car.
Further inspiration for donut aficionados
It’s probably possible to lose traction but still keep control in most vehicles, if you’re ingenious and persistent enough. For instance, these nerds manage to get an electric Smart car to lay down some rubber (with the help of greased up tires). Here’s a mail truck doing donuts in the snow. And this guy put wagon wheels on his car and did donuts. But just to be a downer, here are a few videos of donutcrashes.