How To Drift An Automatic Car: A Beginner Lesson

Regular people drive for daily commutes, running errands, and long trips. But, there are plenty of adrenaline junkies who want to experience the thrill of stunt driving. Drifting is a safe way to experience the adrenaline rush of stunting with a vehicle. Do you know how to drift an automatic car?

Vehicles with auto transmission are not the best choices for drifting. They have technical limitations to perform that stunt. But, is there no way to perform drifting with an auto car?

What Is Drifting?

Drifting is the sliding of the backside of the car followed by regaining full control. The experience is exhilarating if you can perform it correctly. You should always do it in a safe location without risking the safety of you and others.

Can You Drift an Automatic Car?

Yes, you can drift an automatic car.

However, the task is not as easy as drifting with a manual car because of the lack of a clutch. For this reason, you have to take extensive race prep work to prepare the car for drifting. 

The absence of clutch cuts almost 10% to 15% of horsepower, while the torque converter makes the performance sluggish. 

Even if you upgrade the engine and other components for competing in a race, the performance will never be equal to a race-built manual car.

Controlling an automatic car during drifting is somewhat difficult. The driver has to be highly skilled to maintain a competitive speed. You can drift but never think of winning a race with it.

The Practice Tasks to Do Before Drifting

Before learning how to drift a car, you have to pick up some driving techniques. The first task is to choose a safe location with no traffic nearby.

can you drift with an automatic
Find a no-traffic place to practice drifting. (Photo: performancedrive)

You are going to drive the beginner drift car in an unorthodox way so it’s necessary for the practice arena to be empty. Some of the best places could be an abandoned airstrip or an off-the-beaten-track.

The practice session should start with the attempt to perform a 180-degree handbrake turn. Set a traffic cone or a bucket in the middle of the tarmac. 

Drive the car to the cone and jerk the handbrake to do the handbrake turn at the 180-degree. Keep doing this over and over until you are almost 180-degree from your starting point.

The next step of learning how to drift an automatic car is to acquire the skill of counter-steering. 

You can do this by ripping the handbrake when the car is running at 30 to 40 miles per hour and trying to control the direction of the car to your intended stoppage. 

You have to maintain this speed or the car won’t have the momentum to go around the cone or bucket. When you feel comfortable at this speed, you will need to accelerate to master the counter-steer skill. 

Increase the speed gradually to 60 mph but never forget about your surroundings and weather. Always make sure that the conditions are safe for practicing the drifting techniques at this speed.

>> SEE MORE: Which Car Is Safer? Manual or Automatic?

How to Drift An Automatic Car?

When you feel confident about mastering the techniques mentioned above, you can finally try to do drifting on your own.

how to drift an automatic
You can try to drift on your own when feeling completely confident. (Photo: Mechanic Base)

Using the Drifting Handbrake

As usual, choose a large area with no or minimal traffic. Start the car and accelerate while moving the gear with room to rev. 

Most drivers use the second gear at this stage because it offers a broad range of speed and works great in checking the torque of the engine. 

Push in the lock-up clutch of the torque converter and move the steering wheel to the inside of the turn. At the same time, keep pulling the handbrake.

Just after doing that, press on the gas pedal, release the clutch, and flick the steering wheel to the slide’s direction. 

Use the throttle to maintain a precise drifting angle. The more throttle you use, the more the vehicle turns and drifts far from the center of the turn. Using less throttle will create the opposite effect.

And this is basically, how to drift a car automatic transmission.

Drifting Emergency Brake

Many drivers advocate that using the emergency brake is the best way to drift an auto car, but this takes a toll on the transmission.

What you have to do is to speed up the car and turn the wheel to the direction of the drifting. Then pull the emergency brake to stop the car.

can you drift automatic
Applying emergency brake is bad for the transmission. (Photo: Pexels)

How to Drift Automatic RWD Car?

The technique is not wildly different from how to drift an automatic car. You have to accelerate the car at 20 to 30 mph and lock into a low gear ratio to get the maximum torque. 

Move the wheel hard to the drifting direction and use full throttle to start the process. After that, control the throttle to keep drifting.

FAQs on Drifting An Automatic Car

  1. Is it better to drift with automatic or manual?

The automated option is the simplest to manage and drift. However, ease isn’t everything, and if you’re skilled enough, you can make a manual gearbox function quite effectively. 

Moving gears can cause the car to shake, and if you have an automatic transmission, you have little control over moving down a gear mid-corner.

  1. Does drifting affect your car?

The rear end, driveshaft, differential, torque converter or clutch, bell housing, and almost every major part will wear out much sooner unless you beef up every part that takes the strain of a high-revving engine, which is required to keep the rear tires in a position to control the dynamics of the car.

Moreover, the tire shrinks and weakens with each spin. All you have to do to see how drifting affects a car’s tires is glance at the track, which is covered with rubber. Drifting ruins tires and reduces their life span to an afternoon.

car drifting affect tires
Drifting can damage the major parts of the car very fast. (Photo: Buy Tyres)
  1. Can you drift an automatic front-wheel-drive car?

You can’t drift properly in a front-wheel-drive car – you can oversteer briefly, but it’s difficult to maintain a complete drift without rear or four-wheel drive.

  1. Is it necessary to have decent tires to drift?

The greatest drifting tires include shallow and nearly bald tread patterns, broad grooves, strong midribs, and hard vulcanized rubber for strength and longevity. 

When drifting becomes an everyday occurrence for racers, normal tires might falter and fail to deliver the essential performance.

  1. What modifications can improve my car’s drifting performance?

You can modify power, the differential locking, the clutch, suspension, alignment and tires, the steering angle, the distribution of weight, or brake bars.

  1. Do you need a special license to drift?

Every Formula drift driver must be registered by Formula DRIFT to compete in Formula DRIFT PRO and PROSPEC events, Formula DRIFT International events, invitational occasions, or other Formula DRIFT demonstrations.

  1. Do you need a special car to drift?

Every automobile, in theory, is capable of drifting. However, automobiles with rear-wheel drive are particularly adept at this strategy. 

A four-wheel drive vehicle may also be used as a drift car. The automobile should ideally have manual gears so that the driver may fully utilize its capabilities.

  1. What not to do when drifting?

Check out this video from Haugen Racing to learn more about what are the top 5 things you should not do when drifting!


We have just learned how to drift an automatic car and some notices on the practice tasks before drifting. In the end, you can drift an automatic car but it will be much more difficult compared to doing so with a manual one.

Hope you find this article insightful and see you again with more car driving tips with Car From Japan!