How to Do a Burnout in an Automatic Car or Truck

Last Updated on August 30, 2021

Pulling up to the stoplight with your 2002 Hyundai Tibouran at midnight, you get the bright idea: “I’m going to do a burnout, there’s nobody around”.

You throw the automatic transmission in “1”, hold the brake and the accelerator, then release the brake expecting to spin your tires like all the Fast and Furious movies!

Nothing happens? Well that’s probably because you didn’t read this AWESOME how-to guide on burnouts with an automatic transmission.

Why Do Burnouts?

how to burn rubber in an automatic transmission

They ENHANCE your life! There are few things more satisfying in the automotive landscape than an awesome burnout. The tires are spinning, you’re vaporizing tires, breathing in smoke, making a bunch of noise, and generally pissing off all of the grumpy people around you. It’s great!

Burnouts come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got the big muscle car angry burnouts that you might see accompanied with a Dodge Charger, Ford Mustang, and maybe even an E63 AMG Mercedes!

On the other side of the spectrum, you have the squealy, nasty rubber burning sessions of the Honda Civic variety. You’ll be able to spot this species in the wild by a loud, raspy popping noise paired with a front wheel drive (FWD) hatchback looking as if it’s floating on clouds instead of front tires.

This is because those front tires are moving so fast as to create friction and heat, allowing the driver to burn rubber through the intersection. This can also be found with Subaru Impreza WRXs when they do their all wheel drive (AWD) launches from intersection to stoplight.

You may also spot a motorbike doing a burnout at a stoplight, which is another being altogether. They’ll get all of the weight on their front tire, then rev the throttle all the way to the rev limiter making a WAHWAHWAHWAHWAHBRINNNGGGG sound as their tires reach terminal velocity.

This behavior has been studied by biologists for at least a hundred years, yet the motives around displays such as this still perplexes us. Is it to throw up a middle finger to the law? Are they trying to warm up their new tires to grip more during an impending drag race? Or, do they simply just want to do it, so they do it?

See Also: Measuring Horsepower (HP vs BHP vs WHP)

Manual vs Automatic Transmission Burnouts

manual vs automatic 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.

Related: How to Identify Your Car’s Transmission

Is Doing Burnouts Illegal? 

If you want to do a burnout, you are pretty much playing with fire here. Unless you have express permission by a landowner or it’s on your own property, you could get fined upwards of $1000 for damaging property.

This is because most parking lots have lines painted on them, and spinning your tires and otherwise acting recklessly is going to wear out those lines. Then, the property owner is going to have to pay to repaint those lines which will cost them money.

This is a first hand account, so just remember, the cameras on many of these private buildings surrounding parking lots are a lot better than you think. Hint hint: they can read your license plate!

If you’re thinking about doing a burnout on a public road, there are some more considerations you should take. First, make sure there aren’t any people around, in the way, or in the oncoming traffic lane. You don’t want to end up like a Ford Mustang driver leaving every “cars and coffee” meetup (example below).

Also, keep in mind, this all needs to be considered before you do anything at all burnout or drift wise, as I’m already assuming you’re ok with breaking whatever law is preventing this in your area. From experience, we’re all going to do things that aren’t legal in our cars, and that just comes with the territory of owning an enthusiast car.

Also, there’s nothing in this article that will protect you from the law, you just need to be smart about this and never hurt another motorist or pedestrian.

Safety First 

As stated above, don’t hurt anything other than your tires. Additionally, you’ll need to make sure you are in control of your vehicle because that’s your responsibility as a motorist.

Being able to do a sick burnout in Need for Speed doesn’t mean you can do the same thing on real life. Even better, sign up for a performance driving course to get real instruction and experience in a safe environment. 

It’s also good to know that you’ll be wearing out parts quicker when you do burnouts in your car, so pay attention to the color of your transmission fluid, the smell of your clutch, and just check your car more often. As you add heat, power, and force, something is going to break. 

How to Do a Burnout in an Automatic (Front Wheel Drive)

FWD burnout

  1. Disable traction control if your vehicle allows it. Check the owner’s manual for exact steps as to how this can be accomplished. 
  2. Pull your emergency brake and make sure it is fully engaged. This step is important because it will lock the rear tires in place, which will allow the front tires to spin in place. 
  3. Now, put your left foot on the normal brake, and shift the vehicle into drive.
  4. You’re ready to do a burnout. Remove your foot from the brakes and quickly mash down the throttle all the way. Your front tires should start to spin at this point and you’re DOING A BURNOUT!
  5. Note that if your front tires aren’t spinning at all and you aren’t seeing or smelling burnt tires at all, then you should stop so you don’t destroy your car.

How to Do a Burnout in an Automatic (Rear Wheel Drive)

RWD burnout

  1. Disable traction control if your vehicle allows it. Check the owner’s manual for exact steps as to how this can be accomplished. 
  2. Press down on the brake pedal with your left foot and shift the vehicle into drive.
  3. With your right foot, mash the gas pedal to the floor. Your rear tires should start spinning and you’re now doing a burnout.
  4. If the rear tires don’t immediately start spinning, very slowly release the pressure on the brake pedal until the rear tires start to spin.

Tips for Doing a Burnout With an Automatic Transmission

If you aren’t getting the results you want, try some older rubber. Your local tire shop should have some old tires that aren’t being used, maybe they’d even give them to you!

Another idea is to spray water on the ground around the tire that you are trying to spin so you can decrease the traction, thus increasing the ease at which you can burn rubber. Oil and whatever other lubricant you want works too.

Also, I want to mention that if you can’t disable the traction control on your vehicle, you probably won’t be able to get very far on this quest because your vehicle will be fighting you every step of the way.

 

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