How To Do Donuts In a Car (RWD and FWD Methods)

Hooning with your friends. An open parking lot after a fresh-fallen snow. The empty wasteland that is the IBM parking lots that are just beckoning you to roll in there and do something irresponsible with a vehicle.

You don’t need a reason for doing burnouts, donuts, skids, elevenses, or the like—you just need the proper guide.

how to do donuts

What Does It Mean to Do Donuts?

If you haven’t done them yourself, you’ve seen it in the movies. A car with a bunch of smoke coming out from the rear wheel wells, the tires spinning, the engine revving—maybe even a close up shot of the tachometer spinning all the way up to 6500 revolutions per minute (RPM).

The aftermath is a series of black circles printed on the asphalt in concentric circles, and if you were there, you’d smell burning rubber for days.

donuts in parking lot

Let’s back up a bit. When you drive down the road, the only thing keeping you on the straight and narrow is the friction your tires provide. Now, when you’re at a stop and then put too much power through your drive wheels (the wheels that get power from your engine), then your tires will lose contact and start to spin independent of the asphalt they are on.

As they spin, those tires will generate heat, resulting in a bunch of smoke and burnt rubber. Then those tires will behave like ice slipping on ice, and that side of the car will start to slide around. Turn the wheel as you’re spinning and you will be able to control the car in a circle—creating a beautiful, jelly-filled donut.

Disclaimer – Alright, we get it. There's nothing quite like the thrill of spinning around in circles in your car. But let's not forget that donuts can be dangerous and cause some serious damage. We're talking loss of control, crashes, injuries, and even legal trouble. If you're determined to unleash your inner stunt driver, make sure you're doing it in a safe, controlled environment, like a race track. Remember, safety first, donuts second!

Read Also: Donut Spare Tires (Cost and Where To Buy)

Optimal Setup

While you can do donuts in pretty much any kind of car, there is an optimal setup. Your super sick skid whip should have rear-wheel-drive, a manual transmission, and an engine with enough power to do a burnout.

If you have all-wheel drive, you can still do some sweet donuts if you have enough power to spin all four wheels.

Or, you can just make sure you’re doing it in the snow or on a wet rainy road, hell even drip a whole mess of vegetable oil on those tires and see what you can do. (Note: we haven’t tested the veggie oil thing, and can’t guarantee it’s a safe thing to do.)

A lot of people on the internet—mostly bots—say that you NEED to have a front-engine car to have the most-optimal burnout weapon known to man. They have a bit of a point, but it comes down to weight distribution more than the actual ability to do burnouts.

See, if you have your engine over the font axle, you’ll therefore have less weight over the rear axle. So, unless you’re a dumbbell salesman, those rear wheels will have less traction on the ground under them which means you’ll be able to do some sweet donuts.

The key is reducing friction under those tires—no matter how you get it done. That can be excess power, slippery road surfaces, only have two driven wheels, or disabling traction control.

Related: 16 Best Tire Brands (According to Car Enthusiasts)

Rear-Wheel Drive Donuts

donut rear wheel drive

Step #1

If you have a rear-wheel drive car, you’re one step closer to being able to do sweet donuts. The first step is to get your car to a stop in an area without other cars. Preferably a race track, but let’s be real it’s going to be some parking lot in your home town at like 10pm at a place you haven’t really thought through fully.

They probably have cameras so just assume you’re going to get a call from the police or something in the next couple weeks. But, I digress—you need some room to practice donuts and this is the place.

Step #2

Turn off traction control if you have it.

Step #3

Next, put your car in first gear.

Step #4

Now, if you have a manual transmission car, build up the revs by pressing down on the accelerator pedal with the clutch pedal fully pressed down. 

Step #5 

Then, in the manual car, release the clutch swiftly with your foot firmly planted on the accelerator pedal. The car will lurch forward and you’ll hear your tires squeal as the back and becomes a bit sloppy/out of control.

In an automatic transmission, you’ll just put the car in first gear with traction control off, and then floor the gas pedal. It won’t give you as much control as you’ll have in the manual car, but it will still be fun.

Step #6 

Now, as the back end has hopefully lost traction, you’ll find you don’t have as much control over the position of the vehicle in the parking lot as you used to—this is by design. Now, with your foot still planted on the accelerator pedal, start to turn the wheel to the left, which should send the car left and the rear of the car to the right. 

Step #7

Experiment with how much throttle you give out. This will determine how much the rear of your car steps out and how quickly your tires stop spinning and you regain full traction in the rear of the vehicle.

That’s a good point, as releasing your foot from the accelerator pedal is going to be your safety button—let that foot off if it becomes too sketch and you want to stop.

Step #8

Once you’ve completed one circle and connected your tire tracks to the start of your circle, you’ve done a donut! Now go out and practice, make creative stuff, and have fun.

Front-Wheel Drive Donuts

FWD burnout

Step #1

“YoU cAnT Do frOnT WhEeL DriVe DonUTs” you’ll hear the keyboard warriors say, but I’m telling you—you can.

First step is to bring that SICK Front-Wheel drive WEAPON to a stop in a parking lot you will probably get in trouble for being in but just make sure you don’t. 🙂 

Step #2

Next, put that car in park and get out. Place a couple of lunch trays (do people use these anymore? Damn I’m old) in front of each of the rear wheels. 

Step #3

Next, put the car in drive and drive slowly over the trays so the wheels are now sitting 

Turn off traction control if you have it.

Step #4

Pull the parking brake. It should only lock up your rear wheels so they don’t move forward at all.

Step #5

Now, push in the clutch if you have a manual car and build up the revs by pressing down the accelerator pedal. 

Step #6

Now this is the fun part—let go of the clutch with the accelerator still pressed down, and you’ll find the car lurches forward. The rear of the car will be a bit sloppy and out of control because you have trays under the rear tires. 

Step #7

Now have fun! Turn the wheel left and right, notice how the car behaves and slips/slides around. See? You can still have fun in a “boring” economy car. 

Front-Wheel Drive Donuts (in Reverse)

driving in reverse

Step #1

Bring the car to a stop in a parking lot or someplace that doesn’t have other cars or obstacles around you. There’s “no chance” you’ll get stopped by the police because doing FWD (Front-Wheel Drive) donuts in reverse is mad chill and the cops dig it.

Step #2

Now, turn off traction control if your car has it.

Step #3

Push in the clutch pedal if your car has a manual transmission, and throw it into reverse.

Step #4

Moving on, as you have the clutch pushed in and the transmission in the “R” position—press down the accelerator pedal all the way to get the revs up and build up some power.

Step #5

RINGINGINGINGINGING* That’s what your engine should sound like, so now release the clutch swiftly and you’ll find your car has lurched backwards and there’s a lot of tire screeching. 

Step #6 

As this is happening, move the wheel left and right to change the direction of your car. Since you’re driven wheels are also your turning wheels, your car will behave more like a forklift in this scenario (Where my forklift-certified folks at?).

The car will be wild, and super fun. Plus, if you look on the horizon, you may see a couple of boys in blue with a single tear rolling down their face. Success. You’ve done it.

Can an All-Wheel Drive Car Do Donuts?

AWD donut

Sure thing. RIP Ken Block. Check out any of the amazing Gymkhana videos through a quick search on YouTube. They are incredible displays of everything that cars can do and all that a skilled driver can do with a killer team behind his back.

All-wheel drive cars can definitely do donuts.

You need a strong drivetrain, enough power to spin all four wheels, and an eager right foot. You can do them in reverse and in normal forward gears, and the coolest thing is that you can also do center-axis donuts that allow your car to spin around more or less in its own footprint! This is super wild and definitely something to try and see for yourself.

Is Doing Donuts Bad For Your Car?

Driving your car is bad for your car. All parts eventually break, so you’re going to have to replace them eventually. But yes, doing donuts is worse for your car than just driving it normally to and from your workplace.

The better question is “Is doing donuts bad for your soul?” And to that, the answer is a resounding no. It’s good for your soul.

Is Doing Donuts Illegal?

Mustang doing donuts

It depends on your local laws, but from what I’ve found—doing donuts is illegal on a public highway because it’s considered reckless driving. This seems like it’s because of the speed differential.

Also, it’s a pretty annoying thing to shut down a highway filled with people just like you trying to get to and from their families at home just to do donuts. So, you can move it to a parking lot on private property where it’s up to the property owner whether you do this or not—so it’s best to check with them first before you start sending it.

The safest law-wise place to do donuts is at a race track or a drift event. Check out CLUB FR if you’re in the midwest and are looking for an awesome way to get started doing awesome things with your car.

Are Donuts Possible With an Open Diff?

Sure. The legendary Initial D Toyota AE86 Hachi-Roku famously had an open diff and was able to do donuts forever. Just give it a bunch of power, use the steps outlined for rear-wheel drive cars above and you’ll have a blast.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

The worst that can happen is you get in a car accident and hurt or kill yourself or someone else. Use your imagination. 

These activities aren’t without their risks, but most truly fun activities carry a healthy amount of risk. It’s all about choosing a safe spot to do donuts, make sure there are few things to run into, and keeping the car within your control as best as you can.

You could die just driving to work, so go do some donuts with your car.

Troubleshooting Tips

Now doing donuts can be tricky, so here are some reasons doing a donut isn’t working for you:

Traction Control 

Many modern cars come equipped with traction control systems that limit the amount of wheel spin to prevent skidding and loss of control. If your car has a traction control system, it may be preventing the wheels from spinning enough to do a donut.

The way to fix this issue is to TURN OFF traction control. Try Google searching how to do this with your specific car model number and see what you find. You may also find this information in the car’s manual.

Limited-Slip Differential

A limited-slip differential is a type of differential that is designed to distribute power evenly between the wheels, which can limit the amount of wheel spin available for doing a donut. If your car has a limited-slip differential, it’s going to be a bit harder to do a donut. 

To fix this issue, you’ll probably need to just give it more power. But if you have an old car that you are just going to use for drifting, you could always weld the diff. This way, both tires will always spin at the same rate.

Front-Wheel Drive 

If your car is front-wheel drive, it may be more difficult to do a donut than a rear-wheel drive car. This is because the front wheels are responsible for both steering and propulsion, which can limit the amount of power available for spinning the rear wheels.

However, you can still do it—just follow the steps outlined above.

Tire Grip

The grip of your tires plays a critical role in performing a donut. If your tires have low grip or are worn out, they may not be able to provide enough traction for your car to spin in a circle.

Conversely, if your tires have too much grip, they may provide too much friction making it harder for you to perform a donut. This will also place too much force on different components in your vehicle, causing premature wear and the breaking of parts.

Well, that’s a lot more than I thought I had to say about donuts, but hopefully it was helpful for some of you. 

And, if you made it this far, it would mean a lot to us if you gave us a share. Send this article to your donut buddy.


Al Seizovic

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