Explained: The science behind drifting

There is more than meets the eye with drifting

2y ago

When a car drifts you often just see the wheels screech and a bunch of smoke come out of the tyres, but that isn't the full story behind drifting. There is actually some hardcore science behind how drifting works.

In order to understand the science behind drifting we first need to look at how its done. But before we do, let us first take a look at people trying to put the science to the test and failing...horribly.

Now the science:

To see what went wrong let us take a quick look at the science behind drifting. Drifting is when the rear slip angle of the car is greater than the front slip angle causing it to go sideways.

Put simply it is causing the car's rear wheels – or all of the wheels – to lose traction and allow the driver to have full control of the vehicle in the process.

How science may help to do it:

First off, before you take the corner you need to learn Newton's first law of physics which states an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. In order to do that you need to learn the 5 main things that take place in order to make the tyres smoke while going around a corner.

They are the weight of the car, rolling resistance, direction of travel, acceleration and braking which causes friction between the car and the road. Without friction a car cannot drift and if you try and drive without the use of friction it's like trying to drift on glass.

There is also another element at play when drifting and that is centripetal force. For those who don't know what centripetal force is it is basically when a force acts on a moving body in a circular path and is directed inwards towards the middle around where the object is moving around, in this case a car.

Image source: ResearchGate

Image source: ResearchGate

Now that you know that, all you need to know now is that traction is the main enemy of drifting. If you have too much traction you will never get the car to drift. The easy way to avoid this is by making sure you balance the wheel speed and slide constantly.

That is all for now folks

That is the science behind drifting for you and hopefully you did not fall asleep during that physics lesson. And now to finish, you get to watch some burning rubber and tyre screeching in the wonderful art of drifting:

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Comments (7)

  • Im glad that u explained this to all of us as it is very important. Thank u for ur service to this community

      2 years ago
  • Drifting isn't learned trough physics, it's something you learn in a FWD shitbox on a snow day or in a old E36 beater.

      2 years ago
  • If you don't understand this, think of it as magic.

      2 years ago
  • Here I come Tokyo Drift!

      2 years ago