Drift car setup and tuning

"Drifting - a tire makers dream."

drift car setupFor drifting you must have a rear wheel drive car or a four wheel drive car which has most of the power going to the rear wheels.

Assuming you want to go into drifting on a budget you will need a car you can afford to break and repair easily.

You will have lots of crashes, and mistakes when you are starting out so something rear wheel drive, like a BMW or older cars like the classic Ford, Nissan, Toyota  or even an older American car will have a ready supply of cheap parts.

The only essential modifications for drifting are the Diff and suspension. Obviously weight reduction and increasing the power output of the engine would be nice but on a budget and while you are learning these are unimportant.

Patience, steady control and very deliberate slow throttle and steering controls are the difference between hacking a car around and drifting.

Limited Slip Differentials (LSD or slip diffs)

Lets look first of all at the Diff (limited slip diff or LSD hereafter) and what it does. Imagine you have a pencil with 2 cotton reels on each end. When going in a straight line both cotton reels rotate at the same speed.

But when on a curve the reel on the outside needs to rotate faster than the inner reel otherwise it will just be slipping over the surface and not gripping.

The LSD in a car sends the driven power proportionally to the wheels with more going to the wheel that needs to rotate a greater distance. The drawback of having a Slip Diff fitted is that when one wheel has no grip and spins all of the power goes to this wheel.

It is something you'll notice if you have one wheel in snow or mud and the other on a grippy surface leaving you effectively stuck. On a fast road you can get a sharper turning circle and put down more power if you moderate the rate of power going to each wheel.

An LSD is exactly that and is usually specified as a ratio.

For drifting you need a locking diff (or locked) which encourages the back to slide over the road helping to prolong the duration of the drift.

An adjustable diff will give the best of both worlds but can prove very expensive and is not something available for most cars so go with something like a 2 way diff with 4.788 final drive ratio.

On a track or road the LSD will make a big difference to lap times and cornering speeds especially in low grip conditions like wet roads or when you are really hammering the engine so if you intend to do some track work get a slightly higher ratio diff.

Suspension settings

The second area we shall consider is suspension modifications and setup for drifting and you will find detailed articles on TorqueCars tuning pages if you want to go into more detail.

For drifting you don't really need much negative camber, just lower it to get rid of body roll stiffen, unless your going into drifting seriously.

Most use a slight toe out setting on the fronts, of around 1.5 degrees but this varies according to car and drivers preference. It will keep the front planted and give a fast turn in.

As a rule, the more camber you roll on, the sharper the turn in will be.

The idea of camber is to keep the tyre flat and in contact whilst cornering and without camber the edges of the tyre will lift up under cornering reducing your grip.

When you are starting out the body roll can actually give you a wider margin of error as well as reducing your overall control of the drift.

Anti roll bar & sway bar stiffening, strut braces, poly bushes and firmer springs are worth considering but again not an essential.

As you get better you will be able to set up the suspension to suit your personal driving style and preferences so if you go for an uprated suspension kit make sure it is adjustable or you will need to go out and buy another set of springs and dampers later on.

Let's look at the AE86, a legend in the world of drifting.

The Toyota Corolla AE86 is becoming the classic drift car of choice.

They are a really good starter car for drifting the power band is just right, nicely balanced.

They cost a fortune to buy now. I would stick fairly standard and go for lightening the car - this has better dividends in drifting.

If you wanted to spend a bit of money we spoke with an AE86 drifter and asked about his AE86 setup.

He says, "Fantastic for drifting is the Toyota Corolla AE 86 (Hachi Roku - Japanese for eight six.) and I recommend a limited slip diff 2 way with a 4.778 final drive ratio."

He also added an APEXi SAFC II fuel controller too. To get more power from the car an engine swap was done and his selection of engine for drift competition use:- An AE92 big port engine (red top) TODA cams 304/288 duration 8.5mm lift.

Mated to TODA adjustable cam pulleys, NGK R plugs, OER Quad throttle body kit with pipercross or K&N Filters.

Exhaust - Trust DD exhaust.

Tein coilovers at the front but on the rear use something like the TRD's blue SS 8 way adjustable shock.

Stick on some 9x14 in rims with 185/60/14 Yoko A539 (Check the tyre size I'm not too sure of that for those rims but for drifting you certainly want a tight fit to the rim!)

Engine tuning for popular drift cars.

Nissan seem to be popular cars, so we've covered engine tuning options for the following engines, which all make good transplant options.

Tuning the SR20DET

Tuning the RB26DETT engine

Tuning the RB25DET engine

Tuning guide for the VR38DETT

Drifting Tires

You will also need a ready supply of tyres as you will get through them at an alarming rate.

When you go to the track make sure you have a spare set of wheels and tyres so you can get home legally!

We have written a few guides about tires, tire types and alloy rims.


The final word has to be PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE.

Patience, steady control and very deliberate slow throttle and steering controls are the difference between hacking a car around and drifting. Join the forum to meet up with our drift fanatic members and swap tips and ideas with them.

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Your Constructive comments on this article

4 Responses to “Drift car setup and tuning a drift car”

  1. Toufiq says:

    How could i have a steering which have a half rotation like gtr r35.

  2. Luis Tran says:

    If i have subaru BRZ what do i need to do to start drift?

  3. danny says:

    i need a list of parts in a drift car

  4. TCJBOLDIE says:

    Cheapest drift cars were Nissan S13,14&15 along with Skylines as there are just so many specialized suspension parts available along with parts interchangeability.

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