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How to Do a Burnout: The Complete Guide

Show-off Your Driving Skills And Safely Complete A Burnout With These Basic Steps

Car Burnout

For driving enthusiasts, doing a burnout can be a thrilling spectacle. There aren’t many things cooler than seeing a car at a standstill with the wheels spinning and smoking, or laying down a perfect set of tire stripes on the pavement. Performing a burnout isn’t for every car and every driver though—it takes a bit of timing and some skill. This article will focus on how to safely do a burnout in a rear-wheel-drive automatic and manual car.


Performing a Great Burnout

Disclaimer: Doing burnouts can be dangerous and illegal. Follow your local regulations and do so at your own risk.

You’ve likely seen drivers performing burnouts in two scenarios — either to warm up their tires on the start line of the drag race or just for the sake of showing off a bit. If you aren’t a professional or amateur drag racer, you likely fall in the latter category, and the main focus for you will be on how to do a burnout safely. There is no doubt that in both scenarios there will be big smiles and increased heart rate. First, know that it is not legal to perform a burnout on a public road or highway. We recommend finding a safe and legal place to do your burnout. This way you can learn in a controlled environment.

This is our step-by-step guide to achieving the best burnout possible.

Steps to Perform a Burnout:

1. Ensure Your Car Is Suitable

Some models of cars are more suitable to do burnouts than others. Factors to take into consideration include if your car is automatic or manual (or has a DCT) and whether it is rear-wheel, front-wheel, or all-wheel drive. Also, you will need to be familiar with your traction control settings and how to turn them on/off. Generally, rear-wheel-drive cars with higher horsepower and street tires will be the best combo for a showy, smokey burnout.

Also, make sure to look over your car for general condition and any signs of wear or tear (especially if you have an older car) and inspect the condition of your tires. A burnout puts a lot of stress on a car, so you’ll want to make sure your car is in good working condition to begin with. There have certainly been instances of burnouts gone wrong, and you don’t want to put yourself, car, or anyone else in a dangerous situation.

Though we focus primarily on how to do a burnout with an automatic transmission equipped car, manual transmission burnouts can also be tons of fun. We suggest starting to get the feel for burnouts in an automatic vehicle first, as a manual transmission burnout is a bit more complicated.

When it comes to doing better burnouts, usually cars with rear-wheel drive will perform better than their front-wheel driving counterparts. This is because there is usually less weight over the powered wheels in a rear-wheel-drive car, which makes it easier to get the tires spinning. Rear-wheel-drive cars also have the benefit of allowing the front wheels to focus on steering while the back wheels can focus more on spinning and shredding tires.

2. Find a Safe Location

This is one of the more tricky parts because finding a safe spot, that is also legal, is rather difficult. When it comes to safe spots, parking lots or any large paved area is usually the best bet. You will want to find a spot that gives you room for error, doesn’t put anyone in danger, and doesn’t bother residents in the surrounding areas. But, you might rightly ask, are any of those places legal?

One of the only legal places you can do a burnout is on your own private property. If not your own property, you need to get permission from someone else to use their private property. The caveat is that it is still illegal to disrupt someone else with your burnout. So make sure the area you choose is located far enough away from other residents so you don’t disturb them.

We know you’ve seen videos of on-street burnouts. But let us remind you that you’ve likely also seen the videos of the on-street burnout fails, resulting in damage to car, driver, and sometimes bystanders. Though you might be tempted to take your car out on the street or public parking lot, we encourage you to find a safe, legal, controlled environment.

3. Start And Set Up Car For Burnout

Once you’ve found your safe spot, get your car set up for the burnout! Start your car with the key or the start/stop button. Make sure you keep your left foot on the brake pedal. Also, make sure to keep your front wheels pointed straight and leave the handbrake/parking brake on. Once you start the car, shift the car into drive and release the parking brake.

After that, you’ll want to turn off the car’s traction control. With traction control on, the car will continue to try to gain traction and momentum, instead of letting you spin the tires. You may need to consult your owner’s manual for the steps on how to turn off traction control for your particular make and model.

4. Perform The Burnout

Now, you are ready to perform a burnout!

First, press BOTH the brake and gas pedals as hard as you can, with your left foot holding the brake and right foot on the gas. This will rev up the engine, building power, while the brakes hold the car stationary.

Slowly release the brake pedal while keeping the gas pedal depressed, but RPMs below your car’s redline. No need to blow up your motor! Releasing the brake slowly will cause the tires to spin and smoke as they try to find traction. You will need to modulate the amount of brake and throttle in order to keep the car from moving forward.

When you’ve had enough smokey fun, you’ve destroyed your poor tires, your engine is getting hot, or you’re just ready to stop, simply let off the gas pedal. Or, once you have some practice, go ahead and lay down some perfect stripes by slowly letting off the brakes even more as you keep the gas depressed. This will keep the tires spinning while the vehicle starts to move forward.

If you are driving a manual car, the process differs slightly — you must be quick with your feet. Start with your left foot depressing the clutch pedal to the floor. Then rev up the engine with the gas pedal with the right foot. Next, quickly take your left foot off the clutch and move it to the brake just as the car starts to want to move — essentially dumping the clutch. Once both feet are simultaneously on the brake and gas, you should be able to start your burnout for clouds of smoke in the rearview. You’ll need to modulate both pedals to keep the tires spinning and the vehicle stationary – as well as keep the revs low enough not to over-rev your engine.

All through the process, be sure you keep an eye and ear open for potential issues. When performing a burnout you are fighting with friction and traction. Warped rotors, torched tires, fried fluids, or other component failures may be the price you pay. If you start smelling anything unusual or see sparks, it’s probably best to call it a day.

How to do a Burnout in Four Easy Steps:

  • 1. Ensure Your Car is Suitable 
  • 2. Find a Safe Location
  • 3. Start and Set up Your Car for Burnout
  • 4. Perform the Burnout

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I do a burnout in a front-wheel or AWD car?

Rear-wheel-drive cars are the easiest type of car to use for a burnout. You can perform a burnout in a front-wheel-drive vehicle by employing your parking brake, but generally, you run the risk of damaging your drive train, so it isn’t really recommended.

Similarly, AWD cars are not recommended for burnouts. While they can be used, there is a lot of stress on the drivetrain and most AWD vehicles don’t have the necessary power to spin all four wheels at the same time.

What kind of tires are best for a burnout?

You don’t need a specific type of tire for a burnout. However, you may want to wet your tires slightly. Wet tires will perform a better burnout than dry ones because they are a little bit slippery. Don’t make the tires too wet, but a little bit of water can work wonders to get them spinning in place.

What important factors should I look out for in performing my burnout?

Some other things to look out for include the condition of your brake pads. Good brakes are a key component to a controlled smokey burnout. Also, be familiar with your traction control settings and how to turn them on/off, as the system won’t do you any favors when trying to do a burnout if engaged.

Can you do a burnout in a diesel car?

Diesel vehicles are actually really good for doing burnouts! Diesel engines produce a ton of low-end torque that will help the tires keep spinning.

What are the easiest places to do a burnout?

The key to a good burnout is low traction on the drive wheels. Wet surfaces are great. Gravel surfaces are also really good, but beware of flying gravel. Generally, it is easiest to learn burnouts on a flat surface. However, downhill in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle works well because the weight of the vehicle is off the drive wheels.

About Jake Starr

Jake Starr is a rising junior at Penn State and is from just outside of Philadelphia. At Penn State, Jake is the News Director at the school's radio station. In addition, he serves as a writer for Penn State Athletics, covering multiple sports. Jake specializes in sports play-by-play, hosting, reporting, and feature writing amongst other things. He has an extensive writing background that he will bring to Autowise to provide the best content possible.