Automotive Modifications For Drifting

The drifting world is a complex mix of one-timers, enthusiasts, semi-professional and professional. While there are different outlet arenas for this mixture, one thing is constant. For a car to drift well, modifications are crucial. It is true that a car can drift without modifications, but it is unlikely to do well in any competitions, and it will eventually need mods if the driver continues to drift. Our third article in our drifting series will focus on typical modifications for a drift car, and some unique modifications.

There are seven main areas of a car that drifters tend to modify:

1. Drive train

2. Tires

3. Interior

4. Exterior

5. Engine

6. Steering

7. Suspension

This article will cover the first four modifications, drive train, tires, interior and exterior. Followed by an article dedicated to engine, steering and suspension modifications. Modifications to drift cars are critical and technical, and thus, take more time to cover than other drifting subjects.

Drive train customization of a drift car is, without a doubt, the most important of the seven. In order to properly drift, one must first consider installing a limited slip differential (LSD). While some vehicles come standard with a LSD, the most typical stock differential is open. Unfortunately, open and viscous differentials do not allow for control of a sustained slide. The most popular type of limited slip differential is the “clutch-type”, which allows for invariable lock-up activity of the vehicle during both acceleration and deceleration. Two other types of differentials that are prominent among drifters include, a “spool” differential and a welded differential. Spool differentials are interesting, in that, they perform no differential effect, the wheels of the vehicle are simply locked together. On the other hand, the welded differential is a procedure that welds the side gears together, making a drift possible at a high rate of speed. There are definite cons when choosing to go with a limited slip differential alternative. For example, while a welded differential is much cheaper, it makes parking more difficult and is devastating to the drive train over time. So while there are cheaper methods of obtaining a differential system that will allow for accurate drifting, in the long term, it is most efficient to go with a LSD.

Another major modification to the drive train of drift cars is the clutch. Some drifters opt to buy inexpensive clutches often, because regardless of the amount of money spent on them, they will have to replaced time and time again. However, many professional drifters choose ceramic brass button or multiple plate varieties of clutches for their durability. A further benefit of these more durable clutches are their ability to withstand the clutch-kick technique of drifting. Clutch Masters, Competition Clutch and Daikin/Exedy are all prominent performance clutch manufactures that drifters look to, when searching to modify their stock clutch.

Any drifter will tell you that they go through a lot of parts, it is just a hazard of the game, but there is no part they go through more than tires. The tires that one utilizes typically depends on their current level of drifting and where they drift. Many competitive forums, such as D1 Grand Prix, only allow certain commercial tires that are approved by their particular agents. However, those who drift that aren’t quite on the D1 level have a different approach when choosing their tires. Drifters typically place different tires on the front and back of the car, with the good tires going to the front. Due to the damage that drifting can cause to tires, some opt to use pre-owned tires on the back of the car, because of the likely hood of them being used after a show or competition is slim to none. However, one must not underestimate the power of good tires.

Tires are the key element to grip, and maintaining the best possible grip is essential for control, speed and a quick snap on the beginning entry. Fortunately for the higher budget drifter and teams with great funding, tire manufacturers are now producing tires with the drifter in mind. For example, Kumho is now producing special effect tires that will give a drifting crowd colored and scented smoke. For all of the talk about tires, it is critical to safety that tires have adequate tread. Those opting for cheaper used tires, often find themselves planted in a wall because the tires were not adequate for drifting purposes.

Most drifting fans are well aware of the fact that drift cars are not pretty. While a few are show quality, this is typically a function of available funds, not being a good drifter. All drift cars get beat up…that is just the name of the game. So one may question why would a drifter spend money modifying the interior of their car. The answer is simple, these interior customizations aren’t for looks, they are done to make drifting easier. Some interior modifications include, seating, steering wheel, hand brake and gauges. For example, with a bucket seat and harnessing, drivers are free to simply turn the steering wheel versus brace against it. Additionally, replacing the locking knob on the hand brake with the a spin turn knob ceases locking up of the hand brake when it is pulled. Some choose to move the hand brake’s location or add a hydraulic hand brake actuator for increased braking force. These hand brake mods are critical, because of the techniques that involve the emergency brake in drifting.

Exterior modifications are just as important as the interior. Drifters often find themselves purchasing many body kits, spoilers, wings and vented hoods. Chassis customizations often include tower, b-pillar, lower arm and master cylinder braces. All of these braces increase the stiffness of the chassis, making for a better drift experience. Typically, mods such as spoilers and wings are only done when a car is asked to produce more downforce on large, open tracks. Over the years, drifters have learned that when it comes to body kits, there are ways to save some hard earned cash. While most body kits are bolted on, the drifter will often use zip ties which will allow the body kit to break away from the car in the event of an accident rather than be destroyed.

All drifters choose what modifications that they feel are most important, and budget will often play a large roll in these decisions. Professional drifters have sponsors that provide the funds for these modifications, as long as their driver is producing, but this is a catch twenty-two for those who are serious about breaking into the sport of drifting. We will cover the final three typical modifications in our next article, and address this catch twenty-two that hopefuls find themselves in.