A Step-By-Step Breakdown Of How To Do A Burnout In A Manual Car


How to get those tires smoking - safely and without getting in trouble.

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Few things draw attention out on the tarmac as quickly as smoking tires, and for those who like to make an impression, doing a burnout is a great party trick - but it's likely to get you in a whole lot of trouble if you're lighting up the tires out on public roads. While smoky burnouts are illegal in most states, doing so on a race track or in an area designated for such shenanigans is a hoot. If you're driving a stick shift, you may be wondering how to do a burnout in a manual car. Before we get you started, let's look at what a car burnout is.

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What Is A Burnout In A Car?

A burnout is when you spin the car's wheels but have the brakes engaged to keep the car standing still - the result is the tires heat up due to increased friction and start smoking. If you've ever seen clouds of billowing smoke, heard the engine revving enthusiastically, and smelled burning rubber, you'll know what we're talking about. It's a common sight at drag racing events where the tires need to be warmed up for maximum traction at take-off.

Some modern cars come with a special feature that makes it easy to do a burnout, like the Line Lock feature on the Ford Mustang. But if you want to learn to do a burnout yourself, we'll give you an easy step-by-step guide - but first, an important disclaimer:

You should never attempt this on public roads, in public parking lots, or any area that isn't specifically designated for track-related fun and games. Unsupervised attempts can have nasty consequences, cause damage to your vehicle, and can be dangerous to those spectating. Not only could you find yourself on the wrong side of the law for reckless driving and endangering others while you spin your tires, but you could harm your engine. CarBuzz accepts no responsibility for any damage, legal repercussions, or accidents that may result from attempting a burnout.

How To Do A Burnout In A Manual Car

For the purposes of this guide, we'll focus on how to do a burnout with a manual transmission. But first, some important precautions to take:

  • Find the right location where you aren't putting anyone, or yourself, at risk. There should be sufficient space and as few potential obstacles or hazards around you - these include curbs, islands, parking barriers, poles, walls, and other vehicles. Remember that burnouts also leave marks on the road surface, are not great for the environment, and make a lot of noise.
  • Professional guidance and/or supervision are strongly advised as burnouts can cause damage to your vehicle - any smells that aren't burning rubber should be a warning to abort the mission. Burning your clutch is a real possibility.
  • Don't show off - even if you've practiced beforehand. If you have spectators, they should stand far away to avoid flying surface debris, broken auto parts (if things go seriously wrong), or accidents from uncontrolled launches.

When you're ready, here's how to do a burnout in a manual FWD or RWD car:

  1. Gear up: Start the car, and turn off the traction and stability control systems. Then depress the clutch, and select first gear. Push down on the accelerator while keeping the clutch all the way in - the aim is to send enough power to the wheels for them to start spinning should you release the clutch - usually between 3,000 and 5,000 rpm.
  2. Handbrake up if your car is front-wheel drive. In FWD cars, pull the e-brake to keep the rear wheels from rolling, thereby making it easier to smoke the fronts. If your car is rear-wheel drive, you can use the handbrake to keep the car from rolling, but you must drop it just before dumping the clutch or you may stall the engine. Alternatively, you can use the heel-and-toe method in a new manner. If you're on a flat plane and the car won't roll, you can forget about braking altogether, but if not, then you'll need to keep the clutch depressed with your left leg and use your big toe and the ball of your right foot to hold the brake while revving with the heel of the same foot. This is a tricky method to master, and for the beginner, it's simpler to just use the e-brake until just before you dump the clutch.
  3. Pop it: You need to be quick with this next step, and it may require some practice to get it right. Pop the clutch and hit the brakes with your left foot, while keeping your right foot on the accelerator (or moving your right foot all the way onto the gas pedal if you used the heel-and-toe method). You'll need to modulate it by feel to ensure you keep high enough rpm to spin the wheels while not stalling the engine.
  4. Smoke 'em: At this point, the wheels should be spinning fast enough while the brakes prevent any forward movement of the car. The result of the friction between the rubber and road surface is heat, which causes the dramatic smoke effect burnouts are known for.
  5. Ease off the gas pedal and release the brakes to end the burnout. Remember, the longer the burnout, the quicker your tires wear and the more strain you put on your engine. In a RWD car, you're also wearing out your rear brake discs and pads a lot. Cars equipped with a line-lock function - like the Ford Mustang GT - can deactivate the rear brakes while performing burnouts.

Now that you have a basic idea of how to do a burnout, remember to be safe and responsible on the road, check your tires regularly (especially before and after hard driving), and follow strict maintenance schedules if you regularly take your vehicle to the track.

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Does doing a burnout do any damage to my car?

Considering the friction and heat from the tires which causes all the smoke, your tire tread is definitely being shredded faster than during regular driving. Keeping pressure on the brakes while spinning the wheels also wears down the brake pads, and the heat from all of this can warp the rotors. Also, consider the added stress on the engine and drivetrain during extended burnouts.

Are burnouts illegal?

In the USA, burnouts are illegal in almost every public space. It is safest to keep burnouts to race tracks and official drag-racing events.

What car is the best to do burnouts in?

The best car to burn rubber in is a manual RWD vehicle with ample horsepower. Performance cars like the Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger are available with manual gearboxes that send power to the rear wheels - and both offer various engine options and upwards of 300 hp.

How do you do a burnout with an automatic car?

Doing burnouts with an automatic gearbox follows a similar process: Turn the car on and turn off traction and stability control. Set the gear selector to Drive, and hold the brake pedal down with your left foot. Use your right foot on the throttle to build revs - release the brakes when you're ready and watch the wheels smoke from the burnout.

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