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Are Trucks Good for Drifting? (Why Or Why Not?)

Have you ever wondered whether trucks make  a big difference in drifting? There are many aspects to consider when discussing the topic, and we’ll be exploring them to answer that question.

Before we dive into that it is important to be clear about what I mean when I’m talking about trucks. In this article I will be referring to full size pickup trucks not the smaller pickups like the Ford Ranger, Chevy Colorado, etc. I will also not be talking about semis (since most people won’t be using those for drifting hopefully). 

Trucks are actually a popular vehicle for drifting since almost all of them are rear wheel drive and the older trucks (or ones with lots of miles) can be purchased for a decent price. Trucks fit all the needs of a good drift car including being light in the rear, having rear wheel drive, all the weight is upfront, and more. 

Although trucks seem to be a good choice since they are higher off the ground they can be more prone to rolling over so many people choose to just use a car instead. 

Let’s take a look at the weight of a truck — it’s one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing what will win in any truck vs. car drift battle. Weight plays an essential role in physics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The heavier a vehicle is the more grip that you get (which will prevent rolling) but also the more weight the less likely you are to drift properly and the slower the vehicle will be off the line. 

However, when a car and a truck are both drifting down the same street at the same time and they are both up to speed, very often you can see who ends up on top in terms of being able to maintain top speed longer: it usually means the heavier one. Even when you’re doing it with a car, the heavier one has the advantage as the drift can be much more controlled. 

The lighter your car and truck are, the more easily they will be pushed around by centrifugal force and the less drag they will create. An unbalanced weight distribution leads to a lot of wasted motion — which means less power is applied to the wheels and tires. The result is a vehicle that loses speed in corners quickly, or one that doesn’t move down a straight road at all. 

A lot of people think that the biggest difference between a car and a truck for drifting is simply that a truck is bigger. While it’s true that more mass does mean more weight, it’s also important to remember what we were saying about balancing out the weight of your vehicle. Since trucks are typically lighter in the rear and most of the weight is up front in the cab and forward this can make drifting work very well. 

In addition to weight, other key aspects are axle spread and differential lock. Just like the weight of your vehicle will affect your speed, so will the axle spread and differential lock. The wider your truck’s axle is compared to the width of its wheelbase (the distance between its frame rails), the faster it will go through a turn. Imagine a box which is very narrow as a wheelbase, and then you widen each end until they meet at the center of where it’s cut apart. That’s what it’s like when you widen the axle of your truck.

Trucks are designed to go around turns faster than cars, and in order to do that they need their wheels on a wider angle so that they can both fit through the turn and maintain top speed. For a car, this isn’t usually a problem — you just add spacers to each wheel until they’re at the right angle.

Is 4WD good for drifting? 

If you have a 4WD car or truck is that better for drifting than a normal 2WD vehicle or is it worse? 

Is it easier for a 4WD vehicle to drift than a 2WD or is it harder?

Well that depends on what you want to achieve when drifting.

Are you interested in doing drifts where the car stays sideways and slides through corners or are you interested in doing drifts where the car looks like it’s sliding through corners with a drift entry but then completely turns over with full opposite lock and brings the back wheels into play?

Let me explain…

The reason it is better is because of momentum in corners. When you go through a corner in the normal way, no matter what kind of car you are driving, the weight transferring to the front wheels will give them more traction so they will keep pulling and generate more speed on a 4WD vehicle. 

But in corner drifting you don’t want to use all your momentum and get a big drift angle or get out of control where your vehicle becomes a slingshot. You need to achieve controlled drifting action where your car stays sideways but moves over as it goes through the corner. This is much easier for 4WD vehicles because they have a bit more weight on the rear end than 2WD vehicles so when they accelerate their rear wheel systems transfer that power quickly to the wheels giving them more traction.

So for this type of drifting a 4WD is good. This is what is called straight line drifting and it’s very popular with drifters from all over Australia.

Traditionally drifters in Japan do not use 4WD vehicles but they use rear wheel drive 2WD vehicles as they are more traditional. 

Can you drift in an automatic AWD? 

If you have an automatic vehicle that is all wheel drive you might be wondering if you can use that vehicle to drift with or not. 

Drifting is great fun and it can be very rewarding to do. With drifting there are not a lot of rules and regulations like road racing so you have much more freedom to do what you want but only within the confines of what your vehicle can handle. 

If you are looking at getting into drifting or if you already are and you have an automatic AWD or FWD vehicle then you might be wanting to use that instead of buying a RWD vehicle just for drifting… but can you? 

Drifting with an AWD automatic vehicle or even a FWD vehicle rarely works very well and it is best to not even try to use it for drifting in most cases. Although in some cases it will work you will often end up damaging the vehicle or wearing parts out prematurely by trying to drift with it. 

Using a front wheel drive vehicle with a limited slip differential could cause problems with traction, especially under hard acceleration when lots of power will be transferred into one rear wheel. This would cause the difference in speed between the front and rear wheels to decrease dramatically when you are trying to get out of your corner.

Another option for you if you are going to drift with your front wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle could be to change it into a rear wheel drive car. With a rear wheel drive car you would need a locked differential transmission in order to keep traction under hard acceleration or when pushing the car through corners.

While this is one option available for a front wheel drive vehicle, the other options that have been mentioned in this article are much better for drifting than having an open differential. 

In most cases open differentials will cause problems when it comes to drifting or any other kind of racing where you need to use maximum acceleration from both wheels at the same time.

Is it hard to drift in an AWD vehicle? 

Drifting in an AWD vehicle will  be much  harder than a rear wheel drive vehicle because when you initiate a drift you are asking the front of the car to break traction while the back wheels continue to drive. In turn, this causes understeer, which then tells you to apply throttle, and since you’re in an AWD vehicle you’ll notice that it’s actually quite difficult for the back end of the car to break traction. However, this is not saying that it’s impossible; it just takes practice and experience.

You will also risk damaging your AWD vehicle when attempting to drift with it as mentioned above. 

How good are AWD vehicles at drifting?

Many AWD cars have been used in the pro drifting series such as the Japanese SuperGT series, ADAC GT Masters, and the Formula D series. The Subaru Impreza is a car developed for rally racing in all types of terrain and weather conditions with an AWD system but it isn’t designed specifically for drifting. 

However, the car has been used in the pro drifting series since 2008 by driver Rhys Millen who set multiple records and won multiple events including two out of the three rounds of Formula D USA at Wall Speedway, New Jersey. Millen is known for setting several world records in various locations including one where he set a record by drifting at a speed of 249.6 km/h (155.7 mp/h) in the Nevada desert, which is the current land speed record for drifting.

Do I need an AWD vehicle to drift?

Most pro drifters who compete in Formula D and other drift series do not have an AWD vehicle, as they use purpose built drift cars. If you are learning how to drift there is nothing wrong with learning in a front wheel drive car; the only thing you will need to consider is having a secondary car that will come into play once you feel comfortable enough to push a car beyond its limits.

In general for everyday drifting you will want to use a rear wheel drive vehicle to learn and practice drifting and then only use a FWD or AWD vehicle if you have no other options or after you become really good at it. 

Why is AWD not better for drifting?

AWD is not better for drifting as it’s much more complex and dangerous. During a drift you’re trying to take advantage of the fact that your front wheels provide almost all the traction during a turn. Also the system tries to oscillate between static traction and understeer/oversteer to control the rear wheels providing no variable traction. With an AWD system this means that you will never know what type of traction you have on any given tire, which in turn makes it extremely difficult to drift properly. An AWD system also has a tendency to cause understeer which can be particularly threatening when there’s no way to turn off these systems.

What are some advantages of using AWD for drifting?

AWD systems have the benefit of being easier to control and more predictable. They also make drifting safer by creating traction at the wheels in front. Lastly, if you decide to take your drifting car off road, AWD can keep your car from rolling over. This is a useful feature on cars such as SUVs that get a lot of wheel rotation during off-road driving. 

What is the difference between a diff lock and an AWD system?

An AWD system doesn’t prevent wheel spin. It simply controls how much power you can use by preventing certain wheels from spinning. This is why an AWD system should only be used with short stages and spins, but not with fast drifting. The better systems come equipped with differentials which constantly alternate between locked and unlocked traction, allowing for faster drifts. 

As I mentioned earlier in the article, if you experience understeer in an AWD car or even oversteer, it takes at least a couple of rotations before it will correct itself so that you know what kind of understeering/oversteering you’re experiencing.