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Beginners Drift Setup Guide

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#1 the most important part of the car is the differential. it needs to be tight. this means mechanical or locked. don't bother with standard diffs, they are dangerous. (followup article below)


#2 suspension. stiff and low. suspension which is too soft or riding too high will make the car floppy and difficult to control. stick to coilovers and keep the car as low as you can.


#3 power/grip ratio. when you are starting out, you don't want to drift particularly quickly, and you want it to be easy to break traction. run less grip on the rear with smaller wheels etc. "training wheels". this will let you slide at low speeds and slowly work your way up to a higher speed/grip combo. if you hit the track with too much grip you'll have to work too hard just to break traction. less grip will also have the added bonus of less stress on the car/wallet.


#4 harness/bucket. standard seats are pretty weak. harness is cheap and effective.


#5 spend money on suspension over power. caster rods, tie rods etc are generally going to make your car more effective than power. at least stick to suspension work till you can afford the higher maintenance of higher power. be aware certain popular items like twin plate clutches are dead useless with stock sr20 boxes and will only cause constant box failures and bills.


#6 if your car is not a silvia/skyline be aware initial setup costs may be higher as they are not as "plug and play" worthy. seek advice from people who have setup the car you have before. they generally would have already done all the hard yards and have all the info you need.


#7 when initially testing the car for handling, it's generally easiest to start with donuts and figure 8s. diff/suspension test in particular.


good luck =)






What does it do?

The differential controls how the wheels keep spinning together when traction is broken. Open wheeling means only the inside wheel is spinning (Bad for drift). What an LSD (Limited-Slip Differential) will do is make the wheels both spin, this in turn makes the rear kick out (Good for drift). A locked differential will have both wheels spin at all times regardless of whether the engine is running.


Is It Dangerous?

For drift, it is all about car control with the rear end almost always slipping. So it is basically critical to have a predictable diff/car when drifting and much safer with a tight differential.


If you are worried about fishtailing snappiness, this will depend on the car and it’s weight distribution. For example, the weight distribution of 180s make them more snappier than a Silvia due to the added weight of the hatch. Even more extreme than the 180 is the MR2 due to the mid-mounted motor. On the other hand, you’ll probably find Cefiro’s and 4 Door Skylines are more stable and less snappy.


Why is my LSD spinning only one wheel?

Standard LSDs are generally weak especially when they are older, they wear out and single spin more and more. When it is wearing out it is far from being as predictable as a 2way or locked/shimmed differential.


What are my options?


Locked Differential

+ Always locks up

+ Very predictable

+ Will start whining before it breaks (Giving you notice)

+ Cheapest option

+ Great for budget drift s13s

- Poor turn-in (under-steer will be more noticeable when entering a corner)

- Can break if not done well and require a full replacement

- Your car will not be able to drive if it breaks

- Wears out your tyres the most out of all options

- Can be dangerous for inexperienced drivers- Usually classed as illegal for street use


Shimmed Differential

+ Can allow some slip

+ When it’s worn out you will not require a tow

- Costs more

- Poor turn in (under-steer will be more noticeable when entering a corner)

- Will wear out and slowly start open wheeling, until it no longer locks

- Life span is shortest

- Wears tyres as much as locked differential

- Considered a locked differential so illegal


Standard LSD

+ Only newer model cars will have decent standard LSDs for drift, eg BMW M3

+ Good on the street as it does not lock on deceleration

+ Good turn in

- Not as predictable as other options

- Will wear out extremely fast with drifting

- Most older model differentials will be worn out and useless


Mechanical 1.5way

+ Predictable

+ Lifespan is far longer than a locked/shimmed/standard LSD

+ Can be rebuilt

+ Will lock when accelerating and half lock on deceleration

+ Good turn in

+ Good for circuit work

+ Better on the street than a 2way

- Not as good for drift than a 2way

- Expensive


Mechanical 2way

+ Very predictable. Has some slip when required.

+ Lifespan is far longer than locked/shimmed/standard LSD

+ Can be rebuilt

+ Drift differential of choice

+ Will lock when accelerating and decelerating

+ Good turn-in

- Expensive

- Can be dangerous for inexperienced drivers




Its good to know your differential well. Nissan S13′s have a tendency to go out of control on public roads partly due to the combo of Turbo, rear wheel drive and LSD. So its best to exercise caution when you have a RWD with an LSD. Breaking traction intentionally or unintentionally (especially in the wet) can get out of control.

Edited by garage-13

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Kinda disagree with the stiff and low


A badly set up car slammed on shit coil overs will handle like a bag of dicks compared to a car with slightly lowered springs and are fine to learn

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shocks/coilovers are more aimed at keeping the tyre on the ground over bumps

swaybars are more aimed at reducing body roll

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Good post; should help some peeps. Agreed about low not being essential though. A little lower than factory is fine imo, but super-low on a basic build isn't the greatest idea.

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