Using a handbrake (or e-brake as it is sometimes called in the US) is probably the simplest way to initiate a drift. While it lacks the stylish appeal of other techniques, handbrake drifting provides decent control over a slide and allows beginners to understand how their cars behave during a drift. A handbrake helps start sliding at relatively low speeds and get used to drifting without much risk. Although it’s not favored by professionals, using a handbrake is a good way to familiarize yourself with the basics of drifting.
It’s worth remembering that drifting can significantly damage your car, so you’d need specific tires and, of course, a proper handbrake. Typically, road cars have cable-operated e-brakes, which are suitable for newbies’ needs but would hardly satisfy more advanced drifters. Skilled drivers approach corners at higher speeds and grip levels, which makes the cables stretch and snap. These deformations create inconsistencies in brake pressure, causing the car to move unpredictably.
Fortunately, there is a solution – hydraulic drift handbrake. It uses special hydraulic fluid to generate pressure, providing the driver with more accurate control over the car. A drift handbrake setup is somewhat similar to your hydraulic power steering system – both use fluids to apply pressure and perform their primary functions.
Do You Need a Handbrake to Drift?
Applying a handbrake is a simple and relatively safe way to initiate a drift, but it’s not really necessary to start sliding. The trick here is to make your car lose traction while maintaining control over cornering. This can be achieved in many ways, though the main thing is to shift the weight of your car correctly. There are multiple drifting techniques distancing from the use of a handbrake or not applying it at all.
But why avoid using an e-brake if it’s so simple and convenient? Well, even the best drift car handbrake systems have many disadvantages. The most significant downturn is, probably, the loss of speed that comes along with handbrake drifting. Other techniques allow drivers to enter corners without losing much speed and momentum. E-braking involves slowing down a car before entering a turn, which leads to leaving the corner at a lower speed, hence wasting quite a lot of time. However, a handbrake is useful for adjusting the drift direction and making Scandinavian Flicks on particularly sharp corners (all the way up to 180° turns).
How to Drift Without a Handbrake?
There are several ways to enter a drift without touching a handbrake at all:
- Use your throttle to its maximum. Accelerating at a low gear while entering a corner is a great way to initiate a drift. Your car’s weight will shift towards the outer wheels, while the rear wheels will lose the grip completely. Remember to steer properly and step down on the throttle when needed. This technique allows you to keep the speed high after leaving the corner. However, not any other car is capable of drifting using the throttle. You’ll need an exceptionally powerful engine to apply this technique successfully.
- Scandinavian Flick. This technique originated from the 1960s rally tournaments in Scandinavia (hence the name). Driving on snow and ice while maintaining speed required racers to abandon handbrakes and search for more efficient ways to enter corners. The solution was found rather quickly – use the weight of a car, steering, and throttle (sometimes combined with a footbrake) to break rear traction. Considering the fact that most rally cars of the 1960s had front-wheel-drive, mastering the technique back at the times was extremely complicated. The flick itself is performed right before entering a corner. The driver turns the wheel opposite the bend and then immediately steers back to the actual direction of the turn. Lifting off the throttle while jabbing the footbrake is suggested for the best results.
- Clutch kick. The name of this technique speaks for itself – kick the clutch pedal as quickly as you can to make the wheels spin. Clutch kicking would perfectly suit the owners of less powerful cars, as the number of horsepowers that your engine generates does not matter much when drifting using this technique. To initiate a slide, enter the corner at a slightly higher speed than you would normally do. Turn the wheel towards the direction of the corner, leave your foot on the throttle (the pedal should be pressed from half to maximum), and start kicking the clutch pedal. The trick here is to make revs of your engine go from the minimum to maximum values as fast as possible. This helps the wheels continue spinning while you are setting the direction of the slide through steering.
- Foot braking. Foot braking is the most complex drifting technique. It requires years of practice and a certain amount of raw talent to master. To initiate a slide, reach a maximum possible speed, start turning as you would normally do, and hit the footbrake. The complexity of this technique lies in the braking process – you need to press the pedal very hard while avoiding losing control over steering and brakes. Ideally, the car’s front outer corner will take all the pressure, allowing the rear wheels to lose the traction. After you feel that drifting has begun, continue steering with your foot on the brake pedal all the way until you pass the corner. Professional racers suggest using your left foot while performing this technique. This can be extremely confusing, especially when you are beginning to learn foot braking.
Types of Drift Handbrake
As mentioned earlier, there are only 2 major types of handbrakes – cable and hydraulic ones. Cable systems are perfectly suitable for day-to-day use, especially if you don’t use the handbrake much (e.g. park your car leaving the first gear on). What’s more, cable systems are sometimes recommended for beginner drifters to avoid costly modifications. If you are making your first steps in the world of drifting, a cable brake may do the job for you, so don’t rush with installing a more advanced system. Try developing your skills with your current stock handbrake before switching to professional options.
Gained enough confidence with the basic solution? Consider installing a drift hydraulic handbrake. It is much faster, has a more convenient handle, and, of course, generates more power, helping you corner more precisely. Mind that hydro brakes use special fluid to function. Similar to all other liquids in your car, it needs to be replaced from time to time, depending on the particular model. In addition, not all hydraulic systems are suitable for use in any car. Some manufacturers limit the fitment of their solutions to a certain car producer. Hydro systems can be either vertical (so you’ll need to pull the handle backward to brake) or horizontal (pull upward as you would normally do).
How to Install a Drift Handbrake?
Before purchasing a drift handbrake, make sure that it can be legally used in your area. Some legislations limit the use of hydraulic systems to tournaments only, forbidding to drive cars with such brakes on public roads. However, there may be exceptions from the law – if your vehicle uses both hydro and cable systems simultaneously, you will be allowed to drive it wherever you want. Check out the local rules regarding the use of hydraulic handbrakes to avoid wasting money pointlessly.
The placement of your drift handbrake is completely up to you, though it’s suggested to mount it where it can be easily accessed. You’ll most likely need to remove the default handbrake to mount the hydraulic solution. Some cars include a possibility to use both options at the same time, which can be quite useful if your drifting car is also utilized for daily needs. Make sure that the surface where you are about to install your new hydro is double-skinned. How do you find such a spot? Stock handbrakes are commonly mounted there. Installing a hydro system in the strongest place of the car is essential to guarantee optimal performance. Even the slightest movement of the whole system will make your drift handbrake useless for cornering. Last but not least: check if the lever moves freely. You certainly don’t want it to hit other objects while you’re pulling it backward.
Drifting is clearly among the most exciting sports ever created. Although it’s not the cheapest hobby, the drifting community is constantly growing, and new members are always welcome to join. If you are an aspiring drifter, make sure to go through several essential steps while sharpening your skills. Start with handbrake drifting and gradually move to other techniques. Your stock brake would be sufficient to gain some basic knowledge about this sport, so there’s no need to purchase the most expensive hydro system right away.
After gaining some experience, consider moving from handbrake drifting to other styles. Using your clutch or throttle to slide allows you to avoid momentum and speed wastages. An e-brake can be quite useful for precise cornering, but relying solely on it is not suggested. If you decide to install a hydro system, make sure to follow the tips above and do your own research on the topic.