Burnout (vehicle)

Burnout (vehicle)

A burnout (also known as a peel out or power brake) is the practice of keeping a vehicle stationary and spinning its wheels, causing the tires to heat up and smoke resulting from friction.


The origins of burnouts can be traced to drag racing, where they have a practical purpose: drag racing tires perform better at higher temperatures, and a burnout is the quickest way to raise tire temperature immediately prior to a race. Drag race tracks sometimes use a specially-reserved wet-surface area known as the "burnout box" for this purpose.

Burnouts eventually became a serious form of competition and entertainment in their own right. Considerable prize money or goods are sometimes involved, and cars may even be sponsored or purpose-built specifically as "burnout cars". Burnout contests are judged on crowd response, with style and attitude therefore being important factors. Such contests are particularly popular in Australia but often occur in North America as well.

Burnouts are also common in informal street racing, usually for show value. As with all street racing activities, burnouts on public property are illegal in most countries but the severity of punishments vary. In New South Wales, for example, police have the power to confiscate the offending vehicle for 3 months for a first offense. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/australia/nsw/summer/200610/s1768795.htm Father's car confiscated after son's burnout. 19 October 2006. New South Wales Summer News ] ]

Burnouts are also occasionally performed by winning drivers at the end of NASCAR races to celebrate their victory.


Burnouts are quite easy to achieve in a front-wheel drive car; all one has to do is hold the parking brake (or "e-brakes") and accelerate. Since power is transferred to the front wheels only and the parking brake keeps the rear wheels still, the front wheels spin harshly against the surface while the car remains stationary, creating tire smoke. (Both front wheels may not spin if the car does not have a limited slip differential, however.)

Burnouts in rear-wheel drive cars generally require more practice, the driver having to "feather" the brakes while keeping the accelerator ("gas") pedal pressed with the car in gear. At a certain point of balance, the front brakes will prevent the car from moving forward while the rear brakes will have insufficient grip to keep the wheels from spinning, since engine power is transferred to the rear wheels only.

It is possible to make rear-wheel drive burnouts easier by installing "line locks", devices which allow fluid pressure on the front brakes to be maintained while releasing the pedal to free the rear brakes. This is especially useful in a manual transmission vehicle, in which it can be quite difficult to manipulate the clutch, brake and gas pedals simultaneously. Line locks also reduce wear to the rear brakes, a common problem otherwise.

Burnouts are most difficult to perform in four-wheel drive cars, since all four wheels are given power and 4WDs generally have better initial traction (the engine weight being directly over the drive wheels). Additionally, it requires significantly more powerful engines to break all four tires loose at the same time, and the tires will spin for only a short while before all four gain traction.

Other techniques

Another burnout technique is aimed at cars with insufficient power to perform a burnout from a standing-still position. It involves putting the car into reverse, reversing at a higher speed than normal and then quickly putting the car into first gear and hitting the accelerator. A variant of this is to reverse at an angle which will result in two distinctive skidmarks once the car pushes forward — in Arab parts of the world, this trick is called the "88", as the skidmarks resemble two number-eights in Arabic ("٨٨").

These and similar techniques are generally not recommended because they place a great load on drivetrain components and can result in transmission damage.

An additional technique sometimes used by those celebrating a race victory (such as in NASCAR) is to position the racecar so that its nose is against the outside wall of the track, helping keep the car in place as the rear wheels spin.

See also

*Line lock


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