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Imagine for a second that it’s the middle of winter. The snow is falling softly outside, and the local grocery store parking lot is completely empty. Now would be the perfect time to hop in your car and do some donuts, right? Well, as thrilling as that may sound, doing donuts in the snow, on gravel or road can wreak havoc on your car and leave you with some pretty costly repairs.
So what are the mechanical consequences of doing donuts?
1. Burns Out Power Steering
Doing donuts requires you to crank your wheel all the way to the left or right so you can drift around in tight little circles. While this makes for an epic driving experience, cranking your wheel to full lock can wear out the power steering.
Over time, the wear on these pumps will make your wheel increasingly difficult to turn. Then, you may have to fight to stay in lanes or make turns driving around town. Simple driving maneuvers will become a challenge, putting yourself and other people at risk.
2. Strains Suspension
Turning the steering wheel in such an aggressive manner can also strain your car’s suspension on the outside of the turn. Of course, if you’re doing donuts or drifting on snow, you’ll likely do less damage than if you were on bare pavement. Off-road environments like dirt roads or sand pits have more traction, so they can do even more damage.
Regardless of the environment, doing extremely tight turns can wear out axles, shock absorbers, the stabilizer bar, tie rods and other components of your suspension system. Eventually, you’ll have no other choice but to fix it or scrap the car, as repair costs can be thousands of dollars.
3. Ruins the Drivetrain
Your drivetrain typically includes the engine, transmission, driveshaft, axles, differentials and CV joints. These parts are key to ensuring your vehicle drives correctly and are often quite expensive to replace or repair. Unfortunately, doing donuts can damage all of these components.
To prevent damage to the drivetrain, some car enthusiasts weld the differentials together, thereby protecting the car’s axle and minimizing power loss from your driveshaft. However, you should only weld yours if you plan to drift your car on a regular basis, as this modification is illegal for street use in some places.
4. Wears Down Tires
If you’ve smelled burning rubber or left circular skid marks in the parking lot from doing donuts, you already know how badly this activity can damage your tires. Even drifting around in the snow or rain can tear up your wheels and cause them to deteriorate quickly.
You may also experience a tire blowout while doing donuts. Unless you don’t mind driving on three tires, it may be best to skip the donuts and save yourself the trouble. Replacing a blown tire is simple, but it’s never easy and always a hassle.
5. Ruins Transmission
You know doing donuts ruins the drivetrain and, consequently, the transmission. However, this kind of damage warrants a section all to itself. If you happen to gain traction while spinning around out there, it could shift the gears or cause them to fail.
Then, you’ll have to call a tow truck, admit you’re an idiot and pay a hefty price to fix the transmission. It’s best to either upgrade the clutch or leave drifting to the pros.
6. Overheats the Car
Punching the gas and slamming on the brakes again and again at relatively high speeds can also cause thermal stress in your vehicle. Even if you’re only spinning around at 30 mph, you’re more or less running your car at a 60 mph caliber.
The constant and repeated starting and stopping will create more heat than your ride can handle. If the vehicle can’t cool itself down, these high temps could result in fires, boiling oil and several other issues that will ruin your car.
7. Decreases EV Battery Range
Doing donuts is bad for electric cars too, for many of the same reasons. The power steering, suspension, transmission, drivetrain and tires will all suffer damage. But that’s not all. Although EVs have fewer moving parts than gas-powered vehicles and are easier to maintain, their batteries are highly sensitive.
By wearing down the other aforementioned components, you put more pressure on the EV’s battery to power the engine. The tires, drivetrain and power steering do less of the work, so the battery has to take over. EV battery range also tends to severely decline when exposed to high temperatures, so overheating the vehicle is a terrible idea.
If you want to preserve your EV’s battery range and keep the vehicle in good condition, you must avoid reckless driving habits like drifting and doing donuts. Although EVs are fully capable of doing these fun activities, they are just as susceptible to damage as any other vehicle.
The Dangers of Doing Donuts
Doing donuts doesn’t simply damage your car. The activity can also injure you and others, so it only makes sense that drifting and car donuts are illegal in many states. Shrugging it off as harmless fun is a bad idea. Some cities like Atlanta have even gone so far as to fine and jail spectators to discourage the sport — if you can call it that.
While it may seem like the police are ruining your fun, these laws work to protect you and others. If you really can’t resist the urge to burn some rubber, avoid doing donuts in an empty parking lot and go to a drifting track, instead. You’ll be less likely to damage your car or injure people. Plus, other motor enthusiasts will be able to give you tips and tricks to protect your vehicle, prevent damage and reduce repair costs.