So You Want to Do Some Sweet Burnouts? Here’s What You Need to Know

We get it, burnouts just look so epic. Your tires squealing, plumes of smoke billowing, onlookers’ jaw dropping from the sheer awesomeness of it all. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that vehicular glory? But before you go all Fast and Furious, let’s chat about what those cool tire-shredding antics might do to your sweet ride.

Look, we’re not here to lecture you or be total killjoys. We just want you to have all the facts before you turn your car into a smoke machine. Burnouts put a lot of stress on multiple systems and can definitely do some damage if you aren’t careful. But with some basic knowledge and preparation, you can minimize the risks and hopefully keep your car in good shape for many rad burnouts to come!

First Off, What Exactly Is a Burnout?

When you see a car doing a gnarly stationary burnout, what’s actually happening is this:

  • The driver keeps the parking brake engaged, which locks up the rear wheels and prevents the car from moving forward
  • They floor the accelerator, causing the engine to pump lots of power to those locked rear wheels
  • The wheels want to spin due to all that power but can’t thanks to the brakes, so they heat up rapidly and start screaming for mercy
    -Smoke pours off the tires as small bits of hot rubber shear off from all the torment
  • Onlookers proceed to freak out appropriately

So in basic terms, you’re using raw engine power to ruthlessly abuse your poor defenseless tires while going nowhere fast. It’s incredibly hard on the components involved, especially if you really lay into it. Now let’s look at exactly what parts tend to get damaged.

The Casualties of Burnout Warfare

If you do occasional short burnouts, you’ll probably be ok. But really ripping into it on the regular can definitely take a toll. Here are some of the key systems at risk and how they usually get damaged:


No surprise here – tires bear the brunt of burnout abuse. The intense heat and friction absolutely shreds tires, quickly wearing away the tread and sidewalls. Do enough burnouts and you’ll end up with paper-thin rubber that’s unsafe to actually drive on.


Brakes take a beating too, thanks to the prolonged contact with super hot spinning wheels. The heat can easily warp rotors and burn through brake pads in no time.


Revving the engine high while not moving loads it heavily and drives temperatures upward fast. This risks damaged pistons, overheated heads, and breached head gaskets. Bearings also don’t like prolonged high RPM operation with insufficient lubrication.


Like the engine, the transmission suffers from high power delivery at low speeds. Overheating is again the main threat here, risking cooked clutch packs and damaged gears or shafts.


The driveline components connecting your engine and wheels feel increased stress too – the driveshaft, differential, CV axles, and U-joints. The violent engagement of a burnout risks overloaded driveline parts or broken axles.

As you can see, doing frequent or extended burnouts runs a serious risk of damaging some fairly major systems. But that doesn’t mean you can never enjoy a little smoking tire action! Let’s look at some smart ways to minimize the risks when you just gotta go for it.

Protecting Your Ride While Getting Rad

Look, a life without the occasional epic burnout sounds pretty boring if you ask us. So here are handy tips to help avoid turning your car into a collection of busted parts:

● Maintain It – Keep all systems tip-top with fresh fluids, tightened belts, new plugs/wires, etc. This keeps things running cooler and smoother when abused.

● Warm It Up First – Don’t just start it cold and immediately roast the tires. Get the engine and drivetrain warmed up nicely first so everything’s properly lubricated.

● Use Low Traction Areas – Find wet pavement, gravel, grass or other low traction surfaces. This makes it far easier to break the rear wheels loose and spin, lowering stress on components.

● Easy On the Brakes – Riding the brakes hard throughout lengthens the burnout but further heats and wears the brakes. Go easy on them.

● Install a Line Lock – This gadget locks just the front brakes, leaving the rears free to spin while safely holding you in place. Highly recommended to save your brakes!

● Limit Duration – Keep burnouts focused and brief, no more than 10-15 seconds. The longer it goes on, the hotter everything gets.

● Add Heat Protection – Consider engine oil coolers, transmission coolers and performance brake pads designed for intense heat if you plan on frequent burnouts.

● Listen Closely – Watch and listen for any worrying noises from the engine, transmission or axles. Shut it down immediately if anything seems off.

● Check Fluid Levels – Pop the hood and check all fluid levels after each burnout session. Top up anything low to keep vital lubrication intact.

Do Your Homework Before Attempting Burnouts

Not all cars are created equal when it comes to the abuse of burnout damage. The specs and hardware greatly impact just how much hardship those components can actually handle.

Before deciding to send it, take time to research what parts are vulnerable on your specific ride. If the engine or transmission are known to be more delicate, you’ll want to be extra cautious with the intensity and length of your smoky escapades.

Certain upgraded parts like limited slip differentials, aftermarket axles and performance brake pads can also boost a car’s burnout resilience.

Ask around online communities related to your exact make and model to get feedback from others’ experiences. There’s no replacement for real owner wisdom when it comes to knowing a car’s limits.

Let Your Freak Tire-Shredding Flag Fly, Safely!

We hope this gives you a helpful run-down of what happens in a burnout, what tends to break, and how to smoke ‘em safely without demolishing your ride!

Now get out there, be smart, and roast some rear rubber! Just maybe keep the fire extinguisher handy, you know, just in case. We believe in you!


1. Do burnouts damage automatic transmissions?

Yes, burnouts can overheat and damage internal components in automatic transmissions. The prolonged high RPM and wheel spin puts a lot of stress on the transmission. Make sure to ease off the gas pedal as soon as the tires break traction to avoid over-revving.

2. How much tread do I need for safe burnouts?

You should have at least 3/32 inch or greater tire tread depth before attempting burnouts. Any less and you risk damaging the sidewalls or popping the tires from overheating. Check your depths first!

3. Should I upgrade my rear differential if I want to do frequent burnouts?

It’s a very good idea. The intense torque and traction of repeated burnouts can overload a stock differential. A performance limited-slip diff is designed to cope with the abuse far better while still allowing the wheels to spin.

4. What’s the best RPM range for burnouts in my V8 muscle car?

For a V8, between 2500-3500 RPM is ideal. This keeps the engine safely below redline while still providing ample power to break the rear tires loose and keep them spinning. Go much higher and you risk engine damage over time.

Absolutely! Upgrading to performance brake pads formulated for extreme heat tolerance will help the rotors and pads hold up to repeated burnouts much better than standard pads. Just don’t ride them too hard throughout.

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