Brake more for a better break this time

Karl McCord

As soon as the snow started to hit the ground last week, I started to drool. But I wasn’t thinking of snowball fights, snowmen, snow forts, or snow angels. I scraped off my car and drove to the nearest empty parking lot, and proceeded to spend an hour of my day spinning donuts.

?After the first snow each winter, I have a sort of contest with myself to see how gracefully I can drift my car around corners, spin 360s, perform J-turns, and slide my car sideways. There isn’t anything quite like plowing through an empty lot with a four-door sedan, handbrake firmly deployed and steering wheel deliberately cocked to the right. The car glides over a normally grippy surface, throwing sheets of snow to the aft.

?Most of the snow has melted by now, but I would like to encourage anyone who has a car to try some donuts the next time it snows. First, some guidelines.

?Know your vehicle. Be comfortable with scraping snow off of it. Also, if you mess up, make sure it is not a car you’d worry too much about totalling. Know whether or not your parking brake works, and know whether the car is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive.

?Next, pick a large, open parking lot without obstructions like poles, curbs, or trees. In case you do slide a little further than intended, you don’t want to slam into a rack full of shopping carts. The vehicle would probably end up with a bit more than a door ding.

?It also suits to find a lot that is away from major roads – technically speaking, donuts aren’t 100 percent legal. And if you are doing donuts, on the chance that you might get caught, remember to keep the dry ice and bottle rockets in the trunk.

?And the last thing to remember before you begin – bring some tools (and maybe a friend) that could help you if you get stuck. Sandbags, shovels, chains or two-by-fours are some suggestions.

?Now, you’re ready to start. You’ve found an open parking lot, you’ve got your buddy in the passenger seat filming on one of the school’s video cameras, and the clanking supplies are safely stowed in the trunk. Seatbelts? Check. Helmets? Check. Shades? Check.

?For a front-wheel drive car, do as follows: Drive to the middle of one side of the lot, and face your car towards the other side. Put the car in drive, and slowly accelerate to about 10 or 15 miles per hour. Now, turn the steering wheel just slightly to one direction while applying the parking brake. Enjoy yourself until you’re in the center of the lot, and then release the park brake. Countersteer if necessary to correct the slide, and repeat the whole process.

?The first thing to do is to perfect the slide. After that, try aligning your car into a parking space after a slide from a 90-degree angle. Then, try a J-turn – slowly accelerate in reverse, and then crank the wheel and stomp on the gas. You’ll flip around, and if you time it right, you can switch the car into neutral or drive and end up going in a forward direction. Make sure you are on a very slippery surface though, as this can be harmful to your transmission otherwise.

?As you’re practicing, remember to always be safe. Controlled chaos on wheels is the most graceful American sport.