Drift Tires: What You Need to Know
By: Discount Tire
Discount Tire does not condone reckless driving on the street; this article is about tires used on cars driven exclusively on a track by trained individuals.
One of the main factors when choosing the right tire for drifting is its treadwear grade. A treadwear grade is a three-digit number that is assigned to every tire that compares the length of time the tire should last relative to the government-mandated standard tire treadwear grade of 100.
For example, if a tire has a treadwear grade of 200 it should last twice as long as a tire with a rating of 100 (and half as long as a tire with a rating of 400). However, keep in mind that treadwear grade isn’t the only factor that determines the life of your tire, especially if they’re being used for drifting.
Also keep in mind that treadwear grades are not necessarily consistent between tire manufacturers; one manufacturer’s 200-grade tire can have more or less grip than another.
For those just starting out in drifting (on a closed course or professional training program) the main things to keep in mind when looking specifically for drift tires are:
Should you buy a more or less-expensive tire for drifting?
Some tires listed below are more expensive than others, but there are many options available no matter your budget. More than anything, you should understand the limitations of your vehicle in conjunction with the limitations of the tires you’re considering putting on your vehicle.
For example, going with a higher quality tire may reduce the amount of times you need to buy a new set of tires, but if your vehicle does not have enough wheel-horsepower then you’ll want a generally less-expensive tire that your vehicle can break loose and get sideways on.
Best tires for drifting:
After scouring internet forums and researching tires used in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, we have compiled this list of tires. Some may have newer models available, but these tires are proven to be ideal for drifting in any day and age.
Our reasoning for listing the following tires along with their treadwear grades is to provide you context on how a tire’s treadwear grade is related to its handling attributes as well as its ability to “break” grip. The higher the horsepower, the lower the treadwear grade of a performance vehicle’s potential tires should be — especially so for drifting.
- Bridgestone Potenza RE050 – these have a treadwear grade of 140. These tires do not chunk after several laps at the track, nor do they delaminate as fast as some of the other tires available. Of course, if you drive them hard enough in a higher wheel-horsepower vehicle, the treads will wear out faster than you’d expect.
- Continental Sport Contact 2 – these have a treadwear grade of 280, that might not be as grippy as you would like on a higher wheel-horsepower car, but these were the OE tires for certain Porsche 911 vehicles.
- Dunlop Direzza DZ102 – with its 460 treadwear grade, it’s not the grippiest tire, but it is the updated model of the classic DZ101 which kept the drift drivers of the early 2000’s on the track at all times with no chunking.
- Falken Azenis RT615K+ - depending on your wheel size, these can get expensive, but if you need some reliable hot laps at over 80 mph you’re going to want two of these keeping your rear tires planted. Their treadwear grade is: 200.
- GT Radial Champiro Touring A/S – These have a treadwear grade of 540, so they are the least-grippy tires you can find for the price. Good for those with sub-150, naturally-aspirated wheel-horsepower.
- Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 – These have a higher treadwear grade of 320, which means they have a lot more tire to burn before they’re bald. They’ll last longer than your average inexpensive drift tire while still costing less than your premium, comfortable, daily-driver tires. They can be used on cars between 200 and 300 wheel-horsepower, but we would not recommend these for over-the-top vehicles pushing 400+ wheel-horsepower as they do not provide enough grip to keep you planted.
- Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 – With the Michelin stamp of consistency, these tires, along with the rest of the HX series, have excellent track performance even with their 300 treadwear grade. If you want reliable hot laps in your moderately-powered vehicle, these are a premier option.
- Nankang NS-20 Noble Sport – These have treadwear grade options between 240 and 360 and they are great for lower power vehicles that still want to smoke up the track.
- Nitto NT555 G2 – these have a treadwear grade of 200 or 320, depending on the size. These tires were manufactured to drift and race, they are ultra-sticky on dry surfaces and stick better the longer they are warmed up. Formula D driver, Ryan Tuerck, uses these professionally on the rear of his Toyota GT4586.
- Nitto NT05 - These have a treadwear grade of 140 or 200 depending on the size. These tires are more commonly used as the front set of a drift vehicle for control during the drift. Ryan Tuerck uses these professionally on the front of his Toyota GT4586.
- Toyo Tire Proxes 4 Plus – these have a tread grade of 560, but don’t let that fool you, for lower power vehicles they can keep you planted on the track and take you home after.
- Toyo Tire Proxes R888R – Higher-end tires, for cars with more power i.e. 350+ wheel-horsepower and cars that can “break” grip even with the grippiest tires. These have a treadwear grade of 100. This means they are extremely grippy and you will need a lot of power to break them sideways.
- Accelera 651 Sport – These have more hot-laps in them than their competitors, but if you’re running over 450+ wheel-horsepower you should go with the 100 treadwear grade option to get the most grip out of these tires. If you have a lower power vehicle, the 200 treadwear grade might be a better fit.
- BFGoodrich G-Force Rivals – These have the standard 200 treadwear grade that most pro/am drift-racers use. The 200 rating on these tires allows them to maintain a balance of breaking/keeping grip to longevity on the track.
- Federal 595RS-RR – The optimal choice for a beginning drift driver without deep pockets for new tires every week. These will last a few low-power laps at the track and still be able to take you home. With a treadwear of 140, these are on the grippier side of tires available for beginners.
- Kenda Kaiser KR20 – They are good for chasing during Tandems on a dry skid pan but not nearly as good on a wet skid pan. They have two treadwear options, 300 or 180 and these are definitely on the less-expensive end of the drift tire spectrum. Don’t discount them though, they can still hang with the rest of the high-performance hot-lap tires.
- Valino Pergea 08RS – Great middle-of-the-road drift tires. Not too expensive and not too grippy for beginner and intermediate drivers alike.
- Zeknova RS606 – Good on wet skid pans as well as dry and optimal for chasing in tandems when in wet track conditions. They have 240 and 140 treadwear grade options for the low and high wheel-horsepower drivers respectively.
What about drift wheels?
When it comes to drift wheels, you should look for the lightest wheels for your vehicle over anything else (so long as they’re within a safe load range). However, the design of the wheel should reflect your personal preference. Some prefer the simplistic yet traditional Japanese design of five, six or seven-spoke wheels, while other popular drift wheels feature more of a mesh or multi-spoke design.
Some of the wheels we stock that are popular for drifting include:
- Enkei Enkei92 – available only in 15” x 7 with a 4x100 bolt pattern and 38 offset. Made for the older generation of drift vehicles and styles with its 4-bolt original Japanese design.
- Enkei RPF1 – lightweight with the classic 6-spoke traditional Japanese drift style, they look good stanced, slammed or regular with no camber/toe/caster. Available in multiple wheel diameters and offsets. Based on an F1 style.
- Konig Ultraform – lightweight and available in various diameters and offsets.
Whether you have a JDM performance machine, an American muscle car that can slide with the best of them or a European sports car, these tires will keep you planted and sideways no matter your power level. Stay safe, stay sideways and stay drifting.
If you would like to make an appointment to have any of these drift tires or wheels installed on your vehicle, find the nearest Discount Tire.
Tires and wheels not listed for sale on our website can be special ordered in-store at no additional cost (some exclusions apply).