Executing a J-Turn
A J-turn is a reverse 180-degree spin that requires a deft hand and good coordination at each step of the move. The key to a good J-turn is how quickly you ‘whip’ the steering through the 12 o’clock position to initiate the spin, and how efficiently you unwind that steering to complete the move.
To achieve both these goals, I hold the wheel at ten o’clock with my right hand and look over my left shoulder, or vice versa in a left-hand drive car, so that I can yank it through 12 o’ clock with plenty of force and apply enough lock to swivel the nose of the car. At the end of the move, it’s easy to return my hand to its original position so that I know the fronts are pointing straight again.
To start a J-turn, stop the car, select reverse and observe the view through the rear screen to check it’s clear. There needs to be enough space to accommodate the length of the car when it spins, so you should line up in the centre of that space and fix your sights on an object in the far distance to ensure that you drive straight.
Position your steering hand at 10 o’clock, or two o’clock for a left-hand turn, and reverse quickly so as to load the suspension. Up to a minimum speed of 20mph works, but ideally around 40mph ensures that the fronts will skid when you want them to.
Once you’re up to speed, lift off the accelerator and crank the steering to the right from 10 o’clock to about four o’clock and put the clutch in. The car will spin on its axis. If you don’t steer fast enough initially the nose of the car won’t spin, it will grip, causing you to head off in a new direction. Brake before you hit something.
To give it a little extra, I tilt the suspension by gently turning the steering a tad in the wrong direction before throwing it sharply the other way.
As the car’s nose makes its way past 90-degrees, you should be looking through the windscreen and steering the wheel through to the left. This helps the car rotate a full 180-degrees into its new direction.
Calmly move the gear lever from reverse to second and drive away. Failing to do this will result in some disagreement between your transmission and the road over which way each one should be going.
Don’t rush the gears. As long as the clutch pedal is pushed in you can take your time moving out of reverse and just drop into second when the car is pointing straight. Autos are even easier. Practise the move from reverse to second whilst stationary; it gets more complicated when you’re mobile unless you’re an octopus.