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Burning Rubber

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"I never ever had a love
Put the pedal to the metal and
Burn Rubber on me
On me."
The Gap Band, "Burn Rubber"

In comics and cartoons, someone running or driving very quickly will leave a trail of fire in their wake.

Can be justified, albeit thinly, in the case of a wheeled vehicle (friction causes heat and tires are flammable — though in that case only the tires should be burning).note  Other times the trail of fire isn't caused by tires or indeed wheels, which may make you wonder what exactly is causing those flames. But honestly, when this trope is employed well, you won't worry about such niggling little details. It's cool.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece episode 606, we see Luffy while trying to catch up with Smoker, left behind a trail of fire behind him on metal flooring.
    Smoker: You ready?
    Luffy: Are you serious? Give me a sec. Geez, I was running so fast my feet lit the damn floor on fire. (huff huff) You think that's easy!?

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Lamput episode "Arm Wrestling", the docs' boss arrives at the site of the arm wrestling matches on his motorcycle, which he rides fast enough that it leaves a trail of flames behind it.
  • Oye Golu: In "Cycle Race", Golu gives Adi stronger thighs to help him win the bicycle race. His stronger thighs cause his bicycle to leave a trail of flames behind it as he rides it.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Happy Formula, episodes' end cards feature Weslie driving a car and creating a trail of flames behind him.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash
  • Ghost Rider: More justified than some examples, as the Ghost Rider's motorcycle is made of hellfire, the tires included.
  • Sin City
  • Spitfire from Marvel Comics. It's probably her most characteristic feature.
  • Wacky Races story "Follow Through To Too Hoo" (Gold Key #4) has Dick Dastardly in the Mean Machine doing this as he's making up for lost time. He does so with such fervor that his tires are nearly worn to the hubcaps.

    Fan Works 
  • Ace Lives: Literally. "Coffee" Luffy runs fast enough to leave a literal trail of fire from his original position all the way through the plaza and to the execution platform.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Back to the Future: The Delorean tends to leave a pair of these behind during a time travel departure. Including when airborne.
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (the sledding scene).
  • In Bedknobs and Broomsticks, during the soccer game on the island of talking animals, the cheetah player runs so fast he leaves these.
  • Ghost Rider (2007): The Rider's motorcycle is solid matter, but it's haloed in hellfire including the tires, so it's almost inevitable that it will leave a trail of flames behind it.

  • Binky in the Discworld books is described as leaving a trail like this in the form of a pair of glowing blue hoof-prints, probably as a homage to Back to the Future.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "The Waters of Mars", Gadget the robot does this after the Doctor soups it up.
  • Tested and busted on MythBusters. Jamie got a tremendous amount of smoke from their test car's tires note , and after an hour of smouldering the rubber powder did begin to burn. But they were unable to get actual ignition of the tires, even after adding a "gasoline leak".


    Video Games 
  • In Spider-Man: The Movie for the Gamecube, when using the Green Goblin as the player character, one of the available attacks was to run into enemies, leaving a trail of fire in your wake.
  • In Diablo II, the sorceress has a spell called "Blaze" which literally leaves a trail of fire wherever she walks.
  • God of War III; Kratos can do this in with the Boots of Hermes.
  • In Fable the Battle Charge spell leaves twin trails of fire behind the hero.
  • In Burnout Paradise, get the Jansen P12 88 Special and hit the boost.
  • In the Vol. 3 update Need for Speed Unbound, drive the DMC DeLorean at 88 mph for 3 seconds and enjoy the fire streaks a la-Back to the Future.
  • Mega Man 7: This was probably the inspiration for Turbo Man, a Robot Master that transforms into a racecar, and his weapon, the Scorch Wheel.
  • The Pokemon Scorbunny has a yellowish pad on each of its feet that can exude intense heat when it is exercising, which causes it to leave flaming footprints behind.
  • Warframe: The Nezha Warframe has "Fire Walker" as one of its abilities. Not only does it leave behind a trail of fire when used, it also grants a speed boost.

  • Lordi's The Riff has the narrator get into Death's Chevy van, which takes off with "tyres spinning flame"!


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the episode "Flight to the Finish" of Adventures in Odyssey, the wheels on Dylan's race kart start leaving behind trails of flame because he had accidentally put a dangerous substance known as "Whit's Rotation Compound" on the tires, mistaking it for polish. This ends up giving him a huge advantage in the kart race because the compound causes what it is applied to to start rapidly spinning, making his kart go super fast. When Whit and Eugene discover what happened they freak out and try to rescue Dylan, since the compound also causes what it is applied to to explode after a while.
  • Looney Tunes: In "There They Go-Go-Go!" the Road Runner ends the Chase Scene this way. In "Stop! Look! And Hasten!" the Coyote takes some Leg Muscle Vitamins to get this effect for the climactic Chase Scene.
  • In The Christmas Special of Regular Show, the final scene shows Santa on his sleigh suddenly speeding in the sky, somehow leaving a burning trail in the sky.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “I Had an Accident,” Sandy was going so fast on a "sandboard" (the underwater equivalent of a snowboard) she catches fire and leaves a trail of glass behind.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons:
    • In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, this was how Sonic's speed was frequently shown. The episode, "The Mystery of the Missing Hi-tops" reveals that Sonic's shoes are friction-proof, and thus Sonic's feet would literally burn up if he tried running without them.
    • Spoofed through Epic Fail in the Sonic Boom episode, "Into the Wilderness". Sonic runs laps around a pile of leaves Knuckles set up in an attempt to create a fire; the only thing that gets burning are Sonic's shoes.
  • Back to the Future: The Animated Adaptation extended the "two flaming tire trails" to anything that traveled through time, including a barrel sliding down a waterfall.
    • The opening features a scene (taken from one episode) where the trails go through a wall as the DeLorean timeshifts just before hitting it.
  • Hunter from Road Rovers leaves one behind him when he uses his super speed. Lampshaded as early as the second episode.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Rainbow Dash is capable of pulling this off (with rainbow flames, no less), as seen in the episode "May The Best Pet Win!"
  • Kaeloo:
    • In one episode, Mr. Cat and Stumpy both kick a soccer ball at the same time with all their strength, and the ball leaves a trail of fire behind it. It misses the goal and destroys almost everything else.
    • In Episode 4, Quack Quack leaves a flaming trail behind him when he drives a motorized kick-scooter.

    Real Life 
  • Flaming tires are not generally possible in Real Life for automobile tires, but aircraft tires can occasionally heat up enough to catch fire if they go flat during takeoff or (sometimes) landing. This caused the 1991 crash of Nigeria Airways Flight 2120, when the crew retracted their aircraft's landing gear after takeoff without realizing that the gear was on fire, allowing it to burn through various important parts of the aircraft and eventually cause the plane to break up in midair.
  • Okay, it’s not generally possible for ordinary cars, but with the right car and tires, it is indeed glorious. It seems to be a thing in Australia, looking at Youtube for "flaming burnout" videos.
  • And there is certainly one place that tires are deliberately made to smoke; drag racing (sprint races over a quarter-mile from a standing start). Hot tires and a bit of melted rubber on the track maximise grip, which makes for faster take-offs, so racers deliberately spin their tires at the start line before the race, creating clouds of smoke. These days, water is used as a lubricant to facilitate this, but when the practice was first invented, racers used bleach and other chemicals, some of them flammable. These could be ignited by flames from the dragsters’ overpowered engines, sometimes deliberately, mostly for show, creating an actual flaming burnout (which may have helped create the trope). This was eventually mostly banned for rather obvious safety reasons, though flaming burnouts are still sometimes performed purely for show, sometimes even competitively.


Video Example(s):


Luffy's Fire Trail

While racing to the Big Bad with Smoker, Luffy's feet end up leaving a fire trail behind him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

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Main / BurningRubber

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