The world of cars, like so many interests, has a number of terms that might not immediately be apparent to those coming in from the outside. While we understand that there might be plenty of our readers who live, breathe and sleep cars, there are also a number of our followers who might struggle when it comes to the blizzard of jargon that comes with love of automobiles. To that end, we’ve put together a few key terms, along with an explanation of what they entail. Strap in, and let’s go!
A very clever system that uses driver input and data from tires to brake in a manner that prevents cars slipping and skidding, especially in wet or icy conditions. First pioneered in the 1950s, pretty much a standard feature in most cars now.
Wheel rims made out of an alloy of more than one metal, usually including aluminium. Known for their lustre and shine. They have no real effect on driving. You’re just being a showoff.
German car manufacturer, established originally in 1910 in Zwickau. The name is a Latin translation of the founder’s surname, ‘Horsch’, or ‘to hear’. They make sleek, fashionable cars of the sort that executives drive. You can recognise them by their logo of four interconnected rings.
The system of gears that allows you to take a corner at speed – you’d have a hard time getting anywhere in a hurry without one. Often prone to slipping, or otherwise malfunctioning, unfortunately. The mechanic’s friend.
You probably don’t have one of these in your car, unless it’s quite old. They used to mix air and liquid petrol to allow it to combust when forced through an engine. These days fuel injection systems have replaced them.
The practice of oversteering one’s car so that the backend slides around faster than the front. Once used to position racing cars coming out of a turn, it is now an amateur motorsport in its own right. Made popular by the ‘Fast and the Furious’ films. Watch out where you try it, lest the local constabulary confiscate your wheels for dangerous driving.
Racing series, that get slower and less powerful the higher the number goes. Most popular, then, is F1, where people pay a lot of money to watch some very sleek, very flat cars race past them at incredible speeds.
Italy’s largest car manufacturer and maker of very sensible family cars, founded in Turin in 1899. Distinguishable, funnily enough, by their badge that reads ‘Fiat’.
Iconic Italian car maker, known for stylish red cars that go very, very fast. Named after their race car driver owner, Enzo Ferrari, who established the brand after WW2. Ironically enough, their parent company is the very staid, family-friendly Fiat. Distinguishable by the rearing black horse badge on the bonnet of their vehicles.
Grand Prix (Grawn Pree)
A name given to several international F1 and motorcycle races, taking place in sunny, pretty places around the world, usually not too far from the ocean. Gosh, it looks good on telly.
That bit at the front of the car looking like big open smile (especially on older cars) that allows air to rush in as the car moves forward, cooling the engine. With the change to electric vehicles, cars no longer need this, leading to much more serious, frowny vehicles. Bring back the grille, we say.
Literally a car that comes in a kit – you’re supposed to build the whole thing iyourself. Yes, some people seem to enjoy doing that. Crazy world.
A car that has been mechanically altered to lower on its axles, often at the flick of a switch, allowing it to be ‘bounced’. There is a significant ‘lowrider culture’ in southern California. You might have seen them in the background of hip-hop videos and similar. A truly American phenomenon (you’d only splash them in puddles here in the UK!).
Formerly an independent car maker, now a sub-brand of Mercedes-Benz, making ultra-luxury cars that 99% of us will never, ever be able to afford. Boy, they’re pretty flash though. If you think you see one in the wild, look for the double-logo on the bonnet.
A Germany motoring giant, formed from the two companies established by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, who both invented the automobile at the same time. Fittingly, they’re still going strong and leading the market in several different areas. Their symbol – a three pointed star within a circle – is very easy to recognize.
Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Kind of like a minibus, but a bit more comfortable. Good for smaller sporting teams, larger families or backpackers trying to drive around the country and discover themselves, man.
German racetrack in the country’s northwest, home to former German Grand Prixs and one very current 24-hour endurance race. One of the few racetracks that any old joe can take a spin on – watch out though, people wipe out every year in the chaos of racers.
Any vehicle built with the specific objective of being driven off-road, in extreme environments – think 4x4s, jeeps and trucks. Some car companies might market their SUVs as ‘offroaders’, but this might be a slight exaggeration – can they climb a forty five degree incline?
German sportscar brand operating out of Stuttgart, Germany, known for their very fast, well-designed sports cars, slightly more affordable than your Maybachs and Ferraris, thankfully. Spotted by the rearing horse on their badge, interspersed with the coat of arms of Baden-Wurttemberg, the German state they are based in.
Venerable French car maker, one of the first established. Like Fiat, known for their sensible family cars and significant these days for their movement into electric cars – their ‘Zoe’ is one of the top-selling AFVs (Alternative Fuel Vehicles) in Europe.
Sports Utility Vehicle. A new distinction made to describe those cars that look like 4x4s, but might not have the power or off-road ability of, you know, actual 4x4s. Quite often found outside schools around 3pm.
Don’t worry, this just means doors that mean that open from the back, rather than the front. So-called because they may actually obscure the view of the road for those exciting the car, making it a risky gamble. Not often found these days, mostly a feature of older cars, but still a great term to bring up if you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, car-wise.
Basically applies to force, as applied to the driveshaft of a car. Actually a physics term, when revheads talk about ‘torque’, they’re talking about the acceleration time of a car over a specified distance.
This is a way of describing the number of cylinders that are included within a combustion engine. Basically all you need to know is that the higher the number, the more powerful the engine and the faster the car will go. V6 is good, V8 is great, V12 is pretty badass.
What are some other terms we should be explaining for the automotively challenged? Let us know and we’ll admit it to our next installment.