Ever gone to a car meet and thought you’d landed in a foreign country? Yeah… me too! Car enthusiasts have basically developed a completely different language to talk about their rides, and sometimes it can be extremely hard to keep up with. Shoot, you might be better off trying to learn Dothraki!
But if you’re looking to make your way into gearhead culture, we’re here to help. Here’s 24 car terms that every enthusiast should know.
A banger is quite simply the way that car enthusiasts refer to the cylinder in an internal combustion engine. However, this term for whatever reason only applies to 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder cars. If you want to try to pass for a car guy, Don’t call a Mustang GT an 8-banger… it’s just wrong. It’s a 4-banger or a 6-banger. That’s it.
Bondo is a term that refers to any kind of putty or filler that’s used to make temporary body repairs. Yes, I said TEMPORARY. While you’re supposed to only use bondo as a last resort, some people think it’s an alternative to replacing a body panel. It’s not. Get that panel changed.
Dab of Oppo
Now here’s a term for a steering maneuver that only gearheads are going to know. Basically, a dab of oppo is a term for opposite lock steering. That’s when you’re gliding around a turn in a rear-wheel drive car, and you start to lose a bit of traction, so you turn the wheel just a dab in the opposite direction to regain control. Tread lightly, though, because any more than a dab is going to put you in an even worse position. Or… better if you’re trying to drift.
Rockford Turn (J-Turn)
If you’ve never seen the 1970s show The Rockford Files, you’ll have no idea where the name for this turn came from. But basically, it involves throwing it in reverse, slamming on the brakes, and whipping the car around as quickly as possible. Once you’ve turned around, throw that thing in first gear and you’re off to the races. This move was seen in entirely too many episodes of The Rockford Files, hence the name.
Grip is pretty self-explanatory. It’s just how well your tires grip to the road. Nobody wants to go rolling into a ditch because they tried to Tokyo drift but didn’t have enough grip.
OBD stands for on-board diagnostics, which is basically how a car tells you what’s wrong with it. In older cars, you’d have to attach an OBD scanner to find out why your car’s making a sound like an alley cat going through a blender, but newer cars usually have an OBD-II system built in that makes the diagnostic process a whole lot easier.
Camber is the way that your front wheels tilt, inward or outward. If your front wheel tilts inward, you have negative camber, if they tilt out, you have positive camber. Different cambers are better for different driving styles, but if you just use your wheels for commuting, probably better not to mess with it.
If you describe your ride as “hella flush“, you’re almost definitely a ricer, which is a term we’ll get to later. But basically flush is when your wheels align with your fender, whether that’s because you offset your rims, you stretched your tires, or you applied some negative camber to your wheels. Sure, it looks cool to some people, but it comes with all kinds of downsides too.
If you’ve ever felt your heart rate increase because you’ve been driving a little more recklessly than you probably should be, then you’ve gotten a little taste of hoon. Hooning is more-or-less just a word for driving intentionally reckless. A big part of hooning is trying to attract as much attention as possible from any and all onlookers. So, naturally, it’s a popular practice amongst ricers.
First, some say RICE stands for “race-inspired cosmetic enhancements”. However you define it, ricers are the drivers of those super flashy, super loud, but ultimately super cheap compacts you see whizzing past you at obnoxious speeds. A true ricer clearly knows nothing whatsoever about true car performance, or they wouldn’t be throwing spoilers, underglow, fake vents, and blacked-out lights on a Chevy Cavalier. Ricers are the arch nemeses of real car enthusiasts.
No it isn’t what it sounds like… fart can is a term used for an obnoxiously loud exhaust that’s been slapped on a car that isn’t even that fast. A common use of this term might be: “That damn ricer on my street keeps waking up my grandma with that fart can exhaust he slapped on his old Honda Civic.”
Everyone’s seen a slammed car at one point or another, but you may not have known exactly what you were seeing. A car that’s been slammed has basically been lowered, with its tires tucked further in its wheel arches. Depending on execution, this custom touch can either make your car look super cool… or like it’s suspension has given out and it’s ready for the junkyard.
If you really care about the joys of driving, you know that a manual is just way more fun. Plus, the connection between an automatic driveshaft and its engine just feels like a slushy mess rather than the solid and predictable connection on a manual. And thus, the car community dubbed the automatic transmission… the slush box. Save the manuals!
The double clutch is a way of downshifting that started in old-school manuals whose gearboxes didn’t have syncros. This move was pretty much essential in those old models to keep your gears from grinding while downshifting, but nowadays, it’s just a cool way to make your downshift even smoother, and maybe save some wear and tear on your gearbox. Basically, it goes like this: clutch in, throw it in neutral, clutch out, blip the throttle, clutch in, downshift, clutch out. Definitely takes a little practice, but once you get it, you’ll be riding silky smooth.
This downshifting technique used by manual drivers is helpful when entering a corner. Basically, instead of just braking into the turn, you downshift as well. This helps your engine’s RPMs meet your wheels’ RPMs and thus makes you ride smoother and helps you accelerate faster out of the corner. It’s called a heel-and-toe because you’re using both ends of the same foot to brake and blip the throttle at the same time.
Blipping the Throttle
Blipping the throttle involves tapping on the throttle for just a second. And while a lot of you may have heard of this term, non-gearheads don’t get why people do it. The point is basically to bring your engine RPMs up so they match your road speed more accurately. This lets you downshift much more smoothly and avoid all that uncomfortable jerking.
A launch is what a car guy would call anytime a car accelerates really quickly. It’s mostly done with manual transmissions, where you can rev your engine and try to hit the perfect RPM before releasing the clutch, causing your car to shoot off like a rocket. You could do this with an automatic by holding down your brake while you rev the engine, but that’s drivetrain abuse at its absolute worst.
Sleepers are cars that look like ordinary commuter cars but are actually hiding some serious horsepower under the hood. Kind of the exact opposite of a ricer car. While sleepers may not look like much, they’re packing some serious power!
An easy way to learn what a tuner is… watch any Fast & Furious movie! While tuner cars typically have a bunch of body mods to make them look sleek and speedy, unlike ricer cars, they actually have some serious tuning to improve speed, handling, and the all-important pickup.
No, I’m not talking about your cousin’s F-150. For most people, pickup might refer to a working man’s Ford truck. For gearheads, it refers to how fast a car starts to accelerate. When you press the pedal and it feels like a hair trigger ready to shoot your car through traffic, that’s pickup.
If you’re driving an underpowered V6 and you wanna boost that bad boy’s performance, what do you do? Well, you might turbocharge your engine, which takes gas from your exhaust to spin your turbine even faster and increase your engine’s power yield. The downside? This method can make it take longer for all that added power to kick in, and that’s what we call turbo lag.
Drag coefficient is a pretty technical term, and it has to do with how aerodynamic your car is. The more wind resistance your car’s body takes, the greater its drag coefficient. This can have a surprisingly large effect on fuel efficiency, and could cost you serious cash at the gas pump if you aren’t careful when buying a car.
Downforce has to do with using aerodynamics to add more downward pressure to your car, giving you better traction. This is why you see spoilers on some cars. But don’t be fooled, some spoilers are just for style. I’m talking to you, ricers.
“That’ll Buff Right Out”
The phrase “that’ll buff right out” is basically what someone says when your car’s taken some serious damage, and a long and expensive repair is on the horizon. If you’ve recently totaled your mom’s CRV, it’s not going to buff right out, but be prepared for someone to tell you it will.