Just like any other hobby or trade, mechanics and gearheads seem to talk in a completely different language when they’re left in a room together. That’s great for them, but when you’re trying to follow along, it can get frustrating when you don’t know what they’re talking about.
Whether you want to get into the car scene or just understand what’s going on when you head to the mechanic, knowing a little gearhead slang can help. We’ve put together a list of the top 24 terms to know so that you can (at least) seem like you know what you’re talking about.
Autotragic – It’s safe to say that the vast majority of gearheads prefer vehicles with manual transmission. There’s something about having that much control over your car that gets the blood pumping. For that reason, you might hear a car lover say that it’s autotragic when they see someone driving an automatic.
Banger – A banger refers to the number of cylinders in a vehicle because of the banging sound that happens between the gas/air mixture and the pistons. Something to note: gearheads only use the term when talking about a four-cylinder or maybe a six-cylinder engine – never for eight, ten, or twelve-cylinder engines.
Bondo – Bondo is a filler product that can be applied, sanded, and painted to temporarily (or sloppily) fix dents, dings, or holes in a car’s body.
Camber – The camber of your tires is how much they are tilted toward or away from the car’s frame. Most cars have no camber (meaning they’re straight up and down), but some gearheads prefer tilting inwards (at a negative camber) for performance or aesthetic purposes.
“Dab of Oppo” – When you hear someone say to use “a dab of oppo,” that means to turn the wheel slightly the opposite way if you find yourself with traction loss when going around a curve.
Drift – If you experience drift, it means that you’re losing traction around a curve, so you kind of skid forward even though your wheels are turned. Drift can either happen on purpose (because it looks cool) or because you’ve lost control of a curve.
Gas/Fart Can – A gas or fart can is what gearheads call an amplified exhaust. You know, the plain Jane car that is super loud in the middle of the night when your kids are trying to sleep – that has a gas/fart can.
Grip – A car’s grip is how well the tires hold onto the road.
GT (Grand Tourer) – A GT is a two-door, high-performance car meant for fast cruising in style and comfort. The second row is usually pretty small and meant for baggage or small children along for the ride.
Hoon – A hoon is someone who likes tricks and speed and noise but also enjoys staying legal (yes, it is possible).
Hoopty (Hooptie) – If you drive a hoopty, you are driving a bummer of a car. Think of that car you bought in high school for $500 – that was probably a hoopty.
Launch – When you launch your car, you’re going from 0 to 60 as quickly as possible from a complete stop without burning out. It is possible to launch with an automatic, but it’s usually done with a manual.
OBD – OBD stands for “on-board diagnostics,” and it’s the way your car’s computer tells you what’s going on.
Oil Burner – An oil burner is what gearheads call a diesel engine because it burns fuel that’s makeup is closer to oil than gasoline’s is. It’s not necessarily a bad term, but it’s not exactly praise, either.
Pickup – No, this isn’t your Ranger or Tacoma – in car talk, a car’s pickup is how fast it can accelerate.
Power-to-Weight Ratio – If you want a really powerful car, you need a powerful engine, but powerful engines are heavy. The power-to-weight ratio is the give and take between a heavy engine and a light frame to go as fast as possible.
Rockford – Doing a Rockford means driving in reverse, letting up on the gas a bit, and then making a hard left while using the e-brake. That trick will flip you around into a reverse 180.
Slamming – Slamming sounds like something a lot more violent than it is – in reality, it’s just lowering your car so that it’s close to the ground.
Sleeper – When you drive a sleeper, it means that you have a souped-up, no-stock car under the hood, but everything on the outside looks really boring.
Slushbox – Calling a car a slushbox is another name for it being an automatic.
“That’ll buff out.” – This phrase is similar to the famous phrase “It’s just a flesh wound!” from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Basically, it’s just a sarcastic comment implying that there’s a long project ahead.
Torque – Torque is a measurement of how much force it takes to rotate something (like a wheel) to get it to move.
“Turn a wrench” – When you hear someone say that they can “turn a wrench,” it’s like hearing that someone can “turn a phrase” or “knows their way around a kitchen.” It means that person has experience and know-how, in this case, with cars and maintenance.
Whip – A whip started off referring to the steering wheel, but now it means any vehicle.
There you have it! While this list will give you a good start in gearhead lingo, you’ll learn best by talking with other car lovers and getting your hands dirty under your own hood. You’re always welcome to stop by one of our Utah tire stores to test out your new vocabulary. We’ll be waiting!
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