Your Complete Guide To Car Slang

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How to speak like you're a gearhead.

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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation with gearheads? Boring, right? Sometimes, car slang is nearly impossible to decipher. It's almost like gearhead Klingon - another language entirely. To further compliant things, you get new car slang and old car slang words these days; both Millennials and Boomers have their own car lingo.

We're here to help you out, though - if nothing else, you should be able to fake your way through a conversation without sounding like you're clueless. Let's start with a few essential words every person should at least know.

Car Slang Terms Pexels.com

Basic Car Lingo

We need to cover the basic car vocab before we get to the gnarlier words on this list, so let's familiarize ourselves with the most basic technical jargon known around the country. You should be able to understand at least the jargon used in place of the word 'car'.

In the entire hypothetical glossary of car terms, there are more synonyms for a car than anything else. These words include a whip, beater, crate, heap, jalopy, sleeper, and the good old POS. Admittedly, the latter is an acronym, but it's still used relatively frequently.

New Car Slang unsplash.com

Adding To Your Vocabulary With Car Terminology

Earlier, we mentioned that car slang terms could be broken down into old and new. You can also add car racing lingo in there, but the overlap is sufficient to cover everything. There are a few universal phrases understood by all generations. Here's a quick breakdown of some standard terms:

  • Dizzy: Short for 'distributor' which is used in internal combustion engines. It sends power to the spark plugs for ignition of the fuel.
  • A jalopy is an old car generally in bad condition, while a sleeper is a car that looks like a POS but happens to be extremely fast. As in, the looks don't match the performance. The Honda Civic Si is the perfect example of a modern sleeper. It looks like a salesman's car, but it can do 0 to 60 mph in around six seconds. This also counts for those gearheads who like doing insane engine swaps with mundane vehicles like the Dodge Caravan or fitting old wagons with new supercharged V8 engines.
  • Grip refers to the tires doing their job. If you have control of the car, you have the required amount of grip. If not, the car is likely on its roof.
  • Turbo lag is difficult to explain, which is why we have an entire turbo lag blog to help you understand it. The short version is that turbo lag is that second of hesitation you feel before the turbocharger kicks in.
  • Bondo is gearhead-speak for a cheap fix. Bondo is a brand of polyester putty used to fix all kinds of problems. It's like duct tape, but for cars - though duct tape can also be used to fix 90% of the problems Bondo is used for. "Just Bondo that SOB!" is something you'll hear in a garage quite often.
  • This brings us to jugs, which is proof that men came up with most of the words you'll read here. Only a man would replace the word 'cylinder' with jugs. A V12 has 12 cylinders, and therefore it has an awesome number of jugs. Cars and women, yo. Thankfully, the species has evolved, so you won't hear this term as much anymore.
Car Slang Honda

Old Car Slang

Some words have stood the test of time and are still widely used today. Here are some more examples that are a little older, but still relevant:

  • An air dam is simply a spoiler that keeps air from moving underneath the car.
  • Boon is short for boondocks, as in you're taking your 4x4 into the sticks.
  • Camber is also a simple term that requires an entire blog to explain. In short, it's the angle of the wheels. If you look at a car directly from the rear and the wheels poke out the side almost as if they're bent, that's negative camber. Read all about this in our wheel alignment post.
  • A slushbox is a term used to refer to an automatic transmission setup, due to the fluid-coupling of the torque converter.
  • Four-banger is simply just a four-cylinder engine, primarily used with affection these days.
  • Also known as a J-Turn, a Rockford turn is dazzlingly turning the car 180 degrees. You reverse at high speed, spin the wheel, wait for the front end to slide around and point in the opposite direction, and then set off. It's famously used to get away from the coppers in old car movies.
  • To heel-and-toe is braking and caressing the throttle at the same time. Racing drivers used this method to match the engine and transmission speed before entering a corner. Racing cars are, for the most part, fully automatic these days, and most modern performance and sports cars have rev-matching technology. Wanna know more about rev matching? Check it out here.

New Car Slang

Here we have a few words you can use to fake your way through a modern car meet. A few are from the Old Testament of car terms, but they continue to thrive with a new or adapted meaning.

  • Whip: Simply put, this is slang for a vehicle. We mentioned it earlier, but it deserves to be singled out here as it's the most commonly used term these days. "That's a mean whip you got there," said the enthusiast to the Ferrari SF90 owner.
  • Launch: For some reason, people are obsessed with 0-60 mph times. As humans, we like to quantify things by attaching figures to see if they're better or worse. We think that's where the obsession comes from. In any case, a launch is trying to get the car off the line as quickly as possible. Most modern performance cars have some kind of launch control to help you get an agreeable 0-60 mph time. "Did you see that guy launch his Dodge Durango Hellcat to 60 in four seconds, bro?"
  • Flush: Flush used to mean when something is level with something else. "My new touchscreen came with a flush mount to keep it level with the rest of the interior," said the Civic owner with 53 speakers in his car. Flush is also an older word, and it simply means draining fluids out of a car. The modern meaning of flush is usually combined with hella (which means 'extremely' or 'like a lot'), and, more often than not, it will have a hashtag in front of it. #hellaflush. This means getting a car as close to the ground as possible, either by slamming it or using negative camber.
  • Slammed: A slammed car is extremely close to the ground by means of a lowered suspension. Owners will go as low as possible to get a sleek, hunkered-down appearance. If you see a vehicle that looks like it will struggle to drive over a single amoeba, it's most likely slammed.
  • Hoon: Formerly known as giving it the beans, mobbing, hot-footing, or going like greased lighting, hooning is the new word for driving fast and perhaps recklessly. "Look at that guy hoon his Mustang out of the car meet," said the unsuspecting witness moments before said Mustang drove over his foot. The word has become synonymous with insane, high-speed driving antics exemplified by the likes of Ken Block, whose racing team is named 'Hoonigan Racing Division'.
  • End can: This is a derogatory term for someone who can't afford to replace the entire exhaust system, so they simply replace the last silencer or the exhaust tip. This usually makes a car extremely noisy but does nothing to make the car go faster.
  • That'll buff right out: These words are used to describe a small dent picked up during a race. It's meant to downplay the amount of damage to encourage a driver in an accident. These days it's a meme, and you'll find it all over the place. It is usually attached as a caption to an image of a crashed supercar.
  • Dab of oppo: This is a term automotive enthusiasts and writers love to use to make themselves sound hella proficient behind the wheel. When the car's rear starts to slide, you apply some opposite lock on the steering wheel. In ordinary human language, you turn the steering wheel slightly in the opposite direction of the bend you're sliding through. Because people who can powerslide are too cool to use complete words, they break it down to 'dab of oppo'. "While hooning like a boss through turn seven, the car started to break loose. The situation simply called for a dab of oppo, and the car proceeded in the right direction. This was obviously my own doing, and not the adaptive electronic stability control," said the automotive hack.

Conclusion

Now that you have a few definitions and can understand slang terms a little better, you should be able to join in almost any car enthusiast conversation, be it amongst fellow gearheads or just chatting with your mechanic. We're looking forward to adding to the list in the years to come.

Old Car Slang unsplash.com

FAQs

Is there any other new car slang words I should know?

The above is sufficient to get you through a conversation, but we haven't mentioned our favorite slang term of all: Riding shotgun or calling shotgun. If you're not driving, you want to sit in the front. In that case, you have to call shotgun, which will automatically downgrade everyone else to the rear seats. This term originated from the old wild west, where a wagon driver would have a man armed with a shotgun next to him, looking for trouble. Fear not, for you don't have to carry an actual shotgun these days.

What is an oil burner?

An oil burner is a car that uses diesel. In most cases, it's used as a derogatory term. Diesel is not as refined as gas and is closer in its composition to the crude oil used to make it. Thanks to Dieselgate, diesel cars have an even worse reputation for being dirty.

What is a ricer?

Another fun and slightly derogatory term, but likely not politically correct. It's used to describe a cheap car, usually from Japan, modified in all the worst ways. These obnoxious upgrades include a loud exhaust, neon lights, a super loud stereo, all of the spoilers, large alloys, and in extreme cases, Lamborghini-like doors.

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