For anyone who has a motorhead, car geek or NASCAR nut in their lives, you know that the severely affected have a jargon all their own. You may have met one of these types and had the desire to have a conversation but found yourself lost about 10 minutes in. If you have a person like this you’d like to get to know better or maybe just to earn a little cred with the car crowd, use this handy gearhead glossary.
Gearhead Terms You Need to Know
To a Brit, a banger is a sausage. To others, it’s an adjective of awesome, as in “that party was a banger.” To the auto enthusiast, a banger is something that actually bangs, a cylinder. We won’t go into the intricacies of internal combustion here, all you need to know for survival communication is that a “4-banger” is a car with a four-cylinder engine.
We’re not talking lamps here, but diesel cars. The term comes from the fact that diesel fuel is less refined than gasoline so, in effect, a diesel car uses a fuel that is closer to oil than to gasoline. These “oil burners” have engines with a reputation for running dirty. On the other hand, they also offer better mileage and greater torque. What’s torque you say?
If the conversation moves towards torque, the uninitiated should try to change the subject. In a nutshell, torque is the amount of rotation generated by a given amount of power. It is the physical factor makes cars go fast. To make things more complicated (or intriguing, if you’re a gearhead) torque changes with acceleration. For the serious devotee, this can lead to hours of conversation and debate. For the less enthusiastic, a well-timed “How ‘bout them Cowboys?” might point things back to familiar territory.
If you find yourself stuck in the quagmire of torque talk, try using this one to get yourself unstuck. It’s a fairly straightforward concept: Light cars with big engines go faster than heavy cars with little ones. Try shifting out of the conversational cul-de-sac by offering “So it’s got a lot of torque but have you thought of swapping the hood for carbon fiber?” If they don’t ask you to elaborate on your question, you’re golden. Trust me, they’ll pick it up from here.
Gearhead term for fast start. Some neophytes think that spinning tires are a sign of muscle-car superiority, but the true gearhead knows that a burnout costs you tires and good finishing times.
This is a driving technique used when piloting a car with manual transmission. The idea is to give the car a little gas when downshifting. This way the engine rpm’s stay constant from one gear to the next, keeping the wheels of the car turning smoothly. This effect is further enhanced when you hit the brake pedal lightly at the same time. Yeah, we know. This kind of talk hurts our heads too. If you’re ever at a party and talk turns to the intricacies of this maneuver, do yourself a favor and offer to make a beer run.