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A Glossary of Car Terminology


Advanced Stop Lines

A marked area on the road at traffic lights, which permits cyclists or buses to wait in front of other traffic


Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)

This is a system fitted to most modern cars that prevents the wheels from locking when braking in an emergency.



To slide out of control on a wet road surface.


Automatic Gearbox

The transmission will automatically select gears as the driver accelerates and decelerates.


Black Ice

Invisible ice that covers a road surface.


Blind Spot

The section of road behind the driver that cannot be seen in any mirror. To see the blind spot, you should look over your shoulder before moving off or overtaking.


Brake Fade

Where brakes lose their effectiveness due to overheating and over-use.


Brake Horsepower (BHP)?

This is the measurement of a car's horsepower when it comes straight out of the crankshaft. Horsepower is often lost as it is transmitted from the crankshaft and through the gears. So the horsepower that is delivered to the wheels is usually less than what is produced by the engine.


Braking Distance
The distance you must allow to slow the vehicle to a stop.

Brow of a Hill
The highest point of a hill.

This is a component that mixes the fuel and the air.

Car Handling
How responsive and accurate the steering is. If you were driving through a bend and you needed to make constant alterations to the steering wheel then you could say the car had bad handling. If the car went exactly where you steered it, even at high speeds, then the car would be considered to have good handling.


One side of a road or motorway.

Catalytic Converter
A gadget fitted to the exhaust system that reduces pollution by turning harmful gases into less harmful ones.

The structure that acts as a mounting to the major car parts i.e. suspension system, frame, wheels and body.


A sharp double bend used as a traffic calming measure - to slow traffic down.

A road where no stopping is allowed at any time. The sign for a clearway is a red cross in a red circle on a blue background.

The clutch enables the engine to be disconnected from the transmission in order to engage or disengage the gears.


Driving a vehicle in neutral with your foot pressed down on the clutch.

When traffic on a motorway follows signs to move to the opposite carriageway for a short distance because of roadworks. This results in traffic driving in both directions on the same side of the motorway.

A car with a foldable or retractable roof. Also known as a cabriolet

Coupe Car
A car that is often the sports version of a saloon car. Typically they have 2 doors and are less spacious in the rear.

Dual Carriageway
a road or motorway with a central reservation.

Engine Coolant
Liquid in the radiator that removes heat from the engine.

Engine Litre Size
You may have seen a car advertised or referred to as say a 1.2 litre. What this means is the engine size, or more accurately, the space that is available inside the engine's cylinders for the fuel-air mix. The greater the space the greater the amounts of fuel-air mix which ultimately means more power. One cylinder may have a space of 0.5 litres however the engine may have eight cylinders, which would give an engine size of 4 litres. This measurement is also known as engine displacement.

Estate Car
Has an extended rear cargo section and the full height of the car extends to the boot, which gives a much larger storage space.

Exhaust Emissions
Gasses that are expelled from the exhaust pipe.


Fog Lights
Extra bright rear, and sometimes front, lights that can be turned on when visibility drops below 100 metres.

Where a road passes through a shallow stream or river.

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD)
On a 4WD vehicle, power in sent to all four wheels. This allows for better grip and traction.

Front Wheel and Rear Wheel Drive
Most cars have front wheel drive. This is where the power is sent to the front wheels and these in turn drive the car. Rear wheel drive cars are usually much better handling but also tend to be the more expensive cars to buy.

Fuel Consumption
The amount of petrol or diesel that your vehicle uses.

Fuel-Injection System
A computerized system that mixes the fuel and air before it passes into the engine for combustion. Such a system is more efficient than a standard carburettor.

Control the speed of the engine in relation the the vehicle's speed. In low gear the vehicle runs more slowly, in high gear more quickly.

Hard Shoulder
The single lane at the left-hand side of a motorway that can be used in an emergency or when road signs give permission.

Are often like estate cars but have a much smaller boot, which can always be accessed, from the rear seats.

Hazard Warning Lights
Flashing amber lights on a vehicle that can be used to warn other drivers that you have broken down, or to warn other drivers on a motorway that there is an hazard ahead.


Complicated this one but basically an inventor called James Watt calculated that one horse could do 30,000 foot-pounds of work in one minute. He applied this measurement to steam engines and the measurement has been use to quantify the power of engines every since. So horsepower is the measure of an engines power.

Jump Leads
An electric cable that can connect a flat battery to a working one enabling the flat battery to be charged.

A place where two or more roads join.

Manual Gearbox
Where the driver physically selects the gears themselves.

A test to check that your car is safe to drive.

A road that has two or more lanes on each side of a hard shoulder.

Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV)
A people carrier. Van like but designed for personal use. They carry more people than a standard car.

Over Steer
If when driving through a bend and the rear wheels fail to follow the front wheels and instead veer towards the outside of the turn, you are experiencing over steer.

Pelican Crossing
A crossing with traffic lights that pedestrians can use by pushing a button. Cars must give way to pedestrians while the amber light is flashing.

Power Steering
Makes turning the wheels a lot easier. Means the car has a separate power source that helps turn the wheels.


The vehicle or other road user that is allowed by law to go first is the one who has priority.

Puffin Crossing
A pedestrian crossing that does not have a flashing amber light stage.

Road Hump
A low bump built into the road designed to slow traffic down.

Rumble Strips
Raised strips across the road near a roundabout or junction that change the sound the tyres make and warn drivers to slow down. They are also used on motorways to separate the main carriageway from the hard shoulder.

Saloon Car
A car with 2 front seats, at least 2 rear seats, four doors and a separate boot.

Separation Distance
The amount of space you need to leave between your vehicle and the one in front so that you are not in danger of crashing into it lf the driver suddenly slows down or stops.

Single Carriageway
A road with one lane in each direction.

When the tyres fail to grip the road, the subsequent loss of control of the vehicle's movement is called a skid. Often cause by harsh braking or steering, or driving too fast.
Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV)
These are cars that can go off road, are usually 4x4, have good towing abilities and can carry more than four passengers.

Stopping Distance
he time it takes to stop a vehicle - made up of 'thinking distance' and 'braking distance'.

Driving too closely behind another vehicle.

Thinking Distance
The time it takes you to see a hazard and apply the brakes.

Toucan Crossing
A pedestrian crossing that does not have a flashing amber light phase, and that cyclists are allowed to use.

Torque is a measurement used to quantify the force of the rotational force produced by the engine. It is another way to measure the power of a car and is calculated in foot- pounds (ft-lbs).


These help an engine produce more power. A turbocharger uses the pressure from the exhaust to create more pressure in the cylinders, which enables them to receive more fuel-air mix.

Under Steer
If when driving through a bend the steering wheel doesn't turn the wheels as much as you want then the car has under steer.

Each cylinder has valves; ones that allow the fuel-air mix in (intake valves) and ones that allow the exhaust fumes out (exhaust valves). Every cylinder needs at least one intake and one exhaust valve. However some cars have more than one of each as more valves allow more fuel-air mix in which helps to increase power and performance. A 16-valve engine is likely to have four valves on each of its four cylinders.

Wheel Balancing
Wheels need to be balanced correctly as this allows them to rotate smoothly at all speeds.

Wheel Spin
When the vehicle's wheels spin round out of control with no grip on the road surface.

Zebra Crossing
A pedestrian crossing without traffic lights. It has an orange light, and is marked by black and white stripes on the road. Drivers must stop to to let pedestrians cross.

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