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Beginner’s guide to auto jargon: 11 auto terms you need to learn

Cars speak a language of their own and every motor enthusiast learns this complicated auto vernacular over time. As a beginner in the auto world, these are the eleven auto terms that you need to learn right now.


Superchargers and turbochargers are used to produce more power without increasing engine displacement, but neither are particularly fuel-efficient and both require costly maintenance as the vehicles age. A supercharger serves the same function as a turbocharger, but avoids lag time because it runs off an engine-driven pump.

Brake Caliper

A hydraulic (liquid-pressured) piston assembly that holds disc-brake pads.

auto terms


The exhaust system device in the tailpipe that reduces engine noise. Some vehicles have more than one muffler along the tailpipe.

Torque Steer

If your car starts to turn in one direction whenever you give it some throttle, you’re experiencing torque steer. It’s a common phenomenon in front-wheel drive cars and can (but does not always) occur when drive shafts are of unequal length.


The amount of friction between tire and ground.

Drag Coefficient

This term defines how much air resistance your car faces while moving. The lower the drag coefficient number, the less air resistance your car has. This has definite implications for fuel economy. Lower numbers are better for both your wallet and the environment.

auto terms


Probably one of the most overused auto terms around today. A transmission gear with a ratio below 1:1, which improves fuel economy by reducing engine revolutions per minute at highway speeds. On a five-speed manual transmission, the fourth and fifth gears are overdrive. On a four-speed automatic transmission, the fourth gear is overdrive. When an overdrive gear set is engaged, the output shaft turns at a higher rate than the input shaft, reducing engine revolutions at cruising or highway speeds.


The hydrocarbon substance in gasoline that reduces engine knock or pinging, which is a noise caused by premature ignition of fuel in the cylinder combustion chamber. The higher the octane number, the less chance of premature ignition. High octane has rating above 91 that is useful only when recommended by the manufacturer.

Hot Rod

A normal vehicle that has been altered and stripped down to improve speed and overall appearance.

Four on the Floor

Slag for a four-speed manual transmission.


A British term for ‘convertible’, most commonly used by Rolls-Royce.

All images: Courtesy Shutterstock

Mikhail Gomes
Features Editor, Lifestyle Asia India & Contributor - Augustman
A watch aficionado, Mikhail also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.