A big part of owning your favourite car is bragging about it. There’s that bit of snobbery involved where you boast about its engine, its chassis, its suspension, hell even its navigation system, infotainment system, or cup holders. It doesn’t matter if it’s used Mazda MX-5 or a brand new Porsche 911, owning a car automatically provides bragging rights.
Whether people like to admit it or not, a lot of car culture is about how awesome your car is or how pathetic the other guy’s car is. These automotive slang will come in handy when striking up a conversation with other car geeks:
Torque steer/Understeer/Oversteer (Drift)
If you take a look at ‘The difference between FWD, RWD & AWD’ article, it neatly explains how front-wheel drive vehicles have a propensity for torque steer (when the car starts to turn in one direction or another whenever you give it some throttle) while rear wheel drive cars tend to oversteer when the rear tyres start to lose traction before the front ones. Some categorise torque steer under understeer (when the front tyres lose traction before the rear ones) as the loss of front-end grip is a common point. Understeer and torque steer are quite dangerous as the only way to safely overcome these issues is to let off the throttle.
Oversteer on the other hand is as dangerous, but more fun. If controlled correctly, purposely making your rear tyres lose traction and going sideways through corners is what makes drifting and rallying engrossing to watch and participate in. There are a few methods to pull off a drift. The handbrake drift is the most common while the clutch-kick method works for more seasoned drivers. For a detailed guide, check out drifting.com.
Heel-toe & Blipping
It may sound like a dance move while doing a waltz, but heel-toe is a method of downshifting in a manual transmission car that can make you faster, reduce wear on your car’s gearbox, and can make you a safer driver if you master it. Rather than just braking before a corner, plant your right foot’s heel on the brake, use the toe to blip the throttle while using your left foot to depress the clutch and shift down. Even on regular downshifts, blipping the throttle to shift down will avoid that jerking sensation when you shift down and reduce wear on your gearbox.
Naturally aspirated and forced induction
Back in the day, most cars were naturally aspirated. This meant that there wasn’t anything tacked on to the engine to make it produce more power and torque, which is where superchargers and turbochargers came in. Installing a supercharger or turbocharger i.e. forcing greater induction on your stock car is a sure and expensive way to boost the engine. Turbochargers use the engine’s exhaust gases to spool a turbine that compresses air and delivers it to the cylinders while superchargers perform the same function but are driven mechanically by means of a belt, gear, shaft, or chain connected to the engine’s crankshaft.
These days, many manufacturers have introduced turbocharged cars because a smaller boosted engine will use less fuel yet deliver equivalent performance compared to a naturally aspirated car. A characteristic of turbocharged cars is lag, followed by a sudden rush of torque that tapers sharply towards the top of the engine’s rev range. Meanwhile naturally aspirated cars and supercharged cars have a linear delivery which is directly proportional to the engine’s RPM.
JDM and Ricer
JDM stands for Japanese domestic market (also Japanese domestic model) but is used more colloquially for used Japanese imports into a country other than Japan. Manufacturers that fall into this category include Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Subaru. These cars are usually modification friendly and have developed quite a fan following for being reliable as well. Some of the favourites from this category include the Honda’s NSX, Integra Type-R, and S2000, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Mazda RX-7, Nissan Skyline GT-R , and Toyota Supra.
The term ricer has a derogatory connotation. Urban dictionary’s definition is quite apt: “A person who makes unnecessary modifications to their most often import car (hence the term “rice”) to make it (mostly make it look) faster.” JDM and ricers nearly always go hand-in-hand due to the easily modifiable nature of JDM cars.
There are quite a few more of automotive slang that you need to remember which will feature in part 2 of A few car terms every car enthusiast should know part 1.