Car Terms to Know

In the automotive industry, you’ll hear a lot of terms and phrases that you may not know. Here are a few for you to brush up on before taking your car, before buying a new vehicle, or before attempting any home repairs.


A “knock” occurs when the leftover fuel and air mixture detonates in one of the cylinders of your engine anytime it’s not supposed to. This sometimes occurs if you use the wrong grade of gasoline. If you hear an audible knocking noise, get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Bedding in Brake Pads

When you get new brake pads, it usually takes a little while before they work their best. The process of breaking them in, so to speak, is called bedding in the brake pads. It’s similar to breaking in a new pair of running shoes: you have to go a few miles before they feel comfortable.


This acronym stands for “on-board diagnostics” and refers to the computer that’s now installed in most vehicles. Automotive technicians can now rely to the computer to tell them what’s wrong with the vehicle. The computer reports what is wrong in code so no average Joe can tell what it is saying. The standard code used by most on-board diagnostic systems is called OBDII.

Blip the Throttle

You blip the throttle when you downshift in a manual transmission vehicle. All you’re doing is giving the gas pedal a small push to increase your engine’s RPM.

Camber, Caster, Toe

All three of these terms have to do with the way that the wheels are angled. Camber refers to the way that the front wheel is tilted from side-to-side. Caster refers to the slope of your upper and lower steering pivot points. Caster will affect how easily your vehicle turns. Toe is a term used for the direction that your wheels are aligned when compared to the rest of the car. Wheels that “toe in” have the part of the tire facing the front of the vehicle pointing in on one another. Wheels that “toe out” are the opposite of that. Toe can affect how your car rides and how your tires wear.


This refers to how torque is measured, so it’s almost always abbreviated as “lb.-ft.” and will always come after a number. You will often see torque and horsepower close to each other in vehicle specifications because together they’ll give you an idea of how fast the vehicle can go and what it can do on the road.


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