Glossery of Car Terminology

Advanced Stop Lines
Noted at traffic lights, this is a mark noted on the tarmac to designate where a car, motorcycle, bus or cycle should stop when designated.

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)
Installed in many newer cars, this system prevents vehicle tyres from locking when exerting hard pressure on the brake pedal.

This condition exists when the wheels of a vehicle rests on water and not on the road surface itself. This is a dangerous situation and reduces control of the vehicle.

Automatic Gearbox
The transmission with an automatic gearbox chooses a gear based on speed. It operates the clutch internally, so there is no clutch pedal present.

Black Ice
This condition is when a thin, invisible layer of ice coats the road surface, creating unsafe driving conditions and justifying slower driving speeds.

Blind Spot
The section of the road not visible from any mirror. Blind spots are to the side and slightly behind the front row of seats or behind a large vehicle. To check blind spots, you should look over your shoulders before moving into the area or manoeuvring to that side.

Brake Fade
Brake effectiveness is degraded from over-use or over-heating. Only allowing the brakes to cool and recover fixes this problem. Brake systems should be checks after experiencing brake fade.

Braking Distance
This is the distance you require to stop your vehicle once you press the brake. It is not the total stopping distance. (See Stopping Distance, below.)

Brow of a Hill
The top, apex or highest point on a hill.

Car Handling
How the car responds to steering adjustments or how accurately it responds. Bad handling might be indicated by the need to constantly adjust the steering wheel during curves or if the steering wheel doesn’t respond quickly to adjustment attempts.

The set of lanes for one direction of travel. One-half of a road or motorway.

Catalytic Converter
A component attached to the exhaust that changes harmful gasses to less harmful ones and reduces pollution.

The mounting base of a car to which other major components like the frame, suspension system, body and wheels are attached.

A sharp double bend, sometimes call an S-curve, in a road. A chicane is intended to slow and calm traffic.

A road on which no stopping is allowed at any time. A clearway is designated by a sign with a red cross inside a red circle, both resting on a blue background.

Enables disconnecting the engine from the transmission for engaging or changing gears. Manual vehicles utilize the clutch pedal. Automatics do not, for the transmission coordinates its use.

Operating a vehicle while in no gear with the clutch fully depressed.

When traffic is temporarily directed by signs into lanes that usually hold oncoming traffic, often caused by roadworks. In a contraflow, one-half of a road hosts both directions of traffic flow.

Dual Carriageway
A road or motorway that has a central reservation or median between other lanes for directions of travel.

Engine Coolant
Special liquid for the radiator that keeps engines cool by aiding in heat removal.

Exhaust Emissions
Expelled gasses from your exhaust, with or without a catalytic converter.

Fog Lights
Small, extra-bright lights on the rear and sometimes front of your car that can be activated when visibility falls to below 100 metres.

The portion of a road that passes through a stream of water.

Front- and Rear-Wheel Drive
Most newer cars have its main road traction and power from only the front two tyres or the rear two tyres. If derived from the front, obviously, that car has front-wheel drive. Usually, front-wheel drive responds better in steering and turning the vehicle than rear-wheel drive does. Front-wheel drive cars are also usually a bit more expensive.

Fuel Consumption
How much fuel your vehicle requires to operate. Usually noted in litres per mile.

These control the speed of the engine in conjunction with the vehicle’s rate of travel. Low gears determine slower travel speeds. High gears allow higher travel speeds.

Hard Shoulder
The single lane or strip on the left side of a road, allowing emergency use or when road signs allow.

Hazard Warning Lights
Flashing amber lights in the front, rear and sometimes sides of a vehicle, warning other drivers that you are or you have encountered a hazard.

Jump Leads
The cable that can connect a flat battery to a good one to allow the flat battery to charge.

Where two or more roads meet and often cross each other.

Manual Gearbox
This is the device that drivers use to select gears themselves. Manual gearboxes require drivers to operate clutch pedals.

A safety test required on all vehicles operated on roads in the UK.

A multiple-lane road with a hard shoulder on each side.

Over Steer
An over steer is the tendency of the rear of a vehicle to travel toward the outside of a lane in a turn instead of closely following just inside the front tyre trail line.

Pelican Crossing
A pedestrian crossing whose crossing lights are operated by pedestrians. Vehicles must give way to pedestrians when the amber light flashes.

Power Steering
This separately powered system enables the wheels to turn easily. The steering wheel moves very easily as well.

Awarded the vehicle or road user who has the legal right to proceed first.

Puffin Crossing
A pedestrian crossing that has no flashing amber light phase.

Road Hump
A low, firm bump specially built into a road to cause traffic to slow.

Rumble Strips
Often narrow, these are raised strips embedded into the road near a roundabout or a junction. The strips change the sound of tyres as they cross them, giving warning to slow. Rumble strips are also utilized on motorways to designate separation of the main carriageway from the shoulder.

Separation Distance
The distance you must leave in front of your vehicle to avoid contact with another road user who slows or stops suddenly. The space between a parked vehicle and yours. Also known as following distance when moving.

Single Carriageway
A road with one lane in each travel direction.

The loss of control of a vehicle’s motion when tyres do not grip the road. Skids are often caused by driving too fast, harsh braking that locks the wheels or harsh steering.

Stopping Distance
The total time it takes to bring a vehicle to a complete, controlled stop. Encompasses both ‘thinking’ time and braking time.

Driving too closely to the vehicle in front, not allowing proper avoidance of hazards.

Thinking Distance
The time it takes from noticing a hazard to actually applying the brake. Combines with braking distance to form the total stopping distance.

Under Steer
When steering doesn’t turn the wheels as much as you would like in a bend, that’s under steer. It is the opposite of over steer. (See above.)

Wheel Balancing
Balancing wheels ensures the rubber in tyres is evenly positioned around the rim, allowing for even filling and compression of air in the tyre and extends the life of the tyre tread. It allows the tyre to rotate evenly and smoothly.

Wheel Spin
Uncontrolled spin of tyres on the road from having no grip on the road surface.

Zebra Crossing
A pedestrian crossing that is not at traffic lights. It is marked by black and white stripes on the road and with an orange light. Drivers are required to give way to pedestrians at a zebra crossing.