Your Quick Guide to the Gear Head Dictionary

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If you know next to nothing about cars and have heard auto enthusiasts talking, you’ve probably scratched your head at some of the words and phrases they’ve used. Or, maybe you’re shopping for a new car online and have no idea what certain terms mean. Don’t worry, we got you. 

We’ve listed a handful of car terms below, so next time you’re talking with your friends who love their rides, you can keep up! 

• A, B and C Pillars

Every car is essentially separated into three sections, the A, B and C Pillars. The A Pillars hold either side of the windshield in place; the B Pillars are where the driver and passenger windows end as you look back along the length of the car; and the C Pillars hold the side of the rear windshield in place.

• Brake Bias

This is the distribution of braking power across the front and back end of the vehicle.

• Drag Coefficient

Drag is how much air resistance your car gets while it’s moving. The lower the drag coefficient number, the less air resistance your car has and that means better fuel efficiency. 

• Grip

This is literally where the rubber meets the road as this term refers to how well the tires grab the road or track. The “limit of grip” is the line between the driver controlling the vehicle and the wheels sliding or spinning after losing traction.

• Limited-Slip Differential

Differential is what allocates torque in two directions. A limited-slip differential regulates speed and torque differences between the two directions so some power is always going to at least one area and you’re not left without. This is super helpful if you’re ever have just one wheel on slippery ground. 


OBD is short for on-board diagnostics. All vehicles today have an engine computer that tells you, or our service team, what’s wrong with certain universal codes. 

• Pound-Foot or Pound-Feet

This is how torque is measured and it’s often abbreviated as lb.-ft. A pound of force applied to the end of a one-foot lever is one lb.-ft. More on torque in a bit.

• Rockford Turn

You’ve most-likely seen your favorite action star do this maneuver in the movies. The Rockford Turn is a J-turn and it was named this for the character of Jim Rockford of the 1970 TV show The Rockford Files because it was his signature move. To do it, accelerate in reverse, slam on the brakes, turn the wheel at warp speed to swing the front of the car around and then switch to drive or first gear and speed off. It’s probably best to leave this one to the pros.

• Torque

Most people know that horsepower is energy output and the more you have, the better your car will perform. Torque is a little more difficult to understand. The definition of the word is a “twisting force that tends to cause rotation.” Essentially, it’s the amount of rotation that a given amount of power can create. A vehicle’s engine takes power that’s in motion up and down in the combustion cylinder and transfers it to the drive wheels.

Categories: Car Tips, Parts