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Decoding Car Jargon: A Guide to Car Terms

Car people are a discerning breed. Do you feel unschooled around them? Ever wish you could understand them when they start throwing all their buzzwords and car terms around—words like horsepower and torque? Also, exactly what is a fascia? Not to worry, we got you covered. Check out our Decoding Car Jargon Guide to get the basic car terms and lingo down.

Torque: Torque is the turning power or force that causes a car to accelerate. The measurement in vehicles is in pound-feet.

Note* This is a very basic high-level definition, to keep this simple. Actual car enthusiasts can write volumes on what torque is, with algebraic-like formulas that take into consideration things like gear ratio, internal friction, drivetrain impact, RPMs, diesel vs. petrol engines, kilowatts, vehicle weight, wheel radius, and more.

Pound-feet: You’ll often come across this as “lb-ft” and it refers to torque. It is one pound of force applied to the end of a one-foot lever.

Torque-steer: Often attributed to front-wheel-drive cars, torque steer occurs when your car turns in one direction when you give it throttle.

Horsepower: Part of a metric to gauge the overall performance of a vehicle. Alone it is an indicator of power, but more importantly, when included with other considerations like a vehicle’s drivetrain, weight, transmission and general aerodynamics, you get a better idea. Horsepower is the power necessary to lift 550 pounds one foot off the ground in one second.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT): Automatic versus manual transmissions are easy enough for non-gearheads to comprehend. A manual transmission is also known as a standard or a “stick” shift, where the driver manually shifts through the concession of a car’s gears, using a clutch and gear shifter. Once the dominant or preferred transmission choice, sticks are being largely phased out and replaced by the currently more popular automatic transmission. It’s not difficult to wrap one’s brain around an automatic transmission automating the aforementioned process.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is an agile and responsive option that is growing in popularity for its responsiveness and it is believed to lead to greater fuel efficiency. A CVT adjusts to load and throttle positioning for a streamlined acceleration.

Curious about CTV and cars with CVT? Stop in your local AutoNation dealership to check out current models with CVTs like select Audi and Chevrolet models.

Fascia: All parts that make up the front end of a car, like the front bumper, grille and headlights. It once more commonly described the dashboard components, but not so much any longer.

It’s nice to get a look under the hood in the mysterious world of car hobbyists. Once you start breaking down the car terms and deconstructing the language of their world, you gain a greater appreciation of how complex something you once thought was so simple really is.

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