Terms of Endearment

Hello all ye Troubled Motorists. I thought I would take some time to write up a little Automotive Glossary Page. We are CONSTANTLY BEFUDDLED on this site when trying to help people with Automotive Questions. We try and try and it usually takes 8 to 10 posts of clearing things up before we see eye to eye… Lets get some terms straight before we go any further…OK? OK…


You get in your car, you turn the key…it has 4 positions (one of them spring loaded). OFF…ACCESSORY…RUN…and START. Know them, love them.

You turn your key to the START position… Your engine WILL …TURN OVER/CRANK…then if lucky, it will START THE ENGINE…then it will RUN…

SO…When your engine TURNS OVER or CRANKS…it is TRYING to START…and then RUN… KNOW these terms…Love them…

PLEASE no more problem descriptions of: I went to my car…it TURNS OVER SLOWLY…BUT WONT CRANK… This is entirely befuddling to us and we are unable to assist without massive clarification.

With just a tiny bit of Automotive terminology set aside…we can all communicate much more effectively. I’m all for it…How bout you guys?

If you have any other Automotive Terms that you feel should be added to this post…Feel free to let me know…or just add them below mine…

And it’s ALWAYS nice to know the Make, Model, Year, Mileage of the problem child…


How about the tendency of people to tell us that something “went off”, when they really mean to say that it went ON?

You know–like the folks who tell us that their engine has been not running smoothly and…" the Check Engine Light went off, so…". Most likely, they mean to say that the CEL went on, and this is a really good way to muddy the waters for anyone trying to help.

But, rather than assuming that we know what they mean, and rather than having to engage in several unproductive back & forth questions and answers, it would be really nice if folks used the term “off” to mean something that is not functioning, instead of something that is functioning.

Whether it is a CEL, or a car alarm, or an oil pressure warning light, or…whatever…“off” should indicate something that is non-functioning and “on” should indicate something that is functioning.

We will forever be playing twenty questions.
This is human nature by virtue of the english language.
I have been a parts man for 35 years and it aint changed one bit, and it’s not going to any time soon.

Heck , we don’t even have teminology continuity between Ford printed parts catalogs and service manuals !

Then add to that the confusion when english is a second language.

LOL…I guess this is true…

Unfortunately, I think the big failure will be that no matter what you do, no matter how bold the type, no matter how many pop-up windows that are in the way, nothing you list will matter. People will simply do what they want to do, and not pay enough attention to figure out what they need to say, to get the message across.

Be happy that the drop down boxes are being used by some people. Heck, even those asking for help don’t all use them, even when their vehicle in in the list, and the tags would be ever so helpful.

It’s a great idea but seeing as how most people don’t take the time to raise the hood and check the oil level on occasion I don’t expect they would spend time pounding out several paragraphs of details.

One of the worst people on Earth to discuss cars with is my wife. If she comes in complaining about a funny noise, vibration, or odd event it takes me forever to get simple answers to simple questions and about half the time I never even get a vague answer. Getting a straight answer in an attempt to figure out the complaint is more difficult than getting wisdom teeth pulled and a lot, lot more painful.

I’ve told her more than once if she were a customer at the counter in a shop any sane shop owner would just toss her out the door.
There’s not enough problem solvers on this forum to even begin to coax details out of her if she were to ever post a problem here.

Cars represent a myriad of potential pitfalls. Sure it is hard reading a bunch of posts, then oh yeah btw my check engine light is on, or flashing. Or gee the coolant ran dry, does that matter etc. Some of the time I think people are here because they are hoping for a miracle cure that does not involve money or a mechanic.

Of course I can be charged guilty of the same thing, My doc said I needed a shoulder replacement, The list is so long of stuff wrong, 3 of 4 rotator cuff tendons with tears, OsteoArthritis, Labral tear, bicep inflammation, bone on bone etc. I can’t remember them all.He was you need a shoulder replacement, What do I do? Look up websites for acupuncture herbology and any alternative.

I would have to say many times you guys have saved people from a bad diagnosis and sent them merrily on their way, I guess that is what it is all about.

You Mean We’re Helping People ?
I Thought We Just Came Here To Drink A Cup Of Coffee Or Can Of Beer With The Guys And Shot A Little Bull, Kind Of Like “Cheers” With Cars Thrown In.

I have to say that you guys are quite entertaining and I mean that (usually) in a complimentary way.
P.S. It would be nice for Car Talk to host a Car Talk [corrected for Honda Blackbird :wink:] Community Annual Picnic somewhere. I’m in.

Cart Talk?..Carts? like the Carts we put behind horses?..Or the ones that hold all the Manure? OH…CAR TALK…LOL… Now I get it…Duh… Yeah man I’m in too Carts or Cars whatev…

But arent we scattered all over the country on here? I’m in the Philly burbs…

Most of the time, you guys are a riot. I also enjoy the whole learning thing. :slight_smile:
From South-central Texas.

A post just today…
“interior gear box” is the center console and gear shifter housing.

Out west in the four corners here :slight_smile:

Good idea, CSA. It’s been noted and passed on. I don’t know how we’d work the logistics, but I’d be there in a second!

Car Talk forum gathering? that’d be interesting.

Picnic somewhere ?
Here’s a logistics idea.

Have a rolling ‘picnic’ much in the idea of the Rolling Thunder and Run For The Wall cross country bike rallies and the cross country trip the national christmas tree just made
( The national christmas tree stopped here in Gallup NM for a whole day, The Run For The Wall stops here for a lunch break , and the Great American Race has stopped here many times when they run route 66 )

Have a huge semi emblazoned with the PBS and Car Talk logos outfitted with grilles, tables and other picnic gear and an advertised schedule of stops along the way.