We Asked Our Moms To Define 12 Car Terms

Everyone knows at least some automotive words: wheel, tire, headlight. But what happens when you ask someone who doesn't care about cars at all to define the terms gearheads use every day, like crankshaft?

To find out, the Moms of Supercompressor were presented with a list of 12 words and instructed to define each. Along with their answers—yes, one mom compared a suspension piece to flopping testicles—we've included the formal definitions, courtesy of Automotive A-Z, a seriously comprehensive car-guy's dictionary that's now available in app form. Enjoy.

1. Dagmar

Ryan's Mom: "I think it describes a car after it’s been driven into a swamp."
Ali's Mom: "Dagmar is a part of the steering column."
Jeremy's Mom: "A Dagmar?! It’s, um, it’s a new drink from Starbucks."
Wil's Mom: "What makes the brakes, brake."
Gavin's Mom: "The name of a horse."
Joe's Mom: "A sandwich?"

Real Answer: Each of a pair of large bullet-shaped bumper protrusions, fashionable on some 1950s cars, named after a buxom TV personality.


2. Powertrain

Ryan's Mom: "The Powertrain is a very important part of a vehicle. Very important."
Ali's Mom: "Something in the engine."
Jeremy's Mom: “That, powertrain? What was the name of that little train that could? Thomas? That’s Thomas the Train all grown up and on steroids.”
Wil's Mom: "I'm pretty sure it has to do with the shift, or transmission—the transmission actually. Do you mean the auto-train that goes to Florida?"
Gavin's Mom: "The Swiss railway."
Joe's Mom: "A part of the automatic transmission."

Real Answer: All of the systems that transmit the power, i.e., the power pack and the drive line, the complete series from the combustion of the air-fuel mixture to the tires.

3. Suicide Doors

Ryan's Mom: "Suicide doors are used when trying to commit suicide by throwing yourself from a speeding vehicle."
Ali's Mom: "Doors on top of a car?"
Jeremy's Mom: "Suicide doors? Um...oh, Jesus. You know how there’s the lock and unlock mechanism, this is the lock and unlock mechanism in which there is no unlock option."
Wil's Mom: "I know them, they are doors in a police car that are nailed shut so you cant get out. Or maybe doors where you can get out really easily. No, they're doors you can't get out of, in a police car, but I'm not sure. If you can't get out of them, you'd kill yourself. Like if it was going off a cliff, you couldn't get them open. Suicide doors."
Gavin's Mom: "Doors in between two rail cars leading outside, where they connect to each other."
Joe's Mom: "The doors that open up from the bottom and have a hinge on the top of the car so you lift them up to get out."

Real Answer: A side door that's hinged at its rearmost edge such that the leading edge opens. Super dangerous to attempt while driving.


4. Speedo

Ryan's Mom: "A speedo is very unattractive bathing attire, even on great looking men, and should never be worn on a beach, let alone while driving a vehicle."
Ali's Mom: "Well, its a bathing suit, isn't it."
Jeremy's Mom: "Spell that? Speedo? That’s a bathing suit!"
Wil's Mom: "It's what you (can) wear to look nice in your car. Or short for a speedometer, probably both."
Gavin's Mom: "The name of our last cat, and a tiny racing swimsuit for men on swim teams."
Joe's Mom: "Short for speedometer."

Real Answer: Speedometer.

5. Sparkplug

Ryan's Mom: "There are six (or so) of these under the hood of a car. They sometimes need to be replaced. When one is bad, the car is 'not firing on all cylinders'; the same can be said for some people who aren’t all that bright."
Ali's Mom: "Provides electricity/power and is under the hood."
Jeremy's Mom: “I know what that is. That’s the thing that ignites the engine.”
Wil's Mom: "Those little things you have to change and get all corroded, and if they aren't connected and clean the car wont work."
Gavin's Mom: "Small electric plugs for the car's suspension."
Joe's Mom: "A part that helps engage the engine to start up."

Real Answer: The electrical device that converts the high-voltage surge into a spark to ignite the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder.


6. Quick rack

Ryan's Mom: "A quick rack will hold bicycles and can be attached very quickly to the top of a car. Also to the rear of the car."
Ali's Mom: "On top of car, holds skis?"
Jeremy's Mom: "As in the word quick? Rack? That is something that you improvise...I know this. You improvise out of tree branches to put together to hold the body of the deer that you’ve accidentally (or possibly on purpose) run over."
Wil's Mom: "It's like racket pioneering steering."
Gavin's Mom: "An overhead place to hold skis on top of car."
Joe's Mom: "Something you put on the roof of your car."

Real Answer: A high geared steering rack providing quick steering.

7. Chassis

Ryan's Mom: "The chassis is the body of the vehicle. It’s the first term a mechanic must learn."
Ali's Mom: "The body of the car."
Jeremy's Mom: "It’s pronounced chass-y. It’s somewhere under the hood. Don’t ask me where, but I know it’s under the hood. It’s pronounced in the French way."
Wil's Mom: "Chassis is like the whole engine and everything, like the engine block, probably."
Gavin's Mom: "The body of a car."
Joe's Mom: "The car body."

Real Answer: The framework, to which the suspension, engine, transmission, body, etc., of a vehicle are fastened.


8. Blowby

Ryan's Mom: "A blowby is similar to a drive-by, only you’re going at a much faster rate of speed."
Ali's Mom: "Somebody driving by very fast."
Jeremy's Mom: "B-L-O-W-B-Y? Are you kidding me? Blobby. Um, that’s a code word for erectile dysfunction."
Wil's Mom: "I have no idea—pretty sure it's a muffler."
Gavin's Mom: "A fast speeding car passing another."
Joe's Mom: "The sound the car makes as it passes you."

Real Answer: Leakage of compressed air-fuel mixture and combustion gas through the piston rings into the crankcase.

9. Crankshaft

Ryan's Mom: "The crank shaft runs the entire length of the vehicle and attaches to all of the tires, thus controlling steering of the vehicle. Duh."
Ali's Mom: "Supports the transmission?"
Jeremy's Mom: "A craftshaft. It is also somewhere under the hood."
Wil's Mom: "Might be the gear shift...yeah, that’s it."
Gavin's Mom: "The pipe under the car to help with holding one side to the other. I think the muffler is involved in that lineup."
Joe's Mom: "The crankshaft is what holds the engine in the car."

Real Answer: A one-piece steel casting or forging that is the main rotating member within the engine.


10. Ball joint

Ryan's Mom: "The ball joint is inside the turning gizmo on each wheel, and if it gets dirty, well, look out, you may have to have the entire wheel bearing replaced, which is not inexpensive."
Ali's Mom: "Where the crankshaft goes?"
Jeremy's Mom: "Is, is it something that keeps your balls in line? Like, balanced? So they don’t flop out of your underpants. It’s a joint that keeps the two testicles balanced in an even way."
Wil's Mom: "Is it in the wheels? I think it’s in the wheels."
Gavin's Mom: "Something on the axle of the tire mounting."
Joe's Mom: "A ball joint is in the wheel base of the car and helps keep the wheel attached to the car."

Real Answer: A ball and socket joint giving good flexibility within a range of movement; used for steering and suspension joints.

11. Monocoque

Ryan's Mom: "Mono = one. Coque = grilled sandwich.  A monocoque is a french term for one grilled sandwich, which many auto mechanics prefer to eat for lunch."
Ali's Mom: "A place near France?"
Jeremy's Mom: "I would say that it island somewhere off of the Galapagos. It’s part of the Galapagos Island Chain."
Wil's Mom: "Mono is single, so it’s a single engine car. Or first gear."
Gavin's Mom: "Monocoque sounds like a high end Moroccan hotel."
Joe's Mom: "A fancy French sports car."

Real Answer: A vehicle, in which the body shell carries all the structural strength without chassis rails.


12. Body Style

Ryan's Mom: "The body style refers to two-door, four-door, convertible, etc. A mechanic should know all types of body styles before applying for a job as an auto mechanic."
Ali's Mom: "The way a car looks."
Jeremy's Mom: "If I was going to have to a car, what body style would I want? Box-y."
Wil's Mom: "What the car looks if it’s a square or not."
Gavin's Mom: "The type of body the car wears and is designed for, as in a Volkswagen being a round style."
Joe's Mom: "Body Style describes the type of car—for example, a sedan, a hatchback, an SUV, a truck."

Real Answer: Amazingly, this isn't in the dictionary. At least these are mostly in the general ballpark.


The Results:

While the moms didn't exactly ace the test here, they at least knew the general concept of many of these parts. Well, most of them anyway. Sidenote: A monocoque dagmar sandwich sounds surprisingly delicious.

Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He'd like to thank Keller Powell for helping him select words that weren't too gearhead-oriented. He's planning on using this dictionary to better communicate to the masses.