Cars

What Car People Say (and What We Actually Mean)

Published On 04/10/2016 Published On 04/10/2016

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." -- Mandy Patinkin, as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

Car culture has a language all its own sometimes. It's not quite as extreme as the secret language of truckers, but it's definitely not without its phrases that tend to, um, throw off non-car people. Anyone can say they're going topless in a convertible and the only reaction they'll get is an eye roll at such a tired pun. But telling someone you're thinking about meth injection or that you melted your cat is a whole other story. Consider the following a starter's guide. Now you'll be able to catch a car guy if he's talking like a complete idiot.

Aaron Miller/Thrillist

"I'm almost finished with my project car"

Ask us again next year, and you'll get the same answer. Five years? Same. Ten years? Still the same, but it might be an entirely new project car by that time, after we've given up on the first one, sold it, regretted selling it, and bought a new one to fill the void.
 

"I used to ride around in one of those all the time!"

I didn't own it, a friend of mine had one for maybe, like, six months, but I did ride shotgun a few times. Man that was fun.


Flickr/Wayne Stadler

"Ran when parked"

It ran, but not terribly well, when I parked it behind the barn. In 1996. I haven't driven it in 20 years, but I'm sure it's still fine. Probably.

Aaron Miller/Thrillist

"You've got an LSD, right?"

You have a limited slip differential, right? (It helps put power to the pavement more efficiently.) Without LSD, you're going to have a hell of a time accelerating out of those corners.
 

"She's too rich"

In the process of modifying the car and making sure everything's adjusted properly, the air-to-fuel mixture got a little out of balance. I'll spare the stoichiometry-speak, but "too" rich means there's more fuel going into the cylinder than there should be.
 

"She's too lean"

This is simply the inverse of being too rich.

Flickr/Frank Derks

"I melted my cat"

"Cat" is short for catalytic converter, which is central to any car's emission control system, but every so often cats can fail due to several factors, including being too rich or lean (see above).

Flickr/Tim Hohm

"Don't stare at the speedo"

Speedo is short for speedometer, and if you're on a racetrack, it's all too tempting to stare at it to see how fast you can go. Don't do it -- because that's how crashes happen.

Courtesy of BMW

"Are you injecting meth?"

We're asking if you're injecting a mixture of water and methanol into your engine's air intake. It's a means of keeping air cooler before it goes into the engine, thus resulting in more power. To see something similar, check out the water injection system BMW uses on the new M4 GTS. It uses the same concept, just without the methanol.

Aaron Miller/Thrillist

"There's no replacement for displacement"

This is the belief that smaller engines with turbo or superchargers are inherently less desirable than larger engines without them. For many years, this famous phrase from W.O. Bentley (as in, founder and namesake of the car company) was the mantra of the muscle-car world -- it still is in some corners.

Aaron Miller/Thrillist

"I gutted my car"

Weight has a negative impact on performance, so one of the cheapest and easiest ways to make your car faster is to start taking unnecessary things out of the interior. It's a slippery slope, and the next thing you know, you're driving around with no interior whatsoever, save for a dashboard and seats. At that point, you've ripped its guts out, or gutted your car.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He's been almost finished with two different project cars. Now he's just along for the journey.

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