An A-Z of Car Terms All Performance Drivers Should Know
Driving involves so much more than gripping the wheel while looking out the windshield. It’s not for the brainless. It’s a reality that so many drivers forget, and that can put them at the centre of a car crash, make them late for appointments, and diminish the performance of an otherwise sporty car. Fortunately, you can avoid all of those things. You can learn the manoeuvres mentioned in this post with a bit of practice and more importantly, they can even save your life in emergency situations. Take a look at the A-Z list of car terms listed below. You will likely find at least a few of them handy in the future.
Avoidance Strategy – In simple terms, an avoidance strategy is a technique that can help reduce the chance of getting into an accident. It’s an aspect of defensive driving, and it can mean the use of specialized braking, steering or even acceleration techniques.
Bootleg Turn – It bears the name “bootleg”, but it’s not illegal. Essentially, a bootleg turn is a manoeuvre where a driverreverses a forward-moving vehicle 180 degrees. It is a trick that allows motorists to change direction in the shortest duration possible.
Controlling Slides – This refers to a series of manoeuvres that drivers use when driving on slippery terrain. These techniques will help you stay in control if you’re driving uphill, downhill, on a slide slope or a flat surface that is slippery.
Downshifting – If you drive a manual car, learn how to downshift. Here’s why: it puts your car in the right gear at the right time, maximizing its acceleration and braking power when needed. And as a side benefit, downshifting can increase the longevity of your clutch.
Float-Shifting – Simply put, float-shifting is the practice of changing gears without using the clutch (again, this is for drivers of manual cars). A driver will accelerate gently, and then “floating” (changing gears) when they reach a desired RPM. Although it can extend the longevity of your clutch, this technique can cause serious damage to your transmission if not done properly.
Grip – Sure, grip doesn’t really describe a driving move. However, learning how to maximize grip while driving can be a life-saving move. Apart from using the right tires, you can increase grip by steering, changing gears and braking gently.
Heel-and-Toe – With heel-and-toe shifting, a driver changes down the gear while braking when approaching a corner. It’s common for those who are performance driving advocates, and it can help you make rapid yet smooth changes when turning.
J-Turn – It works like this: a driver reverses and then rapidly turns 180 to face the direction in what looks like a “J” motion. You’re more likely to see J-turns among stunt drivers and racers, but they can come handy if you need to whip out of a driveway that faces a busy road. With that said, avoid J-turning for fun since this could attract police attention.
K-Turn – Assuming you passed your driving test, you’ve done plenty of “K” turns already. It’s just another term for three-point turns. It’s worth mentioning for the rare instance that someone says “K-turn”, as well as to reinforce the importance of learning how to do it well.
Left-Foot Braking – As its name states, left-foot braking is about braking with your left foot. It might feel awkward to do in the beginning, but it is great to decrease your stopping time. It’s a technique often used by race car drivers, and it can help if you need to brake suddenly.
Opposite Lock – Also known as counter-steering, this is a manoeuvre that you can use to correct an under or oversteer. In the rally of the racing world, it usually turns into drifting. In normal driving, however, countersteering can help you straighten out your car, so that it doesn’t veer out of your lane or off the road.
Powershifting – Often used by drag racers, power shifting requires a driver to change gears without letting their foot off the gas. The purpose of this technique is to reduce the time where the driving wheels are not powered.
Rat Running – For all of you out there who love car racing games, rat running is in your blood. It is the practice of finding shortcuts to your destination, whether they are “back roads” or side streets to avoid traffic, save time, and even cut fuel costs.
Scandinavian Flick – Deriving its name due to Finnish and Swedish rally racers of the 60s, the Scandinavian Flick can help you maintain control around tight corners and hairpin bends. It works by steering slightly in the opposite direction of the turn, steering into the turn and then, quickly lifting off the throttle and gently pressing the brakes. It takes some practice to get right, but it is essential to only pull this off if you are skilled enough.
Threshold Braking – As its name implies, the purpose of this technique is to brake as hard as possible before the wheels “lock up” or the ABS is engaged. It produces maximum grip, and is useful for emergency situations.
Weight Transfer – More appropriately known as “load transfer”, this concept refers to the shift in load carried by different wheels during acceleration. Learning how to manipulate weight transfer can help improve driving performance and safety.
Tricks of the Trade
Keep in mind that many of these car terms, are techniques used by professional race car and stunt drivers. Therefore, you should use them only when the circumstances call for their use. Emergencies, collision avoidance, and difficult terrain are appropriate times to use them. There are a few techniques here, however, that can work well for making your drive less of a hassle. Ultimately, make sure you are absolutely comfortable with the technique before trying it on the road. You don’t want to try experiments with a driving trick at a time it should be used by a master!