Automotive Dictionary

We know mechanics can speak their own language. That’s why we’ve tried to de-mystify some of the more unusual terminology to ensure you’re in control of your vehicle.



Minor styling modifications made by the manufacturer to a car model, which may be approaching the end of its useful life. It could include restyled headlights, added trim, spoilers, etc.

Factory adjusted:
Something that is set by the manufacturer when the vehicle was built and is not intended to be changed.

Factory options:
Optional features which may be installed by the manufacturer upon request.

Fifth wheel:
Provides a flexible connection between the vehicle and the trailer.

Flat spot:
A momentary hesitation from the engine after the accelerator pedal is pressed down.

Four-banger (4-banger):
A car with 4 cylinders.

Four-by-four (4×4):
A four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Four-wheel-drive (4WD):
Both axles and all four wheels are activated. 4WD’s can be full-time (always on) or part-time (driver selected). Four-wheel drive enables better handling on off-road terrain, or on-road driveability in unfavourable driving conditions.

Front-wheel-drive (FWD):
A drive system where the engine applies driving force to the front wheels rather than the rear wheels. The benefit is often maximised passenger and/ or cargo space in the rear.

Funny car:
A variation of a dragster that hides the usual front engine chassis under a lightweight body that looks more like a streetcar.

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Elvio is a seasoned Motor Mechanic with 25 years experience in the automotive industry. Well-known for asking the most obvious questions and his bizarre obsession with Datsuns (having owned more than 10), he seems to think the 70s was the golden era of motoring. Current rumours suggest he owns more than 100 caps, prefers Belgium bier to Australian and has been confused with the real Speedy Gonzalez. Well-known at the racetrack for getting maximum performance on a budget and his obsessive attention to detail, he is now taking his passion for all things with an engine to help his customers in his blog. Ask Elvio.