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.



Paddling (or foot paddling):
The way an unskilled rider walks their motorcycle.

Pancake engine:
An engine in which the cylinders are on a horizontal plane. This reduces the overall height and enables them to be used in vehicles where vertical height is restricted.

Part-time four-wheel drive:
The most common type of all-wheel drive it usually operates in two-wheel drive mode and can be switched to all-wheel drive when the situation requires.

Parts car:
A vehicle that has deteriorated badly, or damaged beyond reasonable repair. Therefore it is useful only as a source of parts.

Platinum (spark plugs):
Vary to regular spark plugs as their tips are made of platinum or iridium, rather than copper. More expensive they are used in some vehicle models for their longevity.

Any car in disrepair. Origin: the Pinto is a car that was ugly even when new.

The cylindrical metal shaft within each engine cylinder. It travels up and down to turn the crankshaft, compress air and fuel mixture for combustion and to expel exhaust gases.

Pitman arm:
The steering component in a car or truck.

Pocket rocket:
Small cars with lots of power.

Power curve:
The power output of an internal combustion engine forms a curve if charted on a graph using the engines different outputs at different rpm’s.

Power steering:
Helps drivers steer vehicles by augmenting the steering effort of the steering wheel, allowing the driver to provide only modest effort, regardless of conditions.

The ‘knock’ or ‘ping’ that occurs when the ignition of the air-fuel mixture occurs before the ignition spark. Also known as ‘pre-ignition’.

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Who is Elvio?

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.