Glossary of Automotive Terms

Glossary of Automotive Terms

| # |

9 and 3:
This refers to your hands on the wheel and the hands of a clock. In this case, the 9 and 3 o’clock position. This allows drivers to securely hold the wheel, due to its ergonomic shape, all while allowing them to freely rotate the steering wheel from one direction to the other. By placing your hands here, you can safely navigate a track without having to remove your hands from this position. |

| A |

The shape of a car and its body that allow drag to be reduced as air passes over and around it. |
Active Aerodynamics:
Active aerodynamics are added to vehicles, giving them the ability to make adjustments based on real-time situations, like high speeds, in order to keep air moving past (over, through, around) the car, allowing it to stay planted to the ground. |
All Wheel Drive:
This refers to the axle of the car which “drives” or propels the vehicle forwards or backward. Vehicles can be front wheel drive (FWD), rear wheel drive (RWD), all wheel drive (AWD), or four wheel drive (4WD). |
In motorsports, this term refers to the “midpoint” or neutral section of a turn. When “attacking” a corner, the driver’s goal is to “clip” the apex, by successfully directing the car to and through the midpoint or apex of the turn. |
Armco refers to a specific type of barrier used on roads and race tracks alike. These off-road barriers are used to aid in the protection of exterior/foreign objects or hazardous sections of road/track that might be susceptible to low impact. |

| B |

Every vehicle on the road has its own balance. This is based on cars’ weight and center of gravity, and forces applied to the car such as braking, turning, etc. Maintaining a balance during cornering is necessary, in order to keep your grip on the pavement. |
A slight adjustment in the direction of the track. |
Black Flag:
A black flag is usually seen in conjunction with a racer’s number, notifying that the driver must return to the pits. This means that car has been excluded from the race. |
Blend Line:
The blend line divides the pit lane exit from the cars on the track. This lane is utilized by cars who are re-entering the track, from the pit area. It is imperative that all cars on track maintain their distance from the blend line, to avoid collision with slower moving vehicles. It’s equally important for cars who are re-entering the track, to stay within bounds of the blend line to avoid a collision with faster moving vehicles. |
Blind spot:
Every vehicle has its blind spots. In many cases, these are located on both sides of the vehicle. It’s important to make sure mirrors are in the correct position so you can minimize the space on either side of the car which is “blind” from the driver. |
Blind Turn:
Many tracks with features such as elevation changes, often have sections of the track that are not visible (blind) as you approach them. This just means, that you must be prepared and knowledgeable of what’s on the other side of that turn, so as to avoid contact with a structure, another driver, or going off track. |
Brake Markers:
Brake Markers are numbered signs located at various turns on a race track. These typically start with a number such as “4” and go down to “1” as you approach your turn-in point. These signs are meant to indicate you’re approaching a braking zone, and the suggested distance to begin and end your braking. |
Brake zone:
This is a section of the track, leading to your turn-in point, where braking is meant to take place. Often times, this zone can be identified by brake markers, however, this must be managed and understood by the driver and their vehicle. |
This is a scenario where a driver forces the front or rear axle of the vehicle spin its wheels for a duration of time, causing the tire to burn and therefore smoke. This is a result of stomping on the gas pedal in a powerful vehicle, from a stop or at a very low speed. This is not an ideal scenario for the track and should not be practiced outside of a drag racing – to generate heat into the tires. |

| C |

The Carousel is a circular shaped turn, featured at many racetracks. Carousels are often constant radius turns that require a driver to nearly complete an entire circle. This type of turn can be either on or off camber (incline/decline). |
This is typically known as the base frame of a vehicle. In some cases, several vehicles in a manufacturer’s lineup might be built around one chassis, whereas a race car has a purpose-built chassis. |
Checkered Flag:
This flag is waved to notify drivers the race has started, and when it has ended. |
The chicane is usually one of the slowest turns on the track. A chicane is usually in the shape of an S or Z, and involves quick transfers in weight, as the car progresses from turn entry to turn exit of the chicane. |
Center Housing Rotating Assembly represents the main component in your turbo assembly and includes the compressor wheel, turbine wheel, and rotating shaft that houses the bearings. |
Cold Track:
When the track/pit is not being used by any vehicles (for racing/driving at speed) then the track is considered to be “cold”. |
Used on tracks for many things, such as: noting or blocking hazards, or creating obstacles. They can also be placed around a track to assist drivers by letting them know where (and when) to lift or brake, as well as when to turn or where to turn. |
Constant Radius:
The constant radius turn is one that is circular, typically flat/level, and has a long consistent apex. |
Contact patch:
This is the portion of a car’s tire that is physically in contact with the road. |
Cook the brakes:
This phrase is commonly used in reference to an action caused by a driver over using the car’s brakes. Essentially, it means that the brakes have been overheated. |
This is a type of turn that is much like a chicane (tight turn in the shape of an S or Z) except it adds a layer of difficulty as there’s a drop in elevation. |
Corner worker:
Personnel located at various vantage points around a racetrack. These are track appointed individuals who communicate with race control and those on track via radio and flags. |
Curb Weight:
This describes the weight of a vehicle that is on the road and filled with all necessary fluids, such as gas and oil, as opposed to the weight of a car still in production and not capable of driving on the road yet (dry weight). |
Around corners/turns and sections of the racetrack you will typically see multi-colored strips of raised pavement at the edges of the pavement. Curbing comes in various shapes sizes and colors, as some are flat, while others have raised and lowered sections giving them texture and structure. While you may see curbing being used during turn in or track out while watching professional racing, it’s best to stay off curbing until you are familiar with the track and which curbs are meant to be avoided. |

| D |

Decreasing radius:
This is a circular style turn whose radius decreases as you near your track out position. This also influences a late apex. |
The Department of Transportation (DOT) developed a rating system to approve helmets and safety equipment for the road. DOT approved equipment does not meet the standards required for racing on the track. |
Double Apex:
This refers to a corner/turn that is actually two turns, but taken as one. The turn typically is taken like a constant radius turn. |
Downforce is an effect of a car’s aerodynamics, as forces are applied to a vehicle which is generated as the car is at speed. The effects of air pressure passing aero force the car downward. Generally, equipment such as spoilers and splitters are utilized to provide a car with calculated amounts of downforce which assist it while at speed. |
A downshift can occur whether you’re manually shifting gears or in automatic mode. This is the process of a transmission moving into a lower gear from a higher gear. This happens prior to or while braking, in order to allow the car to utilize power after a turn is executed. |
In a racing scenario, drivers will utilize a slipstream to overtake another car. |
This is a style of driving/racing that involves a “sliding” the rear of the car through sections of the track, utilizing a controlled oversteer. |

| E |

Entry/Exit Speed:
This refers to the speed a driver and car are carrying, as it is entering a turn or exiting a turn. |
Are a series of turns on a track that is shaped in an “S”. This turn style requires poise and balance as most esses can be taken at speed. Aerodynamics come into play here as well. |

| F |

FIA: Federation Internationale De L’Automobile:
”A global organization that not only promotes motor sport, but also safe, sustainable and accessible mobility for all road users across the world.” ( |
This is a common term used to describe a scenario in which the rear end of a car begins to sway from side to side, due to loss of control. Much like the movement of a fish’s tail. |
Forced Induction:
This is a term that describes a certain method in which an engine creates power. This process introduces compressed air into a combustion engine at an increased rate. This exceeds the rate in which air would naturally enter the engine (naturally aspirated). A supercharger or turbocharger systems are the most common ways to add forced induction to a vehicle. |
Front Engine:
This refers to a vehicle with an engine that is mounted at the front of the chassis, as opposed to the middle or rear of the car. |
Front Wheel Drive:
This refers to the axle of the car which “drives” or propels the vehicle. There can be a front wheel drive (FWD), rear wheel drive (RWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD). |

| G |

When an object is under acceleration there’s an opposing force that the pulls the object in an opposite direction. This force determines how many “G’s” are being experienced, in this case, by a driver. |
While driving on a track or in an autocross style setting, cones are utilized to create entrances and exits, known as gates. |
Going Fishing:
This phrase is often used by instructors suggesting a driver backs off of the car in front of them, in order to catch back up to them further down the track. If the driver and car are faster than the driver ahead of them, this tactic allows a “catch and release” scenario to play out, without deterring from the coaching happening in the vehicle. |
Green Flag:
This flag is waived during a race to let drivers know they can continue or are clear to “go”. |
Before a race, cars will be lined up and positioned in a format known as the grid. |

| H |

This is typically one of the tightest/slowest corners/turns on the track. A hairpin requires a full 180-degree turn from where the driver enters, and later exits the corner. |
Hand signals:
Hand signals are used to communicate things like brake, turn, and accelerate while a professional is sitting the right seat, instructing a driver. |
This refers to a unit of measurement related to the power output of an engine. |
Hot Lap:
Simply put, this is a lap of the track done at speed. Occasionally other cars will be on track at this time but passing is not allowed. |
Hot Track/Pit:
This the opposite of a “cold track”, which means that while cars are driving on the track and at speed, all personnel is in place and racing/driving at speed can occur. No other vehicles or pedestrians are allowed on the track at this time. |
Hungry Eyes/Eyes up:
Both of these phases are used to help coach a driver into looking further down the track for upcoming obstacles; such as finding the next turn or looking for a reference point. Not to be confused with the pop song of the ’80’s. |

| I |

Increasing radius:
This refers to a circular corner/turn that widens as you travel towards the exit of a turn, as opposed to remaining constant or decreasing radius. |
Instructor: A trained professional who sits in the right seat (passenger) of a vehicle, that will coach an amateur on how to navigate the racing line of a track and more. |

| J |

| K |

This is a style of corner/turn that is a quicker version of a chicane which is an S or Z-shaped turn that requires a fast paced change in direction. |

| L |

Late Apex:
A late apex will occur in situations such as a “decreasing radius turn” forcing the center point of the corner to be further away from your turn in point. |
Launching a vehicle refers to rapid acceleration from a stationary position. |
Lift has a double meaning in motorsports. One form of lift is when a driver removes his/her foot off of the accelerator. The other form of lift refers to air pressure beneath the car, that forces the car upward. |
Lock up:
Lockup occurs when the pressure of the brakes exceeds inertia of a vehicle, causing the wheels the stop spinning and the car to slide on its tires. |
Refers to rotation of the steering wheel. When a wheel is turned to its position (lock) in which it reaches its maximum distance, and then turned the opposite direction until it also reaches this same position, this completes lock to lock steering. |

| M |

Melt off:
A phrase used to help describe a method of braking, in which the driver slowly releases the brake pedal to avoid an upset of balance as well as lock up. |
This refers to a vehicle with an engine that is mounted in the middle of the chassis, as opposed to the front or rear of the car. |

| N |

Naturally Aspirated:
This is an internal combustion engine whose air intake depends solely on atmospheric pressure, as opposed to forced induction through a turbocharger or a supercharger. |

| O |

Off Camber:
A corner/turn is considered Off Camber when its apex is on a higher part of the track from the point of your turn in. |
Off track:
Any time a vehicle’s wheels come in contact with anything other than the pavement which is outside of the designated driving surface utilized for motorsports is considered an “off” or off track. This of course only applies to scenarios in which a “Hot Track” is in effect. |
On Camber:
A corner/turn is considered ON camber when its apex is the lower part of the track from the point of your turn in. |
Operating Temperature:
This is the standard temperature that needs to be reached in order for cars to operate properly. The same can be applied to the temperature of the track’s surface. If the track’s temperature is beneath a certain degree, it’s not safe to drive a vehicle on it. |
Opposite Lock:
Like the term lock to lock, opposite lock means the steering wheel will be placed into a position which is at the end of its turning range (or locked). In this scenario, a wheel will be turned in the opposing direction of travel as a method of counter steering the vehicle. This is typically seen in situations where the car is experiencing oversteer and over rotating, to induce a drift, or avoid the aforementioned. |
This is the path of travel taken to execute a proper turn. A driver will position the car to the outside of the turn, then turn in (inside), and finally track out (outside). |
This means the car’s rear-end has over rotated during a turn. This can happen due to a shift in balance, or it can be induced by adding too much throttle, causing the rear tires to lose grip. |

| P |

Paddle shift:
A sports car (or supercar) that is semi-automatic transmission will often have paddles located on the steering wheel or stalk that allows a driver to efficiently shift gears. |
The paddock is located beside the pit and race track. Typically this is where teams or spectators will park their vehicles and equipment. On some occasions, the paddock can be used for ancillary activities that may or may not be related to motorsports. |
This is a term used to describe the small grouping of chipped paint located on a car that has been driving on the track. |
Pit lane:
This is a designated area used by cars and teams participating in an event on track. This is considered part of the “hot track” area, meant to be used by those with the proper credentials. The pit is often used for maintenance of vehicles, driver changes, and other necessary actions related to the event occurring on the track. |
Point By:
This is a hand signal given by a driver or passenger in the right seat, notifying an approaching driver which side to pass on, and when it’s ok to pass. |

| Q |

| R |

Race control:
Race control makes up a group of individuals and technology used to monitor all activity on track. |
Racing line:
The racing line is the fastest way around a racetrack. The racing line will continually adjust based on real-time factors; such as the type of car, its tires, speed, and other outside factors. |
Rear Engine:
This refers to a vehicle with an engine that is mounted at the rear of the chassis, as opposed to the front or the middle of the car. |
Rear Wheel Drive:
This refers to the axle of the car which “drives” or propels the vehicle. There can be front wheel drive (FWD), rear wheel drive (RWD), or all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles. |
Red Flag:
This flag is waived when there is an immediate danger on track. This is due to an off, accident or a car/s stopped on track. All cars must stop at this time until given further instruction. |
Red Line:
On a vehicle’s tachometer, there is a range in which it will reach it’s “limiter”. That range is in the red. It usually starts a few thousand RPMs prior to the last number on the tachometer. |
Reference point(s):
While driving on the track, it’s best to keep your eyes up and focused down the track. To do this, you need to identify fixed points like a light post or a sign, that you will guide your car towards. These can help you establish where to begin braking when to turn in, or how to get through a blind turn. |
Rev Limiter:
This is the highest number of revolutions per minute (rpm) that a car can physically reach within a given gear. This information can be seen on your dashboard, by looking at your tachometer. There you will see the red line which ends at a number which your vehicle’s engine is limited to. |
Right seat:
This is the passenger seat of a vehicle typically occupied by an instructor, while on track. |
Roll bar/cage:
This a tubular reinforcement structure that is built into a vehicle. It provides added rigidity and stability to a vehicle, as well as safety for those who are involved in motorsports. |
Roll on the throttle:
This is a term often used in conjunction with “smooth inputs” as it refers to your interaction with the throttle/gas pedal. In this case, the interaction is considered to be a “rolling” motion, rather than a stabbing action. This helps build speed and avoid loss of traction. Think of adjusting the volume on your stereo and how you interact with a volume knob. |
Run-Off Area:
A run-off area refers to sections where a car might be prone to leave the track. Run-offs help protect drivers from external surroundings which might cause danger/harm. There are several types of runoffs, such as Grass, gravel, sand or even an added section of tarmac. |

| S |

A race track typically can be broken down into sections. In motorsports, driver’s times are most often measured by their time through sections, and ultimately completing a lap around the track. |
This refers to the type of transmission in a car, which can be shifted manually or automatically and in a combination of both. |
Slip Angle:
This is the angle between a rolling wheel’s actual direction of travel and the direction towards which it is pointing. |
Smooth inputs:
Smooth inputs refers to the method in which a driver interacts with a vehicle’s controls. In this case, we’re referring to “smoothly” making steering, braking and accelerating inputs, as opposed to quick/stabbing actions. |
Snell rating “SA”:
Snell memorial foundation is a not-for-profit organization that sets standards for protective headgear used for over the road use and racing. The standards set by Snell are the industry’s toughest. |
Standing on the brakes:
When discussing braking scenarios, this phrase refers to applying pressure to the brake. If you were to “stand” on the brake, you are applying maximum pressure for a duration of time. |
Stomp on the gas/brakes:
Stopping on the gas is a term used to describe the action of abruptly and forcefully pushing your foot into either the gas or brake pedal. |
This is a section of the track that does not have any turns. |
String Theory:
Meant to describe the position the steering wheel in relation to accelerating or braking while driving on the track. The theory suggests that, when the wheel is turned, your foot is “lifted” from the brake pedal or the accelerator then as the wheel returns back to its straight position, your foot can begin to depress either pedal. Thus insinuating your foot and the wheel is tied to a string. |
This is a generalized term used to describe the sweeping motion of a long and fast turn/corner on a track. |

| T |

This instrument can be found in nearly every vehicle, and is typically beside the speedometer. The Tachometer measures revolutions per minute or RPM. |
Target Fixation:
This is when a person focuses on one object and begins to navigate towards that object. This is a situation you want to avoid while driving on the track because it can cause you to leave the boundaries of the track or worse. |
Torque: In its simplest definition, refers to the rotational force generated by a motor and its connection with the driving axle of a vehicle. Torque works in conjunction with horsepower. |
Track out:
While driving the racing line, you will guide your car from the outside to the inside of a turn, followed by the outside. The process in which the car is guided to the outside is called “tracking out”. |
Turn in:
Simply put this refers to entry position of a corner or turn. While driving a vehicle on track, your goal is to put your vehicle in the right position to execute a proper turn in as you point toward the apex of the turn. |

| U |

While entering a turn/corner, the momentum leading the car forward must be met by grip from the front tires, and later propelled around the turn while accelerating. If the speed and momentum in which a turn is entered, exceeds the grip of the front tires, this will lead to understeer. This means the car will “push” itself away from the apex of the turn. |

| V |

| W |

This is a formal document presented to each individual who looks to enter a race track facility. The document has legal copy expressing risk and ownership of that risk by those who enter the facility. |
Warm up Laps:
Warm up laps are executed to ensure that a vehicle which intends on driving on a race track, is operating at optimal temperature. This refers to the engine, brakes, tires, and more. |
Wheel chock:
This device is used to help keep cars in position while they’re in the pits or paddock. To keep this from happening, they are wedged beneath a rear or front tire of the car. |
White flag:
This flag is waived when there’s a slow moving vehicle on the track, such as an emergency vehicle or other. |

| X |

| Y |

Yellow Flag:
This flag will be displayed at a corner worker stations to alert drivers usually of a spin or car off track. When a yellow flag is shown, there’s no passing between the corner worker station and the incident. |
Waving Yellow:
When a yellow flag is waiving the incident ahead is on the racing surface. Extra caution is advised. |
Standing Yellow:
When a yellow flag is displayed but not being waved, the incident ahead is usually off the racing surface. Drivers should always be aware of vehicles merging back onto the racing surface. |

| Z |