This is the boring page. Not many pictures. Mostly just stuff to read. If you don't care, don't worry; just find the road you want and be on your way. Hopefully, though, you can find something here that will help you on your next drive. Maybe it will help you be safer, or faster, or both. Either way, this information is here to assist you in your quest to become the best driver out there. If there is anything you think should be included here, let us know.
The following is provided for information only. What you do on your own time in your own car is up to you. Always drive safe and never do anything that would endanger pedestrians or other motorists. The roads belong to everyone; make sure that you, and everyone you pass, makes it home safely.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________TABLE OF CONTENTS
- CA Traffic Laws
- Preparing for a Drive
- Driving Tips
- Defenitions, A - I
- Defenitions, J - Z
As a result of my velocity on a recent trip accross Palms to Pines Hwy., I had a little chat with an officer of the California Highway Patrol. As a result of that, I was given the opportunity to attend a driving school. Determined not to have the day completely wasted, I took notes on the issues that surprised me or I thought would be relevant to this page.
Note: I have not confirmed all of these with the California vehicle code, and not everything my instructor told us turned out to be true. You should verify these own your own if you are worried about the consequenses.
More than 25mph over the speed limit is considered reckless driving.
Get caught driving over 100mph and you can lose your license, have your car impounded, and spend up to three (3) days in jail.
Speeding ticket fines are based on pre-set prices of the governing agency(s) you were caught in, not the speed you were going. For example, the ticket I got for 20mph+ over the limit in Riverside County was considerably cheaper than would be a ticket in Malibu for 5mph over the limit.
Parking lots are subject to traffic laws and can be patrolled by the police. Just because you are on private property, don't think the cops won't do anything about those donuts you are making.
Not a law, but between 12am and 3am 1 in 3 drivers are driving under the influence. This means if you get pulled over during this time you are automatically suspected of being drunk. Unfortunately, some cops will pull over vehicles going exactly the speed limit at this time of night because they figure that anybody who is drunk will make damn sure they are not speeding.
Also not a law, but if you get a ticket from the CHP or a traffic enforcement vehicle, don't plan on having the ticket thrown out in court because they don't show up. Their job is to hand out traffic violations, they will be at your court hearing.
Any amount of marijauna found in a vehicle by a police search may result in the driver losing their license for one year.
Lateral G does not condone street racing. We like to drive fast but not race each other on the streets. We don't participate in competitive driving. Racing each other on the freeway, or even worse on surface streets, is just plain stupid and often ends in a crash. If you are caught street racing, this is what can happen to you (first occurance) according to the CHP.- Minimum county jail sentence of 24 hours and maximum of 90 days.
- Vehicle probably impounded for at least 30 days.
- Owner responsible for vehicle's towing and storage charges ($1,000 or more).
- If owner fails to pay, vehicle could be sold at a lien sale.
- Anyone who aids or abets a street race also faces a maximum 90-day jail sentence.
The following modifications and upgrades are illegal under the California Vehicle Code.- Stereo that can be heard more than 50' from the vehicle.
- Lack of front and rear DMV issued plates.
- Radar and laser jammers.
- Any part of the car lower than the lowest point of the wheel rim.
- Tinting front or front side windows.
- Blue and yellow headlights.
- Brighter or higher wattage than OEM headlights.
- Tail lights other than red.
- Lack of rear reflectors.
- Front turn signals must be white or yellow, rear turn signals must be red or yellow.
- Red lights to front of vehicle.
- Driving with only parking lights on.
- All flashing decorative lights.
- Windshield washer nozzles, if equipped with lights, may only be white or yellow.
- Lights attached to wheel stems.
- Lighted license plate frames (other than red on the rear plate)
- Engine modifications that do not meet smog
- Excessively noisy smog. Exhaust systems that claim "50 State Legal" referst to smog, not noise. Under 27150.2 VC an officer may issue a noise citation based on his judgement, a mechanical test is not required.
** BLACK BOXES **
They're not just for airplanes anymore. That's right, your car may very well have a "black box" that is recording what you are doing behind the wheel. Cars have been built with sensors that record vehicle motion for some time. These sensors allow the car to know when to deploy it's airbag. But car manufacturers, notably GM, have recently begun to build cars with devices that record for several second or minutes. In the event of an accident these can save information regarding your speed, engine RPM, if your hitting the gas or brakes, etc.
I have not found a lot of information on this so far. A Florida driver was recently sentenced to 30 years in jail for killing two teenage kids in another car. He was doing 114mph on a residential street, and his cars data recorder was used against him in court. While the car is technically yours, the laws do not protect the data it collects as belonging to your. After an accident, insurance companies and accident investigators can get this data from your car (if equipped) without your even knowing about it. And with over 25 million cars using these devices today, if you have a new car you probably have a date recorder too.
I do not have a complete list of vehicles that have these devices. I know that newer model Corvettes do. I have also read that the BMW M3 records your engine information, in Europe they will void your warranty if you use the "launch" mode with the SMG transmission. Many new cars have the ability to plug a computer in and find out what the problems have been. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that it would be very easy for these cars to record crash data.
If you have a GM, Ford, or Isuzu, you might want to check this page to find where your car's "black box" is.- Back to top
Heading out into the mountains and canyons for high speed, close to the limit driving is dangerous. We don't deny that. If you weren't taking at least some risk, would it really be fun?
Still, that doesn't mean we want to crash our cars or get ourselves or anyone else hurt. There are several things you can do to minimize the risk of our chosen hobby, and preparations should begin before you even start the car. Just jumping into the car without any preparation will end badly sooner or later.
Making sure you are up to the drive is the first thing to do. Get a good night's sleep. Don't go driving early in the morning after a hard night's partying and drinking. Of course, never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol; this includes prescription and over the counter drugs. Nasal decongestants and other seemingly innocent pills can slow your reaction times and blur your judgment. If you are sick or tired you should face facts and stay at home. There will always be another chance to get out and play on the roads.
If you are ready, now it is time to make sure your car is too. It may seem obvious, but there are several things you should check before you head out;- Tire pressure, front and rear
- Proper lug-nut torque settings, never trust the corner tire shop to do this right.
- Oil level
- All lights are working properly
- Valid tags, registration, and insurance.
- Never engage in this kind of driving without full liability and comprehensive insurance!
- Periodic inspection of brakes, suspension, and tie-rods by a quality mechanic.
Okay, you and your car are ready to go. But remember that you are quite possibly going to be far from civilization for several hours and you never know what emergency or situation may happen to you or one of your driving partners. Below is a list of suggested items to have with you or in your car to ensure you are ready for whatever happens.- Comfortable clothes and shoes
- Fresh water
- Food / snacks
- Extra oil
- Warning flares and/or triangle
- First aid kit
- Two-way radios to keep in contact with the rest of the drivers.
If you are the group or event leader in can be important to separate the drivers/cars based on their experience and skill level. Mixing highly skilled drivers with high-performance vehicles in the same group as a family sedan with oversize tires can have negative results on the road.
Some thought should be given to keeping different classes and groups separate. This can be done by having separate class leaders, each responsible for the cars in his group; spacing the start times of the groups by several minutes with fastest leaving first; and possibly even using some kind of identifier on the front and back of each vehicle for easy recognition on the road.
It will all depend on how many vehicles are involved in the drive, how big of a spread there is between the best and newest driver, and how well all drivers know each other. The better the preparation the more fun you will have and the safer it will all be.- Back to top
So you've chosen a road, prepped yourself and your ride, and now you're headed out into the canyons. You've chosen to participate in a dangerous hobby, but there are thing you can do to minimize the risk. Below is some information that can help you to be as safe as possible. This information is provided for reference purposes only. If you speed or drive beyond the limits of the road, your car, or yourself you do so at your own risk.
GETTING TO AND FROM THE DRIVE
If you live in the Los Angeles or Orange County areas, you are going to have to spend some time on the freeway to get to any descent roads. If there are several cars headed out, it is important that the lead driver makes sure everyone gets to the destination. This means taking care when merging or changing freeways not to loose the cars behind you. It also means no crazy driving or racing each other; it would be pretty stupid to get a ticket before you even get where you are going. Even worse to get one on the way home.
Driving on the freeway with multiple cars following can be difficult, but there are several things you can do to make it easier. The first is to make sure everyone has good directions to where you are going. Even if you don't want to broadcast the specific roads you are going to be enjoying for security reasons, at least a meeting place that everybody knows how to find. Having a two-way radio in every car is a very handy way of keeping in contact, and can even be more important out in the canyons.
On the freeways, there are several things you can do to help people stay together. Limiting yourself to the right lanes and keeping your speed down helps straglers catch up. If you want to change lanes in heavy traffic, the lead car signals, the following car signals and moves over and makes a hole for the car ahead. On surface streets, if you make it through the light and some cars behind don't, pull off at the next convenient space and wait. As long as everybody is aware of these guidelines before you head out, you should have no problem arriving at the destination on time.
Ideally, you are driving far enough away from civilization that police presence and other vehicles. This allows you some freedom to drive faster, but unless you know for a fact that there is nobody coming the other direction, never cross the double yellow lines.
If you have at least 3 vehicles and some two-way radios, you can use spotters to make sure the road is clear. One driver is stationed at either end of the stretch of road you are driving and informs the driving vehicle if the road is clear or not. Even with the use of spotters, however, using the entire width of the road like a racetrack can be very dangerous. Think of this more as an added safety procedure than as an excuse to drive recklessly. The added benefit is to ensure you do not come across a police car at high speeds.
This setup would also work well for high-speed desert driving. In these kinds of situations line of site for oncoming traffic is not a safety issue, but it is very easy for a cop at long distance to get you on radar. Having spotters at either end would help insure you against an unwelcome visit from an officer of the law. However, it isn't advisable to remain in one place too long, the police may get suspious of sports cars parked by the side of the road for long periods of time with the drivers inside.
Always remember that at the end of the day it isn't the number of tickets that really matter, it's the number of accidents. Lateral G memebers have come back with tickets more than once, but never an accident.
When driving in the canyons, desert, or mountains it is always very important to keep your eyes open for road hazards or anything that may cause you problems. There can be anything from potholes, spilled oil or fuel, fallen trees and limbs, mud puddles, stopped or crashed vehicles, loose gravel, and rock-slides. If you are in a group, you should always be ready to inform them over the radio that a hazard exists, where it is, and the best way to avoid it.
Probably the one to be most concered with is rock-slides, as this is the one you will most commonly come upon during canyon and mountain driving. Rock-slides don't have to be large groups of boulders blocking the entire road. Most commonly you will see a small collection of rocks and pebbles lying on the road, typically on the lane closest to the hillside. While they might not look like much, even a small rock can puncture a tire and a patch of small gravel can cause you to break traction and spin. You might make it around the corner fine, but at high speeds your tire could throw the rock at the car behind and damage your friend's ride.
Small rock-slides happen all the time in the canyons and mountains, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of when they are most likely to be waiting for you. After heavy rains you can expect to find rocks and gravel all over the road due to washout. They can also be caused by the natural expansion and contraction due to heat, so when the hillside cools off in the evening or warms up in the morning you can expect there to be rocks wating for you.
The best course of action is to always assume that there will be something waiting for you at the exit of the corner, so be prepared for it. If you go through a corner at 10/10ths and something goes wrong, you will have no way out.
When (and when you drive fast it's only a matter of time) you get pulled over here are some tips. These are not guaranteed to get you out of a ticket, and are simple tips I have heard in the past and I have had descent luck with. When you get pulled over, you may not be able to completely get out of a ticket but if you play your cards right you might be able to get the offense reduced.
As soon as you know the cop is going to stop you, pull over. Don't make him work for it. Anything you do to make his job easier makes it more likely he will be easier on you. If a cop wants to pull you over on the freeway, signal, move right, and drive in the right lane to the next exit if there is one available. Don't drive so far as to make him think you are trying to get away; make it clear you know he is there and get somewhere you both can pull safely out of the way of traffic. No CHP officer wants to see you try and merge from a standstill on the shoulder into high speed freeway traffic. It is much safer for everyone if you can get off the freeway.
Once stopped, turn off your engine, stay in the car, turn on your interior light (if night), roll down the window on the side of the vehicle the officer, approaches, and place your hands on the top of the steering wheel where the officer can see them. Never get out of the car unless ordered to by the officer. When the officer asks for your license and registration, inform them you are getting it out of the glove box before reaching.
Put yourself in the officer's shoes. He doesn't know if you might be drunk, high, have a gun, whatever. Make it obvious you are cooperating by keeping your hands visible, no sudden movements, and make sure that you are plainly visible inside the car. Be polite and curteous, even when receiving a ticket. Being polite might not get you out of a ticket, but being rude can easily get you a bigger one.
If you are in a line of cars and one vehicle gets pulled over, make sure all other drivers know to keep going; do not pull over at the same spot. If an officer pulls over a car and sees 5 to 10 sports cars pull over at the same time, it isn't going to make life any easier for the driver he just nailed. Keep going and form a meeting spot far enough down the road that it isn't too obvious you are in a group.
If you have accident while out driving there are several things you should think about. First and foremost is to make sure that everyone involved is safe and unhurt. If there are injuries the most important thing is to get medical help. If it is simply a single car accident, and nothing more than some body work and an ego are damaged, everybody but the accident driver and possibly one friend should clear out. The last thing you want is a cop to show up and fill out an accident report with a bunch of sports cars sitting around. The report won't go in your friend's favor.
It is also important to make sure that your group is spread out enough going through the curves so that if a car does spin out, the vehicles behind do not become part of the accident. If everyone in the group is carrying a two-way radio, you can warn all drivers so that the entire group slows down, no matter where they are, and be prepared to help on-site or go to find the emergency crews.
Someone, ideally every car in the group, should have warning flares or emergency triangles to warn other motorists of an accident ahead. The most dangerous situations involve an accident on a cury road where there is no visibilty around the corners. In this case at least two people are needed to slow motorists down before they reach the accident they can't see so they do not hit any stopped vehicles or oncoming traffic. A minor accident on a canyon road can become much worse if the next car coming up the road doesn't see the stopped car around the blind corner.
BRAKES AND HEAT
When driving in the canyons you use your brakes, a lot. This means they get hot. This is not usually a problem if you are driving up a mountain because you are using gravity to slow you down. But when you head down the other side remember that you are not going to stop as fast as you did on the upward side, and your brakes are going to get a lot more work and so build up more heat.
My car has pretty good (stock) brakes and I rarely have to worry about brake fade. I have driven in the canyons in rental cars, however, and one particular incident almost saw me drive off the edge because I forgot I wasn't in my car. I hit the brakes and not much happened. Even in my car on very hot days after repeated heel-toe braking around corners I could detect some loss of grip from the pads.
Another important thing to remember is not to use your parking brakes when you stop for a break or to leave your foot on the brakes on the pedal at a stop if you just came off the mountain. Holding the pads against the rotors as they try and cool will cause them to dissipate heat unevenly and can warp them. If that happens the only thing to do is buy new rotors.
Canyon driving isn't the same thing as spending the time on the track. There are no run-off areas, sand pits, tire walls, and emergency crews in case something goes wrong. In the canyons you only have one chance to get it right, on a corner you may have never driven before. At the track you repeat the circuit faster and faster until you are comfortable at full speed, and probably only drive for less than an hour at a time. In the canyons or the desert, you probably drove for several hours just to get to the road you want. Because of all this, the backroads of the canyons and the desert are not the best place to push your car and your self to the limit. There just isn't any room for error. You can have drive fast and have fun, but always leave yourself some room to manuever in case of an emergency.
Since none of us want to crash, this means you have to pay close attention to the signs that you pass. The best roads, the ones out in the middle of nowhere that don't go anyplace, have no traffic, no cops, and usually no warning signs and bad road surfaces. Even state highways, which are usually have pretty good signage, may not always be consistent. The following are descriptions of the common corner warning signs and what I have found them to indicate. This is my personal experience and should be tested under safe conditions before you try them yourself.
All of the signs below are yellow and are therefore warning signs. Any posted speeds are a warning speed, not regulatory. That does not mean, however, that you can not get a ticket for going faster than what the sign says. A cop can give you a ticket for exceeding the "safe, reasonable" speed given the circumstances he finds you driving under.
This is the sign you most want to see, and the bigger the number on the bottom the better. The problem with this sign is that road maintenance crews put up this sign as a way of warning you about every corner for the next 7 (or whatever the number is) miles. Most likely, none of the corners in that distance will have a warning sign of its own. It is up to you to use caution until you are out of that zone. Driver awareness and skill are very important when you see this sign. The good news is that this sign is usually used on out of the way back roads where there is little traffic.
This sign is used on individual corners to warn you of the speed you need to have for this corner. Once through the corner you can accelerate for the next corner. The gradual arrow usually indicates shallower curves.
This sign is similar to the one above, but the sharper arrow usually indicates a sharper corner. In this case, without a posted speed, it is simply warning you of a tight corner and to slow down.
This sign is used on a specific section of curves. The thing to remember with this sign is that the posted speed is for the slowest corner in the series, not necessarily the first one. Don't power out of the first corner forgetting what the posted speed was, thinking you have already past the corner you were warned about.
This sign is used simply to warn of a tight corner or permanent obstruction in the road, like a shifting curb. On state highways these signs are usually used to indicate large corners like switchbacks or hairpin corners, and are used in a series as seen above.
The indicated speed on all of the above signs are designed for vehicles much larger and heaver than a sports car. I have found than in my sports sedan I can take these corners at least as twice as fast as posted. Again, this is my experience and it is up to you to find the limits of your own car. One note of caution, any corner posted less than 25mph is usually best taken at the actuall indicated speed. Try taking a corner indicated at 15mph at 30mph and you will probably find yourself in the field by the side of the road.- Back to top
If you are the kind of driver who finds this site interesting, chances are you have made modifications to your car or are currently planning to. If done properly, upgrades and modifications can drasticaly improve the handling and performance of your vehicle. Care should be taken, though, in deciding what to upgrade and how to install. Having a back alley shop perform the work on your vehicle may save you money at the start, but if a poor installation job fails during high-speed cornering in a canyon it could mean a big repair bill or even time in the hospital.
When planning upgrades, make sure you know what your ultimate goal with your vehicle is. If you are upgrading for appearance, quality and safety are no where near as important than when you are upgrading for performance. Remember, if you drive hard in the canyons or desert you are trusting your health and safety, and that of the other people on the road, to your car. Make sure it is up to the task.
Whether your car is stock or highly modified, make sure you have critical components like brakes, steering, tie rods, and tires checked on a regular basis. Never underestimate the consequenses of poor planning or judgement.
Tires are the most important upgrade you can make to your car's handling. Suspension, wheels, brakes, sway bars all help, but nothing will give you the most "bang for the buck" as a good set of ultra-high performance tires.
Unless you drove off the dealer's lot in a 911 or Ferrari, chances are your tires are not the top of the line. When a car manufacturer choses a type of tire for a given vehicle, they have to weigh many factors including road noise, safety, price, and the number of miles the tire will last. If your main concern is performance, a little more road noise an tires that don't last quite as long are not a big price to pay. A set of Pirelli P-Zero's or Yokahama AVS tires will increase the grip and cornering ability of your car more than you might believe.
One thing to keep in mind; if you just paid a lot of money for some new performance tires, you might want to refrain from donuts and burnouts in the parking lot. No reason to turn those expensive pieces of rubber into smoke.
Increasing your wheel size is done for several reasons. One; to allow the fitment of bigger brake systems (see below). Two; to allow the fitment of larger and wider tires. You may also want to fit wheels that have a larger surface opening to allow better brake cooling (see below). But the biggest reason to change your wheels from the original factory set, from a performance point of view, is to decrease unsprung weight.
The wheel on the left (brake dust and all), is mine. They aren't my favorite style, but they only weight 17lbs each which removed roughly 5lbs per corner from my car. By decreasing the weight of the wheel, the car is able to maintain higher levels of grip when cornering on rough or uneven pavement. The wheel on the right, a Dub Spinner, may have more style but weighs a lot more. This is a bad thing when it comes to performance driving.
Your car's suspension has to do two thing when you drive; keep the car level and keep the tires on the ground. The more weight you have on the corner that the suspension has work to keep on the ground (unsprung weight) makes it harder for the suspension to keep the car level. Think of it this way; when your tire hits a bump in the road it is pushed into the air. The more weight it has from the brakes, bearings, wheel, tire, etc., the harder the suspension has to work to push it back to the ground. The less weight, the easier it is for your suspension to do it's job, and the better you can corner because your tires spend more time in contact with the road.
I also chose to stay with the original size wheels for two reasons; BMW knew what they were doing when they designed the car and I didn' want to risk upsetting the driving dynamics by randomly picking a different size tire; and larger diameter wheels weren't any wider, so all I was doing was increasing the cost of the tire and wheel, adding weight, and not increasing the contact patch (and thereby grip) at all.
At one of my BMW LA club meetings a representative from Stoptech stopped by to give us a little information on brakes, upgrades, etc. While bigger calipers, rotors, and pads will improve braking performance, they will also increase unsprung weight (see above) and of course can run you a lot of money.
The cheapest and best upgrade you can do for your brakes is cooling. If you have ever watched a NASCAR race and seen a close-up shot of their brake systems, you will notice large ducts channeling cold air from the front of the vehicle to the brakes, and another set allowing the heated air to escape. Large, open face wheels also help, as air is drawn from below the car, around the brakes, and out through the wheels. The Dub Spinners pictured above provide absolutely no cooling ability for your brakes, while my wheels on the left allow a lot of air to flow through.
There are two more cheap and easy upgrades you can make. The first is to install some high-performance brake pads. Racing pads are not advisable because they are designed to work at temperatures greater than what you would normally achieve on the road. If you're pads are cool and you hit the brakes, don't plan on stopping anytime soon. But high-performance pads can really make a difference and are relatively cheap and easy to install. You can also remove the dust shield from the inside of your brake assembly. This is designed to keep dirt, rocks, and water off of your rotors; but in Southern California those really aren't issues. With a little care when driving through large puddles of water in the rainy season, you can remove these and allow your brakes to cool faster by removing what is essentially a wind-break for your rotors.
PERFORMANCE vs. AESTHETICS
As I touched on briefly in the wheels section, upgrades and modifications that look great may not be a good idea for canyon or high-speed desert driving. I've seen cars with wheels so big that they couldn't turn to full lock because the tires rubbed the wheel well. I've also seen many cars that were lowered so much that the chassis would scrape on just about any bump, and the suspension components no longer had enough travel to do their job properly. These cars looked great, but really had low levels of performance.
Another issue to keep in mind is the appearance of your car. While bright paint schemes and intricate graphics might win at the auto shows, they aren't always a great idea for the kind of driving discussed by this site. Let's face it, high speed driving is not exactly legal, so it helps to have a car that gets as little notice as possible. A row of 10 sports cars with racing graphics passes a cop car, even at the speed limit, and that officer is immediately going to suspect them of breaking the law. Sometimes, having a sleeper car that doesn't get much notice can be the better car to have.- Back to top
The following defenitions are in my own words where possible, but when I needed help I used Road and Track Illustrated Automotive Dictionary, John Dinkel, © 2000.
Blow off valve - Officially known as a wastegate; a valve used on turbochargers to allow the engine to get rid of excess pressure generated by the turbos in the lines. Prevents the engine from damaging itself.
Brake fade - The loss of braking force, typically due to heat
Caravan - To drive together as a group to a mutual destination. Typically used when describing a smaller group going together to meet the whole group for a drive.
Center of gravity (cg) - The point in an object where the weight is assumed to be for design calculations. In a car the lower the better.
Chassis - A car without the body, trim, and accessories; just the frame and mechanical pieces.
Coefficient of drag (cd) - A measure of how aerodynamic a car is. The lower the number the better, typically around 0.3 for a sports car.
Coil-over - A type of suspension where the spring and shock are incorporated into one unit that allows for easy raising and lowering of the ride height of the vehicle. These are best used for cars that are driven on the track and on the roads.
Cold air intake (CAI) - Essentially a pipe with an air filter on the end that draws cold air into the engine. Colder air allows the engine to generate more power than warm air.
Continuously variable transmission (CVT) - A non-automatic transmission that has a system of belts and pulleys that alter the transmission ratio depending upon speed and power demands. This allows the engine and throttle to maintain in one spot, keeping your car in its ideal power band.
Cornering limit - How fast a car can travel around a corner.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) - U.S. Government-mandated fuel-economy standards. Put simply, the average fuel economy of the vehicles sold in the United States by a manufacturer in a given year must equal or exceed the standard for that year. If it doesn't, the manufacturer gets fined per vehicle sold per 0.1-mpg deviation. What this means to us is that if a car company sells a sports car that gets 11-mpg, then it also has to sell an economy car that gets 30-40-mpg to average out the results. This is why many sports cars have a "gas guzzler" tax, because that manufacturer doesn't make an economy car and so must pay the penalty.
Coupe - A two-door car with a fixed metal roof. These cars are typicaly considered "sexier" and sportier than their 4-door counterpars.
Crush Zone - The areas at the front and rear of the car designed to absorb the impact in an accident and keep the damage from reaching the passenger compartment.
Curb weight - The total weight of a vehicle ready for sale, with all fluids but without driver or passengers.
Donut - Slang for a temporary spare tire. Many people don't realize that these are a one time use tire, designed for a maximum speed and maximum distance, usually specified on the tire itself.
Double-clutching - A driving technique in which the driver depresses the clutch pedal, moves the shift lever out of gear and into neutral, releases the clutch pedal about halfway while simultaneiously using the throttle to increase engine speed, then depresses the clutch pedal again while shifting to the desired gear. This is done to minimize gear clash or grinding, but on modern transmissions with syncrhomesh gears it is not as important as it used to be. This process is part of heel-toe shifting.
Downforce - Downward air pressure, generated by a car's body, that pushes the car onto the road with increasing force the faster it is driven. Spoilers, splitters, and wings are usually used to generate downforce, but high-end modern sports cars are designed in such a way to generate downforce without exteraneous body parts.
Drafting - A driving technique, typically used in racing, where one car closely follows another in order to drive without wind resistance, this being done by the lead car. This allows a driver to match the speed of the lead car without using as much of the engine's power and therefore saving fuel.
Drive by wire - The use of electronics to replace mechanical links in systems such as steering and throttle.
Dry sump - An oil lubrication system where the engine's oil is pumped from a different container than the crankcase. This is used on high-performance cars because it prevents oil starvation caused by constant high-speed cornering where a traditional oil pump can not feed oil to the engine.
Dual overhead cam (DOHC) - An engine with two overhead camshafts; one to operate the intake valves and one to operate exhaust valves.
Estate car - European term for station wagon.
Firewall - The partition between the engine and passenger compartments.
Forced induction - An engine equipped with a turbocharger or supercharger that forces air into the cylinders.
Four wheel drift - A car cornering with its fron and rear tires sliding in a corntrolled manner. Basically a car sliding sideways under driver control.
G - Acceleration exerted on a body by earth's gravity. A force of 1g equals the weight of the body at rest, 2 g's exerts a pull equivalent to twice body weight, and so on. G-force can be used to acceleration and braking but is more commonly used for measuring a car's gip in corner. Hence the name Lateral G. A car that can exceed 1g of lateral grip is an amazing car with amazing tires.
Gran Turismo (GT) - Italian for Grand Touring, a sports car with a fixed roof, not a convertible.
Ground Effect - Result of the partial vacuum between the road surface and the undercarriage of an automobile. This gives the car better cornering ability but usually hurts top end speed.
Heel-toe - A driving technique where the driver applies pressure to both the gas pedal and the brakes at the same time with the right foot. This is to allow the driver to use the clutch with the left foot while breaking and matching RMP's so when he downshifts for the corner the engine speed will match the drivetrain and allow smoother shifts. It also prevents unwanted weight transfer throughout the car.
Homologated - A racing term for a production car that has been certified for a specific class by a racing organization.
Intercooler - A heat exchanger typically used on turbo and supercharged engines. Basically a type of radiator, it cools the air forced into the combustion chamber.
Long block - A completely assembled engine, including all internal and external components. Ready for installation into a car.
Mass airflow sensor - Part of the fuel injection system that measures the amount of air entering the engine to tell the computer how much fuel to inject.
Monocoque - A type of car construction that doesn't use a frame, but instead uses a rigid body shell for structural support. Very expensive but very lightweight and strong.
Naturaly aspirated - An engine that does not used forced iduction, i.e. turbos or superchargers.
Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) - Any company that makes automobiles, as well as companies that make parts that are installed during the construction of a vehicle.
Opposite lock - The act of turning the wheel the "wrong way" into a skid to straighten the car.
Oversteer - A condition where the rear tires of a car loses traction before the front. While this is good for an experienced driver can drive faster in a car that has neutral or oversteer, it is more dangerous for inexperienced drivers due to the car's desier to spin at the limit.
Pillars - A, B, C, D - The upright sections of body that connect the roof to the lower part of the car. Put simply, the sections of frame that block your view between windows. The front two are the "A" pillars, between the front and rear doors are the "B", behind the rear seats are the "C", and in a station wagon the two at the rear of the car are "D" pillars.
Ram air - A low grade supercharger where a hood or front air scoop forces cold air into the fuel injection system. Most commonly seen on modern Firebirds.
Redline - The point on your tachometer (RPM guage) that indicates the point at which it is not safe to rev the engine past.
Rev limiter - A device which prevents your engine from rotating faster than its designed safety maximum. Prevents the engine from damaging itself.
Saloon - British term for a four-door, fixed roof car with a trunk. Basically a standard family car.
Sequential manual gearbox - A manual gearbox without a manually controlled clutch pedal. You shift up or down in order, there is no ability to skip gears. Using a stick like an automatic or paddles on the steering wheel, the driver inputs an upshift or a downshift and the transmission's computers actuate the clutch and shift very quickly. Traditionally used in racecars, starting to become common in sports cars.
Short block - An engine block with all internals included, such as pistons, cams, crankshaft, etc.; but does not have any external pieces such as alternator, wiring, distributor, etc.
Shooting brake - British term for station wagon.
Sill - The portion of the frame underneath the doors. What you have to step over to enter a vehicle.
Slush box - Slang for an automatic transmission, due to their tendancy to rob torque.
Spider (or spyder) - Term for a convertible, 2-seat car.
Spoiler - An aerodynamic device, most typically on the rear deck but also used under the front bumper to reduce drag or increase downforce. Called spoilers because they "spoil" the airflow around a vehicle, many people claim they "spoil" the looks of the vehicle as well. Most commonly seen as a large wing bolted to the truck lid.
Tachometer - The guage on your dashboard that measures RPM (rotations per minute) of your engine. Most commonly used on manual cars to tell the driver when to shift.
Targa - A type of convertible invented by Porsche where the center section of the roof may be removed for a partial convertible effect or replaced for a coupe effect.
Torque steer - A trait of some front wheel drive vehicles to pull to one side during acceleration. This is commonly due to the driveshafts being unequal in length. The more power the car has the more likely to experience the problem.
Turbo lag - The time between when the driver steps on the gas of a turbocharged car and the time when the turbo's effort reaches the engine. This is due to the turbo having to spin up to operating speeds to generate thrust.
Turns lock-to-lock - The number of times the steering wheel must be turned to go from extreme right to extreme left. The fewer number of turns the more agile a car will be in tight corners, but harder to maintain on high speed cruising in a straight line.
Understeer - Basically, the front tires of the car runs out of traction before the back of the car. Most production cars are designed with a certain amount of understeer as this is considered safer than the back of the car losing traction first and spinning out.
Unsprung weight - In practical terms, the weight of the car that must be pushed to the ground by the suspension. The wheels, tires, brakes, bearings, etc.
Wheel hop - A condition where rough or uneven surfaces cause the tire to completely leave the ground. This is commonly due to worn shocks or an improper suspension setup. This can be extremely dangerous, as the vehicle loses 25% or its cornering and braking ability for every tire not on the ground. This can be seen quite frequently on older cars on concrete freeways with expansion joints, the tire is visibly bouncing up and down as the car moves.
Xenon headlights - A headlight assembly that does not use a bulb, but instead creates an arc of electricity through a gas in a sealed container. Similar to a traditional movie projector.- Back to top