139. Hard Driving / Car Vocabulary

One Man. One Car. One Destination. Lots of vocabulary.

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In this episode you join me in a BMW Mini as I attempt to drive across Paris, through some of Europe’s busiest streets, on a very hot July afternoon. My mission is to deliver the car to a car-park while avoiding angry Parisian drivers, pedestrians with prams, and busses full of Japanese tourists. The ultimate goal – a glass of cold beer on the terrace of a cafe, and to save the world through another episode of Luke’s English Podcast, of course.

Do I manage to complete my mission? And what driving-related vocabulary can you learn during this episode?

Listen, and you will find out…

Here are extracts of the transcript for this episode that contain all the driving-related vocabulary.

  1. Hard Driving – driving vocabulary



The car is on. I’ve got my hand on the handbrake on my right. I’m in the first gear. And I’m going to get moving, so I just lift the handbrake up. I’ve got the clutch. My left foot is on the clutch. I’ve put myself on the first gear. Handbrake is down.




So, [the] vocab is, what I’m holding, what I’ve got in front of me, the wheel. The thing that I’m turning in order to control the direction of the car, that’s the steering wheel, folks. The steering wheel. Turning the steering wheel to go left and right.




The gear stick to control the gears.




Gear stick. First gear, second gear, third gear, fourth gear, fifth gear, sixth gear sometimes and reverse gear, of course. Handbrake, I’ve already mentioned that. That’s the way you can sort of… how you stop the car when you’re on a hill, or you park, you pull the handbrake up. Sometimes, if you’re in a Hollywood movie and you need to like turn the car around very quickly, you might pull the handbrake and do the handbrake turn. It’s very dramatic and exciting. But I’m not going to be doing it today, folks, no! I’m going to try drive safely.




So, the pedals on the floor to…




So, the pedals on floor, the one on the furthest right is the accelerator pedal or the throttle, which is the accelerator.

The accelerator pedal, the brake pedal on the middle and the clutch on the left. OK. I’ve got some switches behind the steering wheel. You can hear the indicator switch, which sounds like this: “Indicator sound” Yeah. This is the indicators, they indicate left and right. And I’ve also got things like headlights, and stuff like that. I’ve got the speedometer in front of me, I’ve got a fuel gauge, rev counter which tells me how I’m revving the engine.




We also have the glove compartment on the right in front of the passenger seat, which never contains gloves. They call it the glove compartment, you know, it’s like a little box that little storage cupboard thing in front of the passenger seat. I don’t know why they… I know why they call it the glove compartment. It’s because traditionally that’s where you keep gloves. I’ve never ever seen a pair of glove in the glove compartment. Usually, it’s just like an old map or some boiled sweets or something like that. Never, never any gloves in the glove compartment.




There’s the horn, which makes the car go “Beep beep beep” this is the horn. The seatbelt, which can obviously save your life if you have a crash. Hopefully, that’ll never happen. You also have mirrors, don’t you? Mirrors, what you can, which allow you to see behind you. You’ve got the wing mirrors on the left and the right. And then you have the rear view mirror.




So, the windows, the window in front of me, we call it the windscreen, in front of me, it’s the big window at the front of the car. The windscreen. In America, they call it the windshield, but we call it the windscreen. Then the other one, it’s just this the window in the back window. It’s just pragmatic. The front part of the car that you open if you want to look at the engine, it’s called the bonnet. But in America, they call it the, what do they call it, the hood, hood, but we call it the bonnet. The front of the car is the bumper. That’s the part which is used to sort of bump other cars.






I’m just going to run through the vocab of the car that I attempted to teach you during the journey just as a summary.

  1. You got in the car. You’ve got the steering wheel, which you use to turn left or right or to steer the car. You have accelerator pedal, the brake pedal and the clutch pedal. You use the clutch to change the gear. And also you have a stick on the right if you’re in Europe and that’s the gear stick.

You have the seat-belt to keep you safe. If you have a crash, then the airbag will come out and protect you so that you don’t get badly injured in the event of an accident. You have mirrors, the rear view mirror in the middle, the wing mirrors on the left and right. You have the indicator to show which direction you’re going to turn, left or right. Tick, tick, tick, tick, like that. The indicator. You’ve also got things like the windscreen wipers, which are those things that clean the water of your windows or the dead insects after a long journey, you use the windscreen wipers to wipe them off. You also have like jets of water which spray onto the windscreen. And if you angle the jets correctly, you can spray pedestrians as you drive past them, which is quite good fun, isn’t it?


You’ve got the… the back window with a windscreen wiper on it, you’ve got the brake lights, you have bumper at the back, bumper at the front. You’ve got the boot of the car or in Ameri… that’s the back, that’s the storage area at the back of the car. We call it the boot. In American English, they call it the trunk. The front of the car, you’ve got the bonnet, which covers the engine. And in America, they call that the, what do they call it, the hood. That’s right. You’ve got also the petrol cap, which you remove in order to fill a car up with fuel.


Let’s see, what else? So, the number plate on the back and the number plate on the front, they have the registration number of the car. Also the wheels, of course, they’re very important. If you want to actually travel anywhere. You got the wheels… the wheels have, what are do they called it?, alloy covers, often if you’ve got like you know very nice cool car, you might have alloys on the wheels, which look cool. Then you’ve got the rubber bits that go around and they’re filled with air. Those are called tyres [tires in US English], of course. The tyres that go around the wheel. Just the same as a bicycle, in fact. Headlights on the front help to illuminate the road as you’re driving.




There are some verbs we associate with driving, as I mentioned before you. You accelerate. You brake, brake means to stop [or slow down]. You turn left, you turn right, you steer the car. You reverse, I mean, you go backwards. Mirror signal manoeuvre. Mirror, obviously, check the mirror before you move. Signal, that’s to indicate which direction you’re going to go. And manoeuvre, that means to turn or to make some sort of specific movement in the car. A manoeuvre. A manoeuvre might be, for example, a 3-point turn or a U turn or a… if you reverse into a parking space, to parallel park, which is one of the most difficult things that you can do when you’re driving is parallel park. When you’re learning to drive, that’s very difficult. If you have a space in the road and you have to try and park the car in that space. So, that’s nicely positioned, close to the curb, without too much space between the car and the curb and you don’t actually touch either the car in front or the car behind. That’s… if you can master that art, then you should be able to pass your driving test, how to parallel park.



Other vocab:

  • traffic
  • traffic lights
  • zebra crossing
  • satnav
  • petrol

A listener has written a finished transcript of this episode. Click here to read it. Be aware that it hasn’t been fully corrected yet, but is about 90% accurate.