English Automobile Vocabulary for ESL

To floor it

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This automobile vocabulary expression means to step on the gas pedal quickly and as hard as you can. The object is to get the car moving as fast as possible in the shortest amount of time.

“My friends told me to floor it so I could pass the slow truck ahead.”

Pedal to the metal

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This means the same thing as “to floor it”. It basically means to put your foot on the gas pedal and to push it all the way to the floor.

“When I get on the highway it is all pedal to the metal!”

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Peel out

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This is when your automobile is stopped and you suddenly put your foot on the gas hard. This causes the tires to spin without the car moving. A black mark will be left on the pavement.

“You shouldn’t peel out so much. You’re going to ruin your tires.”

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Fish tail

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This ESL automobile vocabulary expression is when a car is driving on a slippery surface and the back wheels loose control. The back end of the vehicle moves from side to side.

“When I was driving down the highway during the thunderstorm my car _fish tailed_ and I crashed."

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To cruise

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This is an expression used to talk about a ride in an automobile that is solely for enjoyment. Young people and their friends will go out for a cruise to see what is going on in town.

“During the summer my friends and I like _to cruise_ in my friend’s old Mustang.”

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Slam on the brakes

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This is an expression that means to apply sudden and hard pressure on the brakes causing the wheels to stop right away. If someone was to stop right in front of you would slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car.

“The bus driver had to slam on the brakes when the boy crossed the street without looking.”

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To rev the engine

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An ESL automobile vocabulary expression that is the act of putting your foot on the gas pedal while the automobile is still in park or in neutral. The engine will make a loud sound and it is called “revving” the engine.

“My neighbor was revving his engine all night and it kept me up.”

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Hang a left/right

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When a person is giving directions to a driver if he wants him to turn he could say “hang” instead of “turn”. It is an informal expression.

“_Hang a right at the next light and then hang a left_ onto Red Oaks."

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Tailgate

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This is when a driver is driving close behind the car in front of him. This driver usually wants the other car to speed up so he impatiently follows closely.

“I get mad when someone tailgates me. I wish they’d go around me.”

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Get a flat

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When your tire is punctured and loses all of the air it is said to be “flat”. So if you run over a nail, or something else that is sharp, the air comes out of your tire and you have a flat tire.

“On the way home from school we _got a flat_ and had to pull over. Luckily we had a spare tire.”

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Break down

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If your car “breaks down” it means that it stops working. The engine no longer pushes the car forward. There are many reasons why a car could break down, but the point is the car will not function properly.

“I hope we don’t break down on the way to the mall. This car is old and I don’t trust it.”

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Get a jump

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If the battery of your car loses power and goes dead you can charge it using cables and another car’s battery. This is called “getting a jump”.

“I left my lights on after I stopped the car and the battery went dead. I had to get a jump from my friend.”

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Cut off

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An ESL vocabulary expression where driver 1 is driving in his lane and driver 2 pulls in front of him. This causes driver 1 to have to slam on the brakes, swerve out of his lane or crash into driver 2. Driver 1 may experience “road rage” because of this!

“We were driving down the highway and a drunk driver cut us off.”

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Road rage

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This is a term that describes when a person becomes excessively angry when he feels he has been mistreated by another driver. This can happen when one driver tailgates, cuts off or nearly crashes with another driver. As the population and traffic grow in many cities there are more and more cases of road rage. Many times these incidents end in a shooting.

“There was an episode of road rage that occurred downtown last night. A man jumped out of his car and struck another driver after he was cut off.”

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Run a light

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This is when a driver goes through the intersection when the light is already red. Many drivers get tickets for doing this and sometimes accidents occur.

“I got a ticket for running a light in Jarrell, TX.

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Flash your brights

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This is when you put your front headlights on full power and then turn them off quickly. People do this to get another driver’s attention at night.

“The car behind me flashed his brights at me so I would speed up. I didn’t.”

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Get pulled over

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If you are stopped by a police officer you are said to be “pulled over”. The police officer will turn on his lights and his siren to indicate that he wants you to stop and go to the side of the road. He will then get out of his car and tell you what you did wrong. Usually you will get a ticket for speeding or running a red light.

“Harry got pulled over for running a red light on Forest Street.”

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School zone

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This is a street that is in front of a public school. During the times that students are coming or going from school the speed limit is usually 25 mph. Police tend to watch this area carefully and pull over any cars that speed. The fines for speeding in this area are usually a lot more money.

“Be careful in driving in a school zone. There are kids crossing the street.

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Break down lane

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This is the area immediately to the right of the right hand lane on a highway. People do not drive in this lane. It is used for cars that have broken down or for police officers to park if they pull over a car.

“I had to use the break down lane when I got a flat tire.”

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Fender bender

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A “fender bender” is when there is an accident, but there are not any serious injuries. Usually it is a situation in which a car slams into the car in front of it because of a sudden stop.

“I got into a fender bender because I wasn’t paying attention.”

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Traffic jam

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A “traffic jam” is a situation in which there are so many cars on the road or highway that the traffic comes to a complete stand still.

“We were stuck in a traffic jam so we were late.”

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Get a ticket

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When a police officer pulls you over he may give you a fine for breaking a traffic rule. He will hand you a piece of paper that says what law you broke and how much you need to pay. This is called “getting a ticket”.

“I really hope I don’t get a ticket again. They cost a lot of money!”

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Speed trap

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This is a section of the road where police officers will monitor for speeding cars. One police officer will hide his car on the side of the road to check how fast cars are going. Another officer will be down the road ready to pull over the speeder.

“I didn’t know there was a speed trap on that road so I got pulled over.”

Exercises to Practice

  • English Conversation Activity for Automobile Vocabulary
  • Script for Automobile Driving Listening Passage
  • Script for Automobile Vocabulary Exercise
  • Automobile Vocabulary Listening Exercise
  • Automobile Vocabulary Fill in the Blanks
  • Word Order Automobile Words
  • Automobile Vocabulary Fill in the Blanks
  • Automobile Matching