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It’s interesting how common words, like ‘car boot’, can mean different things depending on who you ask. For example, when used in an automotive context, a car boot describes two completely different aspects depending on where you are in the world. Some think of a car boot as an unwelcome accessory gained by parking in the wrong place, while others think of a place to store tools for changing a flat tire.

A boot on the tire of a car parked on a city street.
In the United States car boots mean something totally different | Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

America vs. Britain: What is a car boot?

If you ask a British English speaker about a car boot, they will think of space within the car for storing accessories like a jack, jumper cables, and a spare tire. Americans call this space the car’s trunk.

However, American minds immediately conjure images of a bulky mechanical wheel clamp attached to a car’s wheel to immobilize it anytime they hear about someone’s car boot.

What is a car boot in America?

Denver Boot claims the title of “the original wheel immobilization device.” While the company has roots in Denver, Colorado recently worked through how private businesses can use it or any other type of parking boot, according to Colorado Public Radio (CPR). The most common usage for wheel boots comes from parking enforcement, including:

  • By private parking lots associated with schools, businesses, and event spaces. 
  • Municipal parking enforcement agencies while targeting habitual offenders that fail to pay fines.

The Denver Boot consists of three pieces, the wheel clamp, a hub (or lug nut) cover, and an arm. 

  1. The wheel clamp grips the exterior and interior wheel surfaces, locking the assembly to the car’s wheel. 
  2. The arm connects the wheel clamp to the hub cover to prevent its removal.
  3. The hub cover blocks access to the lug nuts so no one can remove the entire wheel. 

Companies like RiseTek manufacture self-releasing vehicle boots. These modern wheel boots allow the affected car owner to pay their fine online or by phone and receive a code to unlock the wheel clamp. The self-release process minimizes face-to-face contact and speeds up the removal process, making the interaction safer for everyone involved. 

If you ever find a wheel boot on your car, do not attempt to drive it, or you could cause severe damage to your car’s wheel, tire, suspension, and brake components.

What is a car boot in Britain?

To the British, a car boot is the cargo storage area in the car’s rear, a space that Americans call the car’s trunk space. While it’s funny that British folks call it a boot, it’s just as odd to call it a trunk.

Perhaps the term trunk held over from when cars such as the Ford Model T required owners to strap a steamer trunk to the rear for additional cargo space.

What other car parts have multiple names?

In addition to the car boot and trunk space name confusion, other parts of the automobile have different names in America versus those used in Britain, according to Family Handyman. Let’s see if you know any of the following terms:

  • Bonnet – known in America as the hood. 
  • Wing – the British English term for a car’s fender.
  • Windscreen – if you guessed windshield, you are correct. 
  • Dynamo – is more challenging, but it’s another term for the alternator that keeps your car’s engine starting battery charged. 
  • Silencer – refers to the exhaust system’s muffler.

Comment below if you know of any other car features with multiple names. 


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