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Car terminology can get very confusing for those who aren’t mechanics, car salesmen, or auto enthusiasts. Terms like ‘powertrain’ and ‘drivetrain’ are common terms that are easily explained. Then there are some words that not only make no sense but are also kind of morbid, like the dead cat hole.

The dead cat hole

The Detroit News has recently created a list of the many slang terms used in the automotive industry. Some are commonly used, while many are rarely used anymore. Regardless, they are colorful and bring to mind an image that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual definition.

Take ‘dead cat hole,’ for instance. This brings to mind the image of a cat who is no longer with us. In this case, it’s kind of accurate. The dead cat hole is actually the wheel well, or the nook created between the tire and the fender. General Motors played a role in the creation of this term because it required that all vehicles have enough room for owners to install tire chains during the winter months. 

This created a cozy little place for cats to take a nap, hence the name dead cat hole. However, many cats are actually saved from this terrible fate, like the mechanic who saved a kitten caught in the car engine and later adopted it.

Dead pedal

The dead pedal is a term used in racing. Race car drivers often accelerate to speeds so great that they are at risk of coming out of their seats. The dead pedal is often made of rubber and metal and doesn’t actually move, unlike the gas pedal. 

Drivers can use the dead pedal by placing their left foot on it and pressing it down. This helps stabilize them, so they can focus on winning the race. It’s also known as the footrest.

Bone line

This sounds like a skeleton dance at Halloween, but it’s actually rather simple. The bone line is the area on the car known as the styling line. This is located where the bottom of the windows connects to the car body. Another way to describe it is that it’s beneath the shoulder line.


Trade School Grants came up with another list of unusual car terms, and banger is one of them. This term is related to the internal combustion engine. The cylinders inside create small explosions, which are now known as bangers. As cool as a world filled with electric vehicles would be, we would no longer be able to use words like banger when describing how an internal combustion engine works.


Frit refers to the enamel dots on the windshield. It’s designed to keep drivers and any passengers sitting in the front seat from being blinded. Sun visors are great, but there are many areas they don’t cover, which is where the frit comes in.


This “Mad Max” inspired term describes a completely messed-up vehicle. It could be due to a car crash or someone acting recklessly behind the wheel. One way to use this term is, “Who was hooning around in that car?”

‘That’ll buff right out’

If you hear a mechanic say this, it’s bad news. They’re saying this to lighten the mood because they’ve got a bunch of work ahead of them. So, don’t let the optimistic sound fool you. They’re likely being sarcastic.

Hatch creak

This term is a call back to the days of the Chevy Corvette when owners couldn’t roll down the rear window without it creaking and groaning. As annoying as the sound was, it was also kind of creepy.

It all began in 1984 and continued until Chevrolet finally found a solution in 2005. Other hatchbacks also fell prey to this, and the problem is prevalent enough that The Detroit News believes this may be why more Americans don’t drive hatchbacks.

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