Before rookie off-road enthusiasts brave the wild frontier, they not only need to learn how to adapt to driving on challenging terrain, but they also have to expand their vocabulary. Here are a few of the most commonly used words and terms, and their meanings:
When climbing a hill, the approach angle is the maximum angle of clearance that your vehicle has when approaching the obstacle, and is defined as the angle between the ground and the line drawn between the front tire and the front bumper. If your vehicle has a high approach angle, your vehicle will be able to climb a steeper slope, but the front end can be damaged if you exceed the approach angle. When descending a hill or leaving an obstacle, the departure angle would be the maximum angle of clearance of your vehicle, namely the angle between the ground and the line drawn between the rear tire and the lowest-hanging rear part of a vehicle (usually the rear bumper, unless you have a gooseneck tow bar perhaps).
The underside of your vehicle is technically called the undercarriage, but it’s also referred to as the chassis. The word chassis comes from the Latin capsa, meaning box. Interestingly, if the plastic cover that is held on with plastic clips, it’s referred to as a belly pan. If it is plastic but held with bolts is known as an underbody shield/tray, but if it is metal and held on with bolts, it’s called a skid plate! Ground clearance is the distance between the ground and the chassis. With good ground clearance, you will be able to drive over obstacles without damaging the chassis. Armor-clad means that the vehicle is equipped with heavy-duty skid plates for the undercarriage or body protection.
The clearance that the middle of your vehicle has on its underside is known as the break-over angle. A
A short-wheelbase vehicle with higher ground clearance will have a better break-over angle.
Winching is the process of pulling a vehicle with the help of a winch machine (spooled cable), usually during a rescue operation (known as “recovering”).
A roll cage is the metal pipe frame inside or outside the cabin that keeps the roof from collapsing in case if the vehicle topples over.
The drive shaft or propeller shaft transfers the power and torque to the axles. The transfer case allows you to pick which axle to send the power to, using the front or back wheels to get over an obstacle or out of a ditch.
The differential (lovingly called the “diff”) is a set of gears that transmits engine power to the wheels while allowing them to turn at different speeds on turns. With front-wheel-drive (FWD), the differential is alongside the transmission inside the housing, and the unit is called a transaxle. With rear-wheel-drive (RWD), the differential is between the rear wheels, connected to the transmission by a driveshaft. All-wheel-drive (AWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles add a centre differential or transfer case to distribute power front and rear. An open-end differential means the wheels can always turn independently of each other. If one wheel doesn’t have traction, it still gets power so it spins helplessly, and you go nowhere. A limited-slip differential means that if one wheel loses traction, power goes to the other wheel, thus reducing wheel spin, and preventing the tendency for a front driver to pull from side to side when you step on the throttle on a higher-powered FWD vehicle. A mechanical-clutch differential has clutch plates alongside the gears, and when needed, pressure rings press on the plates to provide resistance. An active differential system works the same way, but uses a computer to monitor the driving conditions and activate the differential’s clutch.
The drivetrain often gets mistakenly interchanged with the power train which is actually a slightly more encompassing automotive term that includes the engine along with the drivetrain. The drivetrain consists of the transmission, the driveshaft, the wheels, the joints and the axles. Ultimately, it is the system that helps transfer power from the engine to the wheels so that your vehicle will move.
The heart of your 4×4 system is known as the transfer case. A transfer case will split up the engine power and send it to all four wheels using the front and rear axles. Transferring the power to the required drive shaft enables you to switch between 4×2 and 4×4 profiles as needed for the terrain that you are traversing.
Articulation is what allows the vehicle to keep all four tires in contact with the ground on rough terrain, which provides better stability and allows the vehicle to maintain traction.
A few informal terms that you might not know (or have forgotten):
- Bobbed means that the rear of the vehicle has been shortened, for better departure angle.
- Beefed-up means a 4×4 that is “stronger than stock”
- A battle scar or beauty mark is a scratch or a dent (Afrikaans: brandewynvlek)
- A Bikini top is a soft top that covers only the front seats and leaves the rear uncovered.
- A butt-scratcher is a trail obstacle that scrapes on a truck’s rear end
- A chick-deflector would be a perceived repulsively ugly vehicle (opposed to a chick magnet).
- A chicken handle is a handle for passengers to grab when the going gets rough.
- A death wobble is an uncontrollable back-and-forth motion of the front wheels, steering system and steering wheel initiated by a bump in the road and caused by worn/loose steering or suspension components or damaged wheels/tires.
- Drop the hammer means pushing the accelerator pedal fully to the floor
- FUBAR means broken beyond repair.
- Granny gear is an extremely low First gear in a manual transmission
- hi-Po means high-performance
- Juicebox means automatic transmission
- Out to lunch means a worthless vehicle that doesn’t run well or look right
- A paperweight is a part that’s broken beyond repair can be used as an excellent paperweight
- Pimped means the vehicle probably has too many bells and whistles
- A rock magnet is a low-hanging component of a 4×4, that seems to catch on every obstacle
- Taco’d means that components that have been severely bent
- The tail gunner is responsible for making sure everyone completes the trail.
We speak your language! Remember before embarking on these challenges to ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape, so bring your 4×4 to us for a service or repairs: https://n14x4.co.za/rmi-workshop/
N1 4X4 is one of South Africa’s biggest suppliers of new, used & reconditioned parts for Cruisers and Toyota 4WD’S.