Week of April 10, 2022

Wheely Informative


Regardless of engine size, all cylinders must be firing for a car to work efficiently and at full capacity. Accordingly, people said to be “not firing on all cylinders” are not thinking or performing at an expected capability.


Since a dime is the smallest American coin, to “stop on a dime” means to be able to stop so quickly you land on this tiny area, and can be applied to cars or other fast-stopping things.


To “burn rubber” means to accelerate so that your tires smoke and leave marks on the pavement. This idiom came into use in the mid-20th century and was a product of the automotive age, since it is hard to imagine an animal-pulled vehicle accelerating this quickly!


The term “four on the floor” refers to a vehicle with a four speed manual transmission near the driver’s seat, but also the very steady 4/4 beat popular in disco and later dance music.


Unreliable cars are called “lemons” because that term was applied to any product of poor quality in the turn of the 20th century, but by the 1960s, with the help of a Volkswagen ad, the term was mostly reserved for sub-par vehicles. States now have “lemon laws” on the books requiring certain standards in used car warranties.


Putting the “pedal to the metal” is another mid-century car term for accelerating to the maximum. This term started in the 1950s when many cars had metal floorboards under the accelerator pedal.


Until 1988, vehicle titles were printed on pink paper in California, which gave rise to the term “pink slips” for vehicle titles. “Racing for pink slips” is a familiar movie term indicating that the loser must sign over his or her car to the winner.