Car talk….the basic description of this term would be a conversation about cars or car-related topics.
To be honest, car talks are one of the most popular social topics so you’re bound to get involved in one, sooner or later.
When this happens, if you don’t have proper knowledge, you can easily end up on the borderlines of the conversation, feel awkward, or downright dumb.
In order to avoid that, this article will give you some basic guidelines so you can successfully participate in a conversation or, in some circumstances, dominate it.
WHY SHOULD YOU LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT A CAR TALK?
Really, why should you spend your time on this?
To explain we must wander out of the realm of cars and go a bit into human affairs, namely small talk.
Small talk is, in most cases, the key to a longer conversation. Even if it doesn’t last long, at least you’ve made a brief acquaintance. In some places, it’s even a custom to start the conversation this way.
Furthermore, one of the most popular small talk topics is about cars (especially among men). Maybe it’s not at the same level as sports but it’s not that far either.
So, now we come to the benefit and point of it all. There is a good chance (especially for men) that small talk will start with a car topic. Most people like their cars and are happy to talk about them and share their experiences.
This is the perfect terrain for a new acquaintance, going into a deeper conversation, possible further friendship, or even making new business relations.
Of course, it doesn’t always end this way, but, at least from my own experience, it gives you a good shot at getting to know somebody.
So, a pretty good gain but to achieve it, you’ll need to invest some goodwill and spare time.
TIPS FOR MASTERING A CAR TALK
1. LEARN THE BASICS OF A CAR
Most car talks involve the basic terms. If you don’t know them, you’ll immediately come off as an amateur at best or totally ignorant at worst.
You don’t have to obsess with this (you’re not going to an exam) but you have to know the basic terms, locations of the basic components, and how things work on a car at a basic level.
Here are a few things to know about in general:
Engine type (diesel, gasoline, or even electric)
Engine layout (V engines, straight engine, flat engine, etc)
Number of engine cylinders
Position of the engine, how it’s positioned in the engine bay (longitudinal, transverse)
Location of the engine (front, middle, or rear)
Type of transmission (automatic, manual-stick shift, CVT, semi-automatic, etc)
Type of drivetrain (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive)
Cubic centimeters (or inches)
Horsepower (or kilowatts), the first one is better preferred
Manufacturer (country of origin, maybe some basic trivia about the company)
Type of car (may seem obvious but know the exact terms-sedan, hatchback, coupe, SUV, and so on)
The dimension of tires and rims (in inches)
Know some of the costs of maintenance
Know the average fuel consumption (if you don’t know how to calculate this, click here for an article on that topic)
The list goes on but these are the basics and most commonly mentioned. If you want to learn more about the engine, click here for a great and in-depth explanation from Wikipedia.
Yes, the list seems a bit tedious and demands some effort to learn but you’ll see, once you master it, it will come out naturally.
The small talk begins with these terms like: „What car is that what brand is it? “Is it, diesel or gasoline?” “Really, how much horsepower and ccm-s?” “Nice rims, what are they, 16-inch, 17-inch?”
Thus the conversation is born. I hope you get the point. This data is your entry card to begin the conversation.
As mentioned, you don’t have to go into details for each and every item nor study it, rather give it a quick scan.
Maybe you might even find a topic that will interest you more and you’ll elaborate it better giving you an extra edge in the conversation (like what tires are better, what transmission is better, and so on).
The best source of learning is of course the internet (Wikipedia, YouTube, Google) but don’t underestimate car magazines.
Although paperback seems archaic, in the automotive world they are still a very valuable and cherished source of information.
Also, if you have the chance, talk to people who own a different car. Most people are more than happy to share their experiences so this can also be a valuable source of information.
2. KNOW THE BASICS OF YOUR CAR
Probably the first thing another person will ask you in a car conversation is about your own car.
If you don’t know or have to think about the answers, you won’t seem serious.
So, it would be good to know all of the mentioned data on the list and added to that:
Year of production
A brief maintenance history
Price of spare parts and regular maintenance (oil, filters, and so on)
This might seem a bit over the top and going into too much detail but two important things come out of this. One thing, you will sound less like an amateur.
Another is that a lot of drivers and car owners like to moan on the maintenance topic.
„My goodness, I had to pay for the dual mass flywheel this much”…..”Do you know how much the fuel filter is for my car, you wouldn’t believe it!”, „The maintenance on this car is killing me, seriously!
Some are just complaining about losing money while others seem to mention it as a form of bragging.
Whatever the case, this is good material for beginning or continuing a car talk.
3. AVOID RE-TELLING OTHER PEOPLES STORIES
This one is really annoying especially if you’re having a conversation among people who understand car topics well.
„I’ve heard, my buddy has driven…., he/she told me….“ is OK for a lower level of conversation.
Don’t get me wrong you can mention it, even perhaps discuss it but to give a conclusive opinion…you’ll just seem like a blabbermouth.
People like personal experience and first-hand information. If you let yourself go and comment on something you probably haven’t even seen much less driven, the first thing the other person will ask you is: „Well, OK, you seem to know much about this, did you actually drive it“?
At this moment you’ll realize that you’re making a fool of yourself and probably have to be quiet for some time.
So, a major turn-off for any serious car talk. Again, mentioning a story or testimony yes….going into a serious discussion…..NO!
4. WATCH CAR REVIEWS
Unlike stories, reviews enable you to give some kind of reasonable comment.
Not to mention that car reviews are immensely popular among drivers (hundred of car magazines and millions of views on the internet are a testimony to that).
Car reviews are a keyhole to the world of cars you may perhaps never drive, like supercars or luxury cars.
You can also see and hear an opinion of a car you might like to buy, be it new or used.
In my own experience, the reviews that people like the most are for the latest car models. One of the most common questions when starting a car talk is:
„Have you seen the latest model of….(that manufacturer)? I’ve just seen the review it looks nice….and so on.
If you’ve seen the review, the conversation can continue and a car talk is born.
Best look at video reviews on the internet. On YouTube, you can find lots of channels that make professional reviews and paint a good picture about all the newest cars.
Also, you’ll see that over time it will become somewhat of a habit. The moment you see a commercial or hear that a new model is out there, you’ll type it in the search box.
Again, car magazines are also great for reading reviews. It’s all up to you and what kind of media you like.
5. DO SOME ACTUAL WORK AROUND THE CAR
Experience trumps theory. It will always be this way in the realm of cars.
You’ll best see this if you happen to start a conversation with someone who has some experience with cars.
He/she will look at you with sympathy and tolerance but as the conversation goes into greater detail the courtesy will end and you’ll get the question: „Do you know how to do it“?
As with telling stories, you’ll find yourself again in an awkward situation and be seen as a layman (unless you have the same level of experience).
So, if you have the will (which is most important) do some work around your car.
Start with simple things like changing a light bulb and over time, progress to changing the engine oil, replacing the filters, replacing the spark plugs or glow plugs, and so on.
Even cleaning your own car will give you enough material for a car talk.
Other benefits that come from this are: saving money, learning something new and useful, and being able to help yourself on the road.
You’ll see what I’m talking about if you start doing this.
I don’t know what’s more priceless: that feeling of achievement and conquering something new or being able to own a conversation.
If you want to read more about fixing cars on your own, click here for a separate article on that topic.
A conversation was, is, and always will be a key factor in human relations. The more topics you know, the better chances you have to get acquainted with people and acquaintances can come in handy.
Car talks are one of the best pathways to achieve this so investing some time and effort will pay off sooner or later.
Watch yourself when talking with professionals: a loudmouth and ignorance may spell doom for your participation in the talk. In this situation, be careful and don’t open your mouth unless your really sure about what you’re talking about.
Always discuss, don’t judge, especially something you haven’t ever seen or driven.
The truth is that leading a nice conversation has always been somewhat of an art. A car talk is no exception.
If you know how to do this, combined with some basic technical knowledge, you will able to have a good conversation or even dominate it.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com