A Pickup Truck Glossary: Long Live These Terms!

Super Duty 5 mill  II

By Mike Magda and Matthew Barnes

Pickup truck owners are a colorful and knowledgeable group, and they often speak a language of their own. But that language is changing as a new generation of truck enthusiasts climbs into their rigs. So, there may be terms steeped in history to which they don't always relate.

Related: Pickup Trucks 101

Following are terms that we believe are appropriately historical and belong in the pickup truck lexicon forever more. They are by no means all-inclusive; they're simply meant to spark discussion. Please feel free to suggest other terms you may have heard or don't understand in the comments section below. PickupTrucks.com will post additional chapters to this story in the future.

1/2 ton, 3/4 ton and 1 ton: Historically pickup trucks had these handles because that was their payload capacity; today the term is used to define a class, not a payload.

2WD/FWD/RWD/AWD/4WD: Two-wheel-drive, front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive designations indicate which wheels are or can be powered by the engine through various driveshafts.

Ball mount: This is a metal tube or bar that inserts into the receiver hitch and acts as a mounting plate to hold a trailer ball; it can have a fixed or adjustable height.

Body armor: Off-road enthusiast term that refers to bolt-on body accessories such as tubular bumpers, tubular side steps, skid plates, grille-brush guards and other types of body-protection accessories.

Bow wave: The air (or water) being pushed in front of a truck's and or trailer's front-facing surface. This can be significant for large vehicles and can cause sway and decrease fuel economy.

Bull bar: Body armor that originated in Australia. It was a heavy-duty, tubular grille/brush guard originally designed for big-rig trucks that never slowed down for animals. They've been scaled down for consumer pickups and used for show and some utility, such as opening ranch gates.

Bumpside: This was a nickname for 1967 to 1972 Ford pickups because the body character line that ran down the side was convex or "bumped" out.

Chassis cab: A pickup truck with a cab but no bed.

Coil springs: Spirals of elastic metal (usually steel) used as a springing mechanism in the suspension.

Corn binder: The nickname for pickups made by International Harvester, which also made farm equipment.

Crawler gear/granny gear: Really low transmission gearing designed for precise low-speed maneuvers or pulling power.

Dentside: The nickname for 1973 to 1979 Ford trucks because the body character line was concave or "dented" inward.

Dinghy: Also known as flat towing, the term refers to towing a vehicle behind a recreational vehicle or truck.

Drivetrain: The systems that transfer power from the engine to the wheels: transmission, driveshaft, universal joints, differential, axle shafts, wheels and tires.

Dropside: Refers to a truck bed with hinged sides that can be lowered for loading and unloading cargo.

Effie: Enthusiast nickname for 1950s Ford F-100 pickups.

Fishtail: This is what happens when a trailer sways, causing the tow vehicle to move side to side.

Flatbed: A pickup truck or trailer with a flat loading surface and no walls or rails prohibiting loading from the sides or rear.

Full-floating/semi-floating axles: A full floating axle means that the rotating axle shaft doesn't carry any of the load on a truck; its sole function is propulsion. Semi-floating axle shafts carry some of the load while also providing propulsion.

Half ton: Today this term indicates full-size pickups with the lowest payload capacity. They are the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra.

Headache rack: This is a metal guard that protects the rear cab window from loose cargo in the bed. It's usually made of a steel or aluminum frame with heavy-duty crossbars or wire mesh stretched across the frame opening.

IFS: The acronym for independent front suspension, which allows the wheels on the front axle to move independently of each other.

Jackknife: When a trailer and truck form an extreme angle to each other; this typically happens when backing up, but it can happen during hard braking as well.

Kickup: This is the section of a truck's longitudinal frame rails that curves up over the rear axle. This curve provides clearance for the axle housing as the suspension flexes. When a truck is severely lowered, the kickup section may need adjusting to provide additional clearance.

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Leaf springs: These are a pack of flat springs that form a single curved piece and are used to support a solid axle, absorb impacts and allow the vehicle to react to driver input (such as turns).

Long bed: For full-size trucks a long bed is typically 8 feet.

LSD: This is the abbreviation for limited-slip differential, which is used in the center section of the axle to provide power to both wheels on slick surfaces.

Mid-gate: This is an access door that leads from the cab to the cargo bed. The Chevrolet Avalanche and Hummer H2 made the mid-gate popular; it allows for long load floors but limits seating capacity in the rear of the cab.

Oil burner: Another term for a diesel engine.

One Ton: One-ton trucks have the highest payload capacity among full-size pickups and are typically denoted by the numerals 350 or 3500.

PTO: The abbreviation for power takeoff, which provides power for external accessories and farm equipment from a truck's transmission output shaft.

Pumpkin: This is the nickname for the differential housing, usually on a straight axle. An off-roader might say, "I need more clearance under the rear pumpkin."

Short bed: For full-size trucks, a short bed is typically 6.5 feet but can also be as short as 5 feet, 4 inches.

Slush box: Slang for an automatic transmission because of the fluid coupling in the torque converter.

SRW and DRW: Abbreviations for single rear wheel and dual rear wheel; a DRW also may be called a "dually" or "doolie."

Stake pocket: Pockets in the truck bed designed to hold accessories such as tonneau covers, racks, tie-down anchors and more.

Stepside: Refers to a pickup bed with bulbous external fenders covering the wheels. The name is derived from 1950s pickups that had a small step in front of the fender for easy access to the bed. A stepside is not to be confused with a dually bed, which has internal wheel wells as well as an external fender to cover the rear wheels and tires.

Taco: Enthusiast nickname for the mid-size Toyota Tacoma.

Three-Quarter Ton: Three-quarter-ton trucks are the mid-range of full-size pickups with monikers of 250 and 2500; their payload capacity is more than a half-ton truck but less than a one-ton truck.

Twin I-beam: This is a coil-sprung independent suspension system Ford used for decades on pickup trucks and SUVs.

Ute: From the word "utility," it's an Australian term for pickup truck. The cargo bed in a ute may also be referred to as a "tray."

Cars.com photos by Christian Lantry, Evan Sears, Chris Collard





I never hear truck guys talking about LSD but who knows. Maybe Grateful Dead roadies who drove the band's gear around in the old days might be the exception.

I do hear truck guys talking about G80 and/or 'locker' in reference to the no-nonesense mechanically locking diff on GM trucks.

Ford guys like to tease us about the clunking sound coming from the diff.

To me, that sound is music to my ears because the UAW guys up in Ft. Wayne installed that G80 option in my 2009 Silverado and all I have to do is drive. The G80 does the rest. Flawlessly.

LSD hmmmmmmmmmm those were the days.

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How fire breather = Ford Trucks


How about Fire Breather = Ford trucks

Bailout Mobile/Welfare Wagon = Not strictly a truck term, but applicable on any GM or Fiat branded product.

Torsion Bar: linear rate spring steel bar used in place of a coil, leaf, or airbag spring.
Common in 60s-80s RWD Chrysler cars, some early IFS trucks, and GM HD pickups from 1988 to the present. (See also: outdated garbage)

Outside NA the terms 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton and Midsize do not exist. Although tbe other terms are used

Add 1 ton

Correction a Ute was originally given to a Coupe Utilty not a Pickup( not a Pickup Truck in Australia) Now all Pickups are collectively referred to Utes in Australia

LOW GEARS...For pulling 4.1, 4.56 ect
HIGH GEARS...for fuel economy 3.08, 3.42 ect.
I don't know why most people that backwards today.

REGULAR CAB...2 doors and no back seat

Torsion Bar: linear rate spring steel bar used in place of a coil, leaf, or airbag spring.
Common in 60s-80s RWD Chrysler cars, some early IFS trucks, and GM HD pickups from 1988 to the present. (See also: outdated garbage)

Posted by: James | Dec 21, 2018 8:28:08 PM

Only thing I see that's outdated is Fords Twin I-beam, thank god they stopped using that junk! No tell how many tires that crap Ford was using wore out. You could watch the tires flop in and out depending on if you going backward or forward LMBO! #Fordjunk!


At the least the TTB used Progressive coils or leaf springs. Yes it was trash, and yes it had a positive camber curve on extension, but it was significantly stronger than the GM IFS center sections.
Speaking of alignment angles...you can watch the bump steer on ANY GM IFS truck because they can’t get the steering components low enough to match the centerline. Crank the torsion bars, it gets worse. Those short little tires GM loves to use make it less noticeable. Add larger, wider tires and can get very troublesome.
And of course the torsion bars...they are a linear rate. Which means in a HD truck with the max front GAWR, the ride is punishing. Mopar used them in their cars, in the 60s.
Nice cutting edge suspension.

Mark, "Fire Ecology" should be on the list.

You know here at Ford we practice fire ecology. Fire ecology is a branch of ecology that focuses on the origins of wildland fire and it’s relationship to the environment that surrounds it, both living and non-living. Fire ecologists recognize that fire is a natural process, and that it often operates as an integral part of the ecosystem in which it occurs. So when our trucks catch fire....they are actually helping the environment and you get to buy a new truck. Everyone wins!

The Ford Twin I Beam front suspension was designed back when pickups were primarily devoted to living their lives as work trucks.

It was a very durable chassis, and if you drove most of your miles on loose surfaces---snow, dirt roads or gravel---the Twin I Beam was fine, but on smooth paved surfaces that set-up just ate tires. Another commenter noted this as well.

Ball mount is called a DRAW BAR where I'm from.
I've heard granny gear called CREEPER or BULLDAWG gear.
Never heard anyone around my part of the world call it LSD, they say "limited slip" as in "it's got limited slip on it".

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