List of Frequently Used CAR Idioms in English

Learn frequently used CAR Idioms in English with meaning and examples.



  • Meaning: On an automobile (especially those produced from 1939 through the mid-1970s), a three-speed manual transmission whose gearshift lever is mounted on the  steering column
  • Example: Three-on-the-tree was a common way of mounting the gearshift lever on old pickup trucks.

Note: Rare nowadays, largely because few three-speed transmissions are being produced.

All Roads Lead to Rome

  • Meaning: There is more than one effective way to do something; many different methods will produce the same result
  • Example: It doesn’t really matter which part of the project you start with – all roads lead to Rome.

Note: A colloquial U.S. equivalent is “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Amber Gambler

  • Meaning: Someone who accelerates to try to cross an intersection before a traffic light turns red
  • Example: I don’t like riding in a car with Susan – she’s an amber gambler.

Note: This idiom is British.

Backseat Driver

  • Meaning: Someone who likes to give (often annoying) advice to the driver of a car, or the leader of some other enterprise
  • Example: Nick is sort of a backseat driver. He’s full of suggestions for the project, but he avoids taking any responsibility for his suggestions.

Chop Shop

  • Meaning: A shop where stolen cars are disassembled for parts
  • Example: My car was stolen earlier this week, but I didn’t notice it was missing until today. I’m sure it’s in a chop shop by now.

Useful CAR Idioms in English

List of Frequently Used CAR Idioms in English

…Common CAR Idioms…

Down the road

  • Meaning: In the future (in your lifetime)
  • Example: If you don’t do your homework now, it’ll be a problem down the road when you don’t know the material for the exam.

Put the Brakes On

  • Meaning: Slow something down
  • Example: Higher coal prices put the brakes on industrial activities in the second quarter.

Note: In UK English, this is sometimes “put a brake on.”

Put the Pedal to the Metal

  • Meaning: Drive as fast as possible
  • Example: I’m late for my best friend’s wedding. Put the pedal to the metal!

To carpool

  • Meaning: To travel to the same place with a group of people in one car. e.g. work/school
  • Example: They still carpool to work and room together on the road.

To have one for the road

  • Meaning: To have one last (alcoholic) drink before you go home
  • Example: Before I went home, she persuaded me to have one for the road.

U Turn

  • Meaning: A complete change of  opinion, direction, etc.
  • Example: My father has always invested conservatively, but this month he made a U turn and backed a completely speculative company.

You’re driving me nuts

  • Meaning: To make someone giddy or crazy
  • Example: I’ll sit there and yell and point and drive you nuts, ’cause you’re driving me nuts, Adrian.


Run Out of Steam

  • Meaning: Lose momentum, become tired
  • Example: The president’s tax plan is running out of steam in the legislature as business lobbyists attack it.

Hell for Leather

  • Meaning: Very fast, as fast as possible
  • Example: After work I drove home hell for leather, but I still missed my daughter’s birthday party.


  • Meaning: Approximate, hastily done
  • Example: It will take time to get the final cost, but a quick-and-dirty estimate would be $45,000.

Quick as a Flash

  • Meaning: Very fast
  • Example: I’ll have the order done quick as a flash – probably by the time you get back to your office.

Dead Heat

  • Meaning: An exact tie in a race or competition
  • Example: The two racers finished in a dead heat, and they both received gold medals.

Dead Run

  • Meaning: Running as fast as possible
  • Example: The guards came at a dead run, but the burglars were already gone.

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