knocked the tracking out on her car

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
There was always a different excuse, like it was too far out on the marsh, or her staying was ‘not appropriate,’ or the rutted road knocked the tracking out on her prissy little sporty car.
Source: Beware The Past by Joy Ellis

I was surprised to learn that tracking means wheel alignment. Is this term actually used in conversation in relation to wheel alignment? Next time I take my car for service, could I tell them Please check the car’s tracking to mean the wheel alignment?

Glossary:
tracking: the alignment of the wheels of a vehicle, as in Kerbing can put the tracking out pretty quickly.

Thank you.
 
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The first word in the example, "kerbing," marks it as BE as well. The raised boundary of a road is spelled "curb" in AE, and we don't turn that sense of the word into a verb (though "to curb" is a verb in a different sense, meaning more or less "to keep bad behavior under control").
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There are quite a few online forums in which BrE speakers discuss the tracking on their car, so I don't think the word is so rare.

    The WR website has:
    Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

    tracking /ˈtrækɪŋ/ n
    the way wheels on a vehicle are aligned
     
    Last edited:

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Agreeing with Rover that it is BE. I thought it was quite standard. I know it and so do most of my friends here who have a passing interest in cars.

    If you went into a garage in the UK they'd certainly understand what you meant by "tracking".
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    The first word in the example, "kerbing," marks it as BE as well.
    That it is by Joy Ellis is also a very good clue to its BE origin. ;)

    I agree with other BE speakers about this being standard BE car steering geometry language. In fact "alignment" is not a good descriptive word, since the alignment between the wheels varies with the steering angle - but that doesn't mean I want AE speakers to change their vocabulary!
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Would 'alignment' then not be understood in the UK?
    Yes, it would be understood. All I meant was that, even though it can be readily understood, it's not a particularly accurate description of what "tracking" actually is.

    Out of curiosity I Googled "wheel alignment", and it seems I'm a linguistic dinosaur. The wheel specialists are now offering 4-wheel alignment services, which they differentiate from tracking. Tracking is the old-fashioned, front-wheels-only, steering angle adjustment. Now they adjust the rear wheels too, and the whole thing is called alignment. The word is certainly applicable to the rear wheels, which are in fixed alignment with each other.

    One learns something new most days here.
     
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