Mercedes Benz
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Automobile vocabulary in Spanish.

Talking about cars with people from another Spanish speaking countries is sometimes a big headache. The reason is that the vocabulary for this subject changes a bit from country to country for almost every element. In México, auto part names are often Spanglish words. Here are some examples:

Mexico Spain other
brake freno freno
bus camión de pasajeros, autobús autocar, bus ómnibus
car coche, carro, automóvil coche auto, automóvil
clutch clutch embrague
dashboard tablero (panel) de instrumentos salpicadero (don’t get confused with salpicadera)
exhaust escape
fender salpicadera guardabarros, guardafangos
garage cochera, garaje garaje
headlight faro faro
hood cofre capó, capote
horn claxon bocina
moffler mofle silenciador
parking place estacionamiento aparcamiento playa de estacionamiento
roof techo, toldo techo
steering wheel volante volante
stop (sign) alto stop pare
taillight calavera, luz trasera, luz posterior luz trasera, luz posterior
tire llanta neumático goma
to drive manejar, conducir conducir
to get a flat tire poncharse, ponchadura pincharse, pinchazo
to make a turn dar vuelta girar virar, doblar
to park estacionarse aparcar
trailer tráiler remolque
trunk cajuela maletero baúl
wheel rim rin llanta

Most Mexican terms for cars are not accepted by the Spanish Academy. The problem is that many terms accepted by the Academy, like salpicadero (Lit: splasher) dashboard, are useless here because not many people on this side of the Atlantic are familiar with them. Mexican terms are the most known in the United States, and they are also used in most of Central America.

Automobiles came to Mexico via the United States and Europe, but most vocabulary for car parts is adapted from American English. Car vocabulary in Spain is adapted partly from old carriage vocabulary and French. One example is the name for dashboard, el salpicarero, which in old horse carriages meant fender, mudguard. In Mexico, la salpicadera means fender, not the dashboard or instrument panel.

Cars also came to Mexico directly via Europe: Emil Jellinek-Mercedes, precursor of the famous Mercedes-Benz car, was the Consul of Mexico in Nice, France, in the early 1900’s. He was a director of Daimler and the most important European car dealer, and by that time he had sold hundreds of his cars.


Originally posted on 20070728. Latest update 20210511 ( top

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