Parts of a Car in French

Instructor: Marcy Farrell
Do you love cars? Have you ever had to describe a problem to a mechanic? In this lesson, you will learn the French terms for different types of cars as well as the names of car parts.

Types of Cars

In French, a car is une voiture (pronounced: oohn vwah-tuhr). Many people also use the slang term une bagnole (pronounced: une ban-yohl). If you rent a car in France, you might be given the choice between une berline (pronounced: oohn behr-leen), which is a larger sedan, or une citadine (pronounced: oohn see-tah-deen), which is a smaller passenger car. A hatchback is usually referred to as une voiture trois portes (pronounced: oohn voiture twah port), which means a three-door car. Other types of cars include:

  • un monospace (pronounced: uhn moh-noh-spahss) \ van
  • un quatre-quatre (pronounced: uhn cat-cat) \ SUV or 4x4
  • un décapotable (pronounced: uhn day-cah-poh-tah-bluh) \ convertible

A convertible in French is un decapotable.
picture of red convertible car

Parts of a Car


A tire, or wheel, is un pneu (pronounced: uhn puh-neuh). It's never fun to have un pneu crevé (pronounced: uhn puh-neuh kreh-vay), a flat tire. But if you do get one, hopefully you have un pneu de rechange (pronounced: uhn puh-neuh duh ruh-shahnj), a spare tire.

Steering Wheel

You steer a car with le volant (pronounced: luh voh-lan). Most cars have la direction assistée (pronounced: lah dee-rehk-shuhn ah-sees-tay), power steering. In every language, in every country, l'alcool au volant (pronounced: lahl-kol oh voh-lan), drunk driving, is dangerous and illegal.


To stop or slow a car, you step on les freins (pronounced: lay frehn), the brakes. Some cars have freins mécaniques (pronounced: frehn may-kahn-eek), or power brakes. When you park, you might use le frein à main (pronounced: luh frehn ah man), the handbrake.

Lights and Signals

At night, you should put on les phares (pronounced: lay far), the headlights. The ceiling light inside the car is called le plafonnier (pronounced: luh plah-fon-ee-ay). If you need to change lanes, don't forget to put on le clignotant (pronounced: luh cleen-yo-tan), the blinker or signal.


Do you tend to wash le pare-brise (pronounced: luh par breez), the windshield, every time you get gas? If it's raining, you will want to turn on les essuie-glaces (pronounced: layz ess-wee glahss), the windshield wipers. It's nice to have un essuie-glace arrière (pronounced: uhn ess-wee glahss ah-ree-air), a rear window wiper.


When driving, you glance in le rétro-viseur (pronounced: luh ray-troh) to see what's going on behind your vehicle. Often, this term is abbreviated to le rétro. Inside the car, you have the rear-view mirror, called le rétro intérieur (pronounced: luh ray-troh an-tay-ree-uhr) or le rétro centrale (luh ray-troh sahn-trahl). You can also use le rétro extérieur (pronounced: luh ray-troh ex-tay-ree-uhr), the side-view mirror.

Gears and Gearshift

image of gears

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