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I need to take my vehicle to a mechanic to diagnose a problem with a rough idle. How do I translate this term, "rough idle" to Spanish?

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In Spain, "idle" is often translated as ralentí. Your car's condition could be translated as:

  • My car has a rough idle. -> Mi coche tiene un ralentí ruidoso. / Mi coche vibra cuando está al ralentí.
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nunca había escuchado esta palabra... definitivamente no se usa en todas partes. – jachguate Feb 18 '13 at 23:11
No es palabra usual en Argentina. – leonbloy Oct 1 '14 at 18:30

Unas búsquedas en Google revelan que una expresión común es también «ralentí inestable».

  • Ralentí inestable: 30.300 resultados.
  • Ralentí irregular: 5.100 resultados.
  • Ralentí ruidoso: 72 resultados.

Las búsquedas sobre «vibración» y «ralentí» también tienen muchos resultados, pero gran parte de ellos se refieren a vibraciones molestas de alta frecuencia del motor, las ventanas, la carrocería, etc. Me parece que Flimzy se refiere a que el contador de RPM del motor no se mantiene estable al ralentí, sino que oscila entre dos valores.

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I would say something like:

"El coche vibra cuando está parado."

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"Ralenti" is French, so no wonder the term is used in Spain where there is strong neighborly influence (even though spaniards will deny it).

In Mexico I would use "neutral", and my guess is that this is quite generic. Automatic transmissions have "Neutral", but it is used also for stick-shift: when the engine is not engaged, you say "está en neutral".

I would suggest a descriptive approach when talking to your mechanic: "el coche hace ruido cuando está en neutral". This sound better than a word-by-word translation like "tiene una neutral ruidosa".

One last point. In Spanish the stress in "neutral" is in the last syllable: "neuTRAL" as oppossed to English "NEUtral".

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