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I am looking for a single word that means to drive a vehicle slowly, especially in a way that is unexpected or looks out of place eg. blown tire on a highway or race track and carefully trying to drive out of the way. I know the word "cruise" but this has too positive connotations, since you wouldn't use cruise to describe a driver who was cruising slowly away due to being in danger or having damage to their vehicle, since it sounds like they either do not care or are even enjoying the problem.

The only other options I had considered is to add an adjective to the driving eg. driving slowly, or similarly describing the speed of the vehicle's movement eg. vehicle moved at snail's pace, but I am hoping for a better alternative?

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    Could you please provide us with a sample sentence as required by the single-word-request tag you have chosen? Dec 5, 2020 at 15:40
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    'The car limped along to the nearest garage' uses a verb describing the progress of the vehicle rather than the driving process. 'He nursed the car along' is another acceptable metaphorical broadening. Please say if either of these is satisfactory, and I'll convert to an 'answer'. Dec 5, 2020 at 15:45
  • At Edwin, sorry, but I had already written that up and was only waiting for the OP to supply the sample sentence. Dec 5, 2020 at 16:16
  • This post lacks a sample sentence as required by the SWR tag, but is fairly clear in the examples from the second para. Dec 5, 2020 at 19:41

10 Answers 10

48

Slow moving cars crawl:

MW: to move or progress slowly or laboriously

traffic crawling along at 10 miles an hour

See also this example:

... as the car crawled through a five-mile backup on the New Jersey Turnpike. — Fly Away Home: A Novel

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    You beat me to it! That seems like the obvious answer.
    – Henry
    Dec 6, 2020 at 1:30
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    This is the best answer to the question in the title. Dec 6, 2020 at 2:21
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    Also seen in "crawler lanes" for very heavy vehicles on steep hills. Dec 6, 2020 at 19:01
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    Spot on; see also the "crawler gear" or "crawler ratio" on heavy vehicles - a gear ratio so low that it will only allow the vehicle to "crawl" along at very low speed, in circumstances such as steep hills (@BrianDrummond) or to get a very heavy load moving prior to selecting first gear.
    – Spratty
    Dec 7, 2020 at 10:56
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    Not to mention kerb-crawling !!! Note to non-British readers - make sure you read the definition before using this word! Dec 7, 2020 at 16:01
34

It might sound like personification, but this could work...

limp

to proceed slowly or with difficulty

Ex. The ship limped back to port

Merriam-Webster

In your case, you could say...

The car limped off the track/road.

The car limped down the track.

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    Indeed, some cars can go into "limp mode" or "limp-home mode" when they sense a failure or anomaly. fordproblems.com/electronic-throttle-body
    – Jim Mack
    Dec 5, 2020 at 16:53
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    This is the best answer for OP's example of a race car with a blown tire. Dec 6, 2020 at 2:21
  • hobbled would be a good synonym here with slightly less bipedal terminology.
    – stevesliva
    Dec 6, 2020 at 4:56
  • @stevesliva As a native English speaker in Canada who reads a lot, I'd like to point out that I only just learned that "hobble" could be used in a non-transitive, non-state-of-being "to walk lamely; limp." form now, when I went looking after you implied its existence ...so whether it's suitable will probably depend on your region. (i.e. If this weren't the English SE, my first impulse would have been to correct you for using English incorrectly... not that it would have prevented me from checking a dictionary first.)
    – ssokolow
    Dec 6, 2020 at 9:34
  • @ssokolow - It's a synonym. And doesn't appear to be a rare one.. There is a specific connotation for horses that could mean it's more likely to mean animals walking awkwardly.
    – stevesliva
    Dec 6, 2020 at 15:30
16

How about puttering.

Definition

  1. to move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose: to putter about the house on a rainy day.
  2. to move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.

"Putter" is also the sound of an engine running at low speed.

I have heard it used to describe driving slowly. Here's an example

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    Puttering is usually enjoyable, so it doesn't fit in with some of the specifics. Also puttering is usually voluntary, you could speed up--you just don't want to because you're enjoying going slowly. Dec 7, 2020 at 19:47
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Merriam Webster:

dawdle verb, intransitive

2 : to move lackadaisically "I don't want you dawdling while you making deliveries for Mrs. Ford."— Connie Porter

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  • Humans sure dawdle, but could the same be said of or extended to vehicles? It sounds a jot unnatural to me, @Greybeard :)
    – user405662
    Dec 5, 2020 at 18:22
  • Another good choice but tends to be used more of an individual car, not traffic in general with its thousands of cars.
    – Henry
    Dec 6, 2020 at 1:31
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    @user405662 and Henry: Super fuels - worth the difference? - Page 2 - forums.flyer.co.uk › viewtopic For example if I get stuck in traffic too much or get stuck behind traffic dawdling well below the speed limit when it is safe to do the speed limit, -- Even aircraft dawdle LANDING WITH THE RUNWAY OCCUPIED - FLYER Forums *"... safe on a long runway like Kemble's but this is an airmanship issue. Following traffic getting too close and landing traffic dawdling to vacate
    – Greybeard
    Dec 6, 2020 at 10:24
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    Focussing on "English english" usage, "dawdling" would certainly be my selection for a single driver going slowly by choice. "Limp" implies a fault, "crawl" is more often applied to an entire traffic flow ("traffic was crawling on account of the roadworks"). Dec 6, 2020 at 14:47
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You could say that the car is pootling along.

To pootle is ‘to wander or ramble in a leisurely, indirect, or aimless manner, such as by walking or driving; to potter’.  (It's common only in British English, apparently.)

However, while that matches the headline question, it does not imply care or caution — the reverse, if anything.

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  • Kind of reminds me of "puttering" or "putzing" which I have heard used in this sense in the U.S. I don't know if "pootling" would ever come out of my mouth though!
    – mjjf
    Dec 7, 2020 at 17:45
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If you had a flat tire on your car, you could say, my car hobbled along till the next exit where I could get the flat fixed. (To indicate a personification of your car being injured)

My car thumped along as I continued on the highway with a flat tire. (To give the reader a sense of the annoying sound the tire was making while you drove the car to the next exit to get the tire fixed or call for help in a secure area).

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trundle

MW

intransitive verb 1 : to progress by revolving 2 : to move on or as if on wheels

"Even through the city streets they trundled, reaching the warehouse at eight."

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    A lovely word :) Not sure if it denotes slow movement in its intended meaning, but since it is an old word it often evokes the image of a slow moving car, cart, or horse-drawn wagon. Could be useful depending on the intent.
    – mjjf
    Dec 7, 2020 at 17:57
4

I think this one fits the bill nicely:

tool

to drive a vehicle, especially in a relaxed way or without any specific purpose

He spent the evening tooling around the town in his new car.

[Macmillan]

when intransitive, often followed by along

to drive (a vehicle) or (of a vehicle) to be driven, esp in a leisurely or casual style.

[Collins]

EDIT: Thanks to @Criggie for suggesting tootle, which seems to me a better word in the given context.

A leisurely journey.

I was interested in a little more speed from the car than a tootle.

[Lexico]

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    To me, "tooling" has never implied driving slowly.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 5, 2020 at 16:19
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    Wouldn't be the first time.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 5, 2020 at 16:21
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    Contemporary use in Charlie Daniels song "Uneasy Rider": "I was taking a trip out to LA, tooling along in my Chevrolet, toking on a number and digging on the radio."
    – KGIII
    Dec 6, 2020 at 1:12
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    I like this one Dec 6, 2020 at 16:23
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    Hot Licks is right, and furthermore the OP specifically wants a word that reflects "especially in a way that is unexpected or looks out of place" which "tooling" does not. In fact, to me, "tooling" is very similar to "cruising" except when you tool you don't necessarily even have a destination in mind, and if you do have one in mind, you don't necessarily care when you get there or even if you get there ... (Unfortunately I cannot answer the question with another better word as the only ones that come to mind for this situation are adjectives, and they describe the driver, not the driving.)
    – davidbak
    Dec 6, 2020 at 18:30
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In addition to crawling, a car can creep.

That car up ahead was just creeping along. She wondered what was wrong with it.

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  • This is what Tesla calls it. They have a creep mode that causes the car to slowly move forward when you release the brake.
    – zkilnbqi
    Dec 26, 2020 at 19:41
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slowpoke

from Merriam Webster

someone who moves slowly or more slowly than others

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    "Poking along" is another good phrase. I don't know if I would refer to the car as a slowpoke, but maybe the driver.
    – mjjf
    Dec 8, 2020 at 21:35

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