Oil filter? Radiator? V6 engine? True car novices might find these terms foreign and perplexing, but it’s easy to understand basic car vocabulary with a little studying (just a little, I promise!). If you find repair shops nerve racking because you don’t understand all of the terms used by mechanics, this post is for you. It will also be useful if you’re shopping for a new car but are confused by all the descriptive terms like 4-wheel drive and V8 engine. We’re going to go over some essential car terms to know, describing what they do and why they’re important. If you can learn these basic car terms to know, you’ll have a far better understanding of how your car works.
Essential Car Terms to Know
Air Filter: Your car has more than one air filter, but the important one is the internal combustion engine air filter. It prevents unwanted bits of dust and debris from entering the engine’s cylinders, where it might cause physical damage or contaminate the oil. Basically, it lets the engine breathe.
Alternator: The alternator charges the battery and powers the the electrical system when the engine is running.
Battery: The battery powers the car. It is rechargeable and gives the car electric energy. Without it, you couldn’t start the motor, turn on the lights, or power up the ignition system and engine. If you leave on your lights for a long period while the car isn’t running, the battery may die. To recharge a battery, you can jump start it.
Distributor: The distributor distributes energy to the spark plugs so that they can ignite the fuel.
Engine: The engine converts energy into motion by burning fuel. It is made up of cylinders, pistons, and valves. When you see terms like V6 and V8, they are referring to the number of cylinders in the engine.
Exhaust Pipe: The exhaust pipe guides toxic and noxious gases away from your vehicle.
Fender: The fender frames the wheel and prevents sand, mud, rocks, snow, etc., from being thrown into the air by the tire’s rotation.
Four-Wheel Drive: If your car has four-wheel drive, you can adjust it so that all of the wheels are turning on the surface at once. Most cars are rear wheel drive, which means that the back wheels push the car along. There are also front wheel drives (only front wheels move) and all wheel drives (all wheels move continuously). Four-wheel drive is useful if you often drive on slippery, snowy, or icy roads.
Ignition: The ignition system ignites the mixture of fuel and air needed to start your car. It starts combustion within the engine’s cylinders.
Muffler: The muffler reduces the amount of noise made by the exhaust from your car’s engine.
Oil Filter: The oil filter removes contaminates from engine oil, transmission oil, lubricating oil, and hydraulic oil.
Radiator: The radiator cools the engine. It works with the car’s entire cooling system (which includes other parts like the thermostat, coolant, and fan, amongst others) to keep the car from overheating.
Spark Plug: The spark plug delivers electric current from the ignition to the combustion chamber of the engine. The fuel/air mixture is ignited with an electric spark.
Transmission: The transmission transmits power from the engine to the wheels.
I left off a few obvious car terms to know, like tires, brakes, hoods, and bumpers, but the basics are all here. If your mechanic mentions anything more complicated, don’t be embarrassed to ask for clarification. That’s what we’re here for!