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Glossary of Automotive Terms


Air Filtration System

System that cleans smog, pollen, exhaust, smoke and odors out of the air. Cleans both interior circulated air and that coming from the outside.


Anti-Lock-Braking System

A braking system that senses when any of the wheels have locked up, or are about to, and automatically reduces the braking forces to keep the wheels rolling. Commonly called ABS, such a system can control all four wheels or only two.



The fuel system component that meters the fuel and air and supplies the proper amounts of both to the engine. The part of the engine that handles the job of changing ratios or air and fuel mixture within an engine to meet different operating conditions (e.g. heat or altitude).



A general term that refers to all of the mechanical parts of a car attached to a structural frame. In cars with unitized construction, the chassis comprises everything but the body of the car.



A shaft with one or more cranks, or "throws," that are coupled by connecting rods to the engine's pistons. Together, the crankshaft and the con rods transform the pistons' reciprocating motion into rotary motion.



The system of exhausting the burned gases from an internal-combustion engine consisting of piping or tubing, silencers, and, at times, resonators.



Four-Wheel Steering

A steering system that actively steers the rear wheels as well as the fronts to improve handling and maneuverability.


Fuel Injection

Any system that meters fuel to an engine by measuring its needs and then regulating the fuel flow, by electronic or mechanical means, through a pump and injectors. Throttle-body injection locates the injector(s) centrally in the throttle-body housing, while port injection allocates at least one injector for each cylinder near its intake port.



The common unit of measurement of an engine's power. One horsepower equals 550 foot-pounds per second, the power needed to lift 550 pounds one foot off the ground in one second: or one pound 550 feet up in the same time.


Independent Suspension

Any suspension in which the camber of a wheel is not directly affected by the vertical motion of the opposite wheel.


Main Bearings

The bearings in an engine block that support the crankshaft.


Oil Pan

An oil pan is a bath-shaped reservoir located under the crankcase or cylinder block of an engine. The oil is stored in the oil pan when the vehicle is not running. When the engine is in operation, the oil is cooled in the oil pan. The oil pump pick-up (much like a vacuum cleaner head) is submerged in the oil pan, and when you start up your car, the pump distributes the oil throughout the engine.

Shock absorber

A device that converts motion into heat, usually by forcing oil through small internal passages in a tubular housing. Used primarily to dampen suspension oscillations, shock absorbers respond to motion; their effects, therefore, are most obvious in transient maneuvers.

Spark Plug

The spark plug converts high voltage energy into an arc that passes between its electrodes. The arc causes the gasoline-air mixture in the cylinder to ignite and expand, providing power by pushing down the piston.


A gearbox with a number of selectable ratios, used to match the engine's rpm and torque to differing vehicle requirements.

Also see

Your Car's Mechanical Condition

Troubleshooting Basic Problems -a handy little checklist covering an area of potential problems.

5 Unusual Odors From Your Vehicle -Do a little detective nose work on your car!

What's That Strange Noise?  Common Noises and What They May Mean -what are your ears telling you?

Drip, Drip, Drip.  Diagnosing Your Car's Leaks -Red, Clear, Black, or Green.  What does it all mean? 



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