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Get to Know Your Vehicle’s Vocabulary

Understanding vehicle terminology is important for several reasons, especially for drivers, car owners, and anyone working in the automotive industry.


Knowing vehicle terminology enhances safety, facilitates maintenance and repairs, saves costs, aids in vehicle transactions, improves communication, enhances the driving experience, ensures regulatory compliance, and supports educational purposes.

Here’s an A-Z list of vehicle-related terms!
  • Accelerator: A pedal for controlling the flow of gasoline to the engine which controls the speed for a vehicle
  • Bumper: A horizontal bar attached to the front or rear end of a car, SUV, truck or any other vehicle to protect against severe damage and/or injury from a collision
  • Catalytic Converter: A device using three-way catalysts to reduce the obnoxious and poisonous components of combustion products (mainly oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and unburnt hydrocarbons) from the exhausts of motor vehicles. Vehicles made from 1975 to present are mandated to have catalytic converters to pass emission tests
  • Dashboard: The instrument panel in a vehicle is usually on the driver side behind the steering wheel. This displays the instrumentation and controls for the vehicle’s operation including the speed, mileage, gas, time, temperature, and many other key pieces of information for drivers
  • Engine (Also known as a motor): This is the part that powers and moves the vehicle. Usually under a vehicle’s hood or in the rear for mid-engine vehicles
  • Fender: The part of a car body that frames the wheel well which is the fender underside
  • Grille: A grating, often chromium-plated, that admits cooling air to the radiator of a motor vehicle
  • Headlight: Low and high beam lights, equipped with a reflector and attached to the front of a vehicle that helps drivers see in the dark
  • Ignition: The process of igniting the fuel in an internal combustion engine
  • Jack: A mechanical or hydraulic device for exerting a large force, especially to raise a heavy weight such as a motor vehicle
  • Key: The tool inserted into the ignition used to start a vehicle
  • Lock: A similar device attached to a vehicle to prevent use by unauthorized persons
  • Manifold: A chamber or pipe with inlets or outlets used to collect or distribute fluid. In an internal combustion engine, the inlet manifold carries the vaporized fuel from the carburetor to the inlet ports and the exhaust manifold carries the exhaust gases away
  • Number plate: A plate mounted on the front and back of a motor vehicle bearing the registration number
  • Oil filter: A filter that removes impurities from engine oil. This needs to be replaced every 5,000 to 10,000 miles (about 16093.44 km) depending on the type of oil filter used
  • Pedal: Any foot-operated lever or other device, including one of the two levers that drive the chain wheel of a bicycle, the foot brake, clutch control, or accelerator of a car
  • Quarter Glass: The vehicle’s smaller, triangle-shaped window found in the rear passenger and driver’s sides
  • Radiator: Part of an aerial or transmission line that radiates electromagnetic waves
  • Speedometer: A device fitted to a vehicle to measure and display the speed of travel
  • Transmission: A system of shafts, gears, torque converters that transmits power, esp. the arrangement of such parts that transmit the power of the engine to the driving wheels of a motor vehicle. There are different types – Manual, automatic, CVT, etc.
  • Universal joint: A form of coupling between two rotating shafts allowing freedom of angular movement in all directions
  • Visor: It’s a flat piece at the top of the windshield protecting a driver’s eyes from the sun light
  • Wheel: A solid disc or a circular rim joined to a hub by radial or tangential spokes, that is mounted on a shaft about which it can turn, as in vehicles and machines
  • xDrive: Advanced, permanent all-wheel drive system that’s only found in BMWs. It uses an electronically actuated clutch-pack differential to vary the torque between the front and rear axles
  • Yoke: This term applies to two auto parts. The first is an abridged steering wheel that is cut off in the top half and usually flat in the bottom half resembling the shape of an F1 steering wheel. It’s also the term for a driveshaft yoke that connects to the rear of the vehicle while the other yoke reaches into the transmission sending power from the transmission and turns the differential to move the wheels
  • ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle): Propulsion that does not produce internal combustion engine exhaust or other carbon emissions during operation
By mastering vehicle vocabulary, you will not only be able to confidently communicate with mechanics about your car, but also enjoy numerous other benefits such as improved maintenance, cost savings, and enhanced driving safety.
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