Tired of being treated as if you have zero car knowledge by auto dealers? Want to be able to join in the conversation with the guys when they’re talking cars as if it’s their domain alone? Whether you’re buying a car or just taking your existing one into the motor mechanic for servicing, knowing the basics will give you the confidence to converse in a manner that tells them you’re no pushover!
These are the key working components of your car along with a basic idea of their uses or how they work. Though they are listed as separate parts they do not work as standalone components but in conjunction with another.
Engine – The heart of your vehicle, it is a complex machine that converts heat from gas into the power that turns the wheels of your car and makes it travel. Protect your engine with regular maintenance checks of all its components and fluids.
Battery – Supplies power to the electrical components of your car. It starts the car and the alternator keeps the car running. It usually needs to be replaced every 3 – 5 years. Check that the terminals are clean every 6 months.
Alternator – Charges the car’s battery only while the engine is running. This is why lights mistakenly left on after you’ve switched off your car can run the battery down. If you’ve ever wondered why a battery died before its time, it’s likely due to a bad alternator.
Clutch – Helps the smooth transfer of power from the engine to the transmission. Stepping on the clutch releases power from the engine going to the wheels so that you can change gears. Avoid resting your foot on the clutch pedal which will cause unnecessary wear and tear.
Radiator – Engine coolant in the radiator gives heat off into the air and keeps your engine from overheating. The metal fins must be free of dirt and dust, and the coolant fluid topped up at all times.
Engine air filter – Air passes through the engine to catch dirt and debris in order for the engine to continue running smoothly. Change the air filter when dirty to prevent damage, achieve proper fuel economy, and keep your car in good condition for as long as possible.
Axles – They transmit driving torque to all four wheels and are used for driving, steering, and braking. Axles have to bear tremendous weight to support your car – do not overload and avoid driving over large holes at speed.
Shock absorbers – Absorbs vibrations while driving over rough spots and bumps on the road for a smoother driving experience. Worn shocks will cause damage to the car’s suspension system and should be replaced immediately you notice a problem.
Steering & Suspension – Improves ride and handling, keeps your car stable and the wheels firmly on the ground, which enables it to turn corners even at higher speeds without the wheels losing their road grip. Erratic driving can increase wear and tear of your car’s suspension system more quickly.
Foot brakes – A brake’s hydraulic system multiplies the small force your foot exerts on the brake pedal into enough power to make a massive moving weight like a car come to a stop. For brakes to last longer, slow down and apply your brakes gradually ahead of time rather than slamming on the pedal at the last instant.
While a car has just five basic components, it can have up to 30,000 parts down to the smallest screws. What parts of your car do you feel you should know more about?