Car Technical Terms
Here are all the car technical terms with definitions
you will ever need to know.
ABS: Also referred to as “Anti-Lock Brakes” or “Anti Locking Brake System”. Ever had to brake
suddenly and then had your brakes lock up? Well, ABS will prevent that from happening. The way the system works is
that it pumps your brakes despite the fact that you the driver are probably shoving your foot through the floor of
your car at the moment! It’s a great system that I had the opportunity to put to the test once in rainy freeway
speed conditions and it probably saved the life of the person in front of me and maybe my life too!
All-Wheel Drive: Also referred to as full-time four-wheel drive which means there is power to
all four wheels.
Clutch: For manual transmissions only. When you depress your clutch pedal, this is the thing
that engages and disengages the transmission from the motor when you’re shifting gears. If you tried to shift gears
without a clutch then you can expect some serious damage and the reason is that your engine is turning at thousands
of revolutions per minute.
Detailing: This is supposed to be when someone (a detailer) does a thorough cleaning of your
car. Much more than just cleaning though because this involves waxing, polishing and even going into all the little
area’s of your cars interior with cu-tips. The idea is to try to make the car look as new as possible. If done
properly, then that is what is known as “detailing”.
Drive Shaft: For rear wheel drive cars, this is a long metal shaft between the rear axle
differential and the transmission. This is the thing that transmits your engines power from the engine to the rear
Engine: Also known as a motor. Most cars have what is known as an internal combustion engine.
Its broken into four cycles which seem to be happening all at once. These four cycles are: Intake, Compression,
Power and Exhaust. That’s right folks, thanks to gasoline, spark plugs and lots of other stuff your car moves
because you’ve got a whole bunch of explosions happening inside your engine!
Front Wheel Drive: This is just the reverse of your typical rear wheel drive car in that its
now your front wheels that are being powered by the engine. Most compact cars are front wheel drive. I think the
reason front wheel drive cars are so common now is because their is less loss of energy being transferred to the
front wheels then having to be transferred all the way to the back wheels via the drive shaft. That means you get
better gas mileage. Front wheel drive cars work great in the snow because they are being pulled instead of pushed.
The bad thing about front wheel drive is that you tend to go through front tires more and now you have to deal with
the front CV joints, which require maintenance.
Fuel System: In the old days it was carburetors and now with the help of computers, most cars
are fuel injected. I won’t bother going into lots of technical stuff for these two systems. The bottom line is that
your fuel system is the “thing” that mixes the air and gas and then spews it into your engine.
Miles Per Gallon: This is a way to see how many miles per gallon (MPG) your car burns. Fill up
your gas tank and record the mileage from your odometer. Drive your car in the way that you usually do until you’ve
gone through at least a half a tank. Now fill up your tank again and if you’ve driven 100 miles (or whatever) then
divide that by the exact number of gallons your car took to fill it up the second time. Your miles per gallon will
vary each time you do this because of the type of driving you did, like: stop and go city driving or freeway
Odometer: This is that little thing that is usually located at the bottom of your speedometer
that shows how many miles you’ve driven your car. Most odometers are now digital instead of analog.
Rear Axle Assembly: Also known as the “Differential”. This is an assembly of gears that is
turned by your drive shaft by the motor. These gears are what then transfers your motors power to the rear
Rear Wheel Drive: The motor powers the rear wheels. Most big cars, trucks and suv’s are still
rear wheel drive. Most of the smaller cars are front wheel drive.
Transaxle: Instead of the differential used in rear wheel drive vehicles, this is what
transfers your engines power for front wheel drive cars.
Transmission: Also referred to as a “trans” or “tranny”. A transmission is basically a bunch of
gears that transfers the high revolutions of your motor to a lower speed and higher torque which is what then
powers your wheels. Transmissions are available in “manual” which requires you to switch gears while depressing the
clutch. Manual transmissions have some kind of “stick shift” that you use to move the gears. Automatic
transmissions do not require you to use a clutch and your gears automatically shift while you drive. Some cars also
offer a manual transmission that does not have a clutch for you to engage.
Unitized Construction: Also known as “Unibody”. Cars used to be built on top of a steel frame
known as a chassis. Everything was then bolted on to this frame. Most cars now are built with a Unibody instead of
the chassis frame. Its lighter and cheaper to build vehicles with Unitized Construction.