Basic Car Terms: Understanding Your Car Inside and Out

basic car terms

Cars are more and more complicated with every model year that rolls off the line. That’s why it’s important to know and understand some basic car terms. Not only will this help you identify problems in a pinch, but it will also enable better communication between you and your mechanic.

According to Car and Driver, terms can be divided into groups depending on their function. These groups include engine, exhaust, and braking among others. Below is a list of some of the most important terms to know:


  • Piston – connects to the crankshaft to power the car. It houses tiny explosions, and is made to run flawlessly.
  • Spark Plug – ignites gas fumes in the piston to create combustion.
  • Fuel Injector – atomizes fuel at high pressure which is mixed with air for combustion.
  • Water Pump – pumps coolant through the engine.
  • Fuel Pump – pumps fuel to the engine.


  • Muffler – diminishes noise that come from the exhaust and engine
  • O2 Sensor – measures and determines how much oxygen is needed for combustion. Improves efficiency as well.
  • Catalytic Convertor – converts toxic fumes to safer gases.


  • Pads – rub against rotors to create friction for braking.
  • Rotors – clamped down on by pads to create braking power.

Now that you know some basic terms, you’re better prepared for breakdowns and maintenance.

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