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ABS – See Anti-Lock Brake System.

Accelerator Pedal: This is also known as the gas pedal or throttle. It is the tall skinny pedal that makes the car go faster when pressed down.

Air Conditioner (AC) Compressor: An apparatus for lowering the temperature and humidity of a vehicle. The compressor both moves and pressures the refrigerant.

Air Filter: An air filter removes particles from the air before they enter the engine’s cylinders and is composed of fibrous materials.

Alignment: An alignment returns the suspension to the proper position, this includes the wheels, axles and steering wheel.

Alternator: Your alternator charges your battery and runs the electrical functions on your vehicle.

Antifreeze: Antifreeze is often referred to as coolant and is a liquid with a lower freezing point than water. It is used to protect the engine from overheating and extreme cold. Commonly, a mixture of water and usually ethylene glycol, although other types of alcohol are sometimes used.

Antifreeze Tester: An antifreeze tester is a device that measures the temperature your antifreeze will freeze.

Anti-Lock Brake System:Your anti-lock brake system makes it easier for you to steer your car while breaking hard. If this system isn’t working, you may have to pump your brakes to stop the vehicle or it may skid.

Backup Lights: The white lights at the rear of the automobile that turn on when the transmission is engaged in reverse.

Battery Posts: Posts at the top of the battery that transfer electrical current through the attached battery cables to the vehicle’s electrical system.

Battery Voltage: The measurement that is used to describe battery strength.

Battery: The battery stores electrical energy and is the only electrical component that starts your car. After the car is running, the alternator provides the majority of the energy to the electrical components; however, the battery will assist if the demand on the alternator is too high.

Booster Cables: See Jumper Cables.

Brake Caliper: The caliper is a metal bracket that houses the brake pads. Its purpose is to squeeze the brake pads against the rotor which will create friction and slow the rotation of the tire, stopping your vehicle. This is one of the most important parts of your car’s brake system.

Brake Lights: The red lights activated at the rear of a vehicle when the driver steps on the brake pedal.

Brake Lines: Steel tubing used to carry brake fluid from the master cylinder throughout the rest of the brake system.

Brake Pedal: The wide flat pedal that makes the car stop by engaging the brake system when pressed down.

Carburetor: Carburetors have been replaced by fuel injection systems.  The function of the carburetor was to mix gasoline and air so the engine can run properly. Carburetors are generally not found on cars that were manufactured after the early 1980’s.

Chock: A safety device used to place in front of a car’s wheel to stop it from moving, usually used when changing a tire.

Climate Controls: The dials or buttons on the dash of the vehicle that allows the adjustment of temperature within the automobile.

Coolant: See Antifreeze.

Cruise Control: The saving grace of lead foots all over the world! Cruise control is an electronic system that maintains speed without having to engage the gas pedal. Most cruise control systems allow you to accelerate, decelerate and coast.

Dash Board: Also known as the dash or instrument panel. It is a panel in front of the driver that displays many gauges (speedometer, odometers, etc.), indicators (low fuel, check engine light, etc.) ventilation controls, audio controls, etc.

Diagnostic Trouble Codes: When an error occurs in your vehicle, a code is generated to help the mechanic determine what is wrong. You will need to attach a code or scan reader to your vehicle to acquire these codes.

Dipstick: A device you dip into liquid to measure the quantity. The most common is the oil dipstick, which is used to check your oil.

Distributor Cap: The mechanical portion of the ignition system that moves the spark from your starter to the engine cylinders, which ignites your gas.

Diode: A semi-conductor that allows fluid to pass through it in one direction.

Disc Brakes: This is the most common type of brake. This system works like a bicycle brake and is composed of rotors, brake pads and brake calipers.

ECM: Electronic Control Module. The computer that monitors the engine’s performance. Also known as ECU.

ECU: Electronic Control Unit. The computer that monitors the engine’s performance. Also known as ECM.

Emergency Brake (Parking Brake):  A mechanical braking system, which functions separately from hydraulic brakes, for emergency use when your vehicle has total brake failure. It is most commonly used as a parking brake for vehicles that are parked on steep terrain.

Emissions: Harmful gases or particles that are released into the air.

Engine Block: An engine block is usually made of cast iron and contains the cylinders of an internal-combustion engine.

Engine oil: Engine or motor oil is used to lubricate the inside of the engine as it runs. Its job is to reduce friction and keep the engine cool. There are three main types, conventional, synthetic blend and synthetic.

Exhaust Manifold: A tube that catches the exhaust from the engine and carries it to the exhaust pipe.

Exhaust Pipe: The pipe that connects the different parts of the exhaust system.

Exhaust System: Parts that remove the exhaust from the engine to the outside of the vehicle.

Fog Light: Front or rear light on a car that casts a colored light that increases visibility in foggy and rainy conditions.

Four Wheel Drive: A vehicle where all four wheels can be powered by the vehicle’s drive train to help with traction. It can be disengaged when not needed. Do not confuse with All Wheel Drive.

Fuel Filter: A device that filters foreign substances from fuel as it passes through.

Fuel Injector: A device for actively injecting fuel into internal-combustion engines by directly forcing the liquid fuel into the combustion chamber at an appropriate time.

Fuel Line: A line that carries the fuel to the carburetor in older cars or the fuel injector in newer cars.

Fuel Pump: A device that removes fuel from the tank and forces it into the fuel system.

Fuel Tank: A large tank used to store the vehicle’s fuel.

Fuse: A device used to protect the vehicle’s electrical system from an overload.

Gas Cap: The cap that keeps the gasoline and fumes from leaving the gas tank.

Hazard Flashers: Blinking lights used to warn other drivers of a hazard. These lights are also used to warn other drivers if you must pull off the road and/or drive at an extremely slow rate.

Headlights: Main driving lights on the front of the vehicle.

Heater Core: A component that is used to run hot coolant from the engine through the heater to warm the interior of the vehicle.

Heater Hose: The hose that carries the hot coolant to the heater core.

Horn: The instrument that “beeps” which helps “bleep” your language when someone cuts you off in traffic.

Horse Power (HP): Originally used to compare the power output of horses versus the “new fangled” steam engines, HP is a rating of how powerful a vehicle is.

Hose Clamp: A device that is used to hold or seal a hose to another fitting or devise on the vehicle.

Ignition Switch: This is comprised of two parts, the lock cylinder and the electronic switch. The lock cylinder is the part on the steering unit where you insert your key. The electronic switch connects your starter to the battery and allows the driver to control the vehicle’s power to its accessories.

Inflation Pressure: The amount of air pressure that a tire can safely handle. Measured in poundage.

Instrument Cluster: The panel located behind the steering wheel that has a clear view of the gauges and meters for the vehicle.

Jump Start: The use of jumper cables or a jump pack to start a dead or weak battery.

Jumper Cables: A pair of electrical cables with clamps on the end used to start a weak or dead battery.

Jumper Pack – A jumper pack is a ”Knight in Shining Armor.” With a jumper pack you can jumpstart your vehicle without another vehicle or traditional jumper cables.

Key FOB (Remote): The battery operated device that remotely locks, unlocks, opens the trunk, and sometimes starts a vehicle. FOB stands for Frequency Operated Button.

Linkage: Any series of rods, cables, or levers used to transmit motion from one part to another.

Lug Nut: The fasteners that attach the wheel to your car.  You encounter these when you change a tire.

MIL: No, not your mother-in-law. It is a Malfunctioning Indicator Light that tells you something is not working properly under the hood of your vehicle.

MSRP: Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price.

OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer.

Pad (Brake): The part of a brake that presses against a disc inside the wheel of a vehicle in order to stop the vehicle from moving.

Placard: Placards are stickers with information about your tires, usually on the inside of your car door.

Power Steering: A system that provides mechanical steering assistance to the driver. Without power steering the wheel in your car is much harder to turn.

PSI – This stands for pounds per square inch and it is how tire pressure is measured.

Radiator Cap: A cap that fits on the radiator preventing the coolant from boiling out.

Radiator: The radiator removes heat from the engine coolant and redistributes it to the air.

Rear Defrost: The electrical wiring encased in the rear window that removes ice and frost through heat.

Refrigerant: A chemical used in the cooling system, such as an air conditioner.

Relay: A magnetic switch used to start or stop a flow of electrical current.

Reverse Light: See Backup Light.

Rotor (Brake): Also referred to as a Disc Brake (see above).

RPM: (Revolutions per minute) – RPM is the number of times the shaft of a motor rotates in one minute.

Serpentine Belt: A single belt used to drive the engine driven accessories. For example: water pump, alternator, power steering pump, etc.

Shift Lever: The driver operated handle used to shift the transmission through its various gears.

Shift Linkage: A cable used to shift the transmission into its various gears.

Shock Absorber: A shock is a device used to control the up and down motion of the vehicle; located in the suspension system.

Spark Plug Wires: Wires that conduct electricity from the distributor to the spark plugs.

Spark Plugs: A device which contains two electrodes that provide a gap for electricity from the coil to jump across and ignite the gasoline/air which powers the engine.

Spring: Part of your vehicle’s suspension system. Springs are used to keep the tires in contact with the road when driving across uneven terrain.

Starter: A gear driven electric motor that starts an internal combustion engine.

Strut: A spring with a shock inside that helps absorb the bumps along the road. A strut makes up part a vehicle’s suspension.

Supercharger: A compressor that increases the pressure and density of the air entering the engine. This gives the engine more oxygen and increases its power.

Tail Pipe: Also known as the exhaust pipe. Part of the exhaust system that removes or vents to exhaust to the open air.

Temp gauge: A dashboard mounted gauge used to monitor engine temperature.

Timing Belt: A timing belt is part of the internal combustion engine which controls the opening and closing of the engine’s valves.

Tire Jack: A device that is used to lift up part of a car so you can change a tire.

Tire Pressure Gauge: Measures the air pressure in a tire.

Tire Rim: The metal wheel upon which a rubber tire is mounted.

Torque: The ability of a force to rotate an object on an axis.

Transmission Dip Stick: A stick used to determine the fluid level of the transmission.

Valve Stem: Where you insert a tire pressure gauge or air pump to check your tire pressure or fill up your tire.

V belt: A “V” shaped belt found in older vehicles that drives the water pump, alternator, air conditioning (AC) compressor, etc. In newer model cars the serpentine or drive belt has replaced this.

Warning Lights: Here is a complete description of different types of warning lights.

Washer Nozzle: The part of your car that sprays the washer fluid onto the windshield.

Water Pump: A pump used to circulate coolant through the engine.

Windshield Washer Reservoir: A container that holds the windshield washer fluid for a vehicle. However, it never seems to hold a whole gallon jug, thus annoying thousands of people daily.

Wiper Blades: Rubber blades used to clean the windshield of environmental debris.


If you have lost a cap on your tire inflation valve, mention it at your next oil change and the technician will probably replace it for your for free. More ways to tell if you have a tire pressure issue.