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Common Auto Repair Terms You Should Know

Auto mechanic in shopHave you tried talking to your local mechanic and find yourself just nodding along but each word seems to go in one ear and right out the other? You’re not alone. Words used in association with auto repair is like its own language and can be downright confusing! When the conversation leaves you feeling befuddled, that confusion can lead to frustration. When you’re talking to a Technician or Service Advisor you should be able to grasp what they’re saying so that you can feel confident in discussing your car’s issues. Knowing the most common auto repair terms and their meaning may give you the assurance to comprehend what is going on with your car and easily converse with your Technician. Here are the most common auto repair and auto body repair terms:

  • ABS – Abbreviation for Anti-Lock Brake System. The ABS is made to prevent skidding while braking by quickly employing and releasing the brakes, creating a pulsing feeling.
  • Aftermarket – Parts produced by companies that are not the original manufacturer of the vehicle.
  • ASE – Acronym for National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. By using a certified technician, you can be assured your vehicle is in the hands of a professional with the proper knowledge and expertise.
  • Beltline – The line molded by the lower edges of the windows of your car. Essentially, used to divide the top or bottom halves of your car.
  • Catalytic Converter – Part of the exhaust system, “cats” are canisters that convert harmful pollutants, produced by the vehicle, into eco-friendly gases or vapor.
  • Differential – Splits the torque, created by the engine, through the transmission to drive the wheels allowing each wheel to travel at a different speed while turning.
  • Drivetrain – Connects the power generated from the engine through the transmission to the differential to drive axles, eventually sending power to the wheels.
  • ECM/ECU – Electronic Control Module (Unit for ECU) also known as the car’s internal computer. They obtain information from the intake, exhaust, fuel, emissions, and cooling system to determine the optimum data that the engine needs to perform correctly, such as fuel injection and timing.
  • ESC – Acronym for Electronic Stability Control. A safety feature that adjusts the brake pressure to assist drivers in maintaining control of their vehicles while steering, improving stability under wet or icy conditions.
  • Fan/Engine/Serpentine Belt – Connected by pulleys to the alternator, water pump, power steering pump, air conditioning compressor and other miscellaneous components. It is common for fan belts to stretch or crack and detach, requiring replacements or adjustments.
  • Fuel Injection – Fuel delivery system where spouts, called injectors, add gasoline into the intake manifold or cylinders for better fuel efficiency and power. Many vehicles today are equipped with electronic fuel injection systems.
  • Hesitation – A momentary loss in power occurring at acceleration.
  • Intercooler – Used only on cars with turbochargers or superchargers. They’re used to cool the hot, compressed air created by the turbo or supercharger to increase the power of the engine.
  • Knock – A sound produced by the engine as a result of leftover fuel and air in the combustion chamber, detonating after the spark plug fires.
  • LOF/LOFR – An abbreviation for lube, oil, and filter, also known as the oil change. Likewise, LOFR is the abbreviation for lube, oil, filter, and tire rotation.
  • OEM – Acronym for Original Equipment Manufacturer. A part that is produced by your vehicle maker for your vehicle.
  • Oil Filter – Used to capture and remove contaminants such as dirt and debris from the oil supply.
  • Play – The measure of loose measure in a mobile component or components. Typically used when referring to the suspension system. For steering, play, is the amount of free movement felt in the wheels prior to the actual spinning of the wheel.
  • Pull – When a vehicle steers itself into one direction or the other while driving or braking. Often a symptom of the need for an alignment.
  • RWD/AWD/FWD – The area where the power from the engine is delivered. These “drives” indicate which wheels are propelling the vehicle. Rear wheel drive, power comes from the rear; front wheel drive, power comes from the front wheel. In all wheel drive, all wheels are powered to create movement.
  • Timing Belt – Also known as the Cambelt, this belt synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft to ensure engine valves open and close at the precise time during each of the cylinder’s intake and exhaust strokes.
  • Torque – Measures the period of time it takes for power to transfer to the wheels, influencing acceleration and power to pull.
  • TPMS – Acronym for Tire Pressure Monitoring System. The TPMS system monitors the air pressure in your tires. When low, a light on your dashboard will illuminate to alert you that one or more of your tires need attention.
  • VIN – Acronym for Vehicle Identification Number. A unique alphanumeric identification number used to identify your vehicle, often found near the lower portion of the dashboard where it meets the windshield and/or on the driver’s side doorpost. The VIN provides many details such as where and when your vehicle was built, the type of motor it is equipped with, and more.

Now that you know and understand the most basic terms of automotive jargon, your next trip to the auto shop should be easier to decipher.