A List of Car Words to Accelerate Your Vocabulary
Adapted from Getty Images
ABS stands for “antilock braking system.” It is a control system for your brakes that a computer monitors. The purpose of ABS is to prevent your brakes from seizing up when you step down hard on the brakes. This keeps the tires from skidding as you try to stop.
This isn’t a literal part of the car. Rather, the beltline is used to reference an imaginary line that rests at a certain height on a car’s body. It separates the top and bottom halves of a car. Find this point of separation at the bottom of your car’s windows.
The chassis is a catch-all way to describe the mechanical parts of a car. To be more precise, it consists of the mechanical parts and the structural frame that holds said parts in place. It is, in a sense, the skeletal system of a car and what all other components attach to.
The drivetrain is the heart and soul of any car. It is a collection of mechanical parts, all of which work together to transfer power to the wheels to actually make the car move. It consists of the engine, the transmission, the differential(s), and other essential, connected components. You’ll hear car words like this as they relate to your warranty, for example.
Emissions are something you might hear about when you get your car inspected. It is the discharging of gasses from a car’s exhaust system. In most regions, a car’s exhaust system must meet certain standards to ensure that they are not emitting more gasses than what is deemed acceptable. This is why cars are typically inspected once a year.
When trying to determine the power of a car’s engine, the most common unit of measurement is horsepower. For a relatable conversion, one unit of horsepower equates to 550 foot-pounds per second. “Foot-pounds per second” means the power you need to lift 550 pounds one foot off the ground in only one second. Scientifically speaking, this is equivalent to 745.7 watts.
Common car words relate to the parts of the vehicle. The radiator is the device that keeps your car from overheating. Usually located in front of a car’s engine, the radiator, which consists of a collection of pipes, circulates coolant to help evenly dissipate the heat generated by the engine. Without it, your car would overheat and potentially (and quickly) ruin the engine.
Struts are used to help with a car’s suspension. They come equipped with shock absorbers that absorb the impact that the tires take when driving on the road. They attach to the wheel, usually at its hub. With struts in place, the tires are able to resist significantly more compression and force than they could on their own with a car’s shocks.
Simply put, torque is the force applied to something to make it rotate. It is measured in pound-feet (lb-ft), as in how much force is needed to make something move a specified and required distance. Most of the actual driving mechanisms of a car rely on torque to make them move at the proper distance and at the proper speed and time. Torque is also essential for the assembly of a car. Failure to tighten components on a vehicle can cause structural damage when said vehicle is moving at high speeds.
Many people understand the importance of their car’s engine, but it’s equally important to understand the importance of the transmission. (It’s also equally expensive to repair and replace.) A transmission is a set of gears with different ratios. These gears match the engine’s revolutions-per-minute (RPM) and transfer the power from the engine to other parts of the vehicle, such as a drive shaft.
Steer Clear of Other Term Uncertainties
For people unfamiliar with or uninterested in most vehicles, car words aren’t always the easiest things to remember and understand. That’s why a list like this is so helpful. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find words in other helpful word lists like this? Good news! You can! We have plenty of other glossaries to help you dive into topics you might not be an expert in. One example is our collection of Gen Z slang terms. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the new creative phrases the current generation has created.
Zac Pricener has been a content creator for the past eight years. He’s a bit of an all-around nerd, and he has a bad habit of working movie and TV show references into conversations whenever possible.