Become a Car Expert with this Handy Cheat Sheet

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Do you get lost when the conversation switches to cars? Here is a handy cheat sheet that will hopefully give you a basic understanding of the common terminology used by car enthusiasts.

Can't tell the difference between a compressor or cylinder? What about horsepower and torque? If car terminology sounds foreign to you, fret not, as you are about to be schooled.

We have prepared a cheat sheet that should give you a basic understanding of commonly used car terminology.



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The line that traces over the roof, from the front to the back. It traces the vehicle’s silhouette and forms the vehicle's shape.


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It stands for Anti-Lock Braking System. It is a safety system that is designed to prevent skidding, especially in wet conditions.


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All-Wheel Drive. A drivetrain that provides power to all four wheels of the vehicle.



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The beltline is a line that can be found extending under the windows from the front and the back of a car.

Brake Fluid

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The fluid used in the hydraulic brake system. It is used to transfer force into pressure, and to amplify braking force.


These are functional or aesthetic reflective additions to a car.


Character Line

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A strip around the vehicle that gives a car its distinctive and notable appearance.


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These are panels around the car edges that can be aesthetic or functional.

Combustion Chamber

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The area at the top of the engine cylinders where fuel is introduced to be ignited (petrol) or compressed (diesel).


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A compressor system improves an engine's power by forcing air into the combustion chamber at more significant pressure.


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One of a group of chambers in the engine where the combustion process takes place. Most configurations are set in either 4, 6 or 8 cylinders.


Disc Brakes

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A disc brake is a type of brake that uses callipers to squeeze pairs of pads against a disc or a "rotor" to create friction.


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A drivetrain includes components of a vehicle that create power and transmit that power to the wheels, excluding the engine or motor.


Electronic Stability Control

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A type of safety feature that detects skids and adjusts braking pressure to maintain the direction of the vehicle.

Exhaust Drum Brakes

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It is a braking system that uses a metal drum. Brake shoes press against the drum to slow or stop the car.

Engine Management System

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It is a highly sophisticated computer which monitors the condition of the engine at all times.


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The pipe through which waste gas from the combustion process are removed from the engine and car.


Front-Wheel Drive

A drivetrain that provides power to the front wheels by driveshafts.

Fuel Injection System

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The fuel injection system delivers fuel into the engine cylinders while controlling the injection timing, fuel atomization, and other parameters.



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A gearbox transmits the power of the engine to the wheels. It acts to transmit different levels of power.

Glow Plugs

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Glow plugs are used in diesel engines to heat the combustion chamber so that the diesel compresses and expands rapidly.


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The grille is the opening on the body of a vehicle that allows air to enter or exit. It also serves as an aesthetic element to the car.


Hip Point

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It is the distance between the pivot point of a person's hips, the vehicle floor, and the ground.


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The standard unit of engine power. One horsepower equates to 550 foot-pounds per second.

Hybrid Engine

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A type of engine with a battery-operated electric motor and an internal combustion engine. These engines can operate jointly or alternately.


Intake Charge

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The mixture of fuel and air that combusts in the engine to create power.


Leaf Spring

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A suspension made from thin, curved steel. The curved shape increases the absorption of bumps.

Live Axle

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A live axle is a type of beam axle in which the shaft also transmits power to the wheels.



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Overhangs are the lengths of a car that extend beyond the wheelbase at the front and rear.


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Oversteer occurs when a car turns by more than the amount commanded by the driver.



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Pillars are structures that connect the roof of the vehicle to the body.


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A type of gear with small teeth that mesh with other larger gears.


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The powertrain includes both the engine and/or motor(s), as well as the drivetrain.


Rear-Wheel Drive

A drivetrain that transmits power to the rear wheels only. The front wheels are used for steering.


An Engine Revolution (rev) occurs every time the pistons in the car travels up and down the cylinders. The more the revs, the more power.


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Revs per minute. The revolution of an engine per minute.

Rubbing Strip

Protective strips moulded to fit around the door.



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These vents protrude from the vehicle and allow cooling.


Any extensions to the body of the vehicle.

Spark Ignition (SI) Engine

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A spark-ignition engine is an internal combustion engine, generally a petrol engine, where the combustion process of the air-fuel mixture is ignited by a spark from a spark plug.

Spark Plugs

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Spark plugs are used in petrol engines to ignite the petrol and air mixture to make the engine produce power.


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A spoiler is an aerodynamic device designed to 'spoil' unfavourable air movements (aka drag) as the car travels.


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It is the distance between the extremes of the pistons’ movement as the engine revs.


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An air compressor that increases power by forcing more air into an engine than it can inhale on its own.

Suspension System

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A suspension system helps to absorb shock from the road while keeping the car in control.



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A measurement of the force that the engine turns the wheels of the car. The greater the torque, the faster the car.


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Track is the distance measured side-to-side between the base of the wheels.


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A gearbox with a number of selectable ratios. It is used to match the engine's RPM and torque to differing vehicle requirements. There are two commonly known transmissions - automatic and manual.


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A device that uses exhaust gas to drive a turbine, forcing more air into the combustion chamber.


The moment of transition between driving straight ahead and cornering.



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A segment of the vehicle that is not viewable from above and is exposed to the road.


Understeer occurs when a car steers less than the amount commanded by the driver.


V-Type Engines

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An engine with cylinders that are divided into two angled banks, forming a 'V'.



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The distance between the centre of the front wheels to the centre of the rear wheels.

Wheel Well

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The wheel sits in the wheel well under the body of the car.

Did we miss any important terms? Let us know in the comments below!

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