Automotive Car Glossary

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A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

AA Automobile Association
U.K. motoring and travel organisation

Automobile Association Northern Territory

The American Auto Racing Association, located in Spokane, Washington.

Suspension link, shaped in plan view like the letter A.

Abbreviated Injury Scale
Method of ranking injury severity in road accidents using a scale of 1 to 6.

Abbreviation for Anti-Lock Braking System.

Absolute Title
A document that states a person or a legal entity has the right of ownership.

Abbreviation for Alternating Current or Air conditioning.

Measure of the rate at which speed increases.

Accelerator Pedal
Foot-operated control of engine speed.

Accelerator Pump
Small carburettor pump to squirt extra fuel into the mixing chamber when accelerating.

Instrument for measuring acceleration rate.

An unforeseen and unintended event or occurrence.

Removes moisture from the liquid refrigerant in an air-conditioning system.

Ackermann Principle
Standard automotive steering principle whereby the inside wheel automatically turns an appropriately tighter circle than the outside wheel when taking a bend.

Acoustic Induction Control
Engine air intake system using a valve that intermittently closes or restricts the flow of air to the cylinders, improving engine performance at some engine speeds.

Acoustic Parking Aid
Parking warning system that emits beeps when the car is reversing, advising when the car gets too close to an obstruction.

Acquisition Fee
A fee charged by the leasing company to buy the vehicle for the lessee and set
up the lease. Also called the initiation fee, this typically runs about $450.

Acrylic Paint
Plastic based automotive lacquer or enamel, used for automotive touch-up and respraying.

Act of God
Any accident or event that is not by human hand and can not be prevented. Usually a natural cause.

Activated Charcoal Filter
Device containing charcoal to absorb odours and some pollutants.

Active Body Control

Regulated suspension system using hydraulic and sensors to change the springing to suit the immediate situation.

Active Damper Control
System to computer-control the shock absorber damping forces so each wheel varies its response according to the conditions.

Active Head Restraint
One designed that minimises whiplash injury during a rear-end collision.

Active Restraint
Seat belt or other safety device that becomes operational when the driver or passenger has taken an appropriate action.

Active Safety
Those vehicle qualities that help a driver avoid a potential accident, such as braking, steering and cornering stability.

Active Suspension
System in which electronic sensors work with hydraulic or another external forces to counteract adverse suspension movements.

Active Torque Split
System in which the transmission distributes engine torque in controlled proportions between all wheels, varying the proportion front and rear to suit the conditions.

Actual Cash Value (ACV)
Replacement cost of property lost. If your vehicle were stolen, totaled in an accident, or otherwise rendered a loss, the Actual Cash Value is equal to the cost for a similar vehicle at current market prices.

A device that performs a mechanical action in response to an input signal, which may be electrical or fluidic.

Adaptive Airbag
Two-stage airbag that can inflates in two stages. It is partly filled in a low-speed collision and becomes fully inflated above about 35 km/h.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Device that enables the car’s speed to automatically vary depending on the vehicle in front, using radar, cruise control sensors and, possibly, an external traffic control centre.

Adaptive Transmission
Device that evaluates various driving techniques to determine the optimum change points for an auto transmission.

Additional Insured
A person or company, other than the person named on the account who is protected against damage or loss.

Additional Insured/Loss Payee
Since the lessor owns the leased vehicle, the lessee is required to name the lessor “additional insured” in his insurance liability-coverage policy and as the “loss payee” in his collision and comprehensive policy.

Adiathermal Glass
Heat-absorbing window pane containing ferric oxide mixed with basic silica to reduce the amount of the sun’s rays reaching the interior.

Adjustable Seat Belt Shoulder Height
Mechanism in the b-pillar that permits the upper seat belt anchor’s height to be raised or lowered.

Adjustable shock absorber
One that can be manually or electronically adjusted to change the dampening qualities.

Adjusted Capitalized Cost
The basis for the basic monthly payment.

The person working with the insurance agency who determines the amount of damage, loss, and liability.

Australian motor vehicle design rules.

Advance And Retard Mechanism

Distributor system to optimise the ignition spark timing to suit several factors including the load and engine speed.

American Drag Racing Association, located in Spokane, Washington.

Advertised Price, Average
The average listed price for a given year, make and model combination, among the cars currently listed on

Advertised Price, Lowest
The lowest listed price for a given year, make and model combination, among the cars currently listed on

Advertised Price, Highest
The highest listed price for a given year, make and model combination, among the cars currently listed on

Aerobody Kit
Panels to enhance the body’s aerodynamic efficiency.

The wind resistance of a vehicle’s design elements. Aerodynamic vehicles claim to offer increased performance and reduced wind noise while moving. More simply – the science of reducing wind drag. See Coefficient of Drag.

Same as airfoil.

Chassis frame shaped like the letter a; also a triangulated tow bar attached to the front of a towed vehicle.

Exhaust manifold that burns hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide in the exhaust gases.

Cooling of compressed gas after the compression stage to increase its density. Also that part of the shutdown procedure in some turbocharged engines to minimise bearing wear.

Component, equipment or service added after a vehicle has left the assembly plant.

After Top Dead Centre
That moment after the piston has passed the top of its travel in the cylinder and starts on the down stroke.

A representative of the insurance agency, licensed by the state, who solicits, negotiates, and countersigns the contract. Also provides service to the policyholder for the insurance agency.

American Hot Rod Association

Australian colloquialism for airconditioning.

Fabric bag that automatically inflates in the event of a collision to cushion an occupant. Also a component in a pneumatic suspension unit using compressed air as the main spring.

Airbag Curtain
Airbag that extends the full length of the passenger compartment and deploys in the event of a side impact or rollover.

Airbag Cut-Off
System that automatically deactivates the passenger side airbag and seat belt pretensioner should a child-restraint system be on the front seat.

Airbag Deployment Strategy
Electronic arrangement to automatically turn off the engine and/or fuel pump and unlock the doors when the airbag sensor is triggered.

Scoop in the bodywork to channel relatively cool air to the engine’s induction system.

Air Brake
Brakes, usually on heavy-duty trucks, that use compressed air to operate.

Air Cleaner
Same as air filter.

Correctly, a reference to the car’s total heating and cooling system, though widely used to indicate refrigerated cooling only.

Aircooled Engine
One using fresh air blown over cooling fins on the cylinder block and cylinder heads to keep temperatures at the required level.

Body panel fitted beneath the front bumper to reduce air drag and aerodynamic lift.

Airdam Skirt
Panel under the front bumper to reduce any tendency for the car’s front to lift at speed.

Air Deflector

Large wing mounted on a roof or cab top to deflect air over a trailer, reducing wind drag.

Air Filter
One that removes dust and insects from air entering the engine.

Airflow Meter
Device for measuring gas flow, used to ensure accurate control of the air-fuel ratio.

Airflow Sensor
That part of fuel-injection system that measures airflow.

Wing-like structure above the body that deflects the airstream downwards to help keep the wheels firmly on the ground.

Air Horn
Audible warning device operated by compressed air or exhaust gas. Also the air inlet to a carburettor.

Air Induction
Method of injecting additional air into the combustion chamber via a bypass, thus creating additional turbulence.

Air Injection
Device in which fresh air is injected at low-pressure into the exhaust system to assist in burning exhaust gases more completely.

Air Inlet Valve
Movable flap in a plenum chamber to vary the ratio of fresh air and recirculated air entering the ventilation system.

Device for inflating tyres or providing compressed air. Also one that injects air into the exhaust manifold to help complete the combustion of exhaust gases.

Air Resistance
Wind drag.

Air Scoop
Shaped section of the body to channel air to a particular component.

Air Shock Absorber
One using compressed air as a damping medium.

Air Spoiler
Curved lip that deflects the airstream, increasing downward pressure on the car’s rear.

Air Spring
One that relies on compressed air to absorb the energy of an impact.

Air Switching Valve
Device within an air-fuel mixing system to prevent the catalyst temperature rising excessively.

Air-To-Air Intercooler
One that uses air as the cooling medium, instead of water.

Air Valve
One-way valve that admits air to a pneumatic tyre. Also a carburettor valve that allows a controlled quantity of additional air into the fuel mixture.

Airbag Lockout Switch
A device allowing the driver to turn off the front passenger airbag.

Safety device using an inflatable cushion that inflates and deflates within a fraction of a second to protect a vehicle occupant.

The proper adjustment of the car’s suspension. Correct setting of one or more adjustable components. Generally refers to the wheel alignment.

Aligning Torque
Force that tends to make a tyre return to the straight-ahead position after being angled.

Allen Key
One made from hexagonal section steel to tighten or loosen bolts or set screws, made with a corresponding socket in their heads.

All-Indirect Gearbox
Transmission in which all ratios between the input and output shafts are transmitted by gears.

All-Wheel Drive
Vehicle transmission system in which four or more wheels are constantly under power.

Alloy Wheel
Road wheel made from light metal.

All-Terrain Vehicle
One designed for use on land, swamps and water.

All-Weather Tyre
One with treads providing grip in mud, rain and slush.

All-Risks Policy
A policy covering all losses except those specifically excluded in the contract.

All-Season Tyres
Tyres designed to provide good traction in winter snow and slush without wearing too quickly on dry roads.

All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)
A small, lightweight vehicle designed for recreational off-highway use.

All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
A vehicle drivetrain with all wheels powered by the engine at all times. Sometimes called full-time four-wheel drive.

Alloy Wheels
Any non-steel road wheel. Mostly aluminum, but technically a mixture of two or more metals.

Alternative Fuels
May be alcohol-based, such as ethanol or methanol; compressed natural gas; or combinations of gasoline and alcohol.

Produces alternating current and recharges the battery. Engine-driven generator that supplies current and charges the battery.

Gauge showing the height above sea level.

Unit combining an am radio and fm radio with a multiplex filter.

Gauge showing the flow of electric current.

Unit of measurement for the flow of current.

Speed-detecting device using tubes across a road at a measured distance apart.

Amp-hour capacity
The rating of a storage battery.

The gradual reduction of a debt by periodic payments large enough to meet current interest payments and repay the principal.

Amount Financed
The portion of the purchase price that is actually financed. In addition to the cost of the car, it can include the costs of an extended warranty, credit life insurance, and other items rolled into the payments.

Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Anaerobic Compound
Chemical compound (such as loctite) that sets hard in the absence of air.

Aneroid Tube
Thermo-mechanical, temperature/pressure device to regulate fuel entering a fuel-injection system.

Ancap Test
Australian new car assessment program, being a comparative vehicle safety check to provide comparative crash protection standards, supervised by organisations such as the nrma.

Anechoic Chamber
Echo-free chamber used in noise-suppression work.

Angle of Approach/Departure
Greatest grade angle that a vehicle can approach or run off without grounding the chassis or body ahead of the front wheels or behind the rear wheels.

Angular Velocity
Speed of a rotating body expressed as the angle (in degrees or radians) through which a datum point passes in one second.

Process of heating and slowly cooling to soften a metal object and reducing internal stresses.

Annular Gear

Toothed wheel with teeth on the inner surface, as in an epicyclic gear.

Positive pole in an electric circuit.

Method of chemically treating the surface of an aluminium alloy component to provide a decorative and/or corrosion-resistant finish.

Anti-Burst Lock
Door lock that remains closed during a collision.

Characteristic of a suspension system in which special geometry helps reduce the tendency of the nose to dip under braking.

Additive to lower the temperature at which the radiator coolant freezes.

Anti-Foam Agent
Additive that reduces the tendency of a lubricant to foam.

Anti-Knock Compound
Additive to help reduce engine knocking.

Anti-Knock Rating
Resistance of a fuel mixture to knocking when burned in the combustion chamber. It is known as octane rating for petrol and cetane rating for diesel fuel.

Anti-Lift Geometry
Suspension system arranged to reduce the tendency of a car’s rear to rise during braking.

Anti-Lock Braking System
One incorporating electronic or other means of preventing any wheel from ceasing to rotate (and sliding) under heavy braking.

Anti-Roll Bar
U-shaped device with one end connected to each end of the suspension. It twists when one wheel is higher than the other, acting as a torsion spring, thus helping to combat the body roll action.

Anti-Skid Brakes
Same as anti-lock braking.

Characteristic of a suspension system to reduce or eliminate the tail’s tendency to dip under acceleration.

Anti-Submarine Ramp
Safety mechanism to reduce the risk of a passenger sliding under the seat belt during rapid stopping.

Anti-Tramp Bar
Additional method of locating a live axle to prevent axle tramp during hard acceleration.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
The average compound interest rate over the life of the loan. A yearly rate of interest that includes fees and costs paid to acquire a loan. Lenders are required by law to disclose the annual percentage rate, which is used to compare various loans; it makes simple interest and compound interest loans comparable with each other.

Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)
A computer-controlled braking system that senses impending wheel lockup and pulses the brakes many times a second to prevent it. This results in the most important benefit of ABS: by preventing wheel lockup, it allows the driver to maintain steering control. Unfortunately, too few drivers are trained to use ABS properly. When the system engages, it may vibrate the brake pedal. A driver who doesn’t know how to use ABS may lift his foot from the pedal when he receives this feedback, effectively disengaging the system

Anti-Roll Bar
A suspension component. A steel rod or tube that connects the left and right suspension members to resist roll or swaying of the vehicle. Improves handling.

A liquid that mixes with the water in a cooling system of a vehicle’s engine. Antifreeze keeps the water from freezing in the winter or cold climates, or from overheating in the summer or hot climates.

Vertical roof support between the windshield and front edge of the front side window. Forward pillar to which the windscreen is attached, running from the body and supporting the roof.

An initial statement of personal and financial information which is required to approve your loan.

Decorative metal or plastic panel.

An opinion of the market value of an asset as of a specific date.

Panel under the radiator grille to reduce air resistance and hide the front suspension components.


Phenomenon in which a film of water becomes trapped between a tyre tread and road surface, causing the tyre to lock-up and slide instead of revolving.

Automobile Racing Club of America, the little brother to the Winston Cup racing (ARCA is two levels below). ARCA sports similar cars with shorter races and small pay-outs.

Centre core of an electric component such as a starter motor or generator.

Trade name for a metal guardrail used on highways and at race circuits to prevent vehicles leaving the road when control is lost.


Anti skid control device.

Automatic speed control device, also known as cruise control.

Aspect Ratio
The ratio between the width and sidewall (or height) of the tyre. Tyres with lower aspect ratios, usually found on sports models, provide superior handling but a harsher ride. The ratio between the height of a tyre and the width of its carcass, expressed as a percentage.

AS 2077
Testing procedure devised by the Australian Standards Association to measure fuel consumption.

Aspirated Engine
One that draws in fuel mixture at normal atmospheric pressure, as distinct from turbocharged or supercharged designs.

Assigned Risk Plan
A risk that must be insured by state law or otherwise.

Asymmetric Carcass
Tyre in which the carcass is not uniform in cross-section.

Asymmetric Headlamps
Pair of headlamps in which one light beam shines at a different angle to the other. One beam illuminates the kerbside, the other the road ahead.

Asymmetric tread
Tyre tread with a pattern that is not uniform across the tyre’s width.

Atkinson Cycle
Internal combustion cycle that enables the compression stroke and expansion strokes to be mechanically independent of each other.

Atmospheric Engine
One in which normal atmospheric pressure draws in the fuel mixture, as distinct from forced induction using a supercharger or turbocharger.

The breaking of fuel, paint or water into a mist of particles.

Abbreviation for all-terrain vehicle.

Australian Design Rules
Safety and other regulations for new vehicles formed by a government-sponsored advisory committee. Popularly known as ADRS.

Auto-Adjusting Suspension
Computerised system in which the shock absorber settings automatically vary to suit the road and driving conditions.

Auto dipping rear view mirror
Light-sensitive mirror that automatically dips to reduce glare when required.

Autothermic Piston
Aluminium piston with a steel strut fitted to the piston-pin boss to limit thermal expansion in a direction perpendicular to the pin, when hot.

Engine condition in which the incoming fuel-air mixture is ignited before the spark plugs fire, usually caused by hot fragments of carbon.

Auto-Ignition Temperature

That at which fuel in contact with air ignites and burns.

Auto Lash Adjuster
Type of hydraulic adjuster for maintaining the correct clearance between the rocker arm, camshaft and valve stem.

Auto Lighting Control
System that detects the natural light level and automatically activates the headlamps and tail lamps.

Auto-Manual Transmission
Dual operation transmission that operates fully automatically but also allows the driver to shift gears manually.

Automatic Clutch
One that automatically engages or disengages when the driver touches the gearlever knob.

Automatic Freewheeling Hub

Four-wheel drive feature in which the wheel hubs automatically freewheel in 2wd mode and engage when the control lever is moved to 4wd.

Automatic Level Control
Device that maintains the car at a predetermined height and attitude, regardless of load.

Automatic Speed Control Device

Same as cruise control.

Automatic Transmission
One in which the speed of the output shaft varies automatically, to provide the most appropriate gear ratio for the road speed and engine load.

Auto Reflex Mirror
Interior rear view mirror that automatically changes reflectivity when activated by strong light from behind.

Auto Rain-Sensitive Windscreen Wipers
Same as rain-sensitive windscreen wipers.

Autothermic Piston
Alloy piston with a steel insert in the piston-pin boss to limit thermal expansion of the hot piston.

Autronic Eye
Electronic mechanism to automatically select high or low headlamp beam for the conditions.

Auto Insurance Quotes
Most of the auto insurance quotes are packaged into different coverage types. It is usually easiest to first determine what you are required to purchase. Then, you determine what you have that needs to be protected. You purchase insurance to protect yourself and your family in the event that you suffer a loss to your person or property and you purchase insurance to protect yourself from losses suffered by others.

Auto Mall
Several Dealership operations located on one site.

Automatic Locking Retractor
Standard on 1995 and later models, this device is built into the shoulder belt retractor and keeps the belt cinched tightly, which is essential for properly securing a child-safety seat.

Automatic Temperature Control (ATC)
Automatically controls a vehicle’s heating and cooling systems, maintaining a temperature preset by the occupant.

Automatic Transmission
A system that varies the power and torque to a drivetrain without the use of a foot-operated clutch.

Abbreviation for all-wheel drive.

Axial Flow

Design feature of a turbine or pump that permits fluid or air to pass in a direction parallel to its axis.

Shaft on which a wheel, bearing or gear is mounted. A rotating metal shaft connected to the wheels on either side of the vehicle.

Axle Casing
Outer casing of the axle that houses the crown wheel, pinion and half shafts.

Axle Location
Manner in which a live axle is positioned and its movements restricted.

Axle Ratio
That between the speed of the propeller shaft and the speed of the shafts driving the wheels.

Axle Shaft
Drive shaft going from a differential to a road wheel.

Axle Tramp
Violent shudder of the driven wheels when accelerating.

Axle Wind-Up
Same as axle tramp.

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This article was written by Bruce Gow, an Australian search engine marketer who does search engine optimization for websites such as Used Car Prices. He has completed extensive research on used cars in both Australia and the USA, but is NOT a used car dealer.

You can reach him at [email protected] for all used car or SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) enquires in Australia or the USA.

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