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Understand vehicle terms with our dictionary

Updated: May 20, 2020

Car jargon and vehicle anagrams can be a little intimidating when it comes to taking your vehicle for its annual MOT or service. Understanding the parts of a car helps you make a fully informed decision when deciding whether to go ahead with repairs.

At MKD Automotive we pride ourselves in being fully transparent and will explain the problem at hand in simple terms if needed, but why not get prepared for your next garage visit – find out all you need to know from our car terminology guide below.


Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) 

The ABS is safety measure which takes control of your vehicle's brakes when they’re at risk of locking up and skidding. The ABS causes the brakes to apply and release rapidly, which gives you more control when braking hard. 

Air conditioning (AC) 

Air conditioning creates cold air through a vehicle’s fans to help regulate the temperature. 


Your airbag is a safety device which only activates in the event of a collision. The bag inflates, protecting you from hitting hard surfaces in the vehicle. 


The alternator converts mechanical energy into alternating electrical current to power the vehicle battery. This keeps the electricals in the car running, like the radio and lights.  


Brake Calliper

A brake calliper is there to push the brake disc against the brake pad, causing the wheels to slow. 

Brake Disc

Brake discs are piece of metal found attached to each wheel, which gets pressed by the brake calliper to slow the wheels when you apply the brakes. 

Brake Pad

Brake pads are the part of the brake calliper that touches the brake disc when the brakes are applied. They’re made of a hard material which gradually wears away, so they need replacing from time to time. 


Cam Belt

The cam belt (also known as a timing belt) is a rubber belt which holds all the moving parts inside the top of the engine. Cam belts wear over time and need replacing at manufacturer specified time intervals. If it breaks, the cam belt can cause significant damage to your engine. Not sure when yours is due? Give us a call

Catalytic Converter

Your vehicle’s catalytic converter is a part of the exhaust that reduces harmful emissions like carbon monoxide, by converting them into less harmful gases or water. They’re reliable, but when they do break it can be costly.  

Coil Springs

Coil springs form a part of your car’s suspension that help to absorb impact when going over rough terrain. They can snap after a lot of wear, so you might need to replace these from time to time. 


The cylinder is the core part of your vehicle’s engine – the space where the piston moves into to create power by intaking gas and oil, and compressing it into a smaller space. Multiple aluminium or cast iron cylinders tend to be lined up next to each other.  


Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)

The vehicle's diesel particulate filter removes the soot from a diesel car’s engine. 


Engine Oil

Engine oil is a lubricant used to reduce friction, which can otherwise waste useful power. Without it, the engine will seize. It's easy to check your oil levels, and we'll be happy to show you how.   Exhaust

The exhaust connects your vehicle's catalytic converter and silencer to control noise, direct fumes away from passengers, improve fuel consumption and convert harmful fumes into non-harmful ones. 

Fan Belt

The fan belt is a synthetic butter belt which connects engine components. If it fails, it can cause the entire engine to cease, and cause damage to other parts such as the radiator. 


The handbrake (otherwise know as the parking brake or emergency brake) is usually a hand-operated brake used to keep a vehicle stationary once stopped or parked. 


An immobiliser is an electronic security measure put in place to prevent vehicle theft, and means a vehicle cannot be started without the correct key or device. 


The odometer or milometer tells you how many miles your vehicle has done through it’s lifetime. 

Power steering

Steering that is made easier by electric or hydraulic motors. 

Rear wheel drive

Vehicles where the engine power is sent to the rear wheels only. 


Shock absorbers

Part of the suspension, shock absorbers are there to minimalize the impact of uneven surfaces on your car and keep your tyres on the ground. 

Spark Plug

A spark plug carries electric current from the ignition to the combustion chamber of an engine to ignite it by electric spark – this then starts the combustion process. 


Tyre tread is the rubber on the exterior of a tyre, which is designed to provide grip between the tyre and the surface of the road. As the tread begins to wear, tyres become less gripped to the ground and more likely to skid. 

Valves (engine)

Valves are the part of the engine that open and close into the cylinder to allow fuel and air into the combustion chamber (inlet valve), and spent gases out (exhaust valve). 

Water Pump

The water pump is part of the cooling system. It keeps your vehicle from overheating by circulating coolant between the engine and radiator. 

If you need any further help or anything explained then don't hesitate to ask a member of the team, we are always here to help!

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