AtBrake-O-Rama, we understand that too often the terms used by automotive technicians are too technical for the average customer. Which is why we’ve created this glossary of automotive and automotive maintenance terms to help customers translate the “car” spoken by technicians.
Additive – Any of a number of chemical products designed to clean or enhance the performance of an automotive system.
Air Conditioner Recharge – A service wherein new refrigerant is added to a vehicle’sair conditioningsystem. Over time, refrigerant may leak out of a vehicle AC system, diminishing its effectiveness and leaving drivers hot under the collar. At Brake-O-Rama, our technician also perform a leak test on the a/c system. There’s little use topping off the refrigerant if it will only leak back out. Air Filter – Removes dust and other particulate matter from the air before it is introduced into the engine to be mixed with fuel and combusted. Because these tiny particles can act like miniature sandpaper inside an engine, wearing away at critical components, most automakers recommend routineair filter replacement.
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) – This is a modern brake system that prevents the tires from locking up, even during hard braking, and rendering the car uncontrollable. Most modern cars come standard with ABS. Tip: Don’t “pump” thebrakeson an ABS-equipped car.
Instead, push the brake pedal as hard as you can while also attempting to steer around any obstacles.
Antiskid System – A computerized system that attempts to prevent a car from skidding sideways by either slowing the engine, automatically working one or more brakes, or a combination of the two. Also known as an electronic stability system.
ATF – Automatictransmission fluid. The fluid that is used in modern automatic transmissions. Acts as a lubricant, a hydraulic fluid and a coolant. Most vehicles will require at least one ATF service during their lifetime. Check your owners manual for the correct interval.
B Beam Blade – A new type of wiper blade that uses a pre-formed plastic frame instead of a metal frame to stretch a wiper blade across a windshield. Beam blades provide uniform wiping pressure and a generally superior wiping action than conventional wiper blades. Many also feature built-in airfoils designed to keep the wiper blades flush with the windshield at highway speeds.
Brake Fluid Flush – Amaintenance servicethat removes all of a car’s old brake fluid via a machine that essentially vacuums the fluid from the system. The same machine then forces new fluid into the system, eliminating air bubbles that can cause brakes to feel “spongy.”
Breather – A filtered opening in an engine’s valve cover that allows the PCV to draw filtered air through the crankcase. Less common on newer vehicles, but a component that requires routine replacement on older cars.
Cabin Air Filter – A new type of filter that removes dust, smog and other airborne contaminants from the air entering your car’s passenger compartment. Generally require replacement every 15,000 miles. Note that some upscale cabin air filters come with a layer of activated charcoal that can even remove odors from the air coming into your car. Coolant Flush – A service offered by many automotive maintenance and repair facilities that uses a machine to forcefully extract, or flush, old coolant from a vehicle’s engine. New coolant is then forced throughout the system, ensuring that most old, spent coolant will be replaced.
CV Boot – A plastic or rubber boot that covers the constant velocity (CV) joint on many front-wheel-drive cars. The boot prevents dirt and debris from coming into contact with the CV joint, a factor that can shorten the life of the joint and necessitate its replacement. If found to be cracked or frayed, it is recommended that CV boots be replaced.
CVT – Continuously VariableTransmission. A new type of transmission similar to an automatic transmission, this device contains no gears. Instead, on most CVTs power is transferred via a belt-and-pulley system. CVT fluid is the lubricant used in CVTs. Note that CVT fluid is vastly different than ATF, and ATF can not be used in a CVT.
D Differential – A device that transfers torque (rotational energy) from the engine to the drive wheels. Allows each wheel to turn at a unique speed (crucial when the car is turning) while still supplying equal torque. Most differentials use a dedicated gear oil that is heavier than motor oil, and most differentials will require at least one fluid change during a vehicle’s life span.
Also known as a final drive unit or colloquially as a “gearbox.” Tip: It is very important to have the differential oil changed if your car has been driven through deep water, as even a little water that finds its way into the differential can cause lasting damage.
E Emissions – The exhaust gas that comes from your vehicle. Many states requireemissions testingto ensure vehicles meet clean air standards. Engine – Themechanical motorthat powers your car. The number of cylinders an engine has is important, as generally the more cylinders the more powerful the engine. Cylinders are typically arranged in a line, such as an “inline four-cylinder engine” or “inline six-cylinder engine,” or in a V-shape, with the same number of cylinders on each side of the V, as in a V6 engine with two banks of three cylinders for six total or a V8 engine with two banks of four cylinders for eight total.
F Fuel Filter – A filter that cleans your car’s fuel before it is injected into the engine, removing any contaminants or particulate matter. Many automakers recommend replacing the fuel filter at dedicated intervals. Check your owners manual for more information. Fuel Injector – A device that sprays a measured amount of fuel into a vehicle’s engine. Most cars on the road today have individual injectors for each engine cylinder. Injectors can, over time, become clogged, restricting the spray pattern and hampering engine performance. Brake-O-Rama can perform afuel injector cleaningservice that will restore performance.
G Grease – A thick lubricant that is applied to many components on a car, including wheel bearings, steering shaft, drive shaft and suspension components. Many older vehicles had numerous grease fittings that required fresh grease at every oil change, but most newer vehicles only require grease at one or two spots, if at all.
H Headlight Restoration – A service offered by many automotive repair and maintenance facilities that can help drivers see better at night. Over time, sunlight, atmospheric ozone and road grit can combine to oxidize the plastic headlight lenses used on most cars.
This service removes that yellow haze, improving not only the vehicle’s appearance, but also the headlights’ effectiveness.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights – A type of headlight becoming standard on many luxury vehicles. HID headlights generate light by discharging electricity through a noble gas, typically xenon (many HID headlights are also known as “Xenon Headlights”). HID headlights are smaller and more powerful than conventional headlights. High-Mileage Motor Oil – A type of motor oil specially designed for vehicles with more than 75,000 miles. This motor oil provides better resistance to burn off, and also contains conditioners that help keep an engine’s seals and gaskets in good working order. Hybrid – A vehicle that uses a combination gasoline or diesel engine and electric motor to provide power. Most “conventional” or “parallel” hybrids use an electric motor to power the vehicle at low speeds and to provide a boost when more power is needed; generally on these vehicles, both the gasoline/diesel engine and motor are tied to a common transmission. So-called “series” hybrid vehicles will use a small gasoline/diesel engine as a generator, making electricity that will power electric drive motors. The forthcoming Chevrolet Volt will be one of the first such vehicles to use series hybrid power.
I Interval – The mileage- or date-based requirement at which a maintenance service should be performed. Maintenance intervals vary by manufacturer, model and vehicle usage. Most automakers recommend a routine oil change every few thousand miles or several months. Check your owners manual for the correct maintenance intervals for your vehicle.
K Knock – The premature detonation of the fuel/air mixture in an engine’s cylinder, generally caused by using gasoline whose octane level is too low for the engine. Most vehicles today use anti-knock sensors to control the phenomenon. Tip: If your car calls for “premium” gasoline, don’t skimp by buying regular. The lower octane rating can make your engine knock or decrease its power.
L LOF – Automotive maintenance industry jargon for “lube, oil and filter.” Essentially a basicoil change.
M Multipoint Inspection – A comprehensive inspection of a vehicle’s main systems. Most automotive maintenance facilities perform these inspections, which can cover anywhere from a dozen to several dozen components and fluid levels, as part of a full-service oil change. Many times, our Brake-O-Rama technicians conducting a multipoint inspection can find problems early, allowing customers to take corrective action before a very expensive repair is needed.
N NitrogenTireInflation – The increasingly common practice of inflating vehicle tires with pure nitrogen. Used by the heavy-duty trucking industry for years, nitrogen does not leak from a tire as rapidly as regular compressed air. In addition, by removing oxygen from the inside of the tire, oxidation of steel, aluminum, rubber, etc. is reduced, increasing tire life.
O Oil Pan – A thin-walled container at the bottom of an engine where oil is stored before being filtered and pumped back inside the engine. Most oil is drained from the oil pan by removing the drain plug.
Overhead-Cam Engine – Also known as OHC or DOHC (for dual overhead-cam engine), this is an engine configuration where the camshaft that actuates the engine’s valves is located atop the engine rather than inside. Typically, these engines are more efficient than the overhead valve (OHV) engines found in most vehicles through the early 1990s. Note most OHC engines use a timing belt to drive the camshafts and keep them in perfect timing with the engine. High-mileage vehicles (those with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer) should have the timing belt checked to ensure it is in good condition, as a broken timing belt can cause severe damage to valves, pistons and other internal engine components.
P PCV Valve – Positive crankcase ventilation valve. A one-way valve that ensures gases are evacuated from inside a vehicle’s engine crankcase and fed back into the air entering the engine, reducing emissions from the vehicle. A plugged or malfunctioning PCV system will eventually damage an engine, which is why many automakers recommend periodic replacement of the PCV valve.
Power Steering Flush– A service offered at many automotive maintenance and repair facilities that uses a machine to “evacuate” or flush old power steering fluid from a vehicle’s power steering system. The same machine then forces new fluid into the system, ensuring that most of the power steering fluid is replaced. A few automakers recommend this service as a part of their maintenance schedules.
R Radiator Flush – See “Coolant Flush.”
S Serpentine Belt – A rubber or composite belt that wraps around the various accessories on a vehicle’s engine (i.e. power steering pump, air conditioner compressor, alternator, etc.) and uses engine torque to power these components. Most serpentine belts will require replacement at least once during a vehicle’s life span.
Severe Driving – A misnomer used by many automakers in the past to describe driving conditions. Until recently, most automakers described driving as “normal” or “severe,” though “severe” driving was described as repeated short trips in heavy city traffic, something applicable to a majority of drivers. Drivers operating under severe conditions were advised to have maintenance services performed more frequently than those operating primarily under “normal” conditions, defined as primarily steady-state highway driving. Today, many automakers refer to severe driving as “special operating conditions.”
Shock/Strut – Hydraulic dampers that help control and smoothen the vertical and horizontal motion experienced by a car as it travels. Wornshocksor struts will sometimes squeak and may allow a car’s ride to become “bouncy.”
Spark Plug – An engine component that uses electricity to create a spark, igniting the fuel/air mixture inside the engine’s combustion chamber. Generally, engines have at least one spark plug per cylinder. Most automakers recommend replacing spark plugs at least once during a vehicle’s life span. Check your owners manual for the proper replacement interval.
Synthetic Motor Oil – A motor oil manufactured from advanced base oil and additives that generally outperforms conventional motor oil. Provides the ultimate in protection for modern engines. Especially useful in very hot or cold conditions.
T Tire Rotation– A service that improves tire life by swapping a car’s front and rear tires, often crisscrossing the tires, as well. Brake-O-Rama recommend this service every 7,500 miles.
TPMS – Tire Pressure Monitoring System. A government-mandated safety system that constantly monitors the tire pressure on late-model vehicles and alerts drivers if tire pressure falls below a safe threshold. The TPMS usually has to be reset with a special tool or procedure after a vehicle’s tires are removed for service.
Traction Control – A system that controls wheelspin on slippery surfaces. Sensors determine if the drive wheels have lost traction, and the car’s computer either applies the brakes to stop wheelspin or reduces the throttle.
Tune-Up – A service offered by Brake-O-Rama that ensures an engine is in peak operating condition. Most modern tune-ups consist of changing the engine’s spark plugs, installing a new serpentine belt, and inspecting the engine’s various systems for signs of damage or leaks.
Turbocharger – Essentially an “air pump” that uses exhaust gases to spin a small air compressor, allowing more air to enter an engine and increasing potential power output. Superchargers operate on the same concept, only they use an engine-driven belt instead of exhaust gas to spin the compressor.
V Variable Valve Timing – Also known as VVT. A system that uses a computer to automatically alter the valve timing (i.e. the rate at which the valves open and close) of an engine to produce maximum efficiency.
W Water-Repellent Glass Treatment – A service that applies a thin coat of water-repellent chemical to a vehicle’s windshield, allowing water to more easily be wiped or blown away and improving vision.
Wheel Balancing – A service that ensures a vehicle’s wheels are balanced, or perfectly weighted to reduce rotational vibrations that are often felt as a “shimmy” in the steering wheel at highway speeds. Generally requires tires to be removed from vehicle to be balanced.
Z Zerk – A grease fitting where grease is added to a vehicle. See “Grease.”