The Main Parts of a Car
We all rely on cars at some point in our lives. Whether as passengers or renting a car for a trip, even people who aren’t car owners depend on cars for transportation from time to time.
For this reason, it would be great if we were all given a basic understanding of the main parts of a car at some point in our educational years. However, Automotives 101 isn’t a class most of us are offered in school.
To recover that lapse in knowledge, here are the main parts of a car and a little bit of information about each of them.
Main Car Parts
Knowing the main part of a car may help you understand what’s going wrong if there’s ever a problem with the car you’re driving, even if it’s not yours. Because the unthinkable can happen, even when you’re in a rental car.
Car Part #1: Transmission
The transmission is one of the most important parts of a car. The transmission is the vehicle’s device used for gearing that provides the correct ratio of power to the drivetrain based on driving conditions and available power from the engine.
The transmission adjusts or is adjusted to make the right choices of choosing a higher or lower gear while providing as much power as needed without adding strain to the engine. The shift of a gear has a distinct feel, timing, and sound that you will learn to listen for as you drive.
Here are the types of transmission your car may have:
- Automatic Transmission: When the choice of higher or lower gear, or gear shifts, is made automatically, this is considered to be an automatic transmission. These shifts are sometimes made automatically using automatic transmission fluid by the car’s engine computer. Some transmissions can shift seamlessly using a continuously variable transmission that automatically changes gear ratios to seem like a shiftless transmission.
- Manual Transmission: In a car with a manual transmission, the driver can shift the power train’s gearing device into the appropriate gear for the situation by hand.
The transmission is so important because, even if the engine is running beautifully, if the transmission doesn’t work, your car won’t be going anywhere.
Car Part #2: Brakes
While driving is the goal when you’re in a car, it’s just as important that you can stop driving when you need to come to a stop or slow down. For this reason, your car’s brakes are one of the essential parts of your car.
A car’s brakes and the system that operates them are used to make the vehicle slow down or come to a stop. Additionally, the braking system helps keep a stopped or parked car from moving. The next time you park on an incline, thank your brakes for not letting your car slide down the hill.
Newer cars also have assistive technology that helps you brake in an emergency to avoid a collision with other objects.
Car Part #3: Battery
Like us, your car needs the energy to do what it needs to do. Your car stores energy for its use in its battery. Your car uses this stored energy primarily for electricity in the electrical components of your vehicle.
You may have heard of people “jumping off” a car. This process is using another energy source, like another car battery, to jumpstart the battery into working again. This is usually a method tried when your car won’t start, and sometimes the little jolt from another vehicle is all you need to get your vehicle back to running right.
There are more batteries present in hybrid and electric cars, so as you can imagine, batteries are essential to these cars.
Car Part #4: Radiator
The radiator helps in the heat exchange that removes excess heat from the engine. The radiator is part that belongs to the car’s cooling system. Other features of the cooling system are:
- Liquid coolant
- Coolant hoses that wrap around the engine to keep it cool
- A Thermostat
As coolant travels through the hoses surrounding the engine, the heated liquid is sent back to the radiator to deposit the heat in the radiator in exchange for being cooled by interacting with the air that passes through.
Car Part #5: Alternator
The alternator is another part of the car’s electrical system. The alternator helps by generating electricity through the use of the car’s mechanical functions. The alternator not only helps produce electricity but it keeps the battery charged.
If your battery is tested and should be in working order but isn’t, it may be necessary to check your alternator.
Car Part #6: Fuel Tank
Your car needs fuel for its system as well. Gasoline, typically, helps to provide power to the vehicle. It’s possible that your vehicle may take diesel. It’s a good idea to check the owner’s manual to see what fuel is needed and how much. On most vehicles, the car has a fuel tank. It stores your fuel until it is needed.
Car Part #7: Engine
The engine in your car is likely to be an internal combustion engine.
An internal combustion engine is a heat engine, and to keep the engine from overheating, a cooling system, as mentioned above, is used.
Internal combustion refers to the burning of gasoline that is converted to mechanical energy. Another name for mechanical energy is torque.
Torque is the energy applied to the axles and wheels of the car to help propel the car forward to get it rolling along.
Car Part #8: Axle
As mentioned above, the engine provides energy known as torque. In order to drive, that torque needs to be distributed to the wheels. The axles are located in the front and the rear of the vehicle. These are cross members that support the wheel hubs that are attached to them.
The axles’ system is called the suspension system, and the axles send the torque (energy) from the engine to the wheels. The transmission is also part of that process between the wheels and the engine.
You And Your Main Car Parts
Knowing your main car parts does help you understand your vehicle better, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to be responsible for your own repairs.
Remember to keep a watch on your car’s various systems and components to identify signs of wear and tear on your car. A watchful eye could be the preventative step you need to save you time and money.
If you’re unsure, seek a professional’s opinion. When dealing with a rental car, be sure to call your rental car company if you notice any problems or damage.
Whether you drive a vehicle all the time, spend most of your time as a passenger, or just enjoy the occasional car rental, you must understand the basic parts of a car. This will help you diagnose if you have a serious problem or prevent severe issues in the long run.
CONTINUOUSLY VARIABLE TRANSMISSIONS: THEORY AND PRACTICE | osti.gov
Driver Assistance Technologies | nhtsa.gov
Batteries | energy.gov