Talking to car professionals can be intimidating. Be it discussing car repairs with your mechanic, warranty issues with the manufacturer, or the dreaded used car salesman, sometimes, while they are speaking English, it sounds like a completely different language.

While Peter Wilkinson & Co strive to always be open and honest with our customers, not everyone is. With this in mind, we have come up with a simple to read list of common automotive terms to help you communicate in the motorcar business. Useful when dealing with the car repair industry, organising maintenance, or when buying your newest car.

The Car Terms You Need To Know

Air Conditioning

  • Usually refers to the system that produces cool or cold air for the cabin, not specific to a set temperature. See: Climate Control.

Aftermarket Parts

  • Any part that isn’t identified by the manufacturer as an original component. This can be an upgrade or a cheaper replacement part for repairs.

All Wheel Drive (AWD)

  • Describes when a car’s engine drives all four wheels. Normally associated with on-road focused cars. See: Four Wheel Drive.


  • Uses the engine’s mechanical energy converted to electrical energy, powering your car’s electrics and recharging your battery as you drive.

Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)

  • When applying the brake, engages and disengages the break rapidly to slow the vehicle faster and without sliding.


  • The moment when the tyres lose grip on bitumen and slides across a body of water. Can happen on shallow puddles just as readily as deep potholes.

Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP)

  • A government lead system of safety standards for motorcars.

Brake Fluid

  • A liquid that resists compression, allowing foot pressure on the brake pedal to communicate pressure onto the brake pads.


  • An older technology. A carburettor mixes fuel and air in a ratio set for combustion. See: Fuel Injectors

Catalytic Converter

  • Part of the exhaust system of your vehicle, these reduce the emission of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. It is a legal requirement to have one fitted to your vehicle in Australia.


  • The strong metal frame to which the rest of the car is attached. Often thick and expensive to repair safely. Twisting this in an accident is a common reason for writing-off a car.

Climate Control

  • More advanced than air conditioning, climate control allows you to select one (or more) air temperatures for your car to maintain.

Cruise Control

  • These systems will moderate a car’s throttle to maintain a chosen speed. See: Intelligent Cruise Control.

Crumple Zone

  • Parts of the car intended to bend and reduce the impact of collisions. Designed to protect the inner cage of the cabin and passengers within.

Dead Pedal

  • To the left of the pedals in the footwell of the driver seat. Recommended to rest your foot there rather than on the clutch pedal in a manual during normal driving.


  • Usually attached to a brightly coloured ring, when removed it indicated the approximate level of oil in the engine sump.

Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)

  • An electronic system to maximise braking power during an emergency.

Fan Belt

  • Sitting at the front of the engine behind the radiator, this powers the cooling fan. This is a consumable part, expect to replace at least once

Flat Fee Service

  • Usually associated with buying a new car from a dealer, this means that a prescribed number of services are capped at a certain fee.

Four Wheel Drive (4WD)

  • Much like AWD, all wheels are powered by the engine at the same time. This label is generally reserved for bigger, off road vehicles.

Front Wheel Drive (FWD)

  • The most common format for cars. The front wheels handle the power and steering.

Fuel Injectors

  • The evolution of carburettors, these mix air and fuel into the engine at rates subject to engine temperature, engine demand and other variables. Often monitored by the car’s computer.

Want the best service, both in the workshop on your vehicle and in the office with you? Call Peter Wilkinson & Co. and let our specialised smash repair team help you move on from your accident.

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