Auto Repair Terminology

January 12, 2023

auto repair terminology


You’re at your local auto shop and the mechanic says your tri-bombulator is on the fritz and you’re gonna need to replace the entire flatootsie to get everything back up and running. On top of that, you’re leaking methyl-chloro-proto-distillate and if you don’t get it taken care of, your entire engine might suddenly detach and rocket out of your vehicle like a deflating balloon.

Of course, none of that is useful information because those aren’t real auto repair terms and they don’t actually mean anything. Also, You sit the mechanic down and open up this page so you can both learn something about real auto repair terms that actually exist. Next, Knowing these terms can not only help you understand what’s going on with your car or truck, but can also make it much easier to resolve certain issues yourself, should you so choose.


This is part 1 of our auto service terminology guide, including terms from the letter A on through to and including D. If you want to add some terms we missed, leave a comment at the bottom of the page and we’ll update the guide ASAP!



Anti-lock Braking System. Prevents the wheels from locking up during hard breaking which causes them to skid instead of stop (easier and better braking).

A/C Blower

Part of the air conditioning system. It blows air over the evaporator, cooling the air and circulating it into the cabin.

A/C Compressor

The air conditioner compressor is a small engine that increases pressure of refrigerant inside the A/C system. Pressure changes the boiling point of chemicals, and changing pressure or refrigerant allows temperature exchanges that circulate through the system and ultimately produce cold air.

A/C Drain Hose

Simply a hose used to drain water and condensation from the A/C evaporator.

A/C Evaporator

A metal structure which converts refrigerant to gas, allowing it to absorb heat.

A/C Filter

Filters air going into the ventilation system and cabin.

A/C Refrigerant

Fluid necessary to exchange heat in the A/C system. Changing its pressure changes its boiling point, which allows heat exchange to be controlled.

A/C System

The air conditioner is what produces and circulates cool air into the cabin of the vehicle.


Not made by the manufacturer.

Air Pump Filter

Remove debris and other contaminants from the air that is fed into the air injection system.


AKA engine coolant. Fluid with a higher boiling point than water so it doesn’t overheat, but a lower freezing point too so it won’t freeze either.


Balance Shaft Belt

A special belt that synchronizes timing to the crankshaft in order to reduce engine vibrations caused by the combustion cycle.

Ball Joints

Joints in the steering linkage and suspension system that allow a greater range of rotation.

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty

A warranty that covers everything but items subject to normal wear and tear (tires, batteries, filters, etc).

Battery Disconnect

Special device that automatically disconnects the vehicle’s battery after a collision, preventing further concerns.

Bed Dimensions

Shape and size of the bed of a truck.

Bed Liner

Hard plastic coating applied to the bed of most new trucks in order to prevent or reduce damage.

Block Heater

An electric heater used to preheat engines so that they’ll start under extreme cold conditions.


Simply, the external panels that enclose the cabin of your vehicle (the doors, side panels, hood, roof, trunk, etc).

Body Water Drains

Allows rain and water to flow off of the vehicle rather than into the cabin or trunk.


Supports that improve seating position. Extremely helpful for health issues related to driving for extended periods.


Diameter (in inches) of the cylinders in the vehicle engine. Size of the bore effects engine displacement which is how much power the engine can produce. Bigger bore usually means more power; large bore means more room for fuel injection which means more fuel to burn which means more power (usually).

Brake Booster

Amplifies pressure applied to power brakes.

Brake Fluid

The fluid used in the hydraulic brake system to create pressure that pinches the brake pads against the rotor causing the vehicle to stop.

Brake Lines

The lines, hoses, and connections used to carry brake fluid throughout the brake system.

Brake Linings

Heat-resistant material added to brake shoes.

Brake Master Cylinder

Stores and pushes brake fluid through brake lines to brakes.

Brake Pads

High-friction material attached to a metal backing plate and used to buffer contact between metal.

Brake Pedal Spring

Offers resistance in the brake pedal and also resets it into position when you release the brake.


Additional structural buffers on the front and back of the vehicle used to prevent serious damage in case of minor collisions.

suspension repair



Houses the brake pad and pistons used in the braking system.


Supplies fuel and air to the engine to be combusted for power.

Catalytic Converter

A canister containing chemicals that react with harmful emissions and reduce them as they exit the vehicle.

Charcoal Canister

Captures fuel vapors from the fuel tank and carburetor before they can escape into the air.


Specially formulated chemicals that have a higher boiling point than water so they don’t overheat as much, but also a lower freezing point than water so it won’t freeze in cold.


Used to change gears in a vehicle with a manual transmission. AKA clutch pedal.

Clutch Fluid

Fluid used to help disengage the clutch from the flywheel.


Storage area between the seats near front of the vehicle (usually where cabin temperature controls and radio are). Also, Not an Xbox.

Cooling Fan/ Cooling Shroud

Draws cooling air over the vehicle’s radiator, keeping the engine from overheating.

Crumple Zone

Sections of the vehicle that are meant to collapse safely in order to prevent harm to the driver.


The space within which the engine pistons travel.


Differential Fluid

Used to lubricate gears inside the differential.

Direct Injection System

The fuel and air injection system nozzles are located inside the combustion chamber of each engine piston.

Distributor Cap

A non-conductive cap over each spark plug.

Distributor Rotor

Rotating cap that aligns contacts to complete the circuit between the ignition coil and spark plug.

Diverter Valve

Reduces emissions by taking air from the air pump into the intake, diluting the air/fuel mixture.

Downshift Cable

A transmission cable connected to the throttle that shifts into a lower gear when the accelerator is depressed beyond a certain point.

Drain Plug

A plug, for drains.

Drive Belt

A belt that transfers rotation of the engine through the crankshaft pulley into the various parts of the engine including alternator, water pump and power steering pump.

Drive Belt Tensioner

Self-adjusts tension in the drive belt.

Drive Shaft

A sturdy metal rod that joins the engine to the wheel differential so the engine can drive the wheels.

Drive Train

System that generates power and transfers it to the wheels.

Drive Train Mounts

Energy-absorbing mounts that attach the drive train to the chassis.

Dynamic Brake Control

An emergency braking system that adapts to other drivers and the environment around you to improve braking, or induces braking if it’s an emergency.


Steering & Suspension

Phew! That’s a lot of terms and we’ve only done 4 letters of the alphabet so far! Don’t worry, we’re going to do every letter soon so tune in next week for part 2 of our list of auto repair terms that you may want to know.

If you can’t wait and want to catch up on your car jargon, you can check out Car & Driver’s extensive glossary of terms here:


Before any presumption, no, we are not using that as our own reference, as this is an auto repair terminology guide, whereas there’s is a broader glossary about cars in general.

Also, If you think of any auto mechanic or auto repair terms we missed, please let us know in the comments below, thanks.



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Buddy Rausch

Buddy Rausch

Buddy started his auto career journey at Butte College and started his own auto repair company in 2007. Since then he has worked on countless cars, diagnosing, repairing, and replacing worn, faulty, and broken parts.

After a few years, he moved to a bigger shop to accommodate his growth and to better serve the Chico, CA community. It’s a family-owned & operated business.

Outside of work Buddy enjoys spending time with his family and playing softball is one of his many passions.

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