Basic Terminology related to Cars

Basic Terminology related to Cars

Basic Terminology related to Cars


With the beginning of nineteenth century automobiles entered the transportation market, but only for limited audience. However, the introduction of Model T by Henry Ford changes people’s way to live, work and travel. It transformed the automobile from luxury into a necessity. As the technology improved, vehicles began to move faster and more people started to buy them. And now, we have become so dependent on vehicles that it is almost impossible to live them.

Gradually automobile industry rocketed to new heights giving consumers many options to consider while buying a new vehicle. Nowadays it has become so common to own a car. In spite of this, not everybody knows about specifications related to cars. While reading a car’s description it is common to come up with terms such as wheelbase, ground clearance, FWD, RWD, engine capacity. If one is not a techno lover and have no idea about vehicle’s configuration, still there are certain terms related to vehicles that one should know. Even though there is no loss in not knowing these terminologies, but on the other side there’s no harm in getting educated. So, here is the detailed and easy description of few terms related to cars that one encounters with, in everyday life.


  • ABS-
    Antilock Braking System (ABS) is computer-controlled system that prevents brakes from locking up and tires from skidding during hard braking.

  • Air bags-
    An Airbag is an active safety device commonly found in all modern day cars that automatically inflates in case of a collision. It imparts a cushioning effect for both the driver and the occupants to combat the impact of sudden thrust during an accident.

  • Central Locking System-
    On a vehicle with power door locks, the system locks or unlocks all doors at one time.

  • Engine-
    It is a machine that is designed to convert one form of energy into mechanical energy. The basic job of engine is to convert fuel into motion by burning the fuel inside it. This helps in rotating the crankshaft and eventually causes the wheels to turn.

  • Engine Capacity-
    Engine capacity is the combined capacity of all cylinders of the engine added together in its one complete cycle. For instance, if an engine is having capacity of say 1000cc (cubic centimeters), then it can be said that the capacity of that engine is 1 Liter. More the engine capacity, better the performance.

  • Engine Displacement-
    The total of the volume used for combustion inside the cylinders of an engine. Measured in liters on newer models, or in cubic inches on older models.

  • Engine Oil-
    A substance that lubricates and cools the moving parts of the engine and reduces corrosion and the formation of rust.

  • Front-Wheel Drive (FWD)-
    A transmission system that provides power to the front wheels of a motor vehicle. Also known as front-drive.

  • Fuel-
    A combustible, vaporous mixture of air and gasoline which is ignited within an engine to produce power. This term is often used in reference to the gasoline itself.

  • Fuel Type-
    The type of fuel used to power a vehicle. There are several fuel types such as gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel, LPG, electricity, hybrid.

  • Fuel Efficiency-
    A measure of the amount of fuel used by a vehicle over a certain distance, or the distance traveled per volume of fuel used (number of miles a vehicle gets per gallon). It is generally measured in Kilometers per Liter (KMPL or KPL). Higher the ratio of distance to the amount of fuel used, more efficiently the vehicle uses fuel.

  • Ground Clearance-
    The distance between the ground and the lowest point of the vehicle chassis (usually the axle). Or more properly, the distance between the lowest point of the vehicle and level ground.

  • Horsepower-
    It is a rate at which work can be done. A unit of measurement for engine power that was originally developed as a way to express the output of steam locomotives in terms of the strength of draft horses.

  • Make or Brand-
    It determines the company name that manufactures the car. For example- Toyota, Honda.

  • Models-
    Cars that company manufactures to sell. For example- Toyota Aqua from Toyota, Honda Civic from Honda.

  • Power Steering-
    An electric and/or hydraulic system that multiplies, for ease and comfort, the force a driver exerts on the steering wheel.

  • Power Windows-
    Windows that can be raised and lowered by pressing a button or switch, rather than using a hand-turned crank handle.

  • Rear Wheel Drive (RWD)-
    The drive-train in which power is applied through the rear wheels only.

  • Track- 
    The distance from the center plane of one wheel to the center plane of its opposing wheel.

  • Torque-
    Torque (also called couple) is a vector that measures engine’s power that how forcefully it can rotate the crankshaft at a given engine speed. It is a measure of the ability of an engine to do work. The unit of measure is a pound-foot in the US and UK (and other Imperial system using countries), and Newton meter by metric system standards (specifically Europe).

  • Transmission-
    The transmission (also called gearbox) is a gear-changing assembly which consists of a number of gears and other associated parts and it is used to transfer the power from a vehicle’s engine to one or more driving axles. Most modern cars have a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.

  • Automatic Transmission-
    A transmission that uses a torque converter, planetary gear-set and clutches or bands to automatically change a vehicles gears.

  • Manual Transmission-
    A transmission that varies the power and torque through a foot pedal controlled clutch and a floor-mounted or steering-shaft-mounted gear selection lever.

  • Variant or Trim Levels-
    A model may be offered in varying trim levels, which denotes different configurations of standard equipment and amenities. For instance, the base trim may have only basic features (wheel covers, cloth seats) compared to the top-of-the-line model (alloy wheels, leather upholstery).
    German automakers, such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz, BMW offers a limited number of trim levels. For instance- Audi offer three (Standard, SE and S-Line), BMW offers only two (Standard and SE).



  • Wheelbase-
    It is the distance between the front axle and the rear axle of a vehicle. Cars with a longer wheelbase are more stable at high speeds and provide better interior room, while cars with a shorter wheelbase have better city handling and are generally shorter.


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