Names of Car Parts

Car Radiator

Car Engine Radiator

Have you ever looked at the engine of your car and wondered what the names of car parts were? In this article, you're going to explore the major components of a car and learn not only what the part is called, but also what it does.

Radiators prevent your car from overheating. Like a radiator in a home that takes hot water and uses it to heat your home (in the process cooling the water), the car radiator uses the same heat exchanger principles.

A radiator uses outside air to cool the hot coolant fluid flowing through it. The coolant then circulates back through the engine to cool it down.

Engine Block

The Engine Block

While you may know what your engine looks like, this is what an engine block looks like. The engine block is the basic, metal "block" within which the large bored holes are machined where the pistons will eventually go. The engine block is considered the very heart of the engine, because it's where the combustion and the stroke of each cylinder takes place. The engine block needs holes for lubricants, fuels, sensors, and more. Older engines were made of cast iron, but modern engines are made of strong and lightweight aluminum composites.

Car Muffler

The Muffler or Silencer

While most people recognize the tail pipe of a car, unless you've gone underneath a vehicle, you've probably never seen a muffler. Before the invention of the muffler, gasoline engines were very loud due emissions of each internal combustion. However, inventor Milton Reeves eventually fabricated a "silencer" which resonated the combustion noise inside a tuned metal chamber. As sound waves bounce around, they cancel eachother out, thereby dramatically reducing the overall noise eventually released by the tail pipe.

Catalytic Converter

The Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter comes in many shapes and sizes, but invariably, it is an integral part of the exhaust system. You'll usually find it toward the front of the vehicle on the exhaust pipe. The catalytic converter was a device introduced to the car market in 1975 in order to improve the emissions of all vehicles. The internal structure of the catalytic converter looks like a honeycomb. Within this device, the exhaust is chemically broken down into a less toxic form. The only side effect of these devices is that chemical process sometimes gives off a sulfer (rotten eggs) smell.

Disk Brakes

Disk Brakes - Rotor and Caliper

Have you ever had an opportunity to see the wheels of your car completely removed? If you did, then you've seen the braking system. One of the most common brake setups is the disk brake with a caliper. The photo here shows a ventilated rotor, which is the flat disk that spins. The clamp on the side of the rotor is the caliper, which has brake pads on the inside of the clamp where it touches the rotor. As the caliper applies pressure (when you press the brakes), the friction against the rotor slows down the car.

Oxygen Sensor

Oxygen Sensor

An oxygen sensor does exactly what its name implies. It tests for a specific level of oxygen in the exhaust gas of your engine. Oxygen levels in the exhaust tell the engine control unit (the computer that controls the engine) what is going on with the combustion process and whether the fuel and air mixture is appropriate. Failed oxygen sensors are the most common culprit for check engine lights in older vehicles, but the impact a failed oxygen sensor may have on the overall operation of the engine is relatively small. However, you do want to eventually replace the device to insure top efficiency of your engine.

Spark Plugs

Spark Plugs

The spark plug is a critical component for your car engine. The spark plug triggers the combustion process for each cylinder and drives the piston down, which ultimately is what propels your car forward. If even a single spark plug fails in your engine, you will notice it. When the spark plug fails, one piston will start to knock against the walls of the engine block - creating a noticeable noise. It's always a good idea to give your car a regular "tune-up," which involves the replacement of all engine spark plugs with new ones.

Car Engine Starter

The Engine Starter

The engine starter is a fairly small device that starts working when you turn the ignition key of your car. The ignition enables the car starter, which causes the car engine to turn over as the battery applies electricity to the spark plugs. The plugs ignite according to the timing of the engine, and ideally one of them ignites and the combustion process begins. At that point the engine is started and idling.

Car Distributor

The Distributor

The distributor is usually found on older vehicles that don't have fuel injection systems. The distributor was part of the electrical system, and each spark plug wire was connected to it. As the engine runs, a small disk with an electrical contact spins in the center of the distributor and evenly distributes an electrical impulse to each spark plug at regularly spaced intervals. The distributor basically "distributes" the electrical impulse to each spark plug as needed.

Car Alternator

The Alternator

The alternator is another very important engine component. As the engine spins, it not only turns the wheels of the car, but thanks to the serpentine belt, it also turns the alternator. This device converts that mechanical energy into electrical energy, which recharges the battery and runs many of the car's critical electrical systems.

If you found this slideshow of car parts interesting, make sure to check out the following LoveToKnow Cars articles as well.

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Names of Car Parts