It happens all the time, you’re describing a problem to your mechanic or talking to someone about a car part, but the exact name for the thing evades you? It’s at the tip of your tongue but unfortunately remains there.
Wouldn’t a list of car parts come handy during times when your memory fails you? Lucky you, today’s piece is about that – a list of car parts names and a quick description of their functions.
List of Car Parts and Their Functions
This quick reference is organised around main car part categories, and the components under each category are arranged alphabetically.
Car Body Parts
1. Bonnet – a hinged cover protecting your car’s engine compartment. The hinges allow you to open and close them quickly when accessing the compartment.
2. Bumper – a durable plastic attachment on the front and the back of a vehicle that absorbs minor impact and minimises damage during collisions.
3. Fender – the metal structure around the wheel well. A fender prevents the wheel from throwing road debris in the air.
4. Grille – it covers the car's front while allowing air to flow into the engine compartment. It also serves an aesthetic purpose as part of a car's 'face' or look.
5. Pillar – there are several pillars in a vehicle, named A, B, C and D, although some cars do without a B-pillar. Pillars support a car’s roof, and they’re where door hinges and latches are attached.
6. Quarter Panel – a vehicle body panel between the rear door and the boot. Most car designs have the quarter panel wrapped around the rear wheel well.
7. Spoiler – an aerodynamic body attachment that reduces the adverse side effects of airflow above, below, and around the vehicle.
8. Wheels – circular car parts responsible for moving a car from one point to another, consisting of the following parts.
- Rims - the cylindrical metal parts around which you wrap rubber tyres. They work with the tyres to maintain a tight seal and retain air inside.
- Tyres – are round-shaped rubber components wrapped around the wheels and the part of the car that touches the ground. They grip the road and help the car move. Know more about your tyres by understanding tyre markings.
- Hubcaps – attachments protecting your wheels from road debris and dirt, keeping them clean and minimising wear.
- Lug Nuts – also known as wheel nuts, these small parts secure the wheels to the vehicle.
9. Boot – aka trunk, it’s the vehicle’s main cargo compartment, separate from the car’s interior. Typically accessed through a hatch at the car’s rear.
10. Doors – a car’s door allows you to enter and exit it, and it typically sits on hinges and opens outwards, though some doors slide on tracks instead.
11. Side View Mirrors – mirrors on both sides of the vehicle’s exterior that help the driver see the vehicle’s sides, rear, and blind spots.
12. Windows – glass sections of the car protecting occupants from wind, dust, and debris while allowing for clear vision all around the vehicle.
- Door windows – windows that are part of the vehicle’s doors, typically with a motor that allows for opening and closing.
- Windscreen – aka windshields, are windows at the front and rear of a vehicle, providing protection from air and debris while moving.
- Sunroof – a small window on a vehicle’s roof that allows more natural light to enter the cabin. You can usually open and close it like any other window.
13. Miscellaneous Car Body Parts
- Fuel Tank Door – a small panel that conceals the fuel cap and blends in with the rest of the vehicle’s exterior. It also protects and insulates the fuel cap.
- Hinges - hardware parts securing car doors to the vehicle and allowing you to open and close them as needed.
Electrical and Electronic Systems / Car Parts
1. Starting System – cranks the engine and helps it begin the internal combustion process. It consists of the following parts:
- Starter Motor – a small electric motor that cranks the car’s combustion engine and helps it start.
- Glow Plug – used in diesel engines, a glow plug heats fuel and air to begin the combustion process.
2. Ignition System – continuously produces electric sparks to ignite the fuel-air mixture inside the engine. This system keeps the engine running until you shut it off.
- Ignition Coil – creates the high voltage used by spark plugs to create sparks.
- Distributor – a rotating shaft that delivers electric current from the ignition coil to spark plugs in the correct order and timing.
- Spark Plug – delivers sparks in the engine chambers to ignite the fuel-air mixture.
3. Infotainment System – electronic components providing entertainment, navigation, and other forms of connectivity.
- Touchscreen – interactive display unit that shows information and entertainment, controllable by touch.
- Head Unit – for cars without touchscreens, the head unit is the user interface used to control the radio and other infotainment features.
- Speakers – produces audio outputs generated by the vehicle’s information or entertainment system.
4. Sensors – modern cars have various sensors collecting data. The onboard computers then use the gathered data to optimise the vehicle's performance. Here are the most common sensors you’ll find in modern vehicles:
- Mass Air Flow Sensor – measures the volume of air entering the engine.
- Engine Speed Sensor – used to measure gear speed and position.
- Oxygen Sensor – aka O2 sensor, measures oxygen levels in exhaust gases as they leave the engine to adjust the air/fuel ratio as needed.
- Spark Knock Sensor – detects unusual combustion in the engine like preignition and detonation.
- Coolant Sensor – measures how hot the engine is at any given time.
- Fuel Temperature Sensor – monitors the vehicle’s fuel temperature.
- Voltage Sensor – helps to manage the car’s speed, adjusting it as needed.
- Camshaft Position Sensor – measures the exact position of the camshaft to know which engine cylinder valves are open or close.
- Throttle Position Sensor – measures how open the throttle valve is, leading to adjustments in the engine air intake.
- Vehicle Speed Sensor – measures the car’s speed, particularly wheel speed or transmission output speed.
5. Cameras – rear cameras increase visibility around blind spots (e.g., behind the car while reversing), while dash cams record video for monitoring purposes.
6. Electric Power Supply System – components that generate, store, and deliver electricity to the vehicle’s electric and electronic components. This system also serves the car’s combustion engine by supplying electricity needed for the internal combustion process.
- Car Battery – stores and delivers electric power to start the vehicle and power electric and electronic components when the engine isn’t running.
- Alternator – recharges the car battery and powers electrical and electronic parts while the car engine is running.
- Voltage Regulator – the component that controls the alternator, ensuring that the car receives the correct voltage.
7. Meters and Gauges – tools that provide the driver with crucial information about the car’s various systems.
- Fuel Gauge – shows you how much fuel is left in your car tank.
- Speedometer – shows you how fast your vehicle is moving.
- Odometer – records the total distance your car has travelled.
- Temperature Warning – either a gauge or indicator that warns you when the engine is overheating.
- Tachometer – measures and shows you the engine's working speed expressed in revolutions per minute or RPM.
- Oil Pressure Gauge – measures the oil pressure level in your car, which helps you identify engine problems early.
- Charging System Gauge – informs you if your car's charging system isn't working correctly. Also known as a battery gauge or indicator and sometimes shows you the remaining battery levels.
8. Lighting and Signalling – components illuminating the road to improve the car's visibility and indicate turning intentions to other vehicles.
- Headlights – lights illuminating the road ahead of the vehicle.
- Taillights – these lights make the rear of your car visible to other drivers, particularly in low-light conditions.
- Reverse Lights – rear lights that turn on when you put the car into reverse, informing other drivers of your intentions to reverse and illuminating the area behind you.
- Indicator lights – lights indicating your turning intentions to other drivers and road-users.
- Interior and Miscellaneous Lights - lights providing visibility for the interior and compartments like the boot and engine bay.
9. Electrical Connectors and Wiring – these are parts of the car’s electrical system delivering electrical power and signals between controls and systems to ensure correct functioning.
10. Central Locking and Alarm Systems – components that enable simultaneous locking of all car doors. These systems are typically paired with an alarm to further discourage car theft or intrusions.
11. Miscellaneous Electrical and Electronic Parts
- Switches – electrical controls that enable car occupants to control and adjust the vehicle’s systems as needed.
- Fuses – sacrificial devices protecting electrical circuits and components from damage due to short circuits and power surges.
- Wiring – wiring running throughout the car carries electrical power and signals from power sources to electrical components.
Interior Parts and Systems
1. Seating – car seats provide comfort to occupants while maximising safety.
2. Flooring – a vehicle's flooring protects occupants from the road underneath while also dampening sounds from the undercarriage.
3. Interior Panelling – interior car panels conceal electrical wiring and other components inside vehicle doors.
4. Air Conditioning and Climate Control Systems – depending on the outside climate, the car interior can become too hot or too cold. Air conditioning and climate control allow you to manage temperatures and maximise comfort.
Powertrain and Chassis Parts
1. Engine Parts – these parts are responsible for the combustion process, which generates power to make a car move.
- Crankshaft – converts the linear motion produced by the pistons to a rotational motion, transferring engine power to make the car move forward.
- Camshaft – a timing device that coordinates the opening and closing of intake and exhaust valves in the engine.
- Cylinder Head – controls how air and fuel move into each engine cylinder.
- Drive Belt – transfers energy from the engine to other parts like the alternator, power steering pump, water pump, and more.
- Piston – transfers force from the combustion process to turn the crankshaft.
- Turbocharger – compresses the air flowing into the engine’s cylinders, helping it to produce much more power.
2. Engine Cooling System – the internal combustion process generates plenty of heat. Engine cooling systems keep the engine running optimally while preventing overheating.
- Radiator – absorbs heat and dissipates it into the air to prevent the engine from overheating.
- Cooling Fan – forces more cool air to pass through the radiator and cool the engine more efficiently.
- Water Pump – drives coolant through the radiator to absorb engine heat and dissipate it into the passing air.
- Thermostat – a valve that regulates the flow of coolant through the radiator, increasing the flow when the engine gets too hot.
3. Engine Oil Systems – engines have hundreds of moving parts, large and small. To work in harmony, they rely on systems that deliver oil and other fluids.
4. Exhaust System – exhaust gases and other combustion by-products must safely exit the engine and the vehicle, and the exhaust system and its components make that possible.
- Catalytic Converter – converts toxic exhaust gases into less damaging by-products.
- Exhaust Pipe – channels harmful exhaust gases out from the engine and away from the vehicle.
- Muffler – reduces the noise that travels out of the engine and through the exhaust system.
- Exhaust Manifold – channels exhaust gasses from each engine cylinder to the car’s catalytic converter.
- Heat Shield – prevents the hot exhaust system from heating surrounding parts like the car’s floorboards and anything under the vehicle.
5. Fuel Supply System – the combustion process requires fuel, and it’s the fuel supply system that ensures fuel is continually delivered to the engine’s chambers at the precise amount and timing.
- Engine Air Filter – before fuel and air mix inside the engine cylinder, an air filter removes impurities from the air.
- Carburettor – controls the mixture of air and fuel used in the combustion process.
- Fuel Cap – a cap securing the fuel filler neck and preventing fuel vapours from escaping.
- Fuel Filter – removes contaminants from the fuel supply, thereby protecting fuel lines, injectors, and other parts of the fuel system.
- Fuel Injector – sprays fuel into the intake manifold to be mixed with air for the combustion process.
- Fuel Line – a pipe that carries fuel from the tank to wherever it's needed, including the engine.
- Fuel Pump – forces fuel from the tank to the engine.
- Fuel Tank – a container that stores fuel safely.
- Fuel Water Separator – protects your fuel system and engine by removing water and other particulates from fuel.
- Throttle Body – controls how the intake of air mixes with fuel in the engine.
6. Electrical Powertrain Parts – modern internal combustion engines don't just rely on mechanical parts but also on electrical parts. This is especially true with hybrid and electric vehicles.
- Electric Motor – takes over the responsibility of the combustion engine to produce power for the vehicle.
- High Voltage Battery Pack – stores large amounts of electrical power for use by the onboard electric motor(s).
- Fuel Cell – this power source combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity onboard the vehicle and power its electric motor(s).
- Hydrogen Tank - a safe storage unit for hydrogen that’s needed for the fuel cell.
- Inverter – a device that changes direct-current (DC) electricity to alternating-current (AC) power.
- Charge Port – connects the vehicle to a regular power source to charge onboard batteries using grid electrical power.
7. Steering and Suspension Systems – vehicle steering systems allow you to turn the car in any direction with ease. Part of the same system also provides suspension, maximising your comfort and the vehicle's performance on rough ground.
- Steering Wheel – converts turning inputs from the driver, causing them to adjust the direction.
- Steering Column – links the steering wheel to the rest of the steering system.
- Steering Gearbox – contains steering gears that transmit and magnify the driver’s inputs at the steering wheel.
- Drop or Pitman Arm – a shaft that converts the angular movements of the sector shaft to straight or linear movements that turn the car’s wheels.
- Ball Joints – allows your steering knuckles and control arms to pivot, providing more precise control.
- Drag Link – the part connecting the Pitman arm to the steering arm, converting the rotary motion.
- Steering Arm – the part that causes car wheels to turn left or right due to input from the steering box.
- Strut – supports the car’s weight and absorbs impacts from the ground underneath.
- Spring – holds the vehicle's weight while allowing wheels to move up and down, minimising any impact on the car chassis.
- Spindle – part of the suspension system attached to the upper and lower control arms and carries the wheel hub.
- Shock Absorber – dampens the compression and rebound of the car’s suspension, ensuring that tyres touch the ground at all times.
8. Transmission System – the system responsible for moving energy from the engine to the wheels, providing speed and power according to your driving needs.
- Differential – a system of gears that makes it possible for different wheels on the same axle to rotate at different speeds.
- Gearbox – transfers engine power to the driveshaft and ensures that the correct amount of power goes to the wheels at particular speeds.
- Transfer Case – transfers power from the gearbox to all four wheels on the vehicle.
- Clutch – on manual gearboxes, the clutch starts or stops power transmission to the drive shaft, allowing for a change of gears.
- Valve Body – on automatic transmissions, the valve body channels hydraulic fluid to the correct path to trigger the selected transmission gear.
9. Braking System – car brakes consist of a complex system that brings the car to a halt safely and in a timely manner.
- Brake Pedal – where the driver applies pressure to control the vehicle’s braking system.
- Brake Pump – a pump that converts the pressure applied on the brake pedal to hydraulic force that applies the brakes and slows the vehicle.
- Brake Pad – a pad that creates friction against the brake disc to slow and eventually stop the vehicle.
- Brake Disc – a metal disc where friction is generated (with brake pads) to slow the vehicle down.
- Brake Calliper – the part holding brake pads and clamps down on the brake disc when the driver presses the brake pedal.
- Brake Fluid Reservoir – a container for storing brake fluid to protect it from contaminants.
- Anti-Lock Braking System – this safety feature prevents wheels from locking during emergency brake situations.
10. Miscellaneous Powertrain and Chassis Parts
Hoses – carry air, water, and other fluids from their reservoirs to where they’re needed.