Car terminology:

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Car terminology: understand the terminology of today's new cars!

Many new systems are available as options on new vehicles to improve driver control, safety, reliability, and passenger comfort. Understanding what these systems do and the benefits they provide can help you decide whether these options are worthwhile for you.

Such systems are often complex and involve complicated electronics that could impose significant repair costs after warranty expiration. Others, such as Micron air filtration, require periodic replacement of the air filter. Ask about the maintenance and service requirements for each of these options before deciding to purchase them.

Why you should learn car terminology:

The features on new vehicles are becoming more complex. Unless you know the names of many of these systems, you could be paying for options you don't need, or skipping options that would be desirable. A quick review of common terms will put you at ease when a salesman asks about your interest in specific features and options.

What you will need to learn car terminology:

  • Owner's manual
  • Vehicle-specific manual

Do-it-yourself difficulty guide of car terminology


Estimated time required - 1 - 2 Hours

How to understand today's car terminology: do it right!

  1. All-Wheel Drive Cars: All-wheel drive cars have a system driven by all four wheels at the same time. Computer controls may engage all wheels at all times or only two wheels until slippage occurs.
  2. Anti-Lock Brake Systems: Anti-lock brake systems use electronic sensors to detect whether individual wheels are skidding or locked up during braking and momentarily releases braking until traction is regained.
  3. Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD): This braking system electronically distributes braking between front and rear wheels under stopping conditions not aggressive enough to activate ABS. This helps to reduce stopping distances.
  4. Limited Slip Differential: With limited slip differential, power is split evenly between two drive wheels to maximize traction. Prevents one wheel from spinning while the other wheel sits stationary.
  5. Micron Air Filter: Also known as a cabin filter, the Micron air filter removes dust, pollen and other airborne particulates from the air entering the vehicle through the air conditioning or heater vents.
  6. Rear Differential Lock: This electromechanical system locks both rear axles together, providing them with equal drive power. Rear differential lock is for use in limited traction off-road situations.
  7. Traction Control Systems: Traction control systems are electronic systems that sense slippage at the drive wheels and reduce engine power or apply the brakes to regain traction.
  8. Vehicle Skid Control: Vehicle skid control is an electronic system that monitors vehicle speed and direction and compares this data with steering and braking input. This helps the driver maintain control during difficult driving conditions.

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