Car is almost a necessity in US…At some point of you stay in US, you may plan to buy one either new or used. We never owned a car in India and I am not into cars at all. All the car jargon and terminology is like Greek and Latin to me. I do not understand a thing.
After I came to US, I found myself in a kind of bad situation because of lack of basic knowledge of cars. I am sure some of you would be in same situation I was few years ago. Let me share with you some basic terms that you need to know about cars and why they are important for buying a used car.
Basic Car Terminology
I will try to write my version of the meaning, it is not technical by any means…if you are into cars and not happy with my explanation, feel free to add a comment correcting the same. I am not going to write everything, just those that I felt were new for someone naïve like me. I have put in sample images next to them for easy understanding.
Sedan : As there are couple of variants of cars like one with 2 doors and other with 4 doors, there are two terms for the same. Sedan means a car with four doors.
Coupe : Car with two doors (no back doors). Also called Sports model or sports car version. Most of the Coupe cars have back seats, but the way you get to them is using the front doors by moving the front seats forward and you slide in.
SUV : SUV means Sports Utility vehicle, it is a class of vehicles… It is bigger than car and has more power and looks like a Jeep, but not. ( It is like SUMO in India)
Convertible : Car with a foldable roof or top (automatic). Some of them it is very much converted with a button, in some old cards, you manually fold them. Some of them are hard top, some of them have something like a cloth or rubber kind of texture. It varies by car.
V6 or V4 ( I4 or I6): It refers to the number of cylinders in the engine. V6 means 6 cylinder, V4 means 4 cylinder. V6 has more power or acceleration than V4, it drinks a lot of gasoline :). Also, sometimes these are referred as I4 or I6. Basically, the way the cylinders are arranged is the form of a V, so the name V6. Now, the formation also changed to I, so they call it I4 or I6 in some cases. I stands for Inline.
Sun roof : Aerial window on top of driver and front passenger with a door (NOT glass, just shutter). It is made of metal usually just like the car outer body. Its main purpose is to let in air and light.
Moon roof : Aerial window on top of driver and front passenger with Glass. It is basically a type of Sunroof, but with glass. The difference between sun and moon roof is, if you have just sun roof, you cannot see outside moon through glass as the door is opaque. If there is a shutter and glass then it is both sun roof and moon roof. Nowadays most of the cars are sun and moon roof.
Timing belt: This is something that is part of engine and controls the timing of valves. It is very important to have this replaced after certain thousands of miles. Especially when you are buying a used car, you have to ask if the previous owner has replaced the timing belt at particular mileage. This will cost you some good amount of money, so you have to ask before you buy. Also, it is important for the engine and car to function well.
Brake Rotors: These are the discs in the disc brake system. They wear off after certain miles and they are key for stopping the vehicle when you brake. They are very expensive. Make sure they are in good condition; it has to be of certain width. You do not want to change them as it will cost money.
Brake Pads : Brake pads wear off, you can change them…Brake rotors are key. If the rotors are good, you can change the brake pads
Muffler : It is the exhaust pipe system all the way through where the smoke exits. It also wears off and should be changed after some time in used vehicles. It also costs good amount of money, Make sure there are no issues with Muffler when you buy.
Transmission: It is the gear box that provide speed and torque conversions from rotating source. This is the one that defines how the car functions, either automatic or you manually control with a gear.
Manual Transmission : Manual means, you have change gears manually using your hands and clutch(something that you press when you change gear). This is the traditional way of driving that existed before automatic transmission came into existence.
Automatic Transmission : There is no clutch and you do not need to change gears. You just put the car in Drive, it automatically changes gears. You just push the accelerator. You only change gear if you want to go reverse or when going up very steep hill (not very common, I never had to do this in past 6 years)
Coolant: A liquid that is filled in Radiator instead of water. You may have seen people pouring water in your home country, nothing here…it is a liquid and you do not change it often.
Driving Range : This is used primarily in context of Electric Vehicles. it is the distance how long the car can go before the car battery needs to be recharged.
Keyless Entry : In modern cars, there is no concept of putting key in the car lock and turning it to start the car. You would just have the key with you and you just press the Power button in the car. The car uses latest technology to check, if the key is present in the car and then moves. The cars that work without having to insert key are called as keyless entry cars.
VIN Number : It is a unique number that is given to the car by the manufacturer of the car. VIN stands for Vehicle Identification Number. The VIN number is used by insurance companies, service companies to track the history of the car. You can check the history of accidents based on the VIN number. It is usually on the side panel of the door, when you keep the door open on the driver side.
Other things related to Car
Jumper Cables : This is not part of car, but just putting it here…If the car battery dies, then you use cables to connect your car battery with another car battery to start your car. These cables are called jumper cables. It is very essential to have the jumper cables in used car.
No Tire tube: There are no tubes in the Car’s tires in US. If you have a flat tire, you either patch it or throw it. There is nothing like you change the tube inside and keep the tire…you just replace the tire…
Tool Box: Tool box has basic things to fix car, if your tire is flat or if there is any issue. It has basic ca jack to lift the car up and spanner to remove the bolts and fix the tire. Make sure you carry a tool box in your car. It is not very expensive, good to have one handy.
Can you think of any other Car terms that might be important to know ?