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[A| B| C| D| E| F| G| H| I| J| K| L| M| N| O| P| Q| R| S| T| U| V| W| X| Y| Z]


the part of a vehicle's body design that provides reinforcement and strength, located on either side of the front windshield; the width of these pillars affects visibility.

aerodynamic: having an exterior design that decreases the air resistance, improving handling and increasing gas mileage.

adjustable height shoulder belt: a belt that has an anchor point  with assorted slot positions, allowing occupants to individually adjust to fit their size and height.

all-wheel-drive: sending power to all four wheels all the time; as opposed to four-wheel-drive, in which power is sent only to the rear wheels on the street, to all four wheels when driven in the back country.

analog gauges: these show data in a continuous form, often a dial, and could be considered the opposite of digital gauges.

anti-lock brakes (ABS): a braking system that offers improved control on dry, wet or slick surfaces the help prevent wheel lockup by automatically "pumping" the brakes; ABS has a higher resistance to wear and fade.


blacked-out grille: rather then having a chrome opening on the nose (which allows airflow through the radiator), this car has an all-black opening.

brake caliper: part of a disc brake; when the brake is applied, hydraulic fluid forces a piston in the caliper toward the disc, causing the disc to be pinched between brake pads.

brake pedal travel: the distance your foot has to push the pedal before braking actually starts.

body roll: when the body leans (and the occupants find themselves leaning, too) while turning a corner or taking a curve.

body-side steps: the tough-looking bars you can step up onto on the side of the Wrangler, making entry and exit a little easier.

bottom-end power: the power that an engine produces at low rpms; a car with a lot of bottom-end power will feel powerful when you accelerate from a dead stop; a car that makes more power at high rpms will feel strong when passing, but will feel slower from a standing start.


C-pillar:the pillar between the rear side windows and the rear windshield that supports the roof.

cab forward: a design of a vehicle that moves the front wheels up and out farther on a front-drive car, which results in more cabin area up front, thereby increasing interior room and comfort.

center high-mounted stop lamp (CHMSL): a rear lamp that's placed high inside the vehicle and lights up incrementally faster than the taillamps, giving following drivers additional reaction time for improved stopping distance.

child-security locks: rear door locks that are controlled by the rear passengers only when the driver allows then to be, designed to keep kids from leaving the car prematurely.

coefficient of drag: how slippery a vehicle is in the air; the more air a vehicle has to push out of the way to go down the road, the higher its coefficient of drag will be and the more power and fuel it will require.

composite cross car beam: a beam that acts as an energy-absorbing device by providing restraint and stabilization in the event of a frontal collision; made of composite material that will flex slightly in a front-end collision and improve stabilization.

connecting rod: a rod made of steel or aluminum that connects the piston to the crankshaft.

control trac system:a computerized system that evaluates various road conditions and automatically places the vehicle in four-wheel drive when wheel-slip occurs.

coupe: usually a two-door model with no post leading from the body to the roof between the front and back side windows.

crankcase: castings that support and contain the crankshaft, primary drive and gearbox.

crankshaft: piston and crankshaft assemblies are called the engine's reciprocating assembly; the piston and rod reciprocate, or move up and down, in the cylinder, while the crankshaft changes the piston's linear or straight-line motion into usable rotary or spinning motion; piston move up and down together with 360 degree crankshaft, alternating with a 180 degree crankshaft


damping: cushioning when forks are pushed inward (compressed) or when forks extend (rebound), done to smooth the ride over bumpy roads and eliminate.

disc brakes: round discs that are squeezed by brake calipers in order to stop the vehicle. Unlike drum brakes, which are enclosed in a drum, disc brakes are exposed to air, and therefore maintain cooling better, which decreases brake fade and improves stopping reliability.

displacement: loosely, the size of the engine.

double-cradle frame: frame built of rigid steel tubing that positions the engine low for good handling, long wheelbase and low seat height; this design derives its strength from the triangulation of support tubing.

double-pod cockpit: an interior design that has separate and symmetrical areas carved out of the dash for the driver and front passenger; a retro look common to early Mustangs and 1963-67 Corvettes.

downforce: air pressure pushing down on a vehicle, which enables it to get better traction and remain more stable.

droptops: convertibles, also called ragtops

dual overhead cams (dohc): having two camshafts, which are located above the cylinder head, rather than below it; usually considered a high-tech setup.


electronically controlled automatic: an automatic transmission that has its shift timing controlled by the engine computer, which takes into account such factors as altitude and whether the vehicle is pulling a trailer or climbing a hill.

electronic fuel injection: a fuel system that relies on electronics to gather, blend and distribute a measured amount of fuel mixture to each cylinder.


front-driver: a car that sends its power to the front wheels.

front fascia: the front body panel below the hood.

four valves per cylinder: dohc engines almost always have four valves per cylinder, while most other engines have two; two of the valves open to allow the air-fuel mixture into the combustion chamber; the other two open to allow exhaust gases out.

four-wheel drive: all four wheels are powered by the transmission, usually through a transfer case that distributes the power evenly.

fuel cutoff: a computer-controlled shutoff to the fuel system designed to prevent people from over-reving their motors, since over-revving is a primary cause of engine failure.



hardtop: a convertible top that is rigid, not foldable; it must be removed and set aside for open-air driving.

high center of gravity: a vehicle with a high center of gravity will exhibit more body roll in turns and will feel less stable; it also is more likely to roll over than a vehicle with a low center of gravity.

hydraulic valve adjusters: hydraulic pressure used to maintain valve clearance that eliminates the need for valve adjustment and minimizes maintenance; many V-6 and V-8 automobiles have hydraulic valve adjusters.


inline-6: an engine with six cylinders that are located one behind the other, instead of in a V shape.

insta-trac: Chevrolet's term for its system that gives a vehicle the ability to shift from two to four wheel drive without stopping, rather than making the driver leave the vehicle to manually engage the hubs at each wheel.

integrated chassis control system (ICCS): system that integrates brakes, steering suspension and traction control, using electronic sensors for precise feel-of-the-road handling.

integrated child seats: a seat that folds down to accommodate a child weighing 20-60 pounds with a maximum shoulder height of 16.25 inches. The seat contains an automatic locking retractor/emergency locking retractor that automatically locks once the buckle is fastened and the belts are fulled pulled out. When not in use, it can be folded back and used as a regular seat.

intercooler: a device used with turbochargers to cool exhaust gas, thereby decreasing the temperature of the air entering the combustion chamber, since cooler air produces more power.

internal balancer: an internal gear-driven balancer that absorbs engine vibration for smoother performance and enhanced reliability.


JA: The platform name for a series of cars. Each vehicle is built on a specific platform, with a platform model designation. Often, vehicles share the same platform. The JA cars are the Dodge Stratus, Chrysler Cirrus and Plymouth Breeze. The LH cars included the Chrysler LHS, New Yorker and the Dodge Intrepid.



lateral support: providing support on the sides, so you don't feel that you are sliding out of the seat when driving hard through turns.

limited-slip differential: instead of the vehicle's power shifting from front to rear when the vehicle's electronic control unit senses wheel slipage (which is what four-wheel or all-wheel drive does), the limited-slip differential works from side to side. If the right wheels drop off the road in a low traction situation and begin to slip, power is transferred through a viscous (thick liquid) coupling unit to transfer power to the left wheels, where there is better traction.

liquid-cooled engine: transfers engine heat into coolant (water and antifreeze) solution. The coolant circulates through cavities in the cylinder block, head and crankcase. The hot liquid coolant is piped to a radiator that efficiently transfers heat to outside air. Liquid-cooled systems maintain more constant operating temperature than an air-cooled system.

locking rear differential: provides added traction in off-road and inclemental-weather situations; allows extra power to go to the rear wheels.

lugging: when a motor is way below its power curve and is struggling to propel the car in a given gear; downshifting one gear usually will put the car back into its powerband and pick up the pace.




one-piece bodyside stamping: instead of welding parts and seams, the body side is stamped out from one single piece of metal, making the vehicle stronger, more rigid, quieter and higher in overall quality control.

overdrive: a transmission gear that reduces the power output needed to maintain driving speed, giving the engine a break and improving fuel economy; has a gear ratio of less than 1:1.


preproduction car: a car that is built while the assembly line is being fine-tuned before beginning production of cars that are for sale to the public; often not up to production quality.

power curve, or powerband: when charted on a graph, power output at different engine speeds forms a curve; some motors put out a lot of power at most engine speeds so that have relatively flat curves, others have a more dramatic curve because they produce power in a narrower rpm range.

pushrods: in a non-overhead-cam engine, pushrods send the message from the camshaft to the rocker arms, which open and close the intake and exhaust valves.



rack-and-pinion steering: steering mechanism that consists of a gear that meshes with a toothed bar called a "rack." The ends of the rack are linked to the wheels with tire rods. When the gear is rotated by the steering shaft, it moves the rack from side to side, turning the wheels. Many believe rack-and-pinion steering delivers a more positive and precise feel, thereby improving control and handling.

rear bumper end caps: the styling pieces that finish off either end of the rear step bumper.

rear deck: the trunklid, or the top part of the car behind the rear windshield.

rear quarter windows: the small windows on each side of the car located behind the rear door.

road sensing suspension: system using a continually variable valve and electronics to evaluate body motion of the vehicle. It increases smoothness of ride by reducing the effects of road disturbances.

rocker arm: a small arm that pivots, opening either an intake or exhaust valve when the camshaft raises the pushrod and gives the rocker a nudge; it closes the valve when the pushrod recedes.


seat stanchions: the base of a car seat that attaches it to the floor.

sedan: a car with a post leading from the body to the roof between the front and back side windows; usually a four-door model; occasionally, two-door post cars are referred to as two-door sedans.

semi-elliptic multi-leaf springs: usually found on rear-wheel-drive cars, trucks and sport utilities, these springs consist of arched steel strips (leafs) stacked horizontally to form the foundation of the rear foundation.

semi-floating rear axle: non-rigid rear suspension.

sequential turbochargers: two or more turbochargers working in sequence, so that one begins working at low revs and the other(s) begins working at higher revs.

side curtains: a nice way to say zip-up plastic windows.

side intakes: air ducts on the side of a vehicle that allow cooler outside air in, usually to cool the rear brakes.

sine waves: softly undulating waves that form an S-shape.

SLA suspension: suspension system that functions with a double A-arm and is used in conjunction with the new rack-and-pinion steering system to improve the ride, handling and steering of a vehicle. SLA suspension allows for larger tires to be used on the vehicle.

soft brakes: brakes that require considerable pedal pressure the initiate braking.

soft top: a convertible top that can be folded; sometimes it can be removed for open-air driving, sometimes it merely needs to be folded out of the way.

speech intelligibility: a new area of car science concerned with facilitating conversation between front and rear passengers by controlling exterior and interior sound travel.

speed-rated tires: tires that have undergone extensive testing and have been certified safe at a certain speed, usually to 120 or 140 mph.

sport bars: the padded bars along the top sides of the Wrangler; not intended to provide protection in the case of an accidental rollover.

sport utility vehicle (SUV): a truck that is fully enclosed, seats four or more and often can be equipped with four-wheel-drive; the sort of vehicle that has been giving station wagons a real run for their money.

stabilizer bar: an anti-roll or anti-sway bar that helps prevent body lean or car-roll movement, particularly in corners or uneven terrain.


tachometer: gauge that displays a readout of the engine's revolution per minute (rpm).

throttle: gas pedal, a.k.a. the accelerator

torque: the twisting force that an engine produces; the force that actually moves the car; horsepower figures are a mathematical derivative of torque figures.

track: the distance between the tires on the driver's side and the tires on the passenger side; a wider track usually means improved handling.

traction control: a computerized system that senses when one or more tires is losing contact with the ground and diverts power to the other wheels, particularly useful in slippery conditions.

Traction-Lok rear-end: a rear end that sends power to both rear wheels, providing better traction; standard rear ends send power to only one wheel, which is why only one spins when you get stuck in sand, snow or mud.

turbocharger: a device that increases the amount of air going into the combustion chamber, which increases the engine's power output.

two-wheel drive: only two of the four wheels are powered by the transmission . In a rear-drive car, the back wheels are powered and the front merely steer. In a front-drive car, the forward wheels are powered and steer, leaving the rear wheels to follow along.



valves: intake valves allow the air/fuel mixture into the combustion chamber; exhaust valves allow the spent gases to exit after combustion.

variable-assist power rack-and-power steering: a power steering system that provides a variable amount of boost depending on the vehicle's speed and road conditions. At lower speeds, the system dials in more boost for easier steering, while at high speeds, some assist is removed to give the driver more road feel.

vortec powerplant: powerplant is a general term for an engine and its various components. Vortec is General Motors' name for that particular group of engines.


weight-to-horsepower ratio: this figure reveals how powerful a vehicle actually feels; a heavy car with a low-performance engine will have a large weight-to-horsepower ratio and feel slow; a light car with a high-performance engine will have a small weight-to-horsepower ratio and feel quick.

wheelbase: the distance between the front wheels and the rear wheels; cars with a very short wheelbase usually feel skittish and hard to handle; a longer wheelbase usually adds stability.