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ABS stands for Antilock Braking System, which is designed to prevent a car's wheels from locking when the brakes are applied.


A device which converts an electrical signal to a physical motion. Actuators are used to control many of the moving parts within an engine.


A safety device which is triggered when there is a severe impact to the front of a vehicle. A signal is sent to the airbag upon impact, and a gas is produced to inflate the airbag within a fraction of a second, cushioning the driver or passenger and preventing more serious head injuries.


A device which uses a drive belt to convert mechanical energy into electrical energy. The alternator is used to charge a car's battery, operate the ignition and power other electrical devices in the car.


Components used to reduce friction in a machine. In a car, these are normally used in the wheels and hubs.

Cam belt

A belt, usually made from rubber, which controls the timing of an engines valves.

Combustion chamber

The area in the engine in which a mixture of fuel and air is ignited to push the piston back down after it has travelled upwards. The design and shape of a combustion chamber can have a direct affect on an engine's performance and efficiency.

Cooling system

A system in the engine, controlled by a thermostat, which keeps the engine cool using fans and/or fluids.


The process of removing carbon deposits from the engine components to make the engine run more smoothly.


An engine component that consists of a rotating shaft which turns a rotor. The rotary motion distributes sparks to the spark plug wires at timed intervals (via the distributor cap), simultaneously opening and closing the points.

Electronic Control Unit (ECU)

'Black Boxes' that constantly monitor and control the way engines and transmissions perform. ECUs automatically adjusting timing and emissions by receiving signals from various sensors fitted around the engine and transmission, which are constantly monitoring temperatures, engine and road speeds, exhaust gases, throttle positions, and pressures within the engine. At the same time they are sending signals to various motors, actuators, solenoids, to regulate and adjust the engine and transmission, ensuring the vehicle performs to its optimum.

Engine block

A metal casting in the engine which contains the cylinders, cooling ducts, and the crankshaft main bearings.

Engine flush

Old, black, oil makes the engine dirty and affects it performance, and should be flushed out before putting in clean oil. A good engine flush will prolong the life of an engine.

Fan belt

A belt, driven by the crankshaft, which powers a fan to pull air through the radiator.


Used in various parts of the car and engine to filter impurities from oil, air, and fuel. Filters are changed during a full service or oil and filter change.

Fuel additives

Chemicals which dissolve harmful deposits in the engine, keeping the valves and the inside of the fuel system clean.


See transmission.


The cylinder head in an engine, formed of a metal casting that houses the combustion chamber, valves, sparkplugs, injectors, and part of the cooling system.

Head gasket

An airtight seal on all of the combustion chambers in the engine, as well as the coolant and oil passages between the head and the engine block. A leak in the head gasket can cause major problems within the engine.

Laser wheel alignment

A system which uses a laser to precisely align the wheels to the manufacturer's specifications, prolonging the life of a car's tyres and aiding tracking.


A piece of machinery that moves up and down in the cylinder to provide an engine's 'horsepower'. The piston is pulled up by the crankshaft and then pushed down again by the explosion of air and fuel in the combustion chamber, to produce a constant motion.


A coil of wire which creates a magnetic field when electrical current is supplied. This magnetic force is then used to produce motion. In an engine, a solenoid is most commonly used in the starter mechanism.

Speed camera detector

A computerised device which warns of upcoming speed camera positions whilst you are driving.

Traction control

Traction Control System (TCS) helps to prevent wheelspin by sensing when a wheel is about to break traction. The system then reduces engine power and/or applies the appropriate brakes to prevent the loss of traction.


The system of gears within an engine, also known as the gearbox.


A mechanical device that controls the entry of fuel/air mixture into a combustion chamber, as well as the exit of spent combustion gases.

Wheel alignment

The process of aligning all four of a car's wheels in order to prevent tracking problems and prolong the life of the tyres.

Wiring loom

A bundle of electrical cables, prefabricated by the manufacturer and used to power all of the car's electrical systems.