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Get to Know Your Car: Part 1

car under magnifying glassYou’re at the shop with a broken car and a throbbing headache. You know the bill is going to be expensive judging by the steam pouring from underneath your hood, but you’re not sure why it costs $600 for a new coolant pump. While the mechanic explains to you why it costs so much, you’re still a little concerned you’re being ripped off.

What you’re thinking is nothing new, and you’re certainly not the only one to wonder if their mechanic is over-charging. While the industry has become firmly regulated and transparent in its dealings, mechanics still often fight the “shady-tree mechanic” images in the minds of people. No matter how many car certifications a mechanic might have, people will always wonder if their expensive car fix really had to cost that much.

However, I do not believe that it’s the mechanics fault that he is viewed in such a way; the problem lies with his customers not knowing enough about cars. While a mechanic can explain your engine problem as simply as he can, not knowing why that part of your car is so important makes it seem like he’s just making things up for your money!

So, let’s learn a few car keywords so that the next time you can hold your own in a conversation about your car.

  • Your alternator is the system that converts mechanical energy from your engine to electricity to power your accessories, such as your heated seats and lights. This is also responsible for keeping your battery charged.
  • A carburetor is what mixes air with your fuel to produce combustion, thus generating moment to propel your car forward. Carburetors are almost exclusively found in older cars as new cars use fuel-injection systems. This is good news, though, as fuel-injected cars often require less maintenance.
  • The car’s chassis is like your body’s skeleton. It’s the underlying frame of the car to which the engine and everything else are attached. Damaging or bending this in a car generally means it’ll never function properly again.
  • Your engine’s combustion chamber is where the fuel, air and spark plugs combine to power your car. Getting water in these or losing a tight seal on the chambers prevents combustion and kills your car until it’s fixed.
  • The exhaust manifold is simply the set of pipes and tubes that run exhaust from your engine to the exhaust system, removing it from your car.

Now, we haven’t covered every part in your car, but here we’re focusing on parts not commonly known. Hopefully by now you know what a spark plug is and why they cost so much to replace, but now you also know some of the more costly, obscure parts of your car. The idea here is to help you better understand what your mechanic is saying to you. Unfortunately, the best way to do that is a little studying!

Stay tuned for part two of the ‘Get to Know Your Car‘ series!