A Brief Glossary of Auto Repair Terms
If you're not familiar with automotive jargon and terminology, things can get confusing pretty quickly when technicians start throwing terms around. At BIGTEX Tires and Offroad, we try to be pretty direct with our customers to avoid confusion, so here's a quick rundown of some automotive terms and what they mean.
Air Filter: It's essential to keep pollen, dust and other fine particulates out of your fuel system. The air filter uses a pleated paper or fabric element to trap these small bits before they can make it into your engine and cause problems. A clogged air filter, on the other hand, can impede air flow and hurt performance and fuel economy.
A/C Compressor: Like a refrigerator, the A/C in your vehicle provides cooling through a cycle of evaporation and condensation as refrigerant goes from a liquid to a gas and back again in a closed loop. The compressor puts refrigerant under pressure, turning it into a liquid, and acts as a pump to keep it moving through the system. The A/C compressor is the heart of any air conditioning system.
Belt: The water pump, A/C compressor, alternator, power steering pump and other accessories are powered by a belt that's driven off of the engine's crankshaft. Older vehicles had separate belts for the accessories, but since the 90s they have used a single thick "serpentine belt" that is routed to all the pulleys. This lowers parasitic drag on the engine and is more space-efficient.
Diagnostics: Since the early 90s, emissions, fuel metering, power, timing, transmission shift points and other functions have all been governed by a processor which takes information from various sensors around the engine. When a sensor's readings are outside of norms, it will register a trouble code with the processor and the Check Engine light will be illuminated. When this occurs, a technician can use a code reader/scanner on the car's diagnostic port to access the trouble codes, pointing him in the right direction for an accurate repair.
PCM: The Powertrain Control Module is the processor mentioned above, and the brains of your car's electronics.
Sludge: Old motor oil that's been in the crankcase too long will pick up carbon, grit, metal particles, acids and other contaminants from combustion. In extreme cases, this will form as gummy deposits of sludge on bearings, valve components and other internal parts, shortening engine life.
Wheel alignment: Every vehicle is engineered with the front wheels set at very specific angles for proper drivability, handling and road feel. The main angles are toe-in (an inward skew of the wheels as seen from above), toe-out (opposite of toe-in), camber (inward or outward tilt of a wheel as seen from the front) and camber (fore-and-aft orientation of a wheel). These angles can all drift or be knocked out of spec due to a hit on a curb or pothole, and a poorly-aligned vehicle will drive poorly and wear tires prematurely.
Hopefully with the help of this little glossary, you'll be a bit better informed when it's time for auto repair. Need a little repair work or maintenance? Make an appointment with us at BIGTEX Tires and Offroad!