Mechanics Jargon - The key words to know

June 13, 2018
Mechanics Jargon - The key words to know

Many people dread their visit to the local garage or mechanic, and often this dread can be made worse by not knowing or understand the jargon which is used. Whilst we make every effort to ensure people are fully informed and understand, sometimes jargon slips into conversation and some people are shy or embarrassed to ask for an explanation. If you are one of these people then the best route is to carry out a little bit of research before visiting us (or your local garage) and hence this blog post was born.

We have compiled a list of common abbreviations, technology, parts and jargon which a garage or mechanic may use and given a simple statement so at least you have a rough idea what is being discussed. By knowing these terms you will be able to understand your car that little bit more allowing you to make the correct, informed decision on any work it may require.

  • ABS

    This stands for 'Anti-lock Braking System', this is a full setup consisting of wheel sensors, wiring and a computer to control the brakes during heavy braking. The ABS will monitor the wheels when you brake and allow the car to 'pulse' the brakes on and off to stop the car from skidding during heavy braking making your car safer. It is common for the sensors, sensor rings and wiring to fail or perish.

  • Dampers / Struts / Coilsprings

    These are commonly known as 'Shock Absorber' and 'Spring', an essential part of the suspension system that allows the car to travel smoothly. It is common for the springs to snap with age or impact (e.g. a pothole) and for the damper/strut/shock to fail making the car noisy when travelling over rough ground or slowly seeping oil out (often spotted on an MOT)

  • Diagnostics / OBD

    With modern cars, the computer system is quite sophisticated and thus you will often find a dash light on (warning light) before any signs of an actual problem. When diagnosing a modern car, a computer is plugged into the vehicle to communicate with the car and read any problems the car is aware about. This is known as diagnostics and the plug socket on your car is known as an ODB socket. This is often the first point of call for many engine, running or electrical issues.

  • DPF

    Otherwise known as the Diesel Particulate Filter, this is a filter built into all modern diesel cars which controls the emissions that come out of the exhaust. We have wrote a whole page on DPF's and why they are important. It is common for a DPF to fail its regeneration process and require intervention by a garage, it is also known for DPF's to require replacing with age or lack of maintenance.

  • EML

    The engine malfunction light, or EML is a light on the dashboard that refers to a problem being detected on the car. It is often referred to as the 'Emissions Warning'  in the handbook of many cars but can relate to 1000's of different problems. When the light (or any other unexpected light) appears on the dash then you will need a mechanic to carry out a diagnostic check for you.

  • Head Gasket

    The head gasket provides a seal between the lower part of the engine and the upper part of the engine and keeps the oil and water channels separate. You may come across the term 'blown head gasket' which simply refers to the seal failing and water/oil mixing together. This is a serious fault and would render a vehicle un-drivable, often moderately expensive to repair too.

  • Misfire

    This is the term used when one of the cylinders of the engine isn't firing properly or at all. When a misfire occurs you will experience symptoms such as a judder, different noises, poor starting or the engine just stopping. It's common to experience a misfire and can be down to many things such as spark plugs, leads, coil packs, head gaskets etc.

  • Pulling (left or right)

    There are various components under the car as part of the suspension, drive and chassis that can make the car go left or right when it should be moving in a straight line. This is often referred to as the car pulling or tugging to the left/right. This is a common symptom with many causes from perished rubbers, poor or damaged suspension or even the cars wheels not being straight (e.g. hit a pothole)

  • Tracking

    This is the word used to describe the wheels of a vehicle being straight. When you alter any of the suspension or running gear of a car you will need to have the wheels aligned so they are running straight according to the manufactures original guidelines. Most garages will offer 4 wheel, laser or 3d/4d tracking, the car will be placed on a machine that will measure the angle of all the wheels and ensure they are running straight. Not having your tracking done can cause your tyres to wear, judder through the steering and pulling in either direction.

  • Timing Belt

    The timing belt, also known as the cambelt is the component which links the upper and lower half of the engine together allowing them to be in time. This is a maintenance item and is recommended to be changed at predefined intervals/times. Its a moderate expense and many car owners choose to ignore the guidelines, however this carries a great risk and a snapped belt can result in thousands of pounds of work to rebuild the damaged engine.

  • Tyres (Balancing, Tread, Sidewall, Profiles)

    Most (if not all) people will know what a tyre is on a car, and appreciate the fact that these tyres are the only point of contact with the ground keeping you safe. Therefor there is a legal minimum of 1.6mm for the tread and most garages will advise tyres under 3mm of their tread. When a new tyre is fitted it will be balanced (weights put on to ensure it spins correctly without judder) and a new valve is insert to ensure it doesn't leak. When ordering your tyres you may be asked about its size such as the tyres profile, these are wrote on the 'sidewall' of the tyre which is the edge you can see on the side.

  • Wishbones

    Otherwise known as the 'Lower arm' it is an essential component of the suspension and is the part the wheel connects to, it has vertical movement to allow for the shock and spring to absorb the impact of road bumps. These arms are prone to being bent in an impact scenario, they also contain rubber bushes which over time can fail or perish.