Hey, Gearheads: How Well Do You Know Your Car Parts?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Is there a mug with your name on it at your local Pep Boys? Should there be? If so, test your chops with our auto-parts quiz. (Note: This quiz also covers items in the auto body)

This can be manual or automatic.

Okay, this was an easy one! But when you get to the question about the throw-out bearing, you'll be nostalgic for questions like these!

The thing you use to change gears in a manual-transmission car is a _________.

Probably the most common term is "gearstick." This is reflected by the fact that manual-transmission cars are casually called "stick shift."

When I stop working, your car goes "hungry."

Although any number of things can cause a car to break down, the fuel pump dying will stop it in its tracks. For that reason, you should always know how to replace the fuse for your fuel pump, and carry a spare.

This mixed fuel with air for combustion in older cars.

Carburetion has been largely replaced by fuel injection. But carburetion is still a fun concept to use metaphorically, as when a newspaper columnist referred to Seabiscuit as a horse that ran "like the carburetor needed adjustment."

I replaced the carburetor starting around the 1980s.

This change was not entirely welcomed by amateur mechanics. A carburetor is much easier to work on at home -- changing the fuel filter, for example -- than is a fuel-injection system.

This pulls the fuel-air mixture into the carburetor.

You'd find an intake manifold on both older cars with carburetion or new ones with fuel injection. Not to be confused with the exhaust manifold.

You'll find me all the way to the left in your footwell.

Of course, this isn't the case if you have an automatic transmission car. You'll also know the clutch pedal by the amount of force it requires to depress all the way -- more than the brake or accelerator.

Old timers might call me the "throttle."

An accelerator pedal is technically a foot throttle. A throttle (in automotive terms, at least) controls the flow of fuel to the engine. In other words, it makes it go.

This goes up and down like an elevator, but much, much faster.

The pistons move so fast, and so vigorously, that a car would shake violently if they didn't fire in a carefully-planned sequence to balance out the forces involved!

Don't let a shady car salesman roll this back!

An odometer will usually track miles up to 999,999. When people take truly good care of their vintage cars, you can see some truly remarkable odometer readings (though not usually that high!)

These open and close to allow fuel and air into the cylinder.

The valves don't just let the fuel-air mixture in. They also let exhaust gases out.

If this is damaged, you'll lose engine compression.

Piston rings keep the pistons tightly flush against cylinder walls, for the best compression. If your engine needs a "ring job," shudder: It's one of the more time-consuming and expensive jobs in car repair.

These should be disengaged if the car is going to sit unused for a time.

Technically, you just need to disconnect the negative battery cable. It conducts just enough electricity to the engine to slowly drain the battery over time.

This is used in doing an old-fashioned "bootlegger's turn."

Google "bootlegger's turn" and you'll see what we mean -- hauling up on the hand parking brake is part of the technique of making a very short, sharp 180. This is not recommended unless you're in a wide-open space and are confident in your driving skills.

True or false: Does depressing the clutch pedal engage the clutch?

When you take your foot *off* the clutch pedal, it engages the clutch. This means the clutch disk and flywheel are pressed together, allowing power to be transmitted from the engine to the power train.

It stores the brake fluid to be transmitted to the brakes.

The master cylinder holds the brake fluid in a hydraulic brake system. When you step on the brake pedal, it sends fluid out to the actual brakes.

This tells your fuel gauge how much gas is left in the tank.

While it's fun to imagine the float, which is made of foam and actually does float in the gas tank, has a little altimeter that transmits a signal to the fuel gauge, that's not actually how it works. It has to do with electrical resistance in a current going through an attached rod, and that's all we're going to say about it, because realizing that there's an electrical current running that close to a large amount of gas makes us never want to start up a car again.

This item is part of the suspension.

Shock absorbers are mechanical components, like struts, near the wheel. They make the ride smoother than it otherwise would have been.

This reduced emissions long before hybrid cars came on the scene.

The reason that carburetion was replaced with fuel injection has a lot to do with catalytic converters, which work more easily with fuel-injection systems. This, in turn, was required by clean-air laws and new regulations.

This keeps lift manageable on high-performance cars (and just looks cool).

Spoilers were an innovation in race cars. However, automakers started putting them on high-performance consumer cars, too, just because they looked sexy. Road cars should NOT be reaching speeds where they need their spoiler.

Villains are always cutting these in the movies.

No brakes! Actually, this doesn't happen as often in fiction anymore. We blame this not on any lack of effectiveness in the technique, but to a sad decline in automotive skills in modern society.

Without me, the world was a noisy place.

Like good fences make good neighbors, mufflers make it a lot more pleasant to live on highly-trafficked roads. A car will run without one, but they're required by law.

This increases the voltage from the car's battery.

The average car battery doesn't have much more voltage than the little one you stick in your smoke alarm. The ignition coil increases the voltage until it's capable of supporting the car's electrical system.

This common under-the-hood item is a synonym for "idiot."

Even if you don't work on your car yourself, you've probably checked the oil. Unless you can't figure out how, in which case, you might be a dipstick.

This auto part is a synonym for a lively, entertaining person.

The spark plugs, as the name implies, create the sparks that ignite the fuel-air mixture in the cylinders. They're also famously hard to loosen up and remove when it's time to replace them.

This is also a term from mathematics.

The differential is a gearbox that changes the direction of energy in the drive train and sends it to the wheels -- but only in a rear-wheel-drive car, though. This gave rise to a joke in "The Italian Job," when a character says, "Rozzer's having trouble with his differential" -- the joke being that Minis didn't have one, which confused a lot of mechanics early on.

Is a spark plug gap an auto part?

The spark plug gap is just that: a gap. It's the space between the electrodes of the spark plug. The electrodes themselves might need adjusting for space, but you can't work on the "gap" itself.

You'll find these in cars like the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius.

Nowadays, there are many more hybrid (gas-electric) cars than just those two pioneers. Which means by now everyone should know not to let the hybrid battery run down. They cost an arm and a leg to replace!

The throw-out bearing is part of what larger apparatus?

The throw-out bearing lets you disengage the clutch via the clutch pedal. Author Deanna Sclar, who writes car-care books for the average person, warns drivers to shift into neutral if they need to idle for any period of time, or the throw-out bearing might wear out early.

What is a drop light?

Just keeping you on your toes! A drop light is a work light, so named because it usually has a protective plastic cage around the bulb and you can drop it on the garage floor to shine up on your work.

This measures an engine's revolutions per minute.

Many cars show your rpm on the instrument panel, along with your speed. A high rpm in idle might mean the throttle needs adjustment.

Is a timing light part of the engine?

The timing belt or chain is, but not the timing light. Instead, this strobing light is used to check how efficiently all the parts of the engine are working together.

What is a "death brake"?

Yes, this really exists! But it will probably never be found on consumer cars, unless we all get considerably more paranoid than we are today. Thanks to edmunds.com for this bit of trivia (their thorough glossary was one of the sources consulted in the writing of this quiz).

Do only cars have gaskets?

Although a car's "head gasket" is famous for giving us the term "blowing a gasket," this is simply a ring or trim that keeps fluid or air in (or out). Your refrigerator door has a gasket to keep the cold air from leaking.

Where would you find a D-pillar?

The A-, B-, and C-pillars are vertical supports for the passenger cabin. Only long-bodied vehicles, like an SUV, have D-pillars.

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