Test Your Automotive Knowledge with This Car Quiz!


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Cars: In certain countries, they outnumber humans. They represent freedom (except from car payments), status and personal taste. Entire magazines and TV shows are devoted to them. But how much do you know about this machine that is so essential to 21st-century life?

The idea for a machine-powered cart or carriage predates the first actual automobiles by nearly 200 years. The first real production car rolled off the line in Germany; not long after, the USA was also a major force in automaking. Before long, the two-stroke engine and the carriage it powered was becoming far more complex. It needed a variety of support systems: engine lubrication and cooling, proper suspension (protection for the car's frame on rough roads and/or at high speeds), and safety features for the passengers. That's not to mention all the things that make riding in a car more enjoyable, from climate-control systems to music players.

Our quiz tests you on the inner workings of the automobile: the engine and its support systems. It'll also test your knowledge of automotive history: some key figures in it, and on a few historic car brands. So -- do you bleed 92 octane? Take our quiz now and find out how big a car aficionado you really are!

Which of these is NOT a system within a car?

Your car or truck has many systems, including the three above, the cooling system, and more. But "yaw" is one of the ways an airplane moves, side-to-side within a horizontal plane. (Pitch, yaw and roll are the three things a pilot controls in steering a plane).


"Alignment" is an aspect of the _____ system.

Alignment has to do with how the steering wheel communicates with the wheels. When a car's steering is "slushy" or pulls to one side, the alignment needs work.


Most modern cars run on a ____-stroke gasoline engine.

The four strokes are intake, compression, ignition and exhaust. The first engine to use this method was invented by Nicolaus Otto.


Where does the four-stroke cycle take place?

Inside the cylinder, the piston pushes down to compress a fuel-air mixture. A spark ignites the mixture, and the little explosion drives the piston upward, turning a crankshaft that transmits its power to the drivetrain. It's really that simple!


Engine oil is rated by _____.

This is why you'll see a "W" next to the number. It also makes for a good offhand joke: "What kind of coffee are they serving today?" "I think it's 40-weight."


"Disc" and "drum" are words that apply to ____.

Drum brakes came first; you'll find them in the 1960s Mustangs. Disc brakes caught on in earnest in the 1980s, though some cars had them earlier.


A four-door car that seats four or more persons is usually called a ______.

In North America, this is called a sedan. In the UK, it's a saloon. Either way, it usually has a trunk (or boot).


Except in rare cases, a coupe has two ____.

A coupe is a shorter (in length) and lighter car than a sedan. Usually it has only two doors, but still has a front and back seat, the latter accessed by the front seats folding forward.


A spark plug is part of what process?

The spark plug creates the spark (obvs!) that allows for ignition. Without it, your car would be dead in the water. (Of course, that's true of a lot of parts).


"Rack and pinion" refers to ______.

We know all about the rack-and-pinion system! There's a rack, and, uh, a pinion ... OK, Google it. It's kind of complicated.


Which of these helps control vehicle emissions?

The catalytic converter changes exhaust emissions into less-harmful ones. If your car fails a smog test, the catalytic converter is usually the first place to look for a problem.


"Hand brake" is another term for a _______.

This can be a little misleading. Not all parking brakes are hand brakes: Some are operated by smaller pedals to the far left of the footwell.


Which was the first car that was affordable for middle-class Americans?

The Model T is a well-known piece of Americana. It was nicknamed the "Tin Lizzie" and the "flivver."


Which of these is a synonym for "powertrain"?

The powertrain or drivetrain gets the power from the engine to the wheels. A bicycle has one, too -- it's the chain and gearwheels that transmit the energy the rider creates to the bike's wheels.


Who made the world's first "production" car?

Benz, whose name is undoubtedly familiar from Mercedes-Benz, created the Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1885. It's worth looking at photos: the Motorwagen looks so fragile, especially its wheels, that you might be afraid to climb on it!


What is a car that uses two kinds of power/fuel called?

The most common type of hybrid car right now is the gas-electric car. This has both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.


A "ring job" would be done on what part of the car?

A ring job is one of the most time-consuming, difficult jobs you might do on a car. It involves installing new piston rings when the old ones have become loose and allowing oil into the cylinders. Fortunately, today's cars rarely need ring jobs.


What did fuel injection replace in many cars?

Early cars had carburetion, which created the fuel-air mixture in the cylinders. Fuel injection was a more efficient innovation that got started in the world of racing and high-performance cars.


Using turbines to blow extra air into the cylinders, creating greater compression, is called ______.

"Turbo" and "turbocharging" are two of those words that everyone thinks they understand, but rarely do. Ask someone to explain how a turbocharger works, and you're likely to get a blank stare. (You might want to look it up, in fact, before you claim to: we didn't have room to define it in detail above).


"Ragtop" refers to what kind of car?

"Ragtop" means that the car's convertible roof is made of fabric. See also "hardtop."


Why was the Honda Insight remarkable?

As the environment became a significant concern in the 1990s, two Japanese automakers stepped up with gas-electric hybrid cars. But the Insight beat the Prius to the market.


Why was the Prius so much more popular than the Insight?

While Americans famously drive solo a lot, few wanted a car that only seated two people. That was why the Prius was an instant hit.


True or false: Can a car ever have just three wheels?

Three-wheeled cars are more popular in the denser cities of Japan and Europe. They're still quite rare, though.


Who was the Edsel named for?

Released in 1958, the Edsel was a commercial failure. Ford executives at the time insisted they had done adequate market research, but clearly they'd missed the mark on what buyers wanted.


What does the alternator do?

The alternator provides the energy that runs the comfort stuff in your car (among other things): the radio, the air conditioning, and so on.


Which of these carmakers is British?

Jaguar is a classic British car, alongside the Mini and the Aston Martin. The other three brands are Romanian, Indian and American, respectively.


Which of these cars is all-electric?

The Nissan Leaf rolled out in Japan and the United States in 2011. So far, it is the world's most popular all-electric, highway-capable car.


Shock absorbers are part of a car's _____ system.

Suspension -- smoothing out bumps and keeping the tires in close contact with the road -- isn't just a comfort issue. It makes the car safer, and keeps the frame from wearing out too soon.


Cabriolet is another word for ______.

Both "cabriolet" and "drophead" refer to cars which can be driven without the roof in place. Rolls-Royce uses the second term.


Oversteer means you've lost a bit of control over the _____ while rounding a corner.

Oversteer and understeer (losing control/traction in the front wheels) are problems of suspension. This is especially dangerous on wet and slippery roads.


What does a fuel-cell car not have?

A fuel cell uses hydrogen and oxygen instead of a battery to power an electric car's engine. (The process is a lot more complicated, of course, but that's the one-sentence summary).


True or false: Can a car run entirely on ethanol fuel?

Ethanol is a biomass fuel -- made from vegetation. Cars sold in Sweden and in Brazil have run entirely on ethanol.


Which of the following is just an aesthetic feature?

Clearly, a hood ornament is for show (the word "ornament" kinda says it all). Window tinting can reduce heat and glare, spoilers reduce tail-end lift, and tail fins can increase a long car's stability.


Which car is entrepreneur Elon Musk associated with?

Elon Musk is a South African-born innovator. Recently, he set a Tesla adrift in space. Why? Because he could.


Some high-performance cars have tires filled completely with nitrogen. How much nitrogen is in the average car's tires?

This is kind of a trick question. Air itself is 78 percent nitrogen, so every time you simply refill your tires at a service station, you're filling them mostly with nitrogen. But now you can say, "I like to keep my tires filled with nearly 80 percent nitrogen, for better performance."


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