Mechanic Advisor

A List of Car Parts Every Owner Needs to Understand Part 1

Posted March 21, 2014 by Ken Kupchik

We understand that you didn't go to school to become a mechanic. But there are certain car parts that you should be able to identify and understand since knowing what they do will help keep your car properly maintained and identify potential problems.

1) Air Filter

What it does - Your car's air filter cleans the air before it enters your car's engine, making sure that small particles don't get into important engine components and your vehicle can run smoothly and efficiently.

Why it's important- The air filter needs to be replaced when it becomes dirty, otherwise it could become clogged up, unable to allow the right amount of air to reach your engine, which affects engine performance by adding strain to it. Your vehicle owner's manual will indicate how often you should be changing the air filter, but checking it as frequently as every oil change is a good idea, as some conditions such as dusty roads or smog-filled cities will require more frequent air filter changes.

2) Brakes: Pads, Rotors and Calipers

What they do - Most everyone understands that brakes on a vehicle allows you to slow down and stop. But an automobile braking system is comprised of several parts: the brake pad, the rotor and the caliper. Basically the way it works is this: the brake pads are attached to the caliper, and when you press on your brake pedal and want your car to stop, the caliper presses the brake pads against the each side of the surface of the rotor, which is the disk-like object you see when you take your car's wheel off. Think of it like a sandwich, with a rotor as the meat in the middle, the brake pads as the cheese on each side of the meat and the caliper as the bread pushing the cheese from each side onto the rotor.

Why it's important - Obviously brakes are a major safety concern, but the reason it's so important to understand what these parts do it because there is so much wear put on these parts through everyday use that you will certainly have to replace them at some point and it's important for you to understand which brake component is being replaced. Brake pads are a relatively routine and minor job, but replacing calipers and rotors can get very expensive and it's essential that you understand "why", when a mechanic suggests that you replace yours.

3) Battery

What it does - Automotive batteries are rechargeable batteries that supply electric energy to your vehicle. Car batteries are usually lead-acid type. Without a car battery, your vehicle will not work.

Why it's important - You need to understand where your battery is because at some point it will need to be charged, replaced or both. A good battery can last as long as 5 years, however, depending on usage, temperatures and maintenance may only last as little as 3 years. When replacing a battery, make sure to buy one that fits the vehicle's specifications. A battery seller will have a vehicle guide to help you find the right battery. Don't forget to bring in your old battery for recycling, as you will reduce the harmful impact on the environment and get a little bit of your money back on a refund as well.