What’s That Under the Hood? A Helpful Guide to the Different Car Parts

The importance of car safety during COVID-19 has become even more vital today.

Once you choose the road to becoming an auto mechanic, the lives of many people – the drivers, their passengers, and even pedestrians – depend on how well you perform your job.

Before you proceed with the more complex parts of your profession, you must keep the basics in mind, and that includes understanding the different components you’ll be tinkering with under a car hood.

While you cannot expect to learn everything right off the bat, this article will help you get off to a good start.

10 Car Parts You’ll Find Under the Hood and What They Do

Cars are machines made with dozens of different components. Some are made for comfort and convenience, while others are responsible for keeping the vehicle running.

Here, you’ll learn the ten car parts that work together for a smooth, safe, and comfortable ride:

1.     Engine

The engine is the biggest and most significant part you will find under the hood. It is the component that runs the car, and everything else revolves around it – literally. It combines air, fuel, pressure, and electricity to make the vehicle move.

Most vehicles run on two main types of engines: V6 and V8.

The primary difference between the two is the number of cylinders they have: V6 with six cylinders and V8 with eight. The number of cylinders affects the power and performance of the vehicle.

The “V” indicates how the pistons (the components that move up and down with kinetic energy) are arranged on the crankshaft – two rows of three for V6 and two rows of four for V8.

Below are the key advantages of V8 engines:

  • can fit most muscle cars
  • best for vehicles used towing and hauling
  • provides the vehicle with stable strength and power
  • faster acceleration

As for V6, you can expect:

  • a lighter and more affordable engine
  • more power and a smoother drive than four-cylinder engines
  • savings on petrol
  • stability and better handling

2.     Transmission

The second-largest component you’ll find under a car’s hood is the transmission. Usually attached to the back part of the engine, it sits under everything else, so you may not be able to see it easily.

The transmission shifts the gears of the car, regardless if you have a manual or automatic vehicle. It is also the component that lets the car stay neutral or go on reverse.

In short, it transfers energy from the engine to the wheels.

3.     Radiator

Located front and center of the car is the radiator.

It helps prevent the engine from overheating by allowing coolant to flow through it. The heat then moves to the radiator, which blows the hot air across the liquid to cool it down. A small hose connects the radiator with an overflow container.

When the coolant is pressurized, it means the radiator is extremely hot, so you must never attempt to open the cap. Check it for any signs of leaks or cracks as this can cause bigger repairs if not fixed immediately.

4.     Belts

Also known as fan belts, drive belts serve as the driving mechanism for the different car components under the hood.

If it snaps, the driver may experience a sudden loss of the power assist of the steering system, making the vehicle much more difficult to turn. This can also cause a halt in coolant circulation, which may lead to overheating.

5.     Alternator

The alternator serves as the main source of electricity for the vehicle. If broken, the car may stop working.

It is usually grouped with the power steering pump, water pump, and AC compressor, as all of them are run by the same belt near the front of the engine.

6.     Power steering pump

As the name implies, this hydraulic pump ensures the smooth function of the power steering system. If it fails, the driver may experience “heavier” steering, leading to serious safety risks.

7.     AC compressor

The air-conditioning compressor ensures that the AC of the vehicle is functioning smoothly. In warm places like the UAE, this could mean uncomfortable driving conditions.

The first thing you need to check if the AC compressor stops working is its power supply. It is possible that a breaker has been tripped or a fuse has blown. A visual inspection of the wiring can tell you if this is the case.

If not, you can check whether it has:

  • faulty cooling fans
  • a broken condenser
  • condenser blockage
  • leaking refrigerant

8.     Brakes

Located near the driver’s seat are the master cylinder, brake booster, and fluid reservoir. These braking system components work together to slow down or stop the car from moving.

Malfunctioning brakes pose road safety risks. If the brake fluid is extremely low or depleted, there may be something wrong with the vehicle brakes. When brake fluid levels decrease during normal operation, this means that the brake pads are wearing out.

9.     Battery

Characterized by a rectangular shape, a battery is connected by two electrical cables to the different components of the car.

This component is what you should look for to jumpstart a vehicle as it is responsible for supplying the current to the car starter (the small electric motor that turns the engine on).

The battery also powers spark plugs that ignite the cylinders in the engine and the computers and electrical circuits in the vehicle.

10. Windscreen washer fluid reservoir

That plastic jug filled with liquid near the windshield base at the back of the engine bay in most vehicles is the windshield washer fluid reservoir.

If the fluid is depleted, no water will spray out from the windscreen washer.

However, an empty tank isn’t the only cause for this. It is also possible that the tank is broken. To determine if this is the case, you can check if:

  • there is fluid leaking underneath the vehicle
  • the washer fluid reservoir level is frequently low or empty
  • there are visible cracks in the tank

Remembering Car Parts Made Easy

Knowing all car components is much like learning about the different parts of the human body. You need to understand how they work and what happens when they don’t determine the appropriate solution.