The Auto Vocabulary Quiz


By: Rick Falgione

7 Min Quiz

Image: Pixabay by Toby_Parsons

About This Quiz

The world of automobiles has a specific lingo and jargon all its own. If you're really into car craft, you know what we're talking about. If not, every word "car people" use that you don't know is like a multi-pronged fork in the road. And you have no idea which road to take or where each will lead. Car jargon is part engineering, part cool, part muscle, part tech, but loads of fun (if you can get over feeling a little dense, at first). 

For those of you who think you know the ins and outs of "car speak," this quiz will test how well developed your car linguist muscles are.

For those who feel a little obtuse when it comes to "car speak," why don't you try this quiz? You'll increase your auto IQ, and you'll also be able to speak intelligently to your mechanic the next time they start speaking in auto-babble. 

Unlike an automobile engine, this quiz is not timed. However, if you're feeling a little Bobby Unser or Dale Earnhardt in your veins, by all means, pull out your smartphone, toggle to your best timer app, and time yourselves to the split second.

Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen ...

Start your engines!

What does the acronym VIN stand for?

The VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number, is a 17 character string that gives information on a vehicle's country of manufacture, manufacturing company, factory in which produced, etc.


What's another word for a beater car?

A beater car (or truck) is a vehicle that has no redeeming value other than to get you from point A to point B. It is not pretty and probably needs lots of work (body and repairs). There are additional words to describe beater cars, but we can't use them here. Just sayin'.


Have you ever heard of a rumble seat? If you did, what the heck was it?

A rumble seat was a seat located where the trunk is today. The reason for its name is pretty self-explanatory.


Have you seen any of the "Back to the Future" movies? If you ha e, this question should be a cinch for you. What is a gull wing door?

Gull wing doors are doors that open upward along the vertical axis. When open, they look like gull's wings.


Knowing what we've already learned about our favorite new word, jounce, what two words were combined to form the word, jounce?

Jolt and bounce equal jounce. Engineers are a funny lot. Not much at concocting words, eh? Some would argue, however, that the word existed long before it was used to refer to vehicles.


What is a serpentine belt?

The serpentine belt is a rubber belt that turns many pulleys such as the alternator pulley, power steering pump pulley, air conditioner compressor pulley, etc.


When referring to a vehicle, what does inline mean?

Inline refers to the arrangement of cylinders in a straight line, as opposed to an engine like a V6 or V8 where the cylinders are arranged in a V shape.


Vehicles don't typically wear bras (but they can). But what the heck is a car (or truck) bra?

A vehicle bra is an out of vogue accessory used to cover a car or truck's front end and grille to protect it from bugs, road debris and rocks.


If your mechanic was discussing caster, camber and toe with you, they would be talking about ________.

Caster, camber and toe are adjustments to a vehicle's front end. Toe is the difference in the distance between front tires, front to front and rear to rear. Camber is the tilt of a tire in relation to the ground. Caster is the angle of the steering mechanism of a vehicle offset from its vertical axis. Whew! All of these adjustments affect how your vehicle handles and how its tires wear.


When using the word jounce, with what specific area of a car would jounce be associated?

Jounce is associated with a vehicle's suspension system. Specifically, it refers to the motion that compresses a vehicle's spring, strut, or shock absorber. When you go over a speed bump, the first motion compresses the suspension components. That first motion is jounce.


Again, referring to our new favorite word jounce, if jounce is the compression of a vehicle's spring, strut, or shock absorber, what is the opposite action of a spring called?

Rebound is the opposite action of a car's spring, strut, or shock absorber. It is the springing back to the normal


A vehicle's gearbox refers to the _________.

Gearbox is accepted slang for the transmission. It's a box full gears. Yes, sometimes things really are that simple.


Enough of pillars! Another name for the hood is _______.

Bonnet is another term used for a vehicle's hood. In simple clothing terms, a hood and bonnet are nearly the same thing. Hence their interchangeability when referring to the hood of a vehicle.


Where in a vehicle would you find a torque converter?

A torque converter would be found in front of an automatic transmission. It acts as a fluid coupler, transferring power from the engine to the transmission.


We all know pistons are a major part of an engine, but what is a piston ring?

Piston rings are circular pieces of metal fitted to pistons within very low tolerances (tolerance affects the engine's performance). Piston rings keep oil out of the combustion chamber, while keeping gas and air in the chamber.


With which system of a vehicle is a drain cock associated?

A drain cock is associated with a vehicle's cooling system. Usually located near the bottom of a radiator, the drain cock allows you to drain the coolant from the radiator.


With what vehicle system is a catalytic converter associated?

The catalytic converter is associated with a vehicle's exhaust system. It uses a catalyst, usually platinum or palladium, to convert harmful components of a vehicle's exhaust into harmless compounds.


Why is the rear storage area of a car called a trunk?

Before vehicle storage became a consideration for car designers, people would fasten wooden trunks to the rear of their cars to carry their belongings on trips.


What is a freeze plug, and what does it do?

Freeze plugs — also known as core plugs — are small metal plugs that are found in an engine block's channels that carry coolant. If the coolant somehow freezes, because it is too diluted or only water has been used, freeze plugs are supposed to "pop" out of their channel to allow the excess pressure of expanding frozen water to escape. In theory, this will prevent an engine block from cracking due to that excess pressure.


In a planetary gear arrangement, planetary gears revolve around the sun gear. Where would you be most likely to find planetary gears?

The automatic transmission owes much to the planetary gear system. It uses planetary gears to change gear ratios without having to shift different gears.


Where are rocker panels located?

The rocker panels are located under doors. They span the distance between the front wheel well and the rear wheel well.


In the wonderful world of SUVs, what kind of SUV is a crossover SUV?

Crossover SUV refers to a typically small SUV that uses a car platform to give the vehicle its car-like ride and handling, while elevating the seating point of view and incorporating an SUV layout.


A vehicle is considered unibody if __________.

A vehicle with a unibody construction has no separate frame from the body. The metal structures are formed in a way that when welded will provide the necessary structural rigidity to the body and support to the vehicle's mechanical components, like the engine, transmission, axle structures, etc.


With which vehicle system is a sway bar associated?

The sway bar, or anti-roll bar, connects the wheels from the left side to the right side to keep them rolling at the same speed when hitting bumps and potholes in the road.


Cars and trucks are full of shafts. You may have even gotten the shaft from your dealer. So, in your car, truck, or SUV, what is its crankshaft?

The crankshaft runs the entire length of the engine, taking power input from the pistons and transforming it into a spinning motion. This is usually connected to a transmission and forms the motion that eventually is transmitted to the wheels to make a vehicle move.


Camshaft is just another word for the crankshaft, right?

An engine may have one or more camshafts. These move the intake and exhaust valves open and closed to properly aerate the combustion chamber and allow exhaust gases to escape.


In a vehicle, where would you most likely see a hog ring?

A hog ring is a round fastener that attaches seat upholstery to the main seat structure.


Where are the 'A' pillars located?

The "A" pillars are on either side of your vehicle's windshield. They hold it in place.


Well then, where are the 'C' pillars?

The "C" pillars are on either side of your vehicle's rear glass and hold it in place.


We've all heard of cladding, right? Where would you find cladding in a vehicle?

Cladding is associated with the vehicle's exterior decoration, usually excessive rubber or plastic, like the kind that came on the iconic Pontiac Aztek. Cladding is all about the "look" of a vehicle.


In which vehicle system would you find an intercooler?

An intercooler would be found as part of the turbocharging system. It cools the air fed by the turbo, increasing the density of the air, and therefore the amount of air fed to the engine.


When someone refers to a live axle, what exactly do they mean?

A live axle is an axle that is being driven from a source of power, such as the output from a transmission or a transfer case. This is opposed to a dead axle, which is not being driven, but is free-wheeling.


On a car, what does the beltline refer to?

The beltline of a car is an imaginary line that extends through the bottom edges of the doors' window openings at the midsection of the vehicle, somewhat like the beltline of a man or woman.


When talking engine displacement, liters is most often used. Cubic inch displacement was used in the past. How many cubic inches of displacement equals one liter?

61.02 cubic inches equals one liter of displacement. But you won't need to know how that number is calculated to drive that cool vehicle of yours!


To what does the term "front clip" refer?

The front clip usually refers to all of the sheet metal in the front of a vehicle, from the fenders forward (including the fenders).


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