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Main Components of a Car & Their Functions

Mar 23, 2021 ·
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There are many parts that make up your vehicle, and each one plays a vital role in its operation. It’s thanks to the performance of these components that you’re able to get from place to place. While you may understand these parts are important, you might not understand how they operate.

Knowing how things work under the hood can help make you an educated consumer, which can come in handy when your vehicle needs repairs. Being able to have a conversation with an automotive technician means you’ll know exactly what they’re doing and why.

We’re not saying you have to have a master technician’s knowledge! But we are here to help you identify basic car parts to assist with troubleshooting problems and to help make you a more responsible car owner. Continue reading to find out more about different car components.

The Basics

There are a many things to cover when it comes to car parts and what they do, but starting with the basics is key. Having a foundational knowledge of the major components in your vehicle will serve you well in the long run.

Engine

It makes sense to start with the most important part under the hood of a vehicle, which is the engine. Most modern vehicles run on internal combustion engines, which generate energy by igniting a mixture of air and fuel that moves pistons, which in turn move the car.

There are also electric motors, which store energy in rechargeable batteries. Vehicles with electric engines accelerate faster than those with fuel-powered engines. Whether your car has a traditional or electric engine, it can’t run without it!

Battery

Your car’s battery has several important jobs, including providing your vehicle with power to start when you turn on the ignition. Batteries also ensure that other electrical components in your car work properly.

An instructor helps a student check a vehicle's battery in a UTI lab.

A dead battery can cause you to be stranded waiting for a jump-start. It’s good to get your battery looked at when you notice things like a clicking sound while turning the key or dimming headlights.

Alternator

The alternator is responsible for generating electricity. It keeps your battery charged by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy while the car is operating. By continuously charging the battery and keeping the battery charged throughout every trip, it keeps the car and all of the electrical components working correctly.

The alternator is responsible for generating electricity in your car's engine.

Signs of a failing or worn alternator are similar to those of a dying battery, including headlight dimming and difficulty starting. Ignoring alternator problems can cause battery issues, which in turn could leave you stranded.

Brakes

The brakes on your car are used to help slow down and stop your vehicle, as well as keep it in place when parked. Most cars feature either a disc or drum brake system.

A student adjusts brakes in a UTI Automotive lab.

Parts in a disc brake system include calipers, rotors and pads. Drum brake systems are comprised of brake drums and shoes. All of these parts have the potential to wear down over time, and any changes to how your brakes sound or feel should lead you to get them checked.

Read: What Is Brake Fluid, What Does It Do and How Often Should You Change It?

Radiator

Your car’s engine creates a lot of heat when it’s running, so it makes sense that there would be a cooling system to help manage it. The radiator is one of the major components of this system. It works to remove heat via liquid coolant before it circulates back to your engine.

The radiator ensures your engine doesn’t overheat, increasing performance and longevity. You can help maintain your radiator by checking coolant levels at least twice a year.

Transmission

The transmission, otherwise known as the car’s gearbox, is what takes the engine’s power and transfers it to the wheels through various components. Without it, you would simply go nowhere!

The transmission transfers the engine’s power to the wheels.

Manual transmissions are controlled by the driver using a gear lever or shifter inside the vehicle, while automatics do not require any driver input to change gears. Whether it’s a manual or an automatic, there’s a lot going on inside a transmission!

Changing the transmission fluid at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals will help you maintain this important component and prevent it from wearing out.

Shock Absorbers

The suspension system in your car helps stabilize it while you drive. This way, you get a smooth ride and you’re not bouncing around every time you hit a bump or dip. There are many parts that make up the suspension, and shock absorbers play an important role in this system.

Shock absorbers help stabilize your vehicle while you drive.

The shock absorbers’ main function is to ensure your tires are contacting the road at all times. This allows you to drive the vehicle safely and efficiently. They also help the brakes do their job by always keeping the tires in contact with the road surface. Worn shocks can result in vibrations when you’re driving and uneven tire wear, among other issues.

Catalytic Converter

When your car is running, it generates fumes and gases called emissions. To help regulate emissions and remove them from your car efficiently, there is an exhaust system hard at work. One of the main components in this system is the catalytic converter.

The catalytic converter helps change harmful compounds in emissions into safe gases before they’re released into the air through your tailpipe. Issues with the catalytic converter can cause a drop in performance and fuel efficiency.

Learn Even More About Cars at UTI

Now that you know about some of the basic car parts, are you itching to learn more? Maybe getting to work on vehicles for a living sounds appealing to you.

At Universal Technical Institute (UTI), our Automotive Technology program can equip you with the knowledge you need to maintain and repair import and domestic vehicles. From working on engine systems to performing emissions tuning, the courses can help you gain valuable hands-on experience and knowledge that you can take straight to the workforce.1

The best part is that you can graduate from the program in less than a year.7 You’ll gain an education that will help you prepare for a future you’re excited about — and help you out when you need to make repairs on your own ride!

Interested in finding out more? Request information here from an admissions representative or call 1-800-834-7308.

YOU COULD START YOUR EXCITING NEW CAREER AS A MECHANIC OR TECHNICIAN TODAY.
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It only takes a few minutes to learn about technician training opportunities.

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Please enter your email address

By submitting this form, I agree that Universal Technical Institute, Inc., Custom Training Group, Inc., and their representatives may email, call, and / or text me with marketing messages about educational programs and services, as well as for school - related communications, at any phone number I provide, including a wireless number, using prerecorded calls or automated technology. I understand that my consent is not required to apply, enroll or make any purchase.

By submitting this form, I further understand and agree that all information provided is subject to UTI's Privacy Policy available at uti.edu/privacy-policy

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