car parts

The Basics of Car Parts

From engines to wheels, many parts come together to power your car down the road. Take time to familiarize yourself with these components and what they do for your vehicle. Find the best car parts.

The battery converts chemical energy to electrical energy, starting your engine and powering other systems, such as keeping lights illuminated and music playing.


An engine is a machine that converts chemical energy to mechanical motion energy to drive your car down the road. To accomplish this feat, an air-fuel mixture is converted to mechanical energy via highly controlled explosions, which push and pull pistons resembling upturned cups attached to an even stronger piece of metal at the base of your engine called the crankshaft. This produces back-and-forth motion, which then converts into rotational movement that drives your wheels.

The main “container” of an engine, the cylinder block, houses the piston-holding cylinders as well as cooling and lubrication passages. Additionally, a removable cover, the cylinder head, is mounted onto it with valve-controlled passageways for air and fuel mixture entry into cylinders and for the expulsion of exhaust gases from them.

The crankshaft, situated at right angles to your cylinders and pistons, converts their linear motion into rotational movement that drives your wheels. It must be very strong, as it must support the weight of both pistons and their connecting rods as they rise and fall up and down the crankshaft. Additionally, another mechanism known as a camshaft operates mechanisms that open and close valves on your cylinder at precisely the correct time during each four-stroke cycle.


Engines may be essential components of your car, but without an effective transmission, they cannot transmit power directly to the wheels and keep moving forward. That is what the transmission does.

Start here—the transmission takes the energy produced by your car engine and converts it to mechanical power for turning its wheels while controlling how much of that power reaches them.

Within the transmission, a series of gears or shafts mesh together to vary the speed and torque transferred to the wheels. A hydraulic system then activates clutches and bands, enabling shifting between gears.

A clutch is composed of two steel plates connected by splines: one to lock to one of the transmission’s gears and another that connects directly to its case. Hydraulic pressure from shift valves is routed directly into these cylinders to activate them as you switch gears and activate their clutch plates as necessary.

Your vehicle’s transmission utilizes a ratio system that matches input speeds (engine rpm) with output speeds (velocity). Most modern cars feature multiple gear ratios that can be selected via shift stick or, on automatic models, built-in sensors and processors. Some modern vehicles also offer either “Sport” or “Eco” modes to prioritize power or fuel economy depending on driving conditions.


Brakes are essential car components that allow you to control the speed and distance of your vehicle while serving as key safety features to help avoid accidents and injuries. Brakes convert kinetic energy into heat through frictional-generating brake pads pressing against rotating metal discs (rotors) attached to wheel hubs; when you press on the brake pedal, hydraulic pressure generated in both master cylinder (red) and booster (green) is transferred directly to individual calipers (blue), which then clamp down onto brake discs/rotors in order to slow or stop moving movement altogether.

Brake discs, rotors, and pads wear down over time. While operating, they are exposed to intense heat, which causes them to glaze over and lose their ability to generate friction—this condition is known as brake fade.

Brake discs, rotors, and pads come in an assortment of materials ranging from organic, semi-organic, and ceramic. Sports cars often pair carbon discs with ceramic brake pads for more extreme stopping power; asbestos was once widely used but has since been banned due to its dangerous health impacts when inhaled as dust particles. No matter which material your brakes are constructed from, all can become vulnerable over time due to corrosion or other factors, which could compromise their performance or lead them to fail; so regular inspection and replacement inspection are essential in keeping upkeep.


Tires are oval rubber ovals designed to support the weight of cars while providing traction, brake, steering, and suspension forces to the road surface. They also absorb road shocks, alter the direction of travel, and maintain air pressure. Tires come in various varieties made from different rubber mixtures with differing hardnesses and temperature resistance properties; the most essential parts are the tread, carcass, and inner liner that helps ensure air pressure stays under control.

At the core of tire production lies mixing raw materials. Natural and synthetic rubbers are mixed with materials like carbon black and silica to improve properties such as traction, rolling resistance, wear resistance, stability, and more. Once combined, this mixture is extruded through an extruder to form various shapes and sizes of tire components.

Rubber components are then assembled and heat-treated in a mold, while some tires may be coated in special chemicals to provide puncture and environmental factor resistance. Once complete, this tire will be cured under intense heat and pressure to finish its shape and toughen up for safety tests—this final stage must pass many rigorous tests that measure how well it will handle the stresses it will face while in service.

Electrical System

An electrical system refers to any system that generates, transmits, and distributes power; key characteristics include current and voltage.

Voltage refers to the difference in electrical potential between two points in a circuit, and current is the flow of electrons that power devices like light bulbs. Electricity travels along conductors such as wires or metal cables, and its flow is determined by voltage and current measurements using tools like voltmeters.

The battery is an integral component of any vehicle’s electrical system, transforming chemical energy into electrical current that powers your engine and other parts of your car. Without functioning batteries, your car would stop functioning altogether.

An alternator is another essential component of an electrical system. It uses mechanical energy from your engine to convert mechanical motion into electricity that helps recharge your battery.

Your vehicle’s electrical components include a radiator that removes heat from coolant before it is circulated back through the engine, switches and relays that control other systems, electronic control units (ECU) to manage multiple computer-based vehicle functions, and relay systems as well as sensors and switches which communicate among themselves to notify various components what to do, when to do it and how fast – while keeping all parts working together safely in good order.

Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter, located deep within your exhaust system, is one of the most crucial but lesser-known car components. Utilizing chemical reactions and precious metals to clean harmful gasses from engine exhaust systems, this device serves an indispensable purpose but does present some drawbacks, particularly its vulnerability to theft.

A catalyst reduces harmful hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions produced by your gasoline engine by reacting with these toxic gases into less toxic forms like carbon dioxide and oxygen—not toxic water-vapor gases like methane—while rearranging nitrogen-oxygen compounds to produce nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming.

Given that oxidation reactions take place at such high temperatures, catalytic converters need to be warmed up before beginning work. Most manufacturers install “cats” near engines so they can receive heat from internal combustion; however, exposure to excessively hot exhaust gases nearby may reduce the life span of catalytic converters; to prolong their lifetime, many owners choose electric resistance heaters to preheat the catalytic converter.

An ineffective or damaged catalytic converter (or “cat”) can restrict the flow of exhaust gases, leading to your engine performing poorly and possibly even sputtering or stalling out. Furthermore, carbon buildup may produce an unpleasant odor as well as excessive heat underneath your vehicle.