Glossary of Automotive Terms

Click on any letter to find automotive-related entries beginning with that letter.

A-pillar
Vertical roof support between the windshield and front edge of the front side window.
AARA
The American Auto Racing Association, located in Spokane, Washington.
ADRA
American Drag Racing Association, located in Spokane, Washington.
AHRA
American Hot Rod Association
AMS
Atlanta Motor Speedway
ARCA
Automobile Racing Club of America, the little brother to the Winston Cup racing (ARCA is two levels below). ARCA sports similar cars with shorter races and small pay-outs.
Absolute Title
A document that states a person or a legal entity has the right of ownership.
Accident
An unforeseen and unintended event or occurrence.
Accumulator
Removes moisture from the liquid refrigerant in an air-conditioning system.
Acquisition Fee
A fee charged by the leasing company to buy the vehicle for the lessee and set up the lease. Also called the initiation fee, this typically runs about $450.
Act of God
Any accident or event that is not by human hand and can not be prevented. Usually a natural cause.
Actual Cash Value (ACV)
Replacement cost of property lost. If your vehicle were stolen, totaled in an accident, or otherwise rendered a loss, the Actual Cash Value is equal to the cost for a similar vehicle at current market prices.
Actuator
A device that performs a mechanical action in response to an input signal, which may be electrical or fluidic.
Additional Insured
A person or company, other than the person named on the account who is protected against damage or loss.
Additional Insured/Loss Payee
Since the lessor owns the leased vehicle, the lessee is required to name the lessor "additional insured" in his insurance liability-coverage policy and as the "loss payee" in his collision and comprehensive policy.
Adjusted Capitalized Cost
The basis for the basic monthly payment.
Adjuster
The person working with the insurance agency who determines the amount of damage, loss, and liability.
Advertised Price, Average
The average listed price for a given year, make and model combination, among the cars currently listed on AutoTrader.com.
Advertised Price, Highest
The highest listed price for a given year, make and model combination, among the cars currently listed on AutoTrader.com.
Advertised Price, Lowest
The lowest listed price for a given year, make and model combination, among the cars currently listed on AutoTrader.com.
Aerodynamics
The wind resistance of a vehicle's design elements. Aerodynamic vehicles claim to offer increased performance and reduced wind noise while moving. See Coefficient of Drag.
Agent
A representative of the insurance agency, licensed by the state, who solicits, negotiates, and countersigns the contract. Also provides service to the policyholder for the insurance agency.
Air Brake
Brakes, usually on heavy-duty trucks, that use compressed air to operate.
Airbag
Safety device using an inflatable cushion that inflates and deflates within a fraction of a second to protect a vehicle occupant.
Airbag Lockout Switch
A device allowing the driver to turn off the front passenger airbag.
Alignment
The proper adjustment of the car's suspension. Generally refers to the wheel alignment.
All-Risks Policy
A policy covering all losses except those specifically excluded in the contract.
All-Season Tires
Tires designed to provide good traction in winter snow and slush without wearing too quickly on dry roads.
All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV)
A small, lightweight vehicle designed for recreational off-highway use.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
A vehicle drivetrain with all wheels powered by the engine at all times. Sometimes called full-time four-wheel drive.
Alloy Wheels
Any non-steel road wheel. Mostly aluminum, but technically a mixture of two or more metals.
Alternative Fuels
May be alcohol-based, such as ethanol or methanol; compressed natural gas; or combinations of gasoline and alcohol.
Alternator
Produces alternating current and recharges the battery.
Amortization
The gradual reduction of a debt by periodic payments large enough to meet current interest payments and repay the principal.
Amount Financed
The portion of the purchase price that is actually financed. In addition to the cost of the car, it can include the costs of an extended warranty, credit life insurance, and other items rolled into the payments.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
The average compound interest rate over the life of the loan. A yearly rate of interest that includes fees and costs paid to acquire a loan. Lenders are required by law to disclose the annual percentage rate, which is used to compare various loans; it makes simple interest and compound interest loans comparable with each other.
Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)
A computer-controlled braking system that senses impending wheel lockup and pulses the brakes many times a second to prevent it. This results in the most important benefit of ABS: by preventing wheel lockup, it allows the driver to maintain steering control. Unfortunately, too few drivers are trained to use ABS properly. When the system engages, it may vibrate the brake pedal. A driver who doesn't know how to use ABS may lift his foot from the pedal when he receives this feedback, effectively disengaging the system.
Anti-Roll Bar
A suspension component. A steel rod or tube that connects the left and right suspension members to resist roll or swaying of the vehicle. Improves handling.
Antifreeze
A liquid that mixes with the water in a cooling system of a vehicle's engine. Antifreeze keeps the water from freezing in the winter or cold climates, or from overheating in the summer or hot climates.
Application
An initial statement of personal and financial information which is required to approve your loan.
Appraisal
A survey of the property to assess damage.
Aspect Ratio
The ratio between the width and sidewall (or height) of the tire. Tires with lower aspect ratios, usually found on sports models, provide superior handling but a harsher ride.
Assigned Risk Plan
A risk that must be insured by state law or otherwise.
Auto Mall
Several Dealership operations located on one site.
Automatic Locking Retractor
Standard on 1995 and later models, this device is built into the shoulder belt retractor and keeps the belt cinched tightly, which is essential for properly securing a child-safety seat.
Automatic Temperature Control (ATC)
Automatically controls a vehicle's heating and cooling systems, maintaining a temperature preset by the occupant.
Automatic Transmission
A system that varies the power and torque to a drivetrain without the use of a foot-operated clutch.
Axle
A rotating metal shaft connected to the wheels on either side of the vehicle.

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