Glossary of Automotive Terms

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

Damper
A device that reduces vibration.
Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
These lights come on whenever the vehicle is turned on; they make the vehicle more visible to other drivers. Mandatory in Canada and standard equipment on many vehicles sold in the United States.
Dealer Charges
Any extra charges for additional services or products sold by the dealer such as rust-proofing or extended warranties.
Dealer Holdback
Also known as "pack." Manufacturer refund to a dealer after a vehicle is sold. Usually a percentage (2 to 3%) of the MSRP.
Dealer Incentive
A limited time discount offered by the manufacturer to a dealership.
Dealer Incentives
A cash refund or attractive lease or loan rate offered by an automotive manufacturer toward the sale/purchase of a new vehicle.
Dealer Invoice Price
Also called dealer cost. The amount the dealer pays for a car or truck. Deducted from this price may be a dealer incentive, which is a set discount offered for a limited period of time, or a dealer holdback, which is a percentage of the vehicle's wholesale price.
Dealer Preparation Fee
Extra charges for getting the car ready.
Dealer Sticker Price
The base price, or the price on the Monroney sticker, plus the suggested retail price of dealer-installed options, dealer preparation, and add-ons such as undercoating.
Deductible
The amount of money or percentage of expenses that will be covered by the insured.
Default Charges
Fees charged the lessee as a result of missing payments or otherwise defaulting on the lease. Typical charges include all remaining payments and any additional costs incurred in reclaiming the vehicle. The security deposit may also be lost.
Deposit
A sum of money to hold a deal until the paperwork is complete. If the deal is closed, the deposit is applied to the down payment.
Depreciation
The decrease in a vehicle's market value over time. The amount of yearly depreciation is affected by vehicle condition; resale-marketplace supply and demand; and make and model reputation. Convertibles, high-performance cars, trucks and vans tend to depreciate less than other vehicles.
Destination & Delivery Charges
The cost of transporting the vehicle from the assembly plant to the dealership. Usually a flat fee passed on to the buyer without any markup.
Diesel
An internal combustion engine in which the air-fuel mixture is ignited by compression in the cylinder rather than by a spark. Diesel engines use diesel fuel rather than gasoline and tend to be more fuel-efficient and require less maintenance than gasoline engines, but it is more complicated to get them to run cleanly. Also used as a slang term: after turning off the ignition, the engine continues to run for a short period.
Diesel fuel
The fuel used by a diesel engine. Usually found in tractor trailers and other trucks.
Differential
A mechanical gearbox or fluid coupling that allows wheels to rotate at different speeds. Usually located on an axle, it allows the outside wheels to turn faster than the inside wheels during cornering. Four-wheel-drive and all-wheel drive vehicles have two differentials, one for the rear axle and one for the front. all-wheel drive vehicles also may have a third or center differential on the drive shaft that runs between the front and rear axles.
Ding
A small dent or scrape in the body of the vehicle.
Direct Financing
Arranging the loan directly through a bank or credit union rather than through the dealer.
Direct Loss
Damage or loss directly due to a particular event or peril.
Disc Brakes
Shiny metal discs, called brake rotors, are attached to the wheel hub, rotating with the wheel. When the brake pedal is depressed, the brake calipers squeeze the discs to slow the vehicle. See Brake Caliper and Brake Rotor.
Displacement
The volume displaced by an engine's cylinders. Formerly measured in cubic inches, it is now more commonly expressed in liters.
Disposal Fee
Also called Disposition Fees. Charge for costs associated with picking up and processing the returned car at the end of the lease. This runs from $200 to $400. Sometimes rolled into monthly payments. Often absorbed by dealers when another vehicle is leased.
Distributor
Part of the ignition (electrical) system. Delivers electricity from the ignition coil to the distributor cap and the spark plug wires in the correct firing order. (The firing order is that sequence in which each cylinder begins its power stroke.) The spark plugs ignite the fuel and air mixture in each cylinder thousands of times a minute, producing the explosion that pushes the piston down in the cylinder to power the vehicle.
Double Wishbone Suspension
A type of independent suspension in which the upper and lower support pieces, or members, look somewhat like a wishbone.
Down Payment
The up-front cash payment that the buyer makes to reduce the amount borrowed to purchase a car; the difference between the loan amount and the purchase price. A trade-in allowance and/or rebate also may be used as down payment. The down payment helps protect the bank, credit union or finance company in case the borrower defaults on the loan. A typical down payment is about 20 percent of the vehicle's sale price.
Drafting
A phenomena where two cars running nose to tail together can move faster than an individual vehicle.
Drive Axle
Connects the transaxle to the front wheels on a front-wheel drive vehicle.
Drive Range (EV)
The distance an electric vehicle can drive without re-charging its batteries.
Drive Shaft
A rotating metal shaft that transfers power from the transmission differential gear assembly to the rear wheels on a rear-wheel drive vehicle.
Drive Wheels
The wheels, front, rear, or both, to which the engine transmits its power.
Drivetrain
Vehicle components which act together to move the vehicle forward or backward. On a rear-drive vehicle, it is the combination of the engine, transmission, differential and drive shaft. On a front-drive vehicle, it consists of the engine, transaxle and drive axles.
Drum Brakes
A braking system that uses a metal drum. Brake shoes press against the drum to slow or stop the car.
Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC)
Engine with two camshafts on top of the cylinder head, one to open and close intake valves, the other to open and close exhaust valves. See also Overhead Cam and Overhead Valve.

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