Glossary of Automotive Terms

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

SCCA
The Sports Car Club of America sponsors many racing events in the U.S. It also supplies many of the Race Officials and Workers for Road Racing by other groups. Most SCCA events are geared toward participation by SCCA members.
SCORE Off-Road Desert Championship
Short Course Off-Road Enterprises. SCORE now stages and promotes Off Road Truck races and events. Season starts in Arizona each January, ending in November with the Ford Tecate SCORE Baja 1000.
SRP
Spokane Raceway Park
Safe Driver Plan
Discounts for a good driving record.
Security Deposit
May be required in some lease contracts. It is similar to a security deposit on an apartment. This money is held to cover any payments that might be missed. This deposit may or may not be refundable. It is usually equivalent to one month's lease payment.
Sedan
A two- or four-door car that can hold four to six people. Includes a trunk in the rear.
Sensor Algorithm
An algorithm is a mathematical formula or series of formulas used by an on-board computer or processor to make a decision. In an airbag system, a crash-sensor algorithm determines whether the change in velocity indicates an impact of great enough force to require airbag deployment, based on pre-programmed parameters. If the change in velocity is great enough, the processor sends a signal to the device that inflates the airbag.
Sequential Fuel Injection
A sequential fuel injection system times the opening of the injectors to match the opening of the intake valve into each cylinder.
Settlement
A claim payment
Shift Interlock
On a vehicle with automatic transmission, a safety device that prevents the driver from shifting out of park unless the brake pedal is depressed.
Shock Absorbers
Suspension device near each wheel that dampens the up-and-down movement of the vehicle. Inside a shock absorber, a piston rides up and down in a cylinder filled with thick fluid or compressed gas. The shock absorber counteracts the up-and-down movement allowed by the springs.
Short-term Policy
A policy written for a period of time that is shorter than usual for that type of coverage.
Side Airbag
An inflatable cushion that fills the space between the door and the occupant to prevent head, torso and pelvis injuries when a vehicle is hit from the side. Side airbags may be stored in the door-trim panel or the outboard side of the seat; they may protect the hip and torso only or also protect the head. A new design, called an inflatable tubular restraint, is stored in the edge of the roof headliner and attached at the base of the A-pillar at the front end and above the doors along the roofline at the other. The device inflates into a somewhat stiff tube that prevents the occupant's head fro
Side-Impact
Federal safety regulations require that vehicles absorb a certain amount of force when hit from the side. To meet side-impact standards, automakers have stiffened side-impact beams, which resist intrusion into the passenger compartment, and added safety devices such as side airbags and extra padding, which are designed to push the occupant toward the interior of the vehicle and away from the point of intrusion.
Simple Interest
Interest paid or computed only on the original principal of a loan.
Single Overhead Cam (SOHC)
An engine with a single overhead cam generally has one intake and one exhaust valve per cylinder; the single cam opens and closes both valves. See also Overhead Cam and Dual Overhead Cam.
Single Pay Advantage
The lessee pays the entire lease amount in one payment in exchange for a lower money factor. Single-pay advantage was designed to overcome cash customers' objections to monthly payments. Unlike an actual cash purchase, however, the lessee still pays the financing cost.
Slicks
A type racing tire characteristically very wide with no tread.
Smart Airbag
Smart airbags don't exist yet, but NHTSA expects automakers and their suppliers to have them perfected sometime after the year 2000. There are many designs, but each contains similar elements including a system of sensors and mathematical algorithms to detect the presence or absence of an occupant in the seat; to determine the size, weight and nature of any occupant (including whether it is a rear-facing infant and determine whether the occupant is an adult, a dog, a bag of groceries or a rear-facing infant seat); and to determine whether the occupant is too close to the airbag door for safe d
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
An engineering organization that shares research information and sets industrywide standards.
Solo I
A racing event sponsored by the SCCA, focused on Time Trial and Hill Climbs.
Solo II
Autocross racing event sponsored by the SCCA.
Spark Plug
Converts voltage into an arc that passes between its electrodes; the arc ignites the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. The mixture explodes, creating power by pushing down the piston.
Spoiler
Usually on the rear of the vehicle, it changes the direction of airflow in order to reduce drag.
Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV)
Refers to a style of truck which has a square passenger cabin and hatchback, and may be equipped with two- or four-wheel drive.
Sports Car
A body type designation. Generally a small, powerful car seating only two people.
Sprint Car
Two types of sprint cars exist, the first is the USAC open-wheel cars that feature a upright roll cage. The second is a similar car that has a large wing mounted to the top for stability; this is used by the World of Outlaws.
Starter
An electric motor powered by the battery that turns the crankshaft before the pistons begin operating.
Starting Grid
The first section or portion of a race track.
Station Wagon
A two- or four-door passenger car with a cargo area that extends all the way to the rear bumper.
Steering Ratio
The ratio of the different steering gears. Usually a lower gear means a faster response.
Sticker Price
The price of a vehicle found on the sticker attached to one of its windows. Generally, the MSRP.
Stock Car Racing
Started by NASCAR's founder, Bill France, in the 1940s. Initially meant track cars equipped with showroom parts. Today, few cars use stock parts. Most are built from custom parts, made especially for these race cars, that look like those in showrooms.
Stroke
The up-and-down distance the piston travels within the cylinder. On a traditional internal combustion engine, the piston makes four strokes during the combustion cycle, only one of which is a power stroke. On the power stroke, the piston is near the top of the cylinder, and it has compressed the air and fuel mixture. The spark plug ignites the mixture, and the force of the explosion pushes the piston down into the cylinder, producing the force that turns the crankshaft. The piston returns to the top of the cylinder to expel the exhaust gases on the second, or exhaust, stroke. It slides down to
Subcompact
The car size class one step up from the minicar.
Subvented Lease
A special lease, subsidized by an auto manufacturer, that features a low money factor rate or high residual value, making the monthly payments extremely attractive. Automakers increasingly are using subvented-lease specials instead of rebates to boost sales of particular models.
Sunday Afternoon Rally
One day rallies, usually run by a local car club. These may be run on public access roads.
Sunroof
A window-type opening in the roof of the vehicle that can tilt or slide open.
Supercharged, Supercharger
Serves the same function as a turbocharger but avoids lag time because it runs off an engine-driven pump. Both turbochargers and superchargers are used to produce more power without increasing engine displacement, but neither are particularly fuel efficient and both can require costly maintenance as vehicles age.
Supercharger
A standard piece of equipment of Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters, this provides more power by blowing a combination of more air and vaporized fuel into the car's engine.
Supplementary Payments
The agreement or policy that an agency will pay defense costs, premiums, and interests.
Suspension
Springs, shock absorbers, struts, and links used to suspend the frame, body and engine above the wheels.
Synthetic oil
Engine lubricant not derived from raw petroleum. It has superior engine-protection properties but costs as much as five times more than petroleum oil.

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