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Shop ClassA quick primer on car parts to help you decode mechanic-speak.


Image of a mechanic holding up a pair of wrenches.

The Alternator
Takes power from the engine using a serpentine belt and turns that power into an electrical current that helps the car run smoothly. Also powers accessories like the headlights, stereo and air conditioning. It helps keep the battery in good shape, as otherwise the battery would drain very quickly.

The Fuel Pump
A mechanical or electrical device that draws fuel from the fuel tank and delivers it to the carburetor or fuel injectors.

The Caliper
The metal “coconut” that the brake pads fit into and connect to the rotor when you apply the brakes.

The Rotor
Round, shiny disc that rotates along with the wheel, which the brake pads contact when slowing down.

The Camshaft
The shaft in the engine that is driven by gears, belts or chain from the actual pistons of the engine. The camshaft has a series of cams that open and close intake and exhaust valves as it turns.

The Timing
Refers to the crankshaft angles at which the valves open and close and at the precise time the ignition system fires the spark plugs, which can impact both the fuel economy and the driveability of the car.

Michael Bettencourt test drives more than 100 new vehicles a year and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.