The 10 basic terms your car mechanic wants you to know

Familiarize yourself with a few basic car mechanic terms. By doing so, you’ll be better informed and understand both the details and the big picture the next time you’re discussing your vehicle’s repair or maintenance with your local mechanic.

1. Oil Filter

Your oil filter is vital to the health of your car. This important part cleans your engine oil while the oil circulates through your car’s lubrication system. During an oil change, your mechanic will replace the oil filter.

2. Distributor

Found within your car’s ignition system, the distributor oversees and evenly delivers the right amount of electrical voltage to the vehicle’s spark plugs (and in the right order, too).

3. Brake fluid

One of your car’s most important fluids, brake fluid is usually clear in color and is used within a vehicle’s hydraulic brake system to squeeze the brakes around the rotors and slow or stop your car.

4. Radiator

The radiator is able to keep the liquid cool in your car’s cooling system by allowing liquid to run through a series of channels that are exposed to a vehicle’s air ducts.

5. Tune-up

A basic tune-up at your local Christian Brothers auto shop will usually include the replacement of fuel filters, air filters, and spark plugs. A regular tune-up ensures that these parts are in good working condition.


The ASE-certified technician will pull out your dipstick to visually check the level and quality of the liquid as well as determine whether you need an oil change (or to replace another fluid).


When your key turns in the ignition, the spark plug ignites the fuel-air mixture and powers the engine. However, a burnt-out spark plug will not properly ignite. Likewise, a spark plug covered in water could flood the engine.


If water sits on the outside casing, your battery can quickly corrode. Leaking acid and rust built up under the hood also causes corrosion. A corroded battery will not function properly and could lead to a dead engine.


Over time, your brake pads wear out. When our ASE-certified professionals check your brake system, they’ll inspect the brake pads’ thickness. This ensures they’re the proper width to effectively (and safely) stop your car.


The timing belt is covered in bumps, operates the camshaft, is usually made of reinforced rubber, and is responsible for opening and closing valves at the proper time. The camshaft is an essential moving component to any combustion engine.

Over time, parts and fluids in your car or truck need to be replaced. It is important to talk to your mechanic at a local Christian Brothers about scheduled and preventative maintenance for your vehicle.