Every industry has its own language; jargon that only the people working in the business understand. The car industry is no different. We’ve all had a mechanic take one look at our car, shake their head, suck air through their teeth and mutter something using words that might as well be in another language.
The result is people don’t trust garages. One study found that nearly half of drivers think technicians hiding behind confusing car jargon have ripped them off. According to property company Pentific, mechanics rank alongside politicians, car sales execs, journalists, estate agents and builders for being untrustworthy. But you need never be baffled again. Here we explain six pieces of commonly-used car jargon.
This is frequently used in terms of a big end ‘going’. It sounds painful and for an engine, a big end failure is catastrophic. All internal combustion engines have pistons which go up and down. These connect to a crankshaft that converts the pistons’ energy to power the wheels. The big end is the physical mechanism that joins the pistons to the crankshaft.
It has bearings that are semi-circular metal sleeves. These take a lot of punishment and can wear out. If they do, there’ll be a loud knocking noise from the engine, parts will no longer be as synchronised as they should be and eventually the engine will literally grind to a halt.
A technician usually refers to this as clogged. All modern diesel cars have a DPF or Diesel Particulate Filter. It works by catching the smoke which is made up of harmful particulates. Hot exhaust gases turn the contents of the filter into ash to prevent it from clogging. The trouble is, on short journeys the exhaust gases don’t get hot enough to clear the filter which gets blocked. New filters are expensive and removing them completely isn’t an option if cars are to remain road legal.
It sounds like something adults might accuse kids of getting up to in the school holidays. Actually it’s used in relation to any kind of mechanical connection. It means the part is moving more than it should or in a direction that it shouldn’t. This is usually employed in relation to steering and suspension components.
Two words you’ll be hearing increasingly with modern cars. The implication is a technician will do something complicated with a computer, then spend hours carefully poring over spread sheets of data. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The technician simply plugs a computer into a port in one of the car’s front footwells. The software on the laptop then talks to the car’s computer which reveals any faults it’s detected. As they’re computers they talk in code (mechanics might mention fault codes) but technicians can easily decipher these. The diagnostic check will frequently tell the mechanic the symptoms. They should then be able to work out what the problem is.
Bushes and wishbones
When a mechanic starts talking about bushes and wishbones, they haven’t developed a sudden interest in gardening and poultry. The bush is a vital part of your car’s suspension; the wishbone a suspension component that looks a bit like a chicken bone.
The bush is a rubber liner that keeps the suspension joints snug and stops metal grinding against metal. But because they’re rubber they wear out. The older a car is, or the more miles it’s covered, the more likely its suspension bushes are to wear out. But don’t worry, it shouldn’t be too expensive.
Oil lubricates engines; water cools them. The two shouldn’t mix. However, sometimes worn engine parts mean water or condensation gets into the lubrication system. The water combines with oil forming an emulsion that looks like Hellmann’s finest. This mayonnaise then gathers on the inside edge of the oil filler cap.
It can mean that the engine’s head gasket is failing. But it might be that the engine isn’t warming up sufficiently in cold weather. If the problem persists in all conditions, take the car to a garage you trust and ask them to investigate. A compression test should warn of any serious problems.