English Vocabulary for the Workplace: Automotive Work

Automotive means "relating to cars and other vehicles."

In many places, it is very difficult to get from one place to another without a car. In these places, almost everyone owns a car. Cars are a great convenience for travel, and larger vehicles make it possible for stores to move a large amount of goods from place to place.

But cars are also complicated – they require a lot of care. So there are many jobs related to cars. Some people make them, some people sell them, some people clean them, and some people fix them. To do any of these jobs, there are a lot of words related to cars that are important to know.

dog driving a steering wheel

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In this lesson, we will cover these topics:

Places Related to Cars

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Cars are complicated and expensive machines. So there are a lot of places related to their creation, care, and repair. People and businesses who buy cars get them from a place that sells cars.

People need to care for their cars, so there are several different kinds of businesses that provide fuel for cars and provide services to keep cars looking nice and running well. And cars also need repair when parts of the car stop working or when the car is in an accident.

All of these services happen at different businesses. If you are going to be working with cars, you should be familiar with the variety of businesses that take care of cars in one way or another.

Car Dealership
A car dealership is a place where cars are sold.

Car Factory
A car factory is a place where cars are made.

Car Wash
A car wash is a business that washes cars. The washing might be done by people or by machines.

Repair Shop
A repair shop fixes cars.

Body Shop
A body shop is a type of car repair shop that focuses on the outside of the car.

Gas Station
Most cars need gas in order to run. A gas station is a place where gas can be bought.

Service Station
A service station is a gas station that also repairs cars.

The Parts of a Car

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The tire is a thick rubber ring that connects the car to the ground. Cars normally have four tires.

Spare Tire
A spare tire is an extra tire that is kept in the car in case one of the regular tires cannot be used. It is usually smaller and weaker than the regular tires and is only meant to be used for a short amount of time until the regular tire can be fixed or replaced.

The "tread" is the pattern on a tire that makes the tire safer by helping it grip the road better.

A hubcap is a round piece of metal that goes over the wheel of a car.

The mudflap is a piece of thick plastic that hangs behind the rear tires of a car in order to stop mud and water from splashing up.

A jack is a metal device that is placed under the car in order to raise the car up. This is usually done if one of the tires on the car needs to be changed.

Jumper Cables
If a car's battery is not working, jumper cables are attached to the battery and also to a battery in another car that works. This makes it possible to transmit electricity from the working battery to the other battery.

The trunk is the space in the back of a car where boxes and other items can be placed.

Shock Absorbers
A shock absorber is found on each wheel of a car. It makes it so that the people in the car cannot feel all of the bumps on the road.

The hood covers the front part of the car. The engine is usually located under the hood.

License Plate
The license plate is a piece of metal with numbers and letters on it. There is usually one on the front and the back of the car. The government usually requires each car to have a license plate so the car can be identified.

The bumper is the metal or plastic bar at the front and back of the car. It is supposed to limit the damage if the car is hit or if it hits something else.

Headlights are lights on the front of the car that a driver can turn on at night to make it easier to drive in the dark. Cars also usually have a "bright" setting for headlights.

Taillights are lights on the back of a car that the driver can turn on at night to make it easier for other drivers to see the car.

The brakelights are red lights on the back of the car that are lit when the driver presses on the brakes so that other drivers will know that the car is slowing down or stopping.

The "body" of a car refers to the painted metal sheets that make up the outside of the car.

Gas Tank
The gas tank holds the gas until it is needed. The driver can open the "gas cap" in order to put more gas into the car.

The door is the part of the car that can be opened to allow people to enter or leave the car. Most cars have four doors.

The window is the part of the car that is made of glass and that the driver and passengers can see through. The types of windows on a car are:

  • Windshield: this is the front window of the car that the driver looks through.
  • Back window: this is the back window of the car.
  • Side windows: these are the windows on the sides of a car.

A visor is a piece of, usually, plastic that the driver can move into position to stop the sun from getting into the driver's eyes.

Windshield wipers
Windshield wipers are things that move back and forth across the windshield to remove rain so that the driver can see better. The driver controls the windshield wipers by a device that is usually attached to the steering wheel. Some cars also have windshield wipers on the back window of the car. The front windshield wipers usually have a setting that will spray cleaner onto the window and then wipe it off in order to clean the windshield.

Cars usually have several mirrors that the driver uses in order to see the traffic around the car. These include:

  • Rear-view mirror: A mirror placed in the top center of the windshield that allows the driver to see the traffic behind the car.
  • Side mirrors: Mirrors placed on the driver's side door and the passenger side door that allow the driver to see the traffic on the sides of the car.

Floor Mats
The floor mats are pieces of carpet and/or plastic that are placed on the floor inside of a car to protect the car from dirt and water.

Accelerator (or gas pedal)
The accelerator is a pedal that the driver presses on with his or her foot in order to control the car's speed.

Turn Signal (also called a blinker)
Drivers must let other drivers know when they are going to turn. They do this by pressing a lever near or on the steering wheel that causes a light on the back left or back right of the car to blink. Both the lever the driver presses and the blinking light are called the turn signal or the blinker.

The horn makes a sound to warn other drivers of a problem. The driver makes the horn sound by pressing a button, which is usually on the steering wheel.

Glove Compartment
The glove compartment is a small box that locks and is located in front of the front seat passenger. It does not usually contain gloves, but rather other things that the driver or passengers might need, such as maps.

The brakes are a pedal that the driver pushes with his or her foot to slow down or to stop the car. The brakes are also the mechanical system that causes the car to slow down or stop. Cars also have an emergency brake (also called a parking brake) that is used when the car is parked in order to stop it from moving.

Brake Pad
The brake pad is the thin pad that presses against the wheel in order to stop the car.

In some cars, the gears change automatically. In other cars, the driver has to press a pedal, called the clutch, and then change the gears.

Steering Wheel
The steering wheel is a wheel that the driver turns in order to turn a car.

The dashboard is the part of the car that is visible to the driver and contains the car's controls and instrument panel.

Cruise Control
In some cars, the driver can press a button so that the car will automatically move at a certain speed without the driver needing to press the accelerator.

Fuel Gauge
The fuel gauge shows the driver how much gas is left in the car. When it is at the "F," the car is "full" of gas. When it is at the "E," the car is empty of gas. Cars will also have a warning light that shows when the gas is getting low.

Warning Light
A warning light is a light that goes on to let the driver know that there is a problem with the car.

The speedometer shows the driver the speed at which the car is moving. It is located on the dashboard.

The odometer shows how many miles and kilometers a car has been driven. It is located on the dashboard.

A surface inside the car where the driver or a passenger can sit is called a seat. Cars usually have two rows of seats:

  • Front seat: these are the seats closest to the front of the car. They include the driver's seat and usually one passenger's seat.
  • Back seat: this is the row of seats behind the driver. It usually contains two or three seats for passengers.

The seatbelt is a thin strip of heavy fabric that holds a driver or passenger in place in case the car stops suddenly. The purpose of a seatbelt is to keep the person safe.

A surface in the car that a driver or passenger can rest an arm on is called the "armrest."

Air Conditioning
The air conditioning is the system that blows cold air into a car.

The heater is the system that blows hot air into a car.

An airbag is a safety device. If the car is in an accident, the airbag quickly fills with air so that the driver or passenger hits it instead of another part of the car. It is supposed to protect the people in the car from getting hurt. It then empties very quickly so that the driver can see what is happening.

Car Seat
A car seat is a small seat designed to keep a child safe in a car. It can usually be removed from the car.

Exhaust Pipe
This pipe takes the waste gases from the engine to the back of the car, where the pipe ends and the gases are released.

A muffler makes the sound of the engine much more quiet than it would otherwise be.

"Electrics" means the system of wires that provide electricity to a car.

Crumple Zone
The crumple zone refers to the parts of the car, usually the front and back, that are designed to be crushed easily in order to protect the people in the car from getting hurt.

The metal frame that a car is built on is called the "chassis."

The axle is a straight piece of metal that connects two wheels on a car.

The roof is the top part of a car.

Some cars have a window in the roof that lets light in. This is called a sunroof.

Roof Rack
Some cars have roof racks, which allow people to place large items, such as suitcases, on top of the car and keep them secure while the car is moving.

The Parts of a Car's Engine

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The engine is the machine that makes it possible for the car to move. The parts of the engine include:

Cylinder Block
The cylinder block is the main part of the engine. It is where the fuel is combusted. All of the other parts of the engine are connected to the cylinder block. Cars usually have four, six, or eight cylinders. The cylinders can be arranged in different ways:

  • Inline: the cylinders are in one row.
  • V: the cylinders are in two rows that meet at an angle.
  • Flat: the cylinders are in two rows that meet horizontally.

Cylinder Head
The cylinder head goes on top of the cylinder block. It forms a seal.

Gaskets create a seal between the cylinder block and the cylinder head.

Connecting Rod
The connecting rod connects the crank shaft to the piston so that the motion created by the engine can be moved from the piston to the crank shaft.

The piston goes into the cylinder. It moves up and down so that the motion created by the engine is transferred to the connecting rod. It compresses (which means to make smaller) the mixture of air and fuel and changes the fuel's energy so the car can use it.

Piston Rings
The piston ring creates a seal between the cylinder and the piston.

The crankshaft is at the bottom of the cylinder block. It transfers the motion from the piston so that it becomes a rotary motion, which means a motion that moves in a circle. Then, that circular motion rotates the wheels of the car.

Oil Sump
The oil sump is found at the bottom of the cylinder block. It holds the oil, which is needed to cover the parts of the engine so that they can move smoothly.

The camshaft makes it possible for the valves to open and close at the right time.

The valves attach to the cylinder head. They manage the flow of air and fuel and exhaust gases.

Ignition System
The purpose of the ignition system is to create an electrical charge and send it to the spark plugs. It is sent on the ignition wires.

The electrical charge flows on the ignition wires to the distributor, which sends the charge to each spark plug.

Spark Plug
The spark plugs attach to the cylinder head. They create a spark in order to set the air and fuel mixture on fire.

Push Rod
The push rod manages the timing of the valves so that they open and close at the right time.

The manifold attaches to the cylinder head. It distributes the air and fuel mix when it comes in. A second manifold collects the exhaust gases and takes them out.

Bearings provide support to the moving parts of the engine.

Timing Belt
The timing belt joins the camshaft to the crankshaft.

The radiator cools off water that has passed around the cylinders.

Water Pump
The job of the water pump is to pump water around the cylinders and to the radiator.

Cooling System
The radiator and water pump combine to form the cooling system.

The carburetor is the part of the engine that mixes air and gas.

Catalytic Converter
The purpose of the catalytic converter is to limit damage to the environment by changing what gases the car releases.

The battery stores electricity for the parts of the car that require it.

The alternator generates energy so that the battery can be recharged.

Oil is a thick, black liquid that helps stop the car parts from damaging each other when they make contact.

The decompressor is a device for cutting down the amount of pressure in the engine.

Fan Belt
The fan belt transfers movement in order to cool the car.

Types of Cars and other Vehicles

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Four Door
A "four door" car has two doors on each side.

Two Door
A "two door" car has one door on each side.

Truck (or: Pick-up Truck)
A truck usually has one door on each side and an open space in the back for carrying large loads.

If a car is a convertible, it is possible to take the roof off and drive around without a roof.

A jeep is a small truck designed to drive over uneven ground.

An eighteen-wheeler is a very large truck designed to move large amounts of goods in its back compartment, which is covered.

A van is a large, covered vehicle. It usually does not have windows in the back. It is used to moving large amounts of materials or many people.

A minivan is a small van. It usually has windows in the back and will fit six to eight people.

A hatchback is a car, usually with two doors, that has another door in the back that slopes from the roof to the trunk and opens from the bottom to the top (not side to side).

Hybrid Car
A hybrid car has two sources of energy: gas and a battery.

A bus is a very large vehicle that can transport 20-40 people.

Fuel-Efficient Vehicle
A fuel-efficient vehicle is one that meets certain standards (usually set by the government) for using only a small amount of fuel.

Driverless Car (or: Autonomous Vehicle)
A driverless car is one where the driving is done by a computer and not by a human driver.

Other Words Related to Cars

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New car
A car is new if it has not been owned by anyone else before.

Used car
A car is used if someone else has owned and driven it before.

If a person who is buying a car sells their old car to the car dealer at the same time that they buy a new one, that old car is called a "trade-in."

Automatic transmission
If a car has an automatic transmission, the driver does not need to change gears because the car will do it automatically.

Manual transmission
A car with a manual transmission does not automatically change gears. The driver has to change gears.

A mechanic is someone who fixes cars.

At a car wash, cars are sometimes coated in wax to make them shine. "Wax" is both a noun (meaning the substance placed on the car) and a verb (meaning the action of applying the wax to the car).

Some people get their car "detailed" at a car wash. This is a special cleaning that is very, very thorough and much more expensive than a regular car wash.

A driver is someone who operates a car.

A passenger is someone who rides in a car but does not drive it.

A funnel is a device, usually made of plastic, that has a wide top and a narrow bottom and is used to pour liquid into a small opening.

Gas Can
A gas can is a small can, usually made of plastic, that holds gas.

"Unleaded" describes gas that is put in a car. (In past years, some gas had lead in it. It is now illegal to put lead in gas, so there is no more "leaded" gas, but the term "unleaded" is still used to describe "regular" gas.)

Premium (Gas)
Premium gas is gas that claims to be better for the car than unleaded gas and is more expensive.

Oil Change
The oil used in a car must be changed a few times per year. An "oil change" is the service of draining the oil and replacing it with new oil. The oil filter is usually replaced as well. Sometimes, other services are done at the same time, such as changing the windshield wiper blades.

All cars need service from time to time in order to stay running well. "Maintenance" is the word used for these services. For most cars, the car manufacturer recommends maintenance at certain mileages, such as a "70,000 mile maintenance," and recommends what exactly should be done to the car at that time.
"Overcharge" means to charge a customer more money than you should for a service.

Sticker Price
All new cars have a "sticker price," which is the price that the manufacturer suggests that the car be sold for. This price is usually placed on a sticker on the car. However, customers usually pay less than the sticker price for the car.

Haggle (or: Bargain)
Since customers usually pay less than the sticker price for a new car, this means that they have to "haggle" or "bargain" with the car dealer for what price they will pay. This means that they go back and forth discussing the price for the car until they can both agree on a price.

To "inspect" means to check something. In most areas, cars must have a yearly inspection to be sure that they are safe and do not pollute too much.

For cars, the "make" means the company that made the car.

The "model" of a car is the kind of car, named by the manufacturer. Most car manufacturers produce several kinds of cars per year and each is a different model.

The "year" of a car refers to the year it was made. However, this is often not exact, since a car manufacturer will often begin to sell the next year's models during the fall of the previous year.

To "diagnose" means to figure out what is wrong with something.

Most new cars (and some used cars) come with a "warranty." This means that if certain things go wrong with the car, the car dealer will pay to repair them. Usually, a warranty is good for a certain amount of time (such as five years) or a certain number of miles driven (such as 50,000 miles).

Labor Charge
Repair shops will usually divide their bill into two parts: the "labor charge" is the cost for the time spent working on the car.

Repair shops will usually divide their bill into two parts: the "parts" charge is the charge for the car parts that they used during the repair.

A thin, long piece of metal that is dipped into a container to determine how much liquid is in the container. In a car, a dipstick is used to measure the amount of oil.

VIN Number
Every single car has a unique number called a VIN number. It can usually be seen through the front windshield on the top of the dashboard.

A junkyard is a place where old cars are placed when no one wants to fix them. Sometimes, people will go to a junkyard in order to find a certain car part that they need.

A company that makes cars is called an "automaker."

The showroom is the room in a car dealership where new cars are displayed.

Test Drive
If someone is thinking about buying a car, they will often take it for a "test drive," which means that they drive it briefly (without buying it first) to see if they like it.

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