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13 Important Car Terms to Know While Shopping for a New Ride

Last updated on December 5th, 2017 at 09:14 am

Looking to buy a car in the near future? If so, you may notice that those spec sheets can be a little confusing. By educating yourself beforehand you’ll be able to make a smarter purchase – and maybe even prevent you from making a bad decision. Here are 13 important car terms to know when you’re shopping.

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  1. All-Wheel Drive vs. Four-Wheel Drive

AWD vehicles have a specialize drivetrain that provides differential power to the front, rear, and center of a vehicle, whereas 4WD is limited to two power differentials. In AWD vehicles, all four wheels are getting power all the time, though not in equal amounts. 4WD vehicles have the option to perform in 4WD but normally operate in 2WD to save gas.

  1. Bore and Stroke

An engine’s bore and stroke dimensions play a vital part in how efficiently it produces power. Bore refers to the diameter of an engine’s cylinder, whereas stroke refers to the travel of a piston along that cylinder. The bore and stroke decide the engine displacement which is the swept volume of all of the pistons inside the cylinders.

This is all wrapped up in your car’s power and fuel efficiency. Big bore and stroke = bigger engine displacement = more power.

  1. Compression Ratio

Compression ratio is a measurement (in volume) of gas in an engine’s cylinder at its maximum stroke to gas volume at the bottom of the stroke. What does that mean to you? The higher the compression ratio helps you get more miles per gallon.

  1. CVT Transmission

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is automatic and designed to shift seamlessly through a range of various gear ratios. Cars with CVTs tend to have better fuel economy but may lack in engine power. When you’re driving a car with CVT, you won’t feel gears shifting.

  1. Full Synthetic Oil

Full synthetic oil is engine oil made from chemical and artificial lubricants; this type of oil can handle higher temperatures and lasts longer than conventional oils. It will keep the engine cleaner which will keep it protected and more responsive.

However, it will probably mean your oil changes will be more expensive than cars with conventional oil.

  1. Horsepower

Horsepower is a measurement of an engine’s power. One horsepower is equal to 550 foot-pounds per one second. What does this mean to you? Horsepower refers to how quickly your engine can get your ride moving. More horses = quicker car (generally speaking).

  1. Inline-four engine

An inline-four engine is a simple type of engine where all four cylinders are arranged in a straight line. This design is popular in smaller cars and engines due to its mechanical simplicity. In small engines it suffers from secondary imbalance which causes minor vibrations. The vibrations become stronger in larger, more powerful engines so this design is not commonly used in larger vehicles. Inline four engines are relatively simple and typically cost less.

  1. Moonroof vs. Sunroof

A moonroof is a specialized type of sunroof (usually a sliding glass panel) that is able to slide open and closed. A basic sunroof is a solid, body-colored panel that pops up or can be removed completely.

  1. Multipoint vs. Direct Fuel Injection

Multipoint fuel injection is a traditional method for injecting fuel into an engine’s combustion chambers by giving each cylinder its own injector. With direct fuel injection the injectors are moved directly into the combustion chambers. This provides more precise control so less fuel can be added which improves fuel economy and lowers emissions.

  1. Redline

The redline is the maximum speed at which an engine is designed to run without causing damage. Your car might come equipped with a rev limiter. This is a device fitted to the internal combustion engine to restrict its maximum rotational speed.

  1. Supercharged

This refers to a vehicle with a supercharger attached to the engine that provides a power boost by forcing air into the engine itself. Superchargers take their power from the crankshaft and will spin with speeds up to 50,000 RPM.

  1. Turbo

Similar to a supercharger, a turbocharged engine provides an even larger power boost but is not connected directly to the engine and can spin much faster than a supercharger. It draws power from the exhaust gases that result from combustion.

  1. Torque

Torque is defined as the total possible turning ability of the engine. Torque causes you to accelerate. The maximum value of torque occurs over a limited range of engine RPMs. Typically it maxes out when the engine is spinning at a few thousand RPMs.

So, when you see a spec sheet with, ” 3.5-Liter V6 DOHC 24-Valve; 268 hp @ 6200 rpm; 248 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpm,” it means: A six cylinder engine (V6) with four valves per cylinder and combustion space of 3.5 liters. The engine also carries 268 horsepower (hp) at 6200 rotations per minute (RPM) and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 RPM.

Once you finally decide on that brand new ride, make sure you keep it safe.

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