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Car Vocabulary and What It Means For You

Car terminology can seem mystifying if you’re not a grease monkey. But the fact of the matter is, that most people don’t need to know the nitty gritty of how to reconstruct an engine. Knowing these simple car terms will help you be an informed car owner, without feeling like you have to learn a whole new language.

Car Vocabulary and What It Means For You



The right battery for your car comes with a string of numbers and letters assigned to it. The good news is, you don’t have to understand what every character means to buy the right battery. Car parts stores and service stations can look it up for you, or a simple search online or a dip into your owner’s manual will have the same results.


Montana doesn’t have emission check standards to meet, since there isn’t a population center large enough to be a pollution concern. So don’t worry, you haven’t been slacking by not having these checked each year.

Routine Maintenance

The term “Routine Maintenance” gets tossed around a lot. But what does it actually mean for you, the car owner? It’s checking all those little things that keep your car running smoothly: the transmission fluid, battery, belts, engine air filter, oil, exhaust, hoses, lights, power steering fluid, and tire inflation and condition.


All-Season Tires

All-Season Tires should mean that you can leave them on your car in all seasons, right? Well, that depends. The name “all-season” is usually more appropriate for temperate climates. All-seasons are made from rubber that is designed to perform best in as wide a range of temps and conditions as possible, but that means they lose the benefits of advanced handling from summer-specific tires, and the extra grip of specially formulated winter tires. In our neck of the woods, you may want to get more season-specific.

Studded vs. Winter Tires  

Ah, the studded vs. studless tire debate. Just about everyone has someone in their life who is vocally for or against a particular type. Studies show studded tires perform best on clear ice in temperatures around the freezing mark. But the stud-free winter wheels offer the best handling and braking when the temperature is below freezing, on both wet and dry pavement, because of the specialized tread and rubber formulated to stay grippy even when temps drop lower.

Tire Size

If you’ve ever wondered what all those numbers meant when you were pondering your next set of wheels, let’s get into it. The aspect ratio is the number you get when you divide the tire’s height by its width. So on tires that are size P215/65 R15, the 65 is the aspect ratio, and it means the height of the tire is 65% of its width, which in this case is 215 mm. The “15” is the diameter of the wheel’s rim in inches. But do you need to know all that when you’re buying tires? Maybe, maybe not. The most important thing is knowing the full tire size, like the one listed above. This can usually be found printed on the edge of the driver-side door, or in the owner’s manual.  

Tread Wear

Most new tires come with a treadwear grade, but this number won’t necessarily tell you exactly how many miles you can get on that tire. Since this rating doesn’t come from an unbiased testing entity—instead of from the manufacturer’s testing—it’s better for the buyer to turn to third-party testing and review organizations, like Consumer Reports, to see how a specific tire brand and type might hold up under real-world driving conditions.

Knowing simple car terms such as these will not only make you an informed car owner but should also help you to feel more knowledgeable next time you are at the mechanic. The key is to ask questions about other things you don't understand and to be sure you do your research on any important car-related-decisions you might be making in the future. 

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