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Car Part Basics: A Beginner’s Guide

Car Part Basics: A Beginner’s Guide

Do you need to get your car serviced but you don’t understand what your mechanic is saying? Well, this blog about car part basics for beginners is for you!


Gone are the days of confusion in a service centre! Our West Edmonton Mall Toyota experts will explain common car parts, what they do, and how they affect your vehicle. Some car parts for beginners include alternators, spark plugs, fuel injectors, catalytic converters, transmissions, and brake pads.


Car Parts for Beginners



  • Pads
  • Rotors
  • Calipers


  • Fuel Injectors
  • Spark Plugs
  • Pistons

Exhaust System

  • Catalytic Converter
  • Resonator
  • Muffler


  • Engine Air Filter
  • Cabin Air Filter


  • Transmission
  • Clutch


A Toyota Parts and Service Advisor teaches a customer in front of the open hood of their Toyota vehicle.


Car Parts for Beginners

What’s a catalytic converter? What does a powertrain mean? Why do my brake pads need replacing? To sum up, keep reading to learn more about the basics of car mechanics so you can be prepared the next time your car needs a tune-up.


Car Part Basics: Alternator

Every vehicle has a battery, and if your car has ever refused to start, you’ve likely had a dead battery. The alternator is responsible for keeping your battery charged! It's driven by a belt (called a serpentine belt) and generates electricity by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy while your car runs.


Moreover, it supplies electricity to your whole car, not just your battery, including your electrical components.


A Toyota Genuine Parts alternator is shown on a red background.


What is a serpentine belt?

A long rubber belt that transports power to engine accessories, like your alternator.


Car Part Basics: Brakes

Brakes are used to halt and slow down your vehicle, and keep it in one place when parked. Most modern brake systems are comprised of the following parts: brake rotors, pads, and calipers.


So what happens when you brake? The car signals to the brake cylinder and brake fluid travels down the hoses to your brake calipers. The calipers will squeeze your brake pads together against the brake rotor, and this friction slows down the wheel.


Brake Pads

The brake pads in your car are made of steel backing plates with some material on the surface facing the brake rotors. This friction material can be ceramic, semi-metallic, or organic.


Because they are regularly exposed to friction, your brake pads can become worn out. Therefore it’s important to get your brake pads checked and replaced to maintain the health of your braking system!


Toyota Genuine Parts brake pads set is pictured on a red background.

Are you having brake problems? You can book an appointment with our West Edmonton Mall Toyota team here


Brake Rotors

The brake rotors in your car are circular discs connected to each wheel and are designed to turn kinetic energy into thermal energy. These discs have a large surface area, and as the brake pads are squeezed together by the brake caliper, friction and resistance slow your tires down

As mentioned, the brake rotors are exposed to heat and friction and occasionally need to be replaced due to wear and tear. Ensure they are replaced in pairs, just like brake pads!


A Toyota Genuine Parts brake rotor system is pictured on a red background.


Brake Calipers

Brake fluid is forced down the line to the caliper where it is pushed against the rotors. It fits like a clamp on the wheel’s rotor and houses your brake pads. 


What happens when you run out of brake fluid? Read more here


Car Part Basics: Engine

Most modern engines generate energy by igniting a combination of air and fuel that moves pistons and creates energy that powers your vehicle. You're looking at repairs related to your engine ignition if your service technician mentions ‘fuel injector’, ‘pistons’, or ‘spark plugs’.


Fuel Injectors

The fuel injector is a small part with a big role! Its nozzle delivers fuel to the combustion chamber and that's where the spark plugs ignite it. This is to say the fuel injector delivers the right fuel amount for your engine to work appropriately.


Spark Plugs

Spark plugs are named after their action - causing sparks! They are electrical devices in an internal combustion engine, and their sparks ignite the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. 


Take a look at our Genuine Toyota Spark Plugs here!




Most car engines have pistons, which are short cylinders that fit inside a tube where it moves up and down against a liquid or gas. Engines can have as many as four, six, or eight pistons in an engine depending on the type!


When gas mist from the fuel injector is ignited by the spark plugs in the combustion chamber, a gas explosion moves the pistons. The faster the pistons move, the more revolutions per minute (RPMs) your car has.


Car Part Basics: Exhaust System

Let’s move on to the basic parts of a vehicle’s exhaust system. 


Catalytic Converter

This valuable device is part of your exhaust emissions controls, and it converts pollutants in your exhaust gas into less-toxic gases before it’s released into the air. 


The catalytic converter uses a process called catalysis, adding a catalyst to facilitate a redox reaction. So when exhaust comes from your engine, it first passes through your catalytic converter before the next step... the resonator.


The catalytic converter underneath a silver Toyota vehicle.



The resonator is designed to eliminate sounds at a certain frequency so that frequencies bounce off the inside of this device and cancel each other out. It removes high-pitched noises before the exhaust reaches the muffler.



A muffler may be the most commonly known item of the exhaust system on your vehicle. It reduces the noise emitted by the engine exhaust (lots of gas explosions and pistons moving simultaneously) and can also be called a silencer. You can try and ignore muffler issues but you will hear your car running VERY loudly!


Take a look at our Toyota Mufflers here!



Car Part Basics: Filters

While your car has many filters, we’ll look at two of the most popular filters: the engine air filter and the cabin air filter.


Engine Air Filter

Engine air filters clean the air that enters your engine BEFORE combustion, this helps ensure the fuel ignite is cleaner and contains fewer particles that can cause long-term issues. They can come in a few shapes, mainly flat,  round, or conical.


Your owner’s manual will tell you exactly how often this should be changed to protect your engine, but we recommend a new engine filter every 20,000-25,000km.


Want to learn more about engine air filters? Our West Edmonton Mall Toyota team is here to help. 



Cabin Air Filter

Cabin air filters are different! They’re designed to clean the air entering your car’s cabin and protect you from exhaust, dust particles, allergens, and other particles in the air. These air filters are typically flat and pleated.


You should check your owner’s manual to see how often these should be changed, but in general, your filter should be changed when you get an oil change. Get your air filter inspected during your next oil change to see how dirty it is!


A comparison of a clean and dirty cabin air filter from Toyota.

Read: The Importance of Regular Scheduled Maintenance for Your Toyota


Car Part Basics: Powertrains

You may have seen the word powertrains on our website or browsing different car descriptions. Powertrains in vehicles are made of a few parts forming one system, including the engine, transmission, drive shafts, and more. This combination of parts dictates the amount of power your vehicle can deliver, hence the name, powertrain!



The transmission is the middle man between the engine and the wheels, and it sends power from the engine via a system of gears and gear trains. This allows you to apply power from your engine in a controlled manner via your gear shift, or gearbox.


In a manual transmission vehicle, the driver uses a stick shift to change the gears to control their speed manually. In an automatic transmission vehicle, the driver selects a driving mode like ‘drive’ or ‘reverse’ and the car will control and change the gears automatically. 


A close-up look at the transmission of a car.


Is your transmission failing? Hearing funny noises in your engine? Our service centre can help service your vehicle, and our parts department can handle your parts replacement. 



Now that you know what a transmission is, what is a clutch? A clutch is a mechanical device that connects/disconnects the transmission from the engine’s power, allowing the smooth changing of gears. It's an essential component of your transmission, and without it, driving a manual transmission vehicle would be VERY bumpy.


Recommended Car Parts and Services

At Toyota, we want to ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and lasts long. Here are some of our recommendations to keep your car maintained properly!


Get A Scheduled Check-Up 

Our experts recommend booking a service appointment check-up every six months or 8,000 KM, whichever comes first. This will keep your car maintained regularly and reduce the number of service-related issues down the line as we can catch any problems with car parts early.


  • Air Conditioning units require maintenance every 12 months or 16,000 KM


  • Vehicle fluids need regular refills and inspections, such as coolant, transmission fluid, and brake fluid


  • We recommend a Toyota Combustion and Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) System Cleaning service for your engine every 80,000 KM


  • Ensure you have the right tires on your vehicle for the correct season to help maintain your tire’s lifespan


  • Regular oil changes every 5,000 to 10,000 KM, depending on oil type and driving conditions, are essential to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape


In addition to this, you can learn more about Toyota’s recommended service schedules here.


West Edmonton Mall Toyota

We are your one-stop shop for car parts and auto services in Edmonton, with genuine Toyota parts and convenient service hours. Our friendly team is here to help you feel informed, empowered, and cared for… just like we take care of your vehicle.


View our Parts Department hours here and our Service Department hours here.

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