Mechanics’ terminology



We’ve all been there – your car is in the garage for whatever reason – be it a barely audible noise coming from somewhere or because it’s expired in a cloud of smoke and steam at the side of the road – and the technician takes it away to have a look.

They come back, or call you up, and start to explain what’s gone wrong, what can be done to fix it and how much it’ll cost.

It’s at this point that you may start to get a little lost – but don’t forget that most mechanics are highly-trained individuals, not stereotypical ‘grease monkeys’ and have to deal with very complex mechanical, electrical and plumbing issues every day, so they’re used to talking in a certain way.

Here, we’ll try to demystify some of the most common terms you. But if you think we’ve missed anything out, do get in touch in the comments below.

“You need new pads and discs”

This refers to your car’s brake pads and brake discs – two of the main parts of the braking system. Because they’re almost constantly in use, they wear out after a certain period of time. Getting them fixed and/or replaced is part and parcel of car ownership.

There are a couple of particularly common brake issues and mechanics often suggest changing pads and discs at service time. Essentially, the disc is the part of the braking system that spins with the wheel, while the pads grip that disc to slow the car down when you press the brake pedal. Due to friction between the two, they both eventually wear down.

But how do you know whether you really need new ones or if your mechanic is just being overly cautious? Well, if your pads or discs are getting worn, then you’ll notice a reduction in stopping ability. And if one side has worn more than the other, your car might pull to one side when you hit the brakes.

Depending on the car (and whether all four discs and pads need changing, or just the fronts or rears), this can cost anything between £100 and £1,500. Heavier cars wear their brakes out faster than lighter cars (and have bigger and more expensive brakes in the first place) so they’ll need to have them changed more frequently.

“Your brake discs are warped”

This is another reference to the brakes – specifically, the discs. Their surface should be flat, so if they’ve become warped, they’ll need replacing. A warped disc presents less surface area for the pad to grip and thus reduces braking performance. You’ll also experience an unpleasant juddering sensation when you apply the brakes and the car may also pull to one side.

A warped disc can’t be repaired – you’ll need to get a new one (and a corresponding set of pads). Some work may need to be done on the suspension to make sure the hub (the part that both the brake disc and wheel are attached to) is correctly fitted. New brakes should always be fitted in pairs, to ensure equal braking performance on both sides of the car.

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