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20 Exterior Car Body Part Names Explained

external car body parts

Understanding the names of exterior car body parts is essential for anyone who owns or operates a vehicle. Whether you are a car enthusiast or a casual driver, having a basic understanding of the parts that make up your car’s exterior can help you communicate more effectively with mechanics, improve your driving experience, and make informed decisions about repairs and upgrades.

We will provide an overview of the most common exterior car body part names and their functions. We will focus on the parts visible outside the car and explain what they are, where they are located, and how they work.

1. The Hood Of A Car

car hood
1969 Chevrolet Camaro LS7 coupe

The hood of a car is the hinged cover that protects the engine compartment. In the US, this car part is typically known as a hood, but it is called a bonnet in Europe and other parts of the world.

The hood can be a design feature of the car and protect the engine and other components in the engine bay.

The hood can be opened from inside the car using a lever to disengage the locking mechanism and then open from the outside by unclipping the latch at the front of the hood.

Keeping the hood closed and latched securely while driving is important to prevent accidents.

2. The Bumper On A Car

car bumper

In the early days of the automobile, the bumper was to protect the car panels and paintwork from bumps and scrapes, but in the modern car, it has become an integral safety feature.

The role of the car bumper is to absorb some impact from a collision with an object or another vehicle. It protects the car’s body and other important components like the engine and transmission from minor impact damage.

The bumper can only absorb light impacts and is usually inconsequential in a high-speed collision.

There are two bumpers located on a car, one at the front of the vehicle, called the front bumper, and one at the rear, called the rear bumper.

The rear bumper absorbs impacts at the car’s rear and protects the body, exhaust system, and fuel tank.

3. The Car’s Grille

BMW M3 grille

The grille is a decorative and functional opening at the front of the car that allows air to flow into the engine compartment.

Many car manufacturers create unique, iconic grille designs that instantly make the car recognizable, which helps promote brand awareness for the manufacturer.

The manufacturer’s badge or logo is often included in the grille’s design to improve aesthetics and create an identifiable image for the car maker.

The grille can be made from various materials, from plastic to metal, which is usually chromed or coated to contribute to the overall look of the car.

4. Headlights On A Car

Porsche 911 headlights
Porsche 911 headlights

The headlights on a car are the forward-facing lights of the car and are the primary lighting source for the car to provide illumination for night driving.

The headlights are usually positioned on either side of the grille but can also be integrated into the hood design for aesthetics.

Some headlights are hidden and rotate or flip into place when the driver turns the headlights on. Most headlights can be adjusted for height and direction to optimize the illumination of the road during night driving.

Modern cars have computer-controlled headlights that automatically adjust the angle of the beam to improve the driver’s visibility when negotiating bends in the road at night.

5. Fog lights

car fog light

Fog lights are specialized lights that help improve visibility during foggy or misty conditions. They are usually fitted lower down on the front bumper to reduce glare and improve visibility.

Fog lights are useful in fog or mist and provide effective low-level illumination of the road surface in rain, snow, or on gravel roads with dusty conditions.

6. Tail Lights

2014 Dodge Challenger taillights
Taillights on a 2014 Dodge Challenger

Tail lights are located at the back of the car, usually on either side of the trunk. The tail lights are a cluster of lights that each serve a different purpose.

The tail lights on either side have a red illumination light that allows drivers behind the car to see the car ahead of them. These lights are permanently on when the car lights are turned on.

Brake lights are also included in the cluster and glow red when the car’s brakes are engaged. They are usually brighter than the illumination tail lights.

Turn indicator lights are usually also included in the tail light cluster and are colored orange. These lights flash to indicate to the drivers behind that the driver intends to turn in the direction of the flashing turn indicator light.

Reversing lights are often incorporated into the tail light cluster and illuminate as white light. The reverse light indicates to other vehicles that the car is reversing, and the white light illuminates the area behind the car. This makes it easier for the driver to avoid obstacles when reversing in the dark.

7. Turn Signal Lights

turn signal lights
Car flashing warning

Turn indicator lights, or turn signal lights are not only included in the tail light cluster. In addition to the tail light cluster, turn signal lights are also fitted at the front of the vehicle, near the headlights, and on the side fenders over the front wheels.

The turn indicator lights are engaged when the driver activates the turn indicator lever on the car’s controls to indicate the turn direction.

8. The Fender

car front fender

The fender is the curved panel that covers the car’s wheels. Each car has front and rear fenders over the front and rear wheels.

The fender encapsulates the wheels and protects the rest of the car’s bodywork from being damaged by debris flung up by the wheels.

Fenders can also be designed as an aesthetic feature on the car and to improve aerodynamics. Some cars have flared fenders that provide a sporty or aggressive look.

9. The Car’s Doors

Tesla Model X falcon wing doors
The falcon wing doors on a 2017 Tesla Model X

The door is the hinged panel that allows passengers and the driver to enter and exit the car. Car doors can be opened from the inside or outside using a handle or electronic lock.

Doors also play an important role in the car’s safety by providing a barrier between passengers and the outside environment.

The door configuration can be a defining factor in categorizing car types, with some cars having two doors and some 4 doors. In the case of hatchbacks, the trunk lid is classified as a door, and these cars are called 5-door cars.

Some cars have sliding doors for the passengers to enter and exit the vehicle, others have doors that swing out, and some sports cars have doors that swing upwards, called gull-wing doors.

10. Side Mirrors

sideview mirror

Side mirrors are a legal requirement on most cars; they are not deemed roadworthy without them. The side mirror is sometimes called a wing mirror, and one is positioned on either side of the car.

The position of the mirrors is such that the driver can see behind and to the side on either side of the vehicle.

The side mirrors can be adjusted for height and angle to provide the ideal viewing position for the driver’s stature. This is an important safety feature that helps prevent accidents.

11. Car Windows

car windows

The car window is a transparent panel made of safety glass located on the side of the car that allows light and air into the cabin.

Usually, each door has its own window, which can be fixed or moveable. Some car windows open laterally in a sliding motion, while others open and close vertically. The opening mechanism can be manual or electric.

Vertically opening windows slide down into a cavity in the door panels so the glass is not visible when the window is in the open position.

12. Windshield

car windshield

The car’s windshield usually refers to the front windshield, which is a sheet of safety glass through which the driver looks while driving the car. The windshield protects the driver and passengers from wind, dust, and debris on the road.

The rear window of the car is sometimes called a rear windshield and serves to give the driver a rearward view through the car using the rear-view mirror.

The front and rear windshields usually have a heating or de-misting mechanism to prevent the glass from fogging up in cold weather.

The windshield is an important safety feature on the car and generally must comply with minimum safety standards as prescribed by the motor safety authorities in each country.

13. Rear window

car rear window

The rear window is a term sometimes used instead of “rear windshield” and is the transparent glass panel located at the back of the car.

The rear window is usually fixed in place, but in some cars, such as convertibles, the rear window can be lowered when the car’s roof is retracted. The rear windshield usually lowers into a hidden compartment behind the vehicle’s rear seats.

14. The Car’s Wheels

2015 Mercedes AMG GT S wheel
2015 Mercedes-AMG GT S wheel

The car’s wheels are an important component of the car’s mobility. The wheels consist of the rim, the tire, and, in some cases, an inner tube.

The rim provides structural support for the tire and creates an airtight seal between the rim and the tire. This seal allows the tubeless tire to be inflated with compressed air or other gasses to provide a safe, comfortable ride on the road surface.

Car wheels are an important safety feature and must be maintained properly with the correct inflation pressure to increase the road-holding capability of the tire.

Wheels with inner tubes do not require an airtight seal between the rim and the tire, as the inner tube holds the pressurized air.

Wheels come in various styles and sizes and can be customized to enhance and improve the car’s appearance.

15. Body Panels On A Car

The external bodywork of a car is divided up into individual panels. This makes it easier to make repairs to damaged bodywork on the car.

The body panels make the bodywork modular, allowing individual panels to be removed and repaired or replaced after accident damage.

16. The Trunk

car trunk

The trunk is the car’s rear compartment that provides additional storage space. The term “trunk” is typically US terminology, and in other parts of the world, the trunk is known as the boot of the car.

The trunk can be opened using a handle or electronic lock and is important for transporting luggage or other items.

In some cars, the engine is rear or mid-mounted, in which case the trunk houses the car’s engine, and the hood is used as additional storage space to transport luggage or other items.

The design or profile of the trunk is often used to categorize cars and differentiate them into classes, such as a hatchback or a sedan.

17. Roof And Pillars Of The Car

The roof and pillars are part of the structural engineering of the car and are important aspects of safety.

The roof is the top part of the car that encloses the passenger compartment, and the pillars are the vertical structural components that frame the door openings and support the roof.

The strength and engineering of the roof and pillars are important for the safety of the occupants of the car, particularly in roll-over accidents.

Convertibles have a modified, retractable roof and pillars, which required significant modifications to the car’s frame to maintain safety standards. For this reason, convertibles are often more expensive to purchase than solid-roof cars.

18. Sunroof

car sunroof

A sunroof is mostly an optional extra feature on a car. The sunroof is essentially a window built into the car’s roof.

Some sunroof designs can only tilt at the back to create a small opening that allows fresh air to enter the car’s cabin. In contrast, others are fully retractable and slide into specifically designed compartments in the roof’s structure.

A sunroof is a compromise between a solid roof and a convertible, but the sunroof does not require as many engineering modifications to the car’s structural integrity as a retractable roof.

19. Windshield Wipers

car windshield wipers

Windshield wipers are necessary for driving a car in rain, snow, or dusty conditions. The windshield wipers are rubber or silicone blades fitted to mechanical arms that wipe the rubber blade across the outer surface of the windshield.

This action effectively wipes rain, dust, and other debris off the windshield surface, providing clear vision for the driver.

Most cars have dual windshield wipers, one which wipes the driver side of the windshield and the other clears the passenger side of the front windshield.

The wipers are controlled by a lever or switch on the steering column, and several settings are available to adjust the pace and frequency of the wipers to accommodate the driving conditions.

20. Bullbar

bullbar on car

Not all cars have a bullbar fitted, as the intention is predominantly for utility vehicles or vehicles used in off-road conditions, such as SUVs and trucks.

The bull bar protects the front and underside of the car’s front end from damage in rough terrain or from bushes or small trees that may be hidden in long grass when driving on off-road trails.

Understanding the different exterior car body parts and their functions is important to get an overall idea of how the parts function together for safety and aesthetics.

Each component plays a crucial role in the car’s appearance and performance from the front to the rear end. If you are interested in cars from a hobby perspective, knowing the right terminology is important when discussing cars with other enthusiasts.

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