A guide to car parts under the hood of your car
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Knowing what's in the engine bay is important for car owners. Here's a guide to car parts under the hood - the engine, radiator, fluid reservoirs and more.

Category: Car Technical Advice

With car usage largely focused on short-distance commutes, and workshops right around the corners here, how many of us still find the need to personally figure things out under the bonnet? In fact, there are even drivers who have no idea how to open their car's bonnet - why would they need to?

Well, it is beneficial for drivers to be equipped with some level of technical know-how. Knowing what is in your car's engine bay will not only come in handy when things go wrong. You'll also be able to catch gremlins before they cause you severe trouble. So here are some basic car parts under the bonnet that you need to know about.

The dipstick allows you to determine the engine oil level
The engine is the main component that powers your car and it also takes up the most space in the engine bay - you wouldn't miss it. While the inner workings can be a complicated topic, it is one that we wouldn't be discussing about. Instead, let's talk about the important, basic components that all drivers should know.

Engine oil cap and dipstick

The engine oil cap is usually located at the top of the engine and easily accessible without the use of any tools, and it is where you top up the engine oil. The dipstick is used to determine the engine oil level. You should check it regularly to ensure there's sufficient oil in your car's engine.


The alternator caters to all your car's electrical needs
The alternator is the charger and main source of electricity for your car.

If it fails, your car will run out of electricity and stop working.

Power steering pump

The power steering pump, as its name suggests, is a hydraulic pump that is part of the power steering system. Should it fail while you are driving, the steering can weighten up significantly, causing serious safety risks.

Air-conditioning compressor

In cars with hyrdraulic power steering, there wll be a powersteering pump that is usually driven by a belt
This is one of the most important things for Singaporeans.

Without a working air-conditioning compressor, you would most likely be cooked by the blazing heat in our all-year round summer weather.


The drive belts (also known as fan belts) drives the various components such as the three mentioned above. If the belt snaps, you will instantly lose the respective
Should the timing belt fail, you are sure to have a bad day
functions on your car.

Some engines also have a timing belt, which controls intricate components in the engine. If it snaps, you'll likely be facing a hefty repair bill.

While it isn't easy for the layman to inspect the conditions of the alternator, power steering pump and air-con compressor, you should be able to tell if your car’s belts require immediate attention (look out for cracks, frays or other signs of excessive wear).

Cooling system

The cooling system is vital to the normal operation of the engine. Understandably, it is one of the main components in the engine bay to look out for. Should there be any issues with the cooling system, the engine can overheat and result in catastrophic damages.


The radiator is a major component in an engine's cooling system
The radiator is a water to air heat exchanger (don't go looking for it on air-cooled vehicles!), piping hot coolant is passed through the radiator to be cooled down, so as to keep the engine temperature in check.

The radiator is extremely hot when in operation, and the coolant is highly pressurised, you should never attempt to open the radiator cap when the engine is hot. It is, however, advisable to observe for any cracks or signs of leaks on the radiator from time to time.

Electric fans

In modern cars, electric fans aid the radiator in cooling down the boiling hot coolant
Electric fans aid the radiator in doing its job by pulling air through it. In most cars, at least one of two fans would be running when the engine reaches operating temperature. If your car is overheating and both fans aren't running, there's a good chance that they are faulty.

Coolant reservoir

Located near the radiator and connected to it. Abnormal coolant reservoir level can point towards a problematic cooling system. You should send the car to a workshop if it is always empty or overflowing.
Other components

A car features several vital hydraulic systems that require sufficient fluid to operate.

Power steering fluid reservoir

Various fluid reservoirs in the engine bay serves important purpose
Remember the power steering pump mentioned earlier? The hydraulic power steering system requires fluid to operate. Insufficient power steering fluid will cause damage to the system, affecting the safety and reliability of your car.

Brake fluid reservoir

Brakes are undoubtedly one of the most important parts in a car. You would most certainly get into an accident if your brakes fail while you are driving. Brake fluid is vital for your car's brakes to work. If you notice there's an exceptionally low amount of brake fluid left, you should send you car in for a check. However, do note during normal operation, brake fluid level will decrease as your brake pads wear out.


If the battery fails, you won't be able to start your car
The battery or starter battery can also be found under the hood of most cars. It's purpose is to provide the elecricity to start the engine. If you can'r start your car, there's a good chance that the battery has failed. Do take note of the date of purchase of the battery, as they have a limited lifespan. 

Windscreen washer fluid reservoir

Pretty self-explanatory, if you activate your windscreen washer and there's no water spraying out, this is the first thing to check.

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