Jargon Busting

The most common meanings of terms often used in the motor industry:

Spare Part

A part or component which is sold/fitted to replace an existing part which is worn out, broken or otherwise no longer performs its function properly.

Station Wagon

A conventional car body design consisting of two separate compartments – engine and combined passenger/luggage – where the roofline extends to the near-vertical rear of the vehicle.   Alternative names include “Estate” car and the more old-fashioned term “Brake”.

Torque split

A mechanism on AWD vehicles which enables the proportion of overall power transmitted to front or rear wheels to be varied, either with an asymmetrical pre-setting or constantly changed by “intelligent” computer management systems.

Trading House

An intermediary company operating on behalf of a source manufacturer in all its business relationships with distributors etc.

Transfer Box

An adjunct to the main gearbox of a vehicle which enables the selection of “low ratio” or “low range” gearing.


The gearbox, plus shafts and differential, that enables power from the engine to be transmitted to the wheels.


A vehicle usually of minibus shape whose body rear of the front seats does not have side windows, and whose roofline rear of the front seats is sometimes significantly raised.

Vehicle Assembler

A company which produces complete vehicles from externally supplied components and usually requiring a number of manufacturing/finishing processes. The level of assembly and/or manufacture depends on the degree of component separation in the kits (eg the body panels may be bare metal or pre-painted; a ladder chassis may be pre-welded into shape or supplied as still- separate tubular sections etc). Assembly is the final phase of production, but not an inferior process. Most  “source manufacturers” are predominantly assemblers, receiving the majority of components from external suppliers.

Vehicle Distributor

A sole or main agent directly appointed by a source manufacturer to procure and market a brand of vehicle in a particular region. Distributors are normally the “franchise holders” in their region and formally represent the brand in that area.

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

In addition to the more generally known engine and chassis (frame) numbers, every vehicle has a separate VIN, usually embossed on a metal plate inside the engine compartment. It is an international code system, normally of 17 numbers and letters, which identifies that particular vehicle’s make, model, country of manufacture, and other information on specifications, colour etc.  One of the 17 characters, usually the 10th, is the date of manufacture – therefore revealing the vehicle’s true age even if it has been re-registered. The date code starts with A in 1980 and progresses alphabetically to Y by 2000. Thereafter, numbers replace letters per 1 for 2001, 2 for 2002 and so on.

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