Cooley On Cars
Body parts 101How to ID the parts of your car's body.
-First, the basic body styles. A sedan is a four-door. A coupe is a two-door. Convertible can be converted from close to open regardless of the number of doors. A station wagon is sedan with a rear box, but there have also been two-door wagons. And a hardtop is a four-door with no center pillar, but it's sort of an archaic term. Now, the fender, hood, bumper cover, grille, if your car has one, combined together are called the front clip. I've heard a lot of explanations for the term, none of them make sense. Fender used to me in the kind of outboard fenders you imagine on a vintage car. They originally were there to keep stuff from flying off the tires into your face. On modern cars, the fender of course is integrated. It's this whole piece of sheet metal at the left and right front corners, but it is detachable. Just after this whole front clip stuff is something called the cowl. This is very deceptively subtle. A whole lot of the proportions of your entire car are determined by this top of the firewall. Any given two-door, four-door, convertible, and wagon of the same model car will typically share a cowl and get much of their family identity from it. Now, as you come around from the cowl, you get what's called the greenhouse. That's all this stuff up here, your glass and your roof; everything above the beltline, which is this line along the bottom of the side glass. The greenhouse is held up by pillars and you letter them going back, A, B, C, and if you've got a wagon or an SUV, you might have a D. By the way, if the C-pillar or the last pillar is really huge, it's called a sail panel. At the rear of the car is the quarter panel. Unless you drive a Model T, you don't have rear fenders, you have quarter panels. Quarter panels are analogous to front fenders; say, serve a similar purpose with one big difference. They are integral to the body shell. They don't come off unless you've got a torch. Oh, by the way, this piece of glass over here, most folks call that the back window. Technically, it's the backlight because it's not a movable window at all, unless you're driving a mid-60s Mercury with the Breezeway option. That was cool. -In the rain, the rear windows shine. Sun warm, the styling shape the backseat. -A vehicle's wheelbase is the distance between the wheels on the side of the car measured at the hub standards. Go the other way, measure left to right, and that's your track. It's like 2 feet on this Fiat, but on most cars, wider is considered better. This piece of body work underneath the door shut line, between the wheels, that's your rocker panel. Carry that line farther out beyond the wheels, and those are your overhangs. Now, you know the names of your car's anatomical parts. It helps you in a lot of ways as you watch and read reviews, and it also helps you decode what the body shop guy is talking about when he does your estimates.