Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Auto Mechanic?

Torrance Grey

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Are cars your life's work? Do you enjoy taking engines apart and putting them back together again? Do you know the parts of a car like the back of your hand? Take this quiz to find out how much you know about cars.

Did you know that a car has about 30,000 parts, and a large car engine accounts for about half of those parts? However, in the standard car engine, there are only a couple hundred parts. Regardless of the thousands of parts in each car on the road, someone has to fix them when something goes wrong. 

Mechanics are often what we may refer to as "general practitioners." Like their medical counterparts (yes, we're comparing mechanics to doctors - mechanics are, after all, the physicians of the car world, right?), mechanics may be generalists or specialists. Again, although many mechanics pride themselves on being able to work on the varying systems of cars, some mechanics work only on specific systems. Becoming a certified auto mechanic does take some training, and some mechanics are required to continuously update their knowledge by taking classes or continuing education courses.

If you think you've got what it takes to pass this general mechanics quiz, let's get started!

Which of these is a job hazard of being a mechanic?

If you're allergic to petroleum-based products or don't want scrapes on your knuckles, this might not be the job for you. Also, mechanics like to say "It helps if your knees bend backward" because you will have to get in a lot of awkward positions.

Which of these is a challenge for mechanics trained in earlier decades?

Fuel injection has been around since the 80s, and most mechanics are familiar with it; the other two issues probably haven't changed much in the past forty or fifty years, either. More than anything, it's sophisticated onboard computers that make things hard for mechanics trained before the turn of the millennium.

Which of these is a synonym for manual transmission?

"Standard" and "manual" transmission are the same thing. "Slushbox" is a mocking term for an automatic transmission.

Where would you find a fan belt?

The humble fan belt used to connect the fan to the alternator. Nowadays, most cars have a more versatile "drive belt."

Which of these cars would probably present the most challenges for the average mechanic?

Both the Tesla and the Prius are "alternative energy" cars and would present some special challenges for a mechanic not trained in that area. But the Tesla is all-electric, expensive and rare -- three issues the everyday Prius does not share.

Which of these jobs is the most time-consuming?

Fuel injection has replaced carburetion on most modern cars. So if you talk to someone who's rebuilding a carburetor, you know that he or she owns something at least semi-vintage.

Which of these is true of a fuel injection system (versus a carburetor)?

Fuel injection and carburetion are both about how the car's fuel is mixed with air before ignition. It doesn't affect handling.

In what system does "knocking" occur?

When the fuel-air mixture ignites too early, knocking or pinging can occur. The wrong octane of fuel can cause this, but more often it's a timing problem.

Which of these is NOT part of the four-stroke cycle?

The four strokes are intake, compression, ignition (or "power") and exhaust. This is the essential "heartbeat" of the engine, that creates power to distribute to the powertrain.

True or false: Cars use fuses.

The car's fuse box is usually found near or under the dashboard in the passenger cabin. A blown fuse to the fuel pump will cause a car to stop dead in the water.

Where would you find the positive and negative terminals?

Like any other battery, a car's battery has a positive and negative terminal. You probably knew this from giving your car, or someone else's, a jump start.

What does "ABS" stand for?

Anti-lock brakes began replacing drum brakes in the late 20th century. A key difference is that you shouldn't pump anti-lock brakes in a skid -- the system does it for you.

Which of these jobs might take a lot of physical strength to complete?

Spark plugs are famous for settling into the engine block and getting comfortable -- so comfortable that after their working life is over, they can be wickedly hard to pull out and replace. Keep your head: Yanking furiously at them can cause them to snap off, and then you're REALLY in trouble.

What is another term for the accessory belt?

This belt gets its name(s) from the way it transmits power to several "accessories" in the engine, like the alternator, the fan, and the water pump. *Come to think of it, these don't sound like accessories at all -- they are pretty important!

Where would you find a creeper?

A creeper is a rolling backboard that allows a technician to go comfortably under the car and move around down there. *Nowadays, it also means a creepy person, but that's a subject for an internet-lingo quiz.

Which of these is a certification in auto repair?

ASE certification is given out by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. The test is taken by, and the certification awarded to, an individual, not a shop overall.

Which of these is not a real filter?

Although there are several devices in the car that limit emissions, there isn't actually a "tailpipe filter."

"Alignment" is a term that applies to what part of a car?

Alignment is done by tire shops, usually and not auto-repair shops. But a mechanic might well be called on to diagnose an alignment problem.

Which of these might you recommend to someone living in a cold climate?

A block heater keeps the engine warm in very cold temperatures, to make starting the car easier. *Canadians, you knew this one right away, eh?

What system has pads and shoes?

Brake pads and brake shoes are essential parts of the system. So are brake lines and the fluid that fills them -- as you'll know if you read vintage mystery novels; brake lines are always being cut.

What disconnects the engine from the powertrain?

Both manual and automatic transmission cars have a clutch. It's in manual cars, though, that you put in the clutch yourself, before changing gears.

Which of these is part of the powertrain?

While all of these have a role to play in making the car go, only the crankshaft is part of the powertrain. It is turned by power from the pistons, just after the combustion process.

Which of these would you use to knock a dent out of a car?

A ball-peen hammer is sometimes used for correcting dents in a car's body. However, bodywork and mechanical work are very different things. Most mechanics don't do bodywork.

Which of these is least likely to need repair?

The firewall is pretty much what it sounds like -- an insulated wall that protects the driver from heat, flames or fumes in an accident. Without moving parts, there's not much that can go wrong, therefore little need for repair.

If you are using a feeler gauge, what are you testing?

If the gap between the two electrodes of a spark plug is too wide, that plug won't fire efficiently. The feeler gauge will tell you if this is the case.

What kind of fuel can be infected by a fungus?

It's hard to imagine anything living in the medium of fuel, but this is a problem with diesel fuel. Car parts stores sell biocides that combat the growth of fungus.

Where would you find an idle speed screw?

As the name indicates, the idle speed screw affects the number of rpms at which the engine idles. It's fairly easy to adjust -- but you'll only have this if you have an older vehicle, therefore a carburetor.

Forcing more air into the cylinders, to get more power out, is called ______________.

Turbocharging uses a fan, or turbine, to force more air into the cylinder and get a bigger bang out. Because the fan itself is powered by the flow of exhaust gases from the cylinder, the process is very efficient -- it's using the car's own waste product, exhaust, to create more power.

What differentiates supercharging from turbocharging?

Supercharging is generally found on luxury sports cars, whose owners tend to worry less about fuel efficiency. It doesn't use the flow of exhaust gases to power a fan, so supercharging doesn't efficiently support itself in the way turbocharging does.

Which of these smells inside a passenger cabin is the most alarming?

The scent of exhaust inside the car suggests that a loose exhaust pipe is letting fumes in through the floorboards, which is very dangerous for the people inside. One of the stars of MTV's "Buckwild" died, along with two other men, when mud covered the tailpipe of their Bronco and exhaust backed up into the vehicle.

Which publisher's books were the gold standard in auto repair manuals?

Another company now publishes these manuals, in place of the now defunct Chilton. Fun fact: On the fiction side, Chilton Publishing published "Dune," the landmark science fiction novel.

How long should it take to inspect the rear differential of a Mini Cooper?

The Mini Cooper has no rear differential. There's even a joke about this in the original movie "The Italian Job," in which one of the gang members tells Michael Caine, "Rozzer's having trouble with his rear differential."

An amateur mechanic is sometimes called a __________ mechanic.

This term probably got started from the idea that casual mechanics, who did have shops, worked in the shade of an overhanging tree to stay out of the heat. The term was revived by the TV show "Shadetree Mechanic," which ran from 1992 to 2000 on what is now Spike TV.

Why are there no female auto mechanics?

Women are rare, but not nonexistent, in the field. But women seem to have made more inroads into engineering or computer programming -- also fairly male-dominated fields -- than car repair, perhaps because the wages are more desirable.

What term has largely replaced "auto mechanic"?

The term "technician" isn't just a way of making the job sound harder than it is. Engine work really has gotten a lot more technical since the day of the '57 Chevy. A mechanic today, especially if he's passed a certification exam, has earned that term!

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