The Story of Your Car: Part 2

Anatomy of your car

A view of your vehicle is that of 3 boxes sprung on 4 wheels for maximum comfort and safety. This comprises a boot for cargo, a bay for the engine and a compartment for people. Over a period of time vehicles have evolved for maximum safety and comfort.


Vehicle safety has evolved as the vehicles become faster. Safety and comfort often go hand in hand. 

The engine becomes covered and placed in an engine bay. This is both safer and more comfortable for the driver and passengers.

The fuel tank moves from the scuttle above the engine at the front to the rear of the vehicle.

Cargo instead of being carried in a trunk on the back moves into the boot. Hence the boot is sometimes called the trunk.

The need to give and take information has increased. This in turn has increased the size of the windows and use of mirrors. Hand signals while they should be understood have been replaced by mechanical/electrical signals.

Active & Passive Safety.

Anything that helps prevent collision is called active safety. Examples of active safety are ABS braking and traction control.

Passive safety is anything that helps minimize the effects of any collision. Seat belts are part of the passive safety aspect of vehicles.

Something can have both passive and active safety aspects. Securing cargo in the boot is active safety by preventing load transfer when cornering. But it becomes passive safety by securing load in the event of a collision.



The vehicle has become easier to use. The steering geometry and the suspension make the ride more comfortable. Heating and air conditioning make for a more pleasant journey. The seating becomes more comfortable and ergonomic.

Carrying Load.

The main load carrying facility of your vehicle is the boot. Internally to the passenger compartment there are various ways of safely securing loose items. The glove box, cup holders, door pockets and the like.

The Boot:

Syllabus For Learning To Drive – Passengers And Carrying Loads

This provides secure and safe storage. Normally situated to the rear but can be at the front depending on make and model of the vehicle. Normally the boot is separated from the passenger compartment by means of a parcel shelf. 

Items stored in the boot should be properly secured.

  • Firstly by securing load this prevents weight transfer while driving which can adversely affect steering.
  • Secondly in order to prevent injury from items flying around during collision.

Depending on make and model it is possible to expand the boot by folding down the back seats. Within the boot itself it may be carpeted for sound insulation. Estate vehicles that are doing lots of load carrying will not have a carpeted boot. These will have a metaled one to facilitate the moving of load in and out.

There is normally a well within the boot that contains the spare tyre and items associated with tyre changing. This is covered by a movable board, which in turn may have carpet on that.

There may be lashing eyes which allow cargo netting to be used.

When loading, place the heavier items in first. This will give a lower centre of gravity and make load transfer less dramatic. Also you would want to protect any lighter items by placing them on top. Secure and wedge your items.

The Parcel Shelf:

This serves two functions.

The first is the retention of load in the event of a collision. You would not want items stowed in the boot flying round the passenger compartment in the event of a collision. The second is theft prevention.

It is better not to store items on the parcel shelf.

  • The reasons are reflection on the rear windscreen of items left there. 
  • A possible restriction of view if the items are too large.
  • Items left on the shelf can become projectiles in the event of a collision.

The Dashboard.

The dashboard is where your instruments and controls are housed. These are the major, minor and ancillary controls. On the drivers side there will be the steering column. On the passenger side a glove box for storage.

The instrument cluster is normally driver side. Some vehicles place it centrally for reasons of greater visibility. This also helps the ease of sale in both left and right hand drive markets.

The dash is normally made with a padded material in order to provide cushioning in the event of collision. The material is dark so as not to reflect up onto the windscreen.

There is normally a cowling over the instruments so the light from them does not reflect up onto the windscreen.  If the dashboard is kept clear this improves visibility by eliminating reflection on the windscreen.

Removing the clutter from the dashboard it is safer in the event of a collision.

The Controls.

Syllabus For Learning To Drive – Car Controls & Instruments

There are 3 groups of controls.

  • These are the major, sometimes known as the primary controls.
  • The minor, which are known as the secondary controls.
  • And the ancillary controls.

The controls and in particular the ancillary ones enhance the drive. A proper seating position is a prerequisite for effective use of the controls. 

The driver’s floor well needs to be kept clear to allow the proper use of the pedals. A can or bottle under a pedal may impair or prevent its use.

The Major Controls:

  • These are the means by which you control your vehicle.
  • In a manual car they would be accelerator, brake, clutch, gears and steering.
  • In an automatic they would be accelerator, brake, drive selector and steering.

The Minor Controls

  • These are the means by which you communicate with other road users.
  • This is the taking and giving of information by use of mirrors, lights and signals.

The Ancillary Controls

  • These will aid in driver comfort and the driving task.
  • Washers and wipers
  • Heating and Air Conditioning
  • The Instrument Panel
  •  In Car Entertainment (ICE) and others.

The Engine Bay

This contains the driving force of your vehicle, the engine. It is separated both for the protection of the engine and the driver. As vehicles became faster and faster the need to prevent sticks and stones flying into the engine became greater. By housing the engine in its own separate compartment this much increases the comfort of the driver and his passengers.

The bay itself is accessed by the bonnet sometimes called the hood.

  • This has a 2 stage release to prevent accidental opening.
  • The first is internal to the passenger compartment.
  • The second is normally just under the bonnet.


Access to the engine is required for routine maintenance and repair. Anyone leaning over the engine bay should have removed anything loose.

  • Ties, necklaces, long hair all need to be made safe.
  • This applies to routine checks as well as repairs and maintenance.
  • A running engine could catch something
  • A stopped one will have oil that can soil something

The engine itself is mounted on rubber bushes to reduce vibration throughout the vehicle. The bonnet may also be insulated both for fire and sound.

© Liam Greaney