Where to learn about cars?
December 31, 2013 12:18 PM   Subscribe

So, assume I don't know an awful lot about cars but would like to learn. What books and/or websites do I turn to?

I know what an engine is, and a transmission, etc., but I don't know how, exactly, a sequential transmission, say, differs from a traditional manual transmission and so on. I am sure there are plenty of systems I cannot even imagine in there. I am interested in as in-depth a treatment as can be achieved without mathematics, if that makes sense. Something with a definite order to it would be nice, as opposed to following Wikipedia links willy-nilly. Thanks in advance.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man to Technology (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've found Auto Repair For Dummies very helpful in understanding cars and saving thousands by giving me the confidence to attempt some repairs myself.
posted by COD at 1:01 PM on December 31, 2013

You will understand a *lot* more about how the fundamentals of cars work, which will make it a lot easier to understand how a different variant of a particular system works, if you get out in your garage with a socket set. Replace a head gasket once and your understanding of the whole engine of a car will skyrocket.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2013

I've had decent luck with Car Talk, for troubleshooting/repair/maintenance type issues, and the Car Stuff podcast (from the How Stuff Works family of podcasts), which does topical episodes about basic car information. Car Stuff doesn't have any particular order, but each episode corresponds to a specific area of car knowledge which is helpfully summed up in the title. Unlike Car Talk, which, while it's very informative, is completely free-form.
posted by Sara C. at 1:45 PM on December 31, 2013

Thank you for the information, but I should clarify that I am totally uninterested in podcasts. I find it very difficult to learn from the spoken word.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:59 PM on December 31, 2013

I learned an awful lot about automobiles from How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive while trying to keep my Volkswagen on the road.

Simple, illustrated explanations for simple cars, but fundamentals are fundamentals. You can build up in complexity (and timeliness) from there.

[I also learned what "balling" meant and why a VW Bus was well suited to it.]
posted by notyou at 2:32 PM on December 31, 2013

Simply stating "teach me about cars" is not going to be of much help to you, though. It's a fairly open-ended request. There are far too many potential starting points. Do we start with the invention of the internal combustion engine? You really need to start at a more specific point.

Much like notyou, everything I know about cars has been learned through the process of attempting a lot of DIY repair on my own cars. Once a need presented itself, I then did a lot of very specific searching online.

For starters, though, I would suggest getting yourself the Haynes manual for your specific car (assuming you own one, of course) They are a fairly good place to get a good overview of the components that go into a car and how they all relate. Plus, you'll have your own car right in front of you to apply the descriptions.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 PM on December 31, 2013

Auto Repair for Dummies was really helpful for me in trying to understand how cars work generally. This time of year (depending where you live) may not be great for it, but I found that having the book outside WITH the car was particularly helpful. Topped up some fluids, even. :)
posted by epersonae at 4:24 PM on December 31, 2013

I have the Norwegian edition of what I think is The book of the car. It's dated, but very good, and you can probably find it used somewhere.

And the one thing I have never been able to understand from paper is how differentials work. This video is old, but excellent.
posted by Harald74 at 7:48 AM on January 4, 2014

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