James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from the 1964 film Goldfinger is an iconic vehicle for several reasons, not least for its array of gadgets including the smoke screen exhaust, rear bullet shield and a passenger seat ejector button in the gear stick. Equally as impressive for its tricks was the modified GM Pontiac Trans Am, called KITT, in the Knight Rider TV series that started in the 1980s. As well as producing oil jets and smoke screens, flame-throwing and launching tear gas canisters, KITT’s cybernetic logic module could see or hear through any wavelength, smell anything by atmospheric sampling and jam any electronic system.
Blast from the Past
As well as the fun of imagining functions of the World’s coolest cars, the other attraction of these dream cars was what was under the hood. Bond’s DB5 had a 3,995 cc six-cylinder engine, with a top speed of 144 mph and went from 0 to 60 mph in 8 seconds. The third-generation Pontiac Firebird Trans Am engines were available in several sizes, but the version used for Knight Rider had a V8, 5 liter engine with a top speed of 125 mph. Although many enthusiasts would love to drive the car onto a four-post car lift to see what’s underneath, not everyone has the know-how to understand what they see.
Parts in Motion
So, what is under the hood? Gaining a basic understanding of what’s happening when you turn the ignition ‘on’ makes car maintenance and spotting potential repairs easier. The components include the engine, which provides the poweer to turn the crankshaft and work other internal components in the car, the transmission that enables the gears to control the drive, and the radiator to prevent overheating.
As well as turning the car wheels, the engine also drives a fan belt at the front of the engine to work the alternator, water pump, AC compressor and power steering pump. Next to the engine is the battery, which sends a voltage to the starter during ignition, and powers the electrical circuitry of the vehicle. Parts of the brake system under the hood include the brake booster, master cylinder and fluid reservoir. The last component is the chamber for the windshield washer fluid.
Keep on Going
The simplest maintenance of your car, apart from checking your lights and tire pressure, is to make sure the car’s fluids are topped up. This includes engine oil, coolant, and lubricants and fluids for brakes, transmission, power steering and windshield washers. Some of these tasks you can do yourself, and others, particularly with more sophisticated vehicles, will require the help of a mechanic.
Engine oil keeps the moving parts from seizing-up. The oil level can be checked by looking at the dipstick, which is often located at the front of the engine. The dipstick has a high and a low mark, so the oil level should be somewhere in between. Let the car stand idle for a while before taking a reading to allow the oil to cool and contract. The oil is easily topped up. After about 5,000 miles, it becomes dirty and should be changed at the local car repair shop.
If your brake pedal has little resistance when pressed or touches the floor, the brake system likely has a leak that will require professional help, although a radiator leak is easier to block with a sealant. The sealant is inserted into the radiator and then allowed to circulate throughout the cooling system by running the engine.
Film stars with fast cars never seem to have problems with car maintenance. With a little knowledge and a reliable mechanic, neither should you.