car mechanics

If you’ve ever found yourself browsing our online car auctions here at RAW2K for a second-hand car, you’ll probably find your fair share of models with a couple of things that need fixing. Sometimes, they may be very quick and simple – a broken wingmirror here, a worn wiper there, possibly a tyre that needs replacing.

Sometimes though, there are parts or problems that might not seem quite so straightforward, especially if there’s a bit of jargon involved. And since we like to make things simple for you here at RAW2K, we’ve collected some of the most common bits of related jargon for you below – which might save you and your mechanic a bit of time!


In a nutshell, your alternator keeps your car battery charged. To explain it in a little more detail; as you probably knew, your car battery is rechargeable, but not quite like the ones in your TV remote – you’re actually charging it every time you drive. That’s what the alternator does – it converts the mechanical energy from your engine into an alternating electrical current. That charges the battery, and powers the electrical elements in your car.

Now, your car battery does degrade (very slowly) over a period of years, and that’s eventually what can start leading to a dead battery after about a decade or so. If it’s a relatively new car and a relatively new battery though, a dead battery could well be something to do with the alternator.

Big end

A favourite phrase of some experienced mechanics is: “well, your big end has gone.” And before you start with any “as the actress said to the bishop”, it’s worth knowing that what they’re actually telling you is that a large bearing in the engine has worn out and failed. That’s what causes the distinctive sound of a loud knocking noise from under the bonnet, especially when accelerating.

It might not mean the end for the car, but the bad news is that it often means you’re looking at a replacement engine, which can be exactly as expensive as it sounds.

Catalytic converter

A catalytic converter does a vital job – it’s fitted onto your exhaust to convert the most poisonous elements of your car’s emissions into carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen and water. Without them, your car would essentially be pumping concentrated poison into the air wherever it drives – and while normal car emissions aren’t great for the environment, they’re certainly not (and shouldn’t be) that bad.

A catalytic converter should last the lifetime of the car, but since it’s made of precious metals, it’s not unknown for them to be occasionally stolen. They’re also sometimes removed by previous owners of a vehicle, who may try and sell their converter separately to maximise the money they make by selling the car.


ECU stands for Electronic Control Unit, which is basically an on-board computer that controls all the car’s electronic features. It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘brain’ of the car. As well as controlling wipers, mirrors, and in-built navigation systems (depending on the technological sophistication of the car), the ECU is often tasked with maximising the efficiency of your vehicle. So, for example, it may try and learn about the way you drive and mitigate accordingly, so that it can maximise your fuel efficiency.

Head gasket

This one is even more straightforward. It’s a leak-proof seal between an engine’s cylinder block and cylinder head. Basically, its job is to keep the various fluids and gases in the correct engine chambers. If your head gasket has gone, it basically means that there’s a good chance certain fluids are leaking where they’re not supposed to be. You don’t have to be an expert to realise why that might be bad news for your car.

Of course, if you’re curious (or concerned) about the level of damage sustained by any of the vehicles in our online car auctions here at RAW2K, we’ve made things easier for you by including a very rough damage report. It’s obviously not exhaustive, but can help you tell at a glance whether or not the car will be suitable for your purposes.

We’ve got plenty to choose from right here at RAW2K. Our auctions are refreshed on a daily and weekly basis, so there are always new deals to be had, and we’ve got vehicles from a range of leading manufacturers including Renault, Citroen and Vauxhall. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?