Ten Videos That Explain How Cars Work

Ten Videos That Explain How Cars Work

Even if you can correctly identify the main parts beneath your car bonnet, you probably don’t know how all those complex systems work. Here are ten fantastic videos that explain the basics – made by the car manufacturers themselves. Want to know how drum brakes work? Clutch transmissions? Car suspension? 4WD? Rotary engines? You’ll find all the answers here.

#1 How Drum Brakes Work (Chevy)

Chevrolet produced many of these great instructional films in the 1930s. This one explains how drum brakes work with fantastic visual aids.

#2 When And How 4WD Works (Jeep)

This video is specific to Jeep’s Selec-Trac system, but is still a great explainer for how four-wheel drive works and when to use it.

#3 How Differentials Work (Chevy)

Want to know why your car needs a differential and how that differential works? Once again, we turn to the great videos from Chevrolet produced by the Jam Handy Organization back in the 1930s.

#4 How To Heel-Toe (Ayrton Senna & Honda)

I don’t believe this video was intended to be instructional but any serious driver can certainly learn a thing or two watching Ayrton Senna thrash an NSX-R around Suzuka. Whoever decided to mount a foot camera to the NSX deserves a trophy.

#5 How Suspension Works (Chevy)

This list has been heavy on 1930s Chevrolet videos, but there’s a very good reason for that. As always, great visuals are employed in showing how the springs and shocks in your car absorb the bumps in the road.

#6 How Automatic Transmissions Work (US Department of Defense)

The Department of Defense which isn’t really what you’d call a carmaker. They were, however, a major driving force in the development of automatic transmissions. I simply couldn’t not include this video that explains the mystery of how they work. Spoiler alert: it’s not wizardry!

#7 How Dual Clutch Transmissions Work (Volvo)

Dual clutch transmissions are becoming an increasingly large part of the automotive world, so this short, sweet video from Volvo Trucks is both excellent and timely. I’d imagine Porsche’s PDK explanation video would be 4 hours, not 40 seconds like this one.

#8 Why Disc Brakes Are Better (Studebaker)

Don’t know the difference between drum and disc brakes? You will within 7 seconds of this excellent video from Studebaker. As if you needed any more reason to want a Lark.

$9 How Rotary Engines Work, (Mazda)

Who else but Mazda to tell you how a Wankel Rotary engine works? Even if a Rotary isn’t really better than internal combustion as Mazda says, this is video is well worth your time.

#10 How To Race (Carroll Shelby & Co.)

Is there any better instructional video than Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, Pete Brock, and Dan Gurney teaching you how to race? Add in Willow Springs Raceway as well as a Cobra, a Mustang GT350, and an early GT40 and you’ve got the best instructional video a carmaker has ever made.

This story originally appeared on Jalopnik.


  • This is great, thanks! Also, can anyone recommend a book that really simplifies how a car works for a 3-year old? My car-mad son is starting to ask questions that are difficult to explain without simple diagrams/pics. And yes I’d prefer it to be a book rather than a video 🙂

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