Guide to what is under the bonnet of a car - Tata Punch
Components under the bonnet of my Tata Punch

What’s Under the Bonnet – Complete Newbie’s Guide

My first time seeing under the bonnet of the car was way back in Goa during the early 2000s. Dad’s driver used to open the bonnet and add some water somewhere. While I didn’t know what he did back then, I was always curious to see what was under the hood.

Over the years, I was intrigued by cars. The whole machine and how everything works in sync to move the car. Even when I brought my Tata Punch, I did a proper detailed study, tests drives before settling on the Punch. Read my post on buying your first car to know how to go about it.

Now that I know a lot about cars, especially what’s under the hood, I do have a fair idea of how things work. The idea of this blog post is to help a beginner understand what’s under the bonnet of their car. As a car owner, how often do you open your bonnet and see? Rarely.

Bringing home my first car - Tata Punch
Bringing home my first car – Tata Punch

But as a car owner, I feel each one of us should at least know some basics of what’s under the bonnet. It’ll not only help improve your knowledge but also help you figure out an issue to some extent.

What is under the bonnet?

A car that runs on petrol or diesel, will have the engine and other components placed in the front. The front bonnet can be opened by pulling a lever that’s often placed under the steering wheel in most cars. Once you pull that level, you’ll hear a thud sound, and the bonnet will open.

What's Under the Bonnet - Complete Newbie's Guide
Tata Punch Bonnet Lever. Courtesy: TeamBHP

On the front, you need to put your fingers in the gap and slide a lever that frees the bonnet. Just push it up and you’ll have a lever on the left that you need to fix in order to keep the bonnet open.

Make sure you open the bonnet only when the car is not running.

Opening the bonnet can be overwhelming for the first time. While I list the components under the bonnet of my Tata Punch, please note that some of these might change for your car. However, you’ll find most of them present at the same spot in your car with some additions/modifications. So if you have a turbo engine, an AMT, or an automatic gearbox, you’ll have a few extra components.

Components Under The Bonnet Of A Car

Let’s get under the hood of a car and see the various components that you’ll find. The photo below is the bonnet of my Tata Punch. It’s labeled from 1 to 10 for each component that I’ve discussed below. Your car may also have a similar layout but may differ in some areas depending on the manufacturer.

Guide to what is under the bonnet of a car - Tata Punch
Components under the bonnet of my Tata Punch

1. Engine

When you open the bonnet, the first thing you’ll obviously see is the engine. It is the heart of a car, in fact, any machine. It is what powers your car and enables it to move. It’ll be a casing often with the manufacturer badge. Based on the type of engine: 1.2L, 1.6L, 2.4L, etc., the size of the engine will differ. Bigger the capacity, the bigger the engine. For a normal user, you’ll not interact with the engine. If you do notice some leaks, or cracked plates, nuts, etc. inform your mechanic.

If you have a turbo engine, you’ll have an extra outlet from the engine. Further, if you have an AMT or an automatic car, you’ll find the actuator right next to the engine along with a visible clutch. This again varies from car to car.

2. Air Filter

The next component that works along with the engine is the air filter. For the unaware, an internal combustion engine (ICE) works when a mixture of fuel and air is burnt using a spark plug. So your engine not only has the fuel but also the air. Every ICE engine has an air intake that takes the air to the engine. However, this air is not always clean as it’s taken from the environment.

To ensure that only clean air gets into your engine, an air filter is what you need. In the case of my Tata Punch, it’s located right above the engine. For other cars like Hyundai or Maruti, it may be around the battery or the air intake valve (a large tube that runs from the front of the car to the engine). One of the most common things that are checked during regular car servicing is an air filter. You can even clean/change it at home.

3. Brake Oil Tank

Usually located on the top left in the bonnet beside the engine, is the brake oil tank. Besides this, you’ll have the brake oil pump with four steel pipes. Each of these pipes is responsible to fill your brakes for all four wheels. It takes the brake oil from the tank to all the wheels to ensure your brakes are always ready and working.

It’s extremely important to ensure that you always maintain adequate oil levels. Usually, there’s a clear mark of minimum and maximum to help you. Keep a note of the recommended oil by your manufacturer, and make sure you refill using the same. If you’re planning to take a long road trip, make sure the brake fluid level is adequate.

4. Wiper Water Tank/Inlet

The next thing as you move below the brake oil tank is the wiper water tank. When you pull the wiper lever to spray water on the windshield, the water is taken from this taken. This is something that you’ll use most often. You need to ensure that this is not empty.

Further, make sure that you use filtered, RO water to fill the tank. It takes about 1-2 ltr of water depending on the type of car. You’ll also find some windshield wash liquid to add to the tank to keep your windshield clean. There’s no clear indication in my tata punch, I just keep filing until it overflows.

5. Radiator / Coolant Tank

The next important component under the bonnet of your car is the radiator. A radiator is critical to keep things under optimum temperature in your car, most importantly the engine. There’s a tube connected to a coolant tank. Coolant is a liquid that ensures your engine doesn’t overheat.

Do not open the radiator when the engine is running or immediately after the engine is turned off. Make sure the engine has cooled down.

Ideally, you won’t be doing this but just a word of caution. While a good coolant is necessary & recommended, many times people simply add water or a mix of water and coolant. This seriously affects the engine and other components. Hence whenever you’re refilling the coolant, make sure to use the recommended brand.

6. Battery

Moving to the right you’ll find the battery. Apart from the engine, this is the second most distinct component under the bonnet. A car battery powers all the electrical components in your car. Depending on your car, the capacity of the battery will change, however, the type will be the same.

All you need to ensure is to make sure the battery is charged and it isn’t leaking. Also, you need to ensure before a long trip that the battery points are secured properly. Sometimes when the battery is completely dead, you won’t be able to start your car. In such cases, you might have to jump-start your car.

7. Fuse Box

Right next to the battery is the fuse box. A car usually has two fuse boxes, one inside and one under the bonnet. The one inside is located under the steering wheel. The fuse box is just like a fuse box that you have at home. Its job is to ensure that all electrical components are protected. With cars becoming hi-tech and smart, fuse becomes important.

Again, you won’t be dealing with the fuse anytime. Unless you’ve tweaked the electrical in your car – added new headlights, ambient lights, powerful speakers, etc. Further, at times when your car isn’t starting, with ignition issues, the starter fuse can be the culprit if the battery is fine. In case there’s any issue with any electrical component, the fuse can help you pinpoint the exact root cause. But again, ensure to get it done by a mechanic.

8. ECU – Electronic Control Unit

The top right corner is the ECU, which is a critical part of modern-day cars. The ECU is like the CPU of your car. Most of the smart, hi-tech features that you use are controlled by the ECU. If your car has different drive modes like city, eco, sorts, etc. it’s the ECU that decides the amount of fuel mix, opening & closing of valves, etc. to give the desired performance.

Features like traction control, hill descent, etc. are governed by the ECU. Again, you’ll never interact with the ECU as such, all you need to do is that if your washing things under the bonnet, it’s advisable to keep this area dry and away from water.

9. Headlight Bay

The headlight bay gives you access to the headlights of your car. For most modern cars, it’s fairly easy to access it by anyone. If you want to change or replace the headlight bulb, the headlight bay is what you’ll access. Depending on your car, the means to access it will differ. In case the headlight bulb is not working, you can purchase headlamps specific to your car and replace them.

10. Bonnet Raisers

If you’ve ever opened a car bonnet, you know that it’s heavy. Further, at times you would have noticed that the bonnet is not aligned properly. As in, if you run your fingers, you’ll realize that the bonnet hood is not aligned correctly. It’s risen on one side and fallen on the other. If the hood isn’t aligned properly, it’s prone to gather dush when your car is being driven.

To do this, every car manufacturer provided bonnet raisers that are placed right in front of the bonnet. These are basically large screws with a soft upper layer. You can screw/unscrew these to level the bonnet. You might feel that’s a manufacturing defect and that your bonnet isn’t aligned well, but actually just adjusting these raisers solves the issue.

These were a few components that you’ll find under the hood of any car. Most cars will also have these components placed in the same spots as well. The size, orientation, color, etc, might vary based on your manufacturer.

Now you know what’s under the bonnet

That’s about it for this blog post. I’m hopeful that this blog post gave you some insights into what’s under the bonnet of your car. If you’ve never opened the bonnet, I suggest opening it once and seeing for yourself. See how these components are placed and understand what’s important to check before embarking on a long road trip.

While you should always ask a mechanic to interact with these components, opening the bonnet and knowing what is what will help. So when your mechanic explains a problem, you have some understanding of it.

Tell me if you liked this post or not. Not a usual post that I write. But since I’m passionate about cars and machines in general, I thought to write and share this. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, tweet to me at @Atulmaharaj, DM on Instagram or Get in Touch.

About Atulmaharaj

A seasoned blogger and a content marketer for close to a decade now. I write about Food, Technology, Lifestyle, Travel, and Finance related posts. Blogging brings me joy and the best part is I get to read and e-meet so many amazing bloggers! PS: I'm also the founder for Socialmaharaj.com :) Favorite Quote: "Traveling is like reading a book, one who hasn't traveled, hasn't turned a page.

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