(Almost) Every Exterior Car Part Named and Explained

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Jasmine Kanter
· 7 min read
A car's body is composed of metal panels that house parts like the headlights, grille, windshield, and tailpipe. For quick reference, a car's fascia is its face, spoilers and wings aren't the same—and a moonroof is just a transparent sunroof!
We’re huge fans of the thingy on cars. You know, the thingy? The shiny whatchamacallit on the front of the
? Remember when you replaced the dented thingamajig on your
Honda Civic Base
? The thingy’s just like that, but rounder… wait a minute, that’s the grille!
Whether you're reporting damage to your car, searching for replacement parts, or describing your dream car, knowing the right words is crucial. That's why
, your
licensed broker app
that can find you the perfect
car insurance
policy, has a list of every exterior car part and its function. We'll focus exclusively on modern cars, leaving fads, mods, and accessories for another time. 


The first thing you need to know about a car's exterior is that it's made of panels. Panels are metal pieces that make up your car's front, rear, sides, and roof. They’re designed to be protective yet stylish, lightweight, and strong. Some of the biggest breakthroughs in automative history have come from innovative panel designs and materials

Types of panels

A car's body is made up of panels and the frame on which they sit (the chassis). The following panels can be found on most cars:
  • Hood: A car hood protects the engine, which is why people refer to the powertrain as being "under the hood". Car hood vents help cool the hot components underneath.
  • Fascia: If the front of your car were a face, the headlights were eyes, and the grille was the mouth, then the car fascia would be the cheeks, cheekbones, and mouth opening. A car's fascia sets it apart from competitors: compare the broad mug of a
    Ford Bronco
    to the delicate lines of a
    Porsche Boxster
    . You can find custom fascias in aftermarket car body kits.
  • Roof: Often the largest panel in the car, the roof protects you and your passengers from the elements.
  • Fender: You can’t have a fender bender without a car fender! A car fender is a curved panel that fits over the front wheel of each car. It prevents the tires from throwing mud, water, rocks, and other road debris onto the car. The space in which the tire assembly rotates is called a wheel well.
  • Quarter: A quarter panel curves over each rear wheel and frames part of the rear windshield and the trunk. Think of them as the rear fenders.
  • Door: Unlike most of the other panels on your car, doors have windows, handles, and locks, and are designed to open.
  • Rocker: Also known as a sill, the rocker is a long, thin piece of metal running between the front and rear wheels under the doors of a car.
  • Deck (trunk) lid: The car deck lid opens to reveal the trunk, the car's main luggage compartment. In sedans, the trunk is a separate (and often messy) compartment from the passenger cabin—but in hatchbacks and SUVs, there’s no such division.
  • Hatch: Like a car deck lid, a hatch opens up to reveal cargo space. Unlike a car deck lid, hatches usually incorporate the rear windshield. Hatches give the
    its name.
Key Takeaway A car’s body is composed of metal panels that are designed to protect the driver and passengers inside.
MORE: How to remove dents from your car
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The front exterior parts of a car

Now that you have the body of a car in your mind’s eye, it’s time to put the other pieces in place. Most vital driving equipment is located on a car's front: headlights illuminate the road ahead, fog lights shine a light under the fog, and signal lights indicate your intent to turn. Mirrors show what's behind you while the windshield protects you from what's ahead.
You've probably used most or all of these tools while driving. Below are the parts whose names you might not know.


In addition to protecting the radiator and engine, the grille of a car allows air to pass through and cool hot components. Big, shiny, and in-your-face, the front grille of a car is a statement piece—check out the one on the

Front bumper

A car bumper is a thick piece of plastic, aluminum, or carbon fiber attached to the front of the vehicle to absorb shocks and protect the occupants. As you can see from vehicles like the
Dodge Ram 2500
, heavy-duty car bumpers are for heavy-duty work like off-roading or hauling.

Crash guard (bullbar)

A crash guard is a thick steel bar mounted to the front of a vehicle designed to protect its body. They’re frequently found on
and other off-roading vehicles.

Front spoiler (air dam)

Mounted underneath the bumper, a front spoiler cuts (or “spoils”) the airflow underneath a vehicle, preventing it from being lifted ever so slightly off the road.

Valance (bumper deflector)

The valance on a car shields important components while also contributing to the vehicle’s aerodynamics. Valances can be mounted on the underside of a car's front, back, or sides to fill the gaps between panels, often with an air dam to direct airflow around the vehicle.

The rear exterior parts of a car

Cars communicate a lot with their rear ends. Vehicles ahead of you are visible at night thanks to their tail lights, their brake lights tell you when they're stopping, and their signal lights let you know when they intend to turn. Likewise, you can find out the
make and model
of the car you're admiring from the silver lettering on the back.
Here’s a guide to every other part on the back of a car—see how many you can identify the next time you’re stuck in traffic!


Just like the front car bumper, a car back bumper is a thick bar mounted on the rear of the vehicle to protect it. Back bumpers are generally thicker than front car bumpers since many common car accident injuries result from rear collisions.

Exhaust pipe (tail pipe)

At the rear of the car, the exhaust pipe funnels the gases generated by the combustion of the car engine away and out of the car.
MORE: What to do if there's smoke from engine or exhaust

Emblem (badge)

In recent years, hood ornaments have fallen out of favor and been replaced by emblems—sleek, low-profile medallions bearing the logo of the vehicle’s manufacturer. Often, cosmetic packages and higher trims include badges that are unique in design, color, or both.

Rear spoiler

A rear spoiler is a lip of raised metal on the back of a car, so-called because it "spoils" airflow across the vehicle (see the
Ford Mustang Shelby
for an example). The spoiler reroutes air that would normally create turbulence as it flows down the rear windshield and returns it to the main airstream.


A wing is a T-shaped aerodynamic device that generates downforce. When the wing cuts the airflow, it pushes down on the rear of the car and helps it grip the road. Often mistaken for spoilers, they're found on performance vehicles like the
Chevrolet Camaro
Key Takeaway Cars have a complex array of front and rear parts, some designed for safety, some for aerodynamics, and others for style.
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The roof and exterior parts of a car

We're almost done! There are only a few more parts to name and describe, and they're all on the roof. Convertible owners can ignore this section! Here are the components of one of the largest and most protective panels on your car.

Pillar (post)

A pillar is a support beam that holds up the roof of the car and provides a framework for the windows, windshield, and quarter glass. A vehicle's length determines the number of pillars, and the slant of the pillars depends on its design. On a typical sedan, the pillars are labeled A through C, and on a lengthy vehicle such as an SUV or wagon, A through D.

Quarter glass window (valance window, vent glass)

A quarter glass window is a small triangular pane of glass whose frame is made up of the A-pillar, windshield, and front door (in the front) or C (or D) pillar, rear windshield, and rear door (in the back).


A sunroof is an opaque panel in a car’s roof that can be tilted up or removed to let in the fresh air.


A moonroof is a sunroof made of glass, usually tinted, that can be raised or lowered to allow air into the cabin. Almost all modern cars have moonroofs rather than sunroofs.


The long radio antennas (and their smiley-face accessories) of yesteryear are long gone. Instead, modern cars place their AM/FM tuners in triangles on the roof, nicknamed 'fins' for their shark-like appearance.

Roof rails

Often permanently fixed to the car's roof, roof rails run parallel to the vehicle's length. When coupled with a roof rack, they help you secure cargo to the top of your car.

Roof rack

A roof rack is a set of bars that run perpendicularly across a car's roof, often resting on top of the roof rails. Normally, roof racks aren't attached to cars; they’re sold as accessories. Combined with roof rails, they help you attach cargo to your car's roof.
Key Takeaway A car's roof is supported by pillars and may include a sunroof, moonroof, or roof rails.
MORE: Foolproof ways to clean bird poop on your car

Where to find an affordable insurance policy

A car's exterior plays a crucial role in protecting you and your passengers, but one of its most important safety features is in its glovebox. A great
car insurance
policy gives you the coverage you want at a price you can afford—and you can find it with
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Tough and made of thick plastic or metal, a car bumper protects its body (and its occupants) from the shock of a collision. Car front bumpers are generally not as durable as back bumpers.
Car fenders are curved panels that fit over each wheel and allow the tires to rotate freely while catching dirt and liquid thrown up from the road.
Moonroofs and sunroofs are both movable panels in a car's roof—but a sunroof is made of opaque metal, while a moonroof is made of transparent glass.
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