Are You an Expert in Niche Auto Parts?


By: Dave Davis

7 Min Quiz

Image: Monty Rakusen

About This Quiz

For some, the quest for wheels ends as soon as they sign the paperwork at the dealership. They're happy to drive off in factory-designed comfort and style. For others, however, acquiring the vehicle is just the beginning of the journey. The real work — and pleasure — is about to start. This quiz is for this group, who see a vehicle as a blank canvas, just waiting for the right mechanical and artistic vision to turn it into a masterpiece of style and speed.

What follows are questions that will test your knowledge of aftermarket parts and the companies that produce them. Some of these might be household names while others are known only to a select few who appreciate automotive excellence that passes others by — often literally.

These niche products aren't for everyone — many aren't even for most people — but for those wanting to put a few extra horses under the hood, get around that corner just a little quicker or add functionality and style to their vehicle, many of these items are on their must-have list.

Many drivers can't identify the make of tire they're riding on, the brand of sparkplug that ignites their engine's power or the type of muffler that keeps their neighbors from making a "disturbance of the peace" call to the police.

This quiz isn't for them.

If you're ready, we're going to explore your knowledge of niche aftermarket add-ons, automotive must-haves and products that bring out the best in both driver and vehicle. Do you know your spinner from your spoiler? Your LED from your laser headlights? Then strap on your street-legal harness, burn some rubber and get this quiz started. Good luck — but if you really know your stuff, you won't need it.

Where is the official place to buy parts for Chrysler, Fiat and Dodge cars?

Mopar, a combination of the words "Motor" and "Parts," is a brand dating back to 1937 and was first used for antifreeze manufactured by Chrysler. In addition to selling parts and material for cars and trucks from Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and Ram, the brand is also frequently seen as sponsors of NASCAR, Formula D, drag racing and other motorsports events.


Too much will damage your engine, but what substance will add a kick to your car's performance for a moment?

Injecting nitrous oxide (N2O2, or "NOS" to racers) into the combustion chamber of an engine is a quick way to pick up extra horsepower — and speed — but it's also a good way to blow your engine. A nitrous oxide system works by providing more oxygen into the system, which means more fuel can be used and more power generated. It's also a cold gas that, when injected, makes the oxygen denser, adding to the effect. However, it also adds pressure and some engines just can't take the strain.


Which wheel company's slogan is "Built for Real American Muscle"?

Long known for its highly sought-after racing and hot-rod wheels, Cragar was founded in 1930, originally selling aircraft engines and Model A Ford cylinder heads. The company then changed hands over the years and made what would become its signature product — the Cragar S/S Wheel — in 1964. Magnesium ("Mag") wheels for high-performance needs came in 1970. For gearheads, the name has become synonymous with performance-based wheels.


Which of these technologies is older when it comes to headlights?

Headlights have been around almost as long as the automobile itself, and the technology is constantly evolving to become safer and to emit enough light for safe driving without blinding oncoming traffic. Although the first headlamps were fueled by acetylene or oil, electrical headlights became standard equipment for many vehicles in 1908, using a vacuum-sealed tungsten filament. High-end vehicles are now offering laser-activated phosphor headlights that are highly energy efficient.


Need a GM part? One of these is the official company, but which one?

Although it offers aftermarket parts and equipment for non-GM vehicles, ACDelco is the official outlet for General Motors auto parts. The company has gone by different names since its formation in 1916 by Chevrolet co-founder William C. Durant, including United Motors Corporation, United Motors Service and United Delco. The company prides itself on its ability to serve GM customers; it currently offers more than 90,000 different auto parts.


Which of these is a type of muffler?

Glasspack mufflers, which get their name from the fiberglass packing used to muffle the engine's sound, are an older technology and are not the most effective method of dampening noise and venting engine pressure. In these mufflers, exhaust gasses pass through a tube surrounded by a larger tube stuffed with fiberglass. Some newer mufflers are designed around the same idea, but use stainless steel mesh and advanced engineering to reduce noise while still reducing engine pressure.


Fram, Motorcraft, Mobil 1 and Royal Purple all make which critical engine part?

Oil is essential to keeping your engine's moving parts from grinding against each other and seizing up as a result. Oil filters are essential to keep the lubricant clean of dirt, debris and other foreign substances that can do damage. Always change the filter when you change the oil, or you'll just be contaminating the new oil with the ghosts of oil past.


When you see a green cap on a tire stems of the car next to you, what does that mean?

Rather than using atmospheric air, some drivers have chosen to inflate their tires with nitrogen, which is signaled with the green tire-stem caps. Advocates say that, since the nitrogen molecules are larger than typical air molecules, it's more difficult for nitrogen gas to leak out. This helps keep the tires constantly inflated at the correct PSI and lengthens tire life. The downside is that only nitrogen can be used to top off the tires when necessary, which is more costly and not as widely available.


Famous for their grip in any condition, which Japanese tires are the only choice for some drivers on the road or track?

Yokohama dates back to 1917, and while it makes tires for cars, light trucks, commercial trucks and other vehicles, it's most recognizable to many as a tire used by race cars and other high-performance vehicles. The company, which produced Japan's first tubeless tires, has recently started a line of more eco-friendly tires, the BluEarth series.


To some, which company's products are a necessity when it comes to their audio system?

Started in 1967, Alpine Electronics has been the go-to brand for drivers who value the sounds coming from their stereo above all else. A manufacturer of speakers, amplifiers, subwoofers and signal processing gear, Alpine has made a number of first in automotive technology, including the first automotive navigation system in 1981, the first in-car computerized equalizer in 1982 and the first Dolby Digital EX aftermarket car product in 2004.


When you need a Ford part, which of these is the official outlet?

Replacing Autolite as Ford's official OEM parts outlet, Motorcraft was launched in 1972 and serves Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles. Ford often works with outside manufacturers to produce parts that will be sold under the Motorcraft name, and some of its products can be used on non-Ford vehicles. Autolite still exists as a brand today but is now owned by FRAM.


Along with their sponsoring of a prestigious racing event, BorgWarner is best known for which product?

Michigan-based BorgWarner is known by mechanics and car enthusiasts as a major manufacturer of manual and automatic transmissions, turbochargers and other powertrain elements. BorgWarner is best known by many motorsports fans, however, as the sponsor of the trophy given to the winner of the Indianapolis 500, which it has been associated with since 1936. The company was also selected in 2012 by the Izod Indycar Series as the official supplier of turbochargers.


Which company is best known for its superchargers?

Paxton Superchargers engineer Jim Middlebrook had an idea for a different type of supercharger in 1990 and decided to go out on his own to form Vortech Engineering. That supercharger, powered by an internally gear-driven compressor, found popularity in Ford performance circles and became a highly sought-after modification. The company eventually branched out to service other brands and is popular with racers around the world.


It's gotta go somewhere! MagnaFlow, Flowmaster, Corsa and Borla all manufacture which critical automotive system?

Exhaust gases are an inevitable part of the internal combustion process, but factory-installed exhaust systems aren't enough for many auto enthusiasts. For those who want to wrangle every last bit of horsepower out of their vehicle, high-performance exhaust systems are a must. Often this starts by changing the engine's exhaust manifold, which captures the spent gases from the combustion process. By reducing pressure, engine performance can be increased.


Which Italian tire maker, famous for racing, is a trusted brand for sports cars but doesn't come cheap?

With its slogan "Power is nothing without control," Milan-based Pirelli doesn't make tires for everyday cars or drivers. Pirelli tires are most often found on high-performance cars and racing vehicles, where their tire's exceptional performance is needed most, and where price isn't a major concern. The company is also a well-known sponsor of football (soccer, to Americans), as well as Formula One and rally motorsports.


Which system allows you to use an iPhone as part of the car's information system?

Your smartphone is a great information and entertainment tool but fiddling with it while driving can be fatal for you, your passengers and for others on the road. Vehicles equipped with a CarPlay system, however, can interface with the Apple iPhone and provides a touchscreen on the car's dashboard that natively connects with the phone, allowing you to make calls, check your GPS and listen to music and audio more safely.


Which wheel ornaments can make cars look like they're moving, even while they're sitting still?

To earlier generations of automobiles, "spinner" caps were used to attach the wheel to the vehicle before the advent of the lug nut. Spinners were threaded in the reverse of the wheel's direction and "knocked on" with a hammer to tighten them (also, that's where the phrase "knock-off" comes from). The term took on a new meaning in the late 1990s and early 2000s when spinner hubcaps, in which the center of the cover spins independently of the wheel, came into fashion.


For racers who need every ounce of power their engine can supply, which instruments are a necessity?

While simple indicator lights (and the always-informative "check engine light") are enough for most drivers, those wanting extra power or performance need a bit more information and therefore add aftermarket gauges to their dashboard. (These gauges also come in different styles and add a touch of "techno-class" to the vehicle). Different gauges measure exhaust temperature, fuel PSI, oil PSI, transmission temperature, air/fuel ratio and boost pressure and other data.


Sometimes this modification is closed and purely cosmetic, but when functional it can lower engine temperature and increase horsepower.

A hood scoop is designed to direct a flow of air directly into the engine compartment in order to provide additional cooling. Usually located at the back of the hood (close to the windshield), the scoop has only the single opening, so that cooler, denser air is channeled through the engine and other components for cooling and more efficient combustion. Some hood scoops, however, are actually closed and are just there purely for decoration.


Which ride-smoothing devices are some of the first devices gearheads change out when modifying their rides?

When drivers need performance out of their vehicles, the shocks and struts are crucial for control and cornering. While the two terms are often used in conjunction, and perform the same function, they are not the same thing. A strut is an integral part of the suspension system; a shock is not. Some cars use both, with struts in front and shocks in the rear, but they are not interchangeable. Leaders in the field include ACDelco, Monroe, Bilstein and KYB.


Modifications to which part of your car might make your ride no longer street legal?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but seats developed for racing vehicles are often not considered street legal. The problem is with the racing harnesses that come with the seat; a harness that emergency workers aren't familiar with in the event of a crash can delay critical care. There are racing harnesses that can be installed in conjunction with normal three-point seatbelts belts, however, that keep everything nice and legal.


Which manufacturer, also known for its power tools, is a provider of powertrain accessories and other automotive items?

Founded in 1886, Bosch — technically Robert Bosch GmbH — is a German-headquartered company that operates in different manufacturing areas. Its Consumer Goods arm makes items such as power tools, while its Mobility Solutions sector concentrates on elements of a vehicle's powertrain, steering systems, driver-assistance systems and more. The company recently merged its gas and diesel powertrain divisions to take advantage of new technologies.


Which pickup truck device gives drivers a place to put their tools while keeping hauling space loss to a minimum?

Crossover truck tool boxes, which rest on the side of the pickup truck's bed directly behind the back window, are a great way to provide an enclosed space for tools or other equipment the driver doesn't want sliding around unsecured in the back of the vehicle. There are different sizes depending on the size of the truck and how much the driver plans to carry. Smaller boxes still leave the vast majority of the bed available for bigger hauls.


For those wanting to advertise a business or give their ride a particular look, which durable, removable method of car decoration is an option?

Car wraps are a growing option for those who want to take their factory-conservative vehicle and add a little more pizzazz. The wrap consists of a series of vinyl decals that are designed and cut to fit over your vehicle's body panels and give it a new look. The decals can have different finishes, colors, graphics or anything else that can be printed. Depending on how the vehicle is maintained — garage-kept is best — you can expect a wrap to last around five years.


The Potenza, Turanza and Ecopia are top-performing tires of which Japanese tire brand?

Bridgestone, headquartered in Tokyo, is the largest tire maker in the world, with production facilities in 24 countries. The company keeps a presence in both the consumer tire market, with lines like the Ecopia, and in the performance/racing world, with lines including the Potenza. Founded in 1931, Bridgestone bought the iconic-but-financially troubled American manufacturer Firestone Tires, in 1988.


It might seem innocent if sometimes a bit tacky, but which modification is illegal in some areas?

Neon lights on the underside of your car will certainly draw attention, but in some states, that could be attention that no one wants. Popular back in the 1990s and currently coming back into vogue in some circles, red and blue lights are banned in most jurisdictions because of any possible confusion between private cars and police vehicles. Other state and local laws ban the lights altogether because of the potential for distraction. All this is to say, choose your bling wisely.


JBL, Rockford Fosgate and Pioneer all make what popular automobile modifications?

There are some gearheads who want to have the best money can buy under the hood to take on the street, and there are some who just want to cruise while listening to their beats with the best stereo system they can afford. Not only are there aftermarket receivers and speakers, but there are amplifiers, subwoofers and displays to choose from. There are also ways to soundproof the vehicle itself so road and engine noise don't get in the way of that sweet bass.


What system is available to Android users to take advantage of their phone's features while driving?

Connected via Bluetooth, Android Auto is a way for Android phone users to be able to take full advantage of their phone will still keeping their attention on the road. Voice requests can be made via the Google Assistant, and GPS functions, music and audio selections and hands-free phone connectivity allow drivers to keep their phones safely in their pocket or purse.


When used in moderation, this modification can help make your drive more comfortable; when overdone, it can make your ride illegal. What is it?

Window tinting can keep the sun's heat and UV rays out of your passenger compartment, but make sure you don't go overboard. Most states ban tinting the windshield and set limits for how dark you can actually make various windows. While the effect can look cool, drivers should also be aware that excessive tinting can block rear visibility and can keep you from communicating visually with pedestrians and other drivers and — habits you might take for granted until they're taken away.


Which device can make your car or truck much more useful, but could give you transmission problems if you don't think it through?

The ability to tow trailers for cargo, camping or other uses can add a new dimension to your vehicle. You've got to make sure, however, that you're using not only the right hitch for your vehicle but the right hitch for the job you want to do. Class 1 trailer hitches can pull up to 2,000 pounds, while Class 5 hitches can handle between 16,000 and 20,000 pounds. Perhaps most importantly, though — make sure your vehicle can handle the weight and that the trailer is securely attached to the hitch.


Which Italian company specializes in not only seats, harnesses and steering wheels for the car, but helmets and apparel for the driver, as well?

Founded in 1977 and headquartered in Turin, Italy, Sparco made a name for itself when it developed a fireproof racing suit that could withstand up to 11 seconds in a fire and met newly enacted Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) safety standards. The company went on to develop several other safety-related products, including harnesses and helmets. Sparco is a sponsor of Formula One, Formula Two, IndyCar, NASCAR and others motorsports.


Which Japanese-based company is known for creating performance exhaust systems, turbo kits and more for automobiles?

Many gearheads who want to get the most out of their vehicle rely on GReddy (pronounced GRED-dy), which produces performance tuning parts, exhaust systems, turbochargers, electronics and more. Founded in 1977 and headquartered in Chiba, Japan, the company's name is a combination of the words "Great" and "Eddy," as in the airflow into a turbocharger.


Which company is one of the biggest mail-order auto equipment suppliers in the U.S., and a common sight on the drag racing circuit?

JEGS High Performance began life as a garage and a parts store in Columbus, Ohio in 1960 and soon began to make a name for itself with people who wanted certain car parts hunted down. The company eventually evolved into one of the country's biggest mail order parts supply providers. JEGS also fields racing teams in drag racing and is a NASCAR sponsor as well as a participant in other motorsports. Their big yellow logo is easy to spot on the track.


It can be expensive, but which material can greatly decrease a vehicle's weight without sacrificing strength?

Carbon fiber, invented by Thomas Edison — yes, THAT Thomas Edison — is made when carbon-based materials are heated, removing the non-carbon elements, and then woven together and set in resin. Before it completely dries, the resin can be shaped. Once hardened, the material is lightweight and as strong as steel. The material is currently much more expensive than steel, but many high-end performance cars take advantage of this "miracle" material.


Which of these companies is best known for its air filters, air intake systems and other performance parts?

K&N Engineering began in the early 1960s when two motorcycle racers — Ken Johnson and Norm McDonald — wanted to develop a new kind of air filter for dirty, off-road environments. They settled on an oiled cotton material that could be washed and reused. The company evolved to take on other products, such as oil and fuel filters and air intake systems, but still maintains a strong presence in motorsports, including NASCAR.


Spyder, Hella, Philips and Anzo are all makers of which auto part?

The need for headlights is obvious in the dark, but they also can provide valuable visual cues about your vehicle for other people on the road in daylight, stormy weather or other variable visibility conditions. It's important to change out your bulbs regularly, because they can dim over time without the driver realizing it. Experts advise that you change both bulbs at the same time to avoid an uneven field of vision.


When a vehicle is intended for off-road activities, which of these parts might have to be beefed up from factory standard?

While it can be a lot of fun to take a vehicle off-road, the punishing terrain can push an unmodified vehicle to its limits — and, if you're not careful, beyond. In addition to axle shafts that can take a beating, an off-road vehicle also needs to have robust suspension and steering equipment, as well. It's all fun until your buddy has to pull you and your vehicle out of the mud!


NGK, Champion, Autolite and DENSO are all makers of which auto part?

To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, you can't start an internal-combustion engine without a spark, and that's provided by your spark plugs. Modern spark plugs can use different types of materials in their construction — including iridium, platinum, yttrium and copper — but they're all designed to do the same thing: provide a spark at the right moment to ignite the fuel/air mix in the cylinder and move those pistons!


Properly installed, which device can both increase fuel efficiency and make your vehicle look cooler?

So named because it "spoils" undesired movement of air across a moving vehicle, spoilers are found on many vehicles. When properly designed and installed, a rear spoiler — that wing-looking structure on the back of a vehicle — has been shown to increase fuel economy on many types of vehicles, including minivans and SUVs. A haphazardly installed spoiler simply put on for looks, however, can often ADD drag to a vehicle, defeating its purpose and actually making things worse.


Which German company specializes in everything from brake systems to tires to interior electronic systems?

The first company to ever manufacture vehicle tires with grooves (in 1904), Continental AG is a German-based corporation with divisions dealing with powertrains, interiors, chassis and safety, tires and industrial solutions. The world's fourth-largest tire manufacturer, the company also makes wheels for mountain bikes, motorcycles and bicycles, and provides the rubber soles for the Adidas running shoe.


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