Glossary of Automotive Terms – K

Letter K – Dictionary of Automotive Terms

Kadenacy effect
When a port of a two-stroke engine opens abruptly, as is the case with a rectangular exhaust port, the cylinder pressure gives rise to a positive pressure wave transmitted down the exhaust pipe at the speed of sound
Abbreviation for Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.
KaiserClick image for books on

A vehicle brand of which the 1954 Darrin 161 is a milestone car. The 1951-52 Deluxe and Deluxe Virginian are milestone cars. The 1951-53 Dragon models are milestone cars. The 1954-55 Manhattan models are milestone cars. The 1949-50 Vagabond models are milestone car. The 1949-50 Virginian (Hardtop) models are milestone cars.

Kaizen Activities
Activity through which continuous improvement is sought.
Abbreviation for Korean Automotive Manufacturers Association
Kamm back
It was once thought that a long tapered end in the shape of a vehicle would give it the most aerodynamic configuration. W. Kamm discovered that the length of the end would have to be so long as to make the vehicle impractical. There would also be an increase in surface area which would also create its own frictionDrag. He found that if he cut the theoretically long tail in half he would have both good Aerodynamics and minimal surface Drag. This sharply cut off rear end is named after him.
Kamm tail
It was once thought that a long tapered end in the shape of a vehicle would give it the most aerodynamic configuration. W. Kamm discovered that the length of the end would have to be so long as to make the vehicle unpractical. There would also be an increase in surface area which would also create its own frictionDrag. He found that if he cut the theoretically long tail in half he would have both good Aerodynamics and minimal surface Drag. This sharply cut off rear end is named after him.
A colloquial term for moving forward in a succession of sudden jerks as a result of improper use of the clutch, (a characteristic of beginner drivers or those not used to standard shifting)
Kaplan turbine
A type of turbine that that has two blades whose pitch is adjustable. The turbine may have gates to control the angle of the fluid flow into the blades.
Abbreviation for Direct Battery Power
German term for Coachwork.
Kata thermometer
Large-bulb alcohol thermometer used to measure air speed or atmospheric conditions by means of cooling effect.
KawasakiClick image for books on
Abbreviation for Kickdown
Abbreviation for Kickdown Low Hold
The principal fore-and-aft component of a ship’s framing located along the centerline of the bottom and connected to the stem and stern frames.

Keel blocks
Heavy wood or concrete blocks on which ship rests during construction or dry-docking
Keel, flat plate
The horizontal, centerline, bottom shell strake constituting the lower flange of the keel
Keep alive memory
(KAM) Fault memory. A series of vehicle battery powered memory locations in the computer which allows it to store input failures identified during normal operation for use in later diagnostic routines. KAM even adopts some calibration parameters to compensate for changes in the vehicle system
  1. A vehicle that is worth keeping because it will be worth more in the future.
  2. A device which holds something in place.
  3. A person who uses or stores a vehicle whether he is the owner of it or not.
A Japanese word referring to the large groups of companies that are a characteristic feature of the Japanese economy, especially in the auto industry. Keiretsu companies do business first and foremost among themselves; tight supplier-buyer relationships within the keiretsu system are a barrier to the penetration of foreign goods in Japan because, everything else being equal, keiretsu members prefer to buy from other keiretsu members; the keiretsu system is a controversial issue in US-Japanese trade relations.

This third generation K-Jet system combines mechanical control with electronic regulation of the mixture. Many of the sensors it uses are the same as those used in L-Jetronic systems. VW, Audi, And Mercedes refer to it as CIS-E
Kelvin scale
(k) Thermometer scale on which unit of measurement equals the Celsius degree and according to which absolute zero is 0 degree, the equivalent of -273.160°C. Water freezes at 273.160°K and boils at 373.160°K.
Kelvin temperature scale
A temperature scale developed by Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) in England in the 1860s now used in physics. With the Kelvin scale at zero degrees, symbolized K, the molecules of a material do not vibrate from their stable lattice position according to classical physics. With this arrangement absolute zero temperature is 0°K, or -273.15°C, or -459.67°F. Under standard conditions, water boils at 373.15°K and freezes at 273.15°K. Room temperature (70°F) is 294.26°K.

K = C+273.15
K = 5/9(F-32)-273.15
C = 5/9(F-32)
C = K-273.15
F = (9/5xC)+32
F = (9x(K-273.15)/5)+32
This Bosch system is similar to KE-Jetronic, except that it has ignition-timing control and all the other features as any other Motronic system.
Kennedy key
Two keys in a tangential configuration
Kenosha Cadillac
Trucker slang for any AMC car as in ‘I sure don’t see many Kenosha Cadillacs anymore.’
A British term for a curb — a stone or cement ridge between the road and the sidewalk.
Kerb weight
British term for curb weight — the weight of a vehicle with fuel, oil, and coolant; but without occupants, luggage, or cargo.


Also spelled kerosine

  1. Fuel for jet engines
  2. A light petroleum distillate that is used in space heaters, cook stoves, and water heaters and is suitable for use as a light source when burned in wick-fed lamps. Kerosene has a maximum distillation temperature of 204°C at the 10-percent recovery point, a final boiling point of 300°C, and a minimum flash point of 37.8°C. Included are No. 1-K and No. 2-K, the two grades recognized by ASTM Specification D 3699 as well as all other grades of kerosene called range or stove oil, which have properties similar to those of No. 1 fuel oil.
  3. A solvent used to remove grease. The British term is paraffin.
Also spelled kerosene

  1. Fuel for jet engines
  2. A solvent used to remove grease. The British term is paraffin.
Kerosene jet fuel
A kerosene-based product having a maximum distillation temperature of 204°C at the 10-percent recovery point and a final maximum boiling point of 300°C and meeting ASTM Specification D 1655 and Military Specifications MIL-T-5624P and MIL-T-83133D: (Grades JP-5 and JP-8). It is used for commercial and military turbojet and turboprop aircraft engines. * Commercial: Kerosene-type jet fuel intended for use in commercial aircraft. * Military: Kerosene-type jet fuel intended for use in military aircraft.
Abbreviation for Kinetic Energy Recovery Rope. Descriptive term coined to describe specially specified nylon ropes capable of stretching during snatch tow.
Organic solvents commonly used in nitrile adhesives and vinyl coatings
(cyclohexanol) An oily, colorless, hygroscopic liquid with a camphor-like odor. Used in soap making, dry cleaning, plasticizers, insecticides, and germicides.
A fitting with two prongs which is attached to the wall of a cargo ship or trailer so that one end of a rope or strap could be knotted and the other end secures the shipment or the shipping mats or battens in place. Also called a cleat
The brand name of a DuPont(TM) synthetic fabric that is clothlike in feel and is used in cold outdoor activities (e.g., by bicyclists and motorcyclists). In racing, the material of choice for NASCAR Winston Cup cars. KEVLAR® was chosen by NASCAR because of its durability, because it would hold up under problems on the race track. This material ensures that the nose piece holds its shape, even up to 200 mph. Any drastic changes in the shape of the nose piece will ultimately, and consequently, have a profound effect on the car’s handling. It is also used in bullet-proof vests and tires. KEVLAR® is used in tires two different ways, for two different purposes KEVLAR® beads are used on some high performance tires. Replacing the normal wire bead with KEVLAR® saves about 50 grams per tire. KEVLAR®-bead tires have the additional advantage of being foldable, making them popular as emergency spare tires with touring cyclists. KEVLAR®-bead tires are somewhat harder to mount on a rim, and are more likely to blow off than wire-bead tires. They work best on hook edge rims. KEVLAR®-belted tires have a layer of KEVLAR® under the tread surface, with the purpose of making the tire more resistant to punctures caused by small sharp objects, such as thorns and glass slivers. KEVLAR®-belted tires have slightly higher rolling resistance, price and weight than corresponding tires without the belt.
  1. A parallel-sided piece inserted into a groove cut part way into each of two parts, which prevents slippage between the two parts and they rotate together. Used to secure gears, Pulleys, cranks, handles, etc.
  2. A metal instrument for turning locks and key-operated switches.
  3. An L-shaped tool for turning recessed screws (e.g., Allen key).
  4. A roughened surface which provides a basis for subsequent layers of paint or filler.
  5. To adhere to a lower layer.
  6. The act of a vandal who scratches the finish of a car with his key or other sharp instrument.
  7. A small block or wedge inserted between shaft and hub to prevent circumferential movement.
  8. A special tool (unique for the vehicle) for installing and removing wheel covers
The action done by a vandal who deliberately scratches the finish of a vehicle with a key or other sharp object as in ‘Somebody keyed my car.’

Key file
A small file with a length of 100 or 150 mm (4 or 6′) for sharpening key holes and other small components, available in standard shapes, e.g., as flat tapered, flat parallel, half round, three square, square, or round file
Key fob

Key fobKey fob

A device to hold and identify keys.

A term applied to the enlarged root opening which is carried along ahead of the puddle when making a plasma arc weld or with some other types of welding.
Keyless entry system
A system which allows you to lock and unlock your vehicle’s doors and trunk without using a key. One system is operated by punching a typically five digit code into a calculator-style keypad located on the driver’s door; if more than five seconds elapse between button pushes, the system will abort, requiring you to start again. Another system uses a dedicated frequency in a special key fob. Pressing the lock button will lock all doors and sound the horn for a very short beep. Pressing the unlock button once will unlock only the driver’s door; but pressing it twice will unlock all the doors.

The groove or slot where a key rests. Also called Keyway
The recess cut for Woodruff keys produced by sinking a milling cutter of the right diameter and width into a shaft.
Keystone frame
A diamond-type motorcycle frame in which the engine serves as part of the structure
Keystone piston ring
A piston ring with a tapered cross section designed to use combustion pressure to aid in sealing.
A slot cut in a shaft, Pulley hub, wheel hub, etc. A Square key is placed in the slot and engages a similar keyway in the mating piece. The key prevents slippage between the two parts. Also called Keyseat.


A rim flange type for passenger car wheels; the K-flange is 19.3 mm in height and rarely used today. Compare J-flange

KiaClick image for books on

A model of automobile manufactured in South Korea by Kia Motors including Amanti (2004-07), Optima (2001-08), Rio (2001-08), Rio5 (2006-08), Rondo (2007), Sedona (2002-08), Sephia (1994-2001), Sorento (2003-07), Spectra (2000-08), Spectra5 (2005-08), and Sportage (1995-2007)

  1. A term for beginning to harden, the initial phase of the hardening process of plastic body fillers. The British term is go off
  2. To start a motorcycle by applying foot pressure to the engine start lever.
Kick bike
A bicycle which is propelled like a skateboard instead of pedals, chain, etc.
(KD) A British term for a Forced downshift, i.e., a device on a automatic transmission which allows the driver to switch to a lower gear during hill climbing or passing. Instead of manually moving the Gear selector, he simply pushes down hard on the accelerator. This gear is sometimes called Passing gear
Kickdown switch
An electrical switch that will cause a transmission, or Overdrive unit, to shift down to a lower gear. Often used to secure fast acceleration. Also called kickdown valve
Kickdown valve
A mechanically or electrically operated valve which actuates a downward gearchange if the accelerator pedal is fully depressed
Kick panel
  1. A vertical panel wall enclosed by several structural members (e.g., the side panel ahead of the A-pillar that extends up to the sides of the bulkhead and is limited by the floorpan at its bottom end)
  2. The protective interior panel ahead of the front door.
Kick start
To start a motorcycle engine by kicking a pedal downwards with a foot.
A pedal lever and ratchet mechanism for kick starting an engine
Kickstart mechanism
Pedal mechanism that allows a motorcycle to be started manually.
Kick strip
A raised section of the frame and body to provide clearance for the front and/or rear suspension system or axles
Kickup pipe
An exhaust pipe section including the elbow or U around the rear axle
Kidney dolly


Kill switch
A special switch designed to shut off the Ignition in case of an emergency. On motorcycles, it is located on the handlebar.

The American spelling of Kilometre
(km) A unit of length of 1000 metres. 1 km = 0.6213712 miles (about 5/8 mile); 1 mile = 1.609344 km. In Canada it is pronounced KILL-oh-mee-ter, but elsewhere it is pronounced kull-LAW-mitt-er. Colloquially it is referred to as a klik or klick. American spelling is kilometer; however in the rest of the world, the ending ‘meter’ refers to a measuring instrument (e.g., speedometer, tachometer) while ‘metre’ refers to a metric measurement (e.g., centimetre, millimetre).
Kilometre per hour
(km/h or Kph) A unit of velocity

30 19
31 20
48 30
50 31
60 37
64 40
70 44
80 50
90 56
97 60
100 62
110 68
113 70
(kPa) SI measurement of pressure (1000 pascals) the measurement of air pressure used in some ECU computations. Average pressure at sea level is 101.3 kPa.
Kilovolt ampere
(kVa) Unit of electrical flow equal to volts multiplied by amperes and divided by one thousand. Unit of power used when power circuit has power factor other than 1. kW = kVA x cosθ
Unit of electrical power, equal to 1000 watts.
1000 watt-hours of energy. Equals to 1.341 horsepower-hours.
Kinematic Viscosity
The ratio of the absolute viscosity of a liquid to its specific gravity at the temperature at which the viscosity is measured. Expressed in Stokes or Centistokes. Example: Viscosity, kinematic, cS @ 100F:5.2
Kinetic balance
Kinetic energy
  1. The mechanical energy possessed by a body due to its motion. It may be calculated from the formula:
    Kinetic energy = 1/2 x M x V² where M is the mass and V is the velocity.
  2. Energy available as a result of motion that varies directly in proportion to an object’s mass and the square of its velocity. Thus if a vehicle’s weight doubles its KE also goes up two times; but if its speed doubles its KE increases by two squared, i.e., four times. See snatch tow.
  3. An internal combustion engine produces kinetic energy through crankshaft rotation.
Kinetic friction
The amount of friction between two surfaces in motion
King Cab
A type of pickup truck (by Nissan) which has a second row of seating; but unlike a crew cab (which has four full size doors) it has a half-door that can be opened only after the main door is opened. The seating is usually a little more cramped than in a crew cab. Also called Club Cab, Extended Cab, XtraCab, Access Cab, SuperCab, or Cab Plus


  1. A hardened steel pin that is passed through the steering knuckle and axle end. The steering knuckle pivots about the kingpin. A vertical or inclined shaft about which a steered wheel pivots. Kingpins were used on early solid-axle front suspensions because they were sturdy and allowed the wheels to pivot in one plane for steering. To be adapted to A-arm suspension systems, kingpins had to be fitted with additional pivoting members at the top and bottom. The configuration shown here was typical, with the kingpin running straight through the steering knuckle. Ball joints make for a tighter and less complex arrangement. The British term is trunion.
  2. Attaching pin on a semitrailer that attaches to and pivots within the fifth wheel of a tractor or converter dolly
Kingpin axis
The centerline of the ball joints in a front suspension system. Also called swivel axis
Kingpin inclination
(KPI) The angle made of the kingpin axis to the perpendicular as viewed from the front. An Alignment adjustment where the tops of the kingpins are tipped inward toward each other. This places the center line of the Steering axis nearer the center line of the tire-road contact area. Thus when the vehicle comes out of a turn, the steering wheel returns to the straight-ahead position. Also called steering axis inclination or swivel-axis inclination
Kingpin offset
A geometric parameter which is positive if the kingpin axis intersects the wheel plane at or below ground level, or is negative if the point of intersection is above ground level. Also called scrub radius
King Post
A stub mast, outboard from center line, used to carry cargo booms; king posts also serve as ventilators.
King valve
Liquid receiver service valve.
  1. Twist or sharp bend in a hose
  2. To form a kink
A vehicle brand of which the following models are classic cars:

  • 1923, 1925-26 model 6-55
  • 1927 model 8-75
  • 1928 models 8-90 and 8-90 White Eagle
  • 1929-1930 model 8-95 White Eagle
  • 1929-1931 model 8-126
Kissing between duals
The intermittent contact of tires in dual as they flex; caused by inadequate dual spacing or by overload.
A set of tools, parts, etc.

Kit car
A reproduction of an existing automotive design that is assembled (often by the DIY enthusiast) from its constituent parts; usually with a GRP body shell.
Assembly of product or parts within the warehouse.
A commonly used mechanical fuel injection system made by Bosch in which the amount of fuel injected continuously under pressure into the inlet ports is controlled by an airflow meter. Term used by Bosch to describe the original continuous injection system. The K is short for kontinuerlich, continuous. Airflow is measured by a circular plate inside the airflow sensor part of the mixture control unit. Fuel delivery was purely mechanical, in relation to airflow, until 1980, i.e., there were no electronics used in the K-Jet system. VW, Audi, and Mercedes call it CIS
K-Jetronic with Lambda
Second-generation K-Jet system, which began in 1980, uses a feedback loop consisting of an oxygen sensor and a control unit to provide some electronic control of the air-fuel mixture. This system is also called CIS with Lambda Lambda is the Bosch term for an oxygen sensor


Abbreviation for Kombinationskraftwagen a German name for a vehicle that is a combination of passenger car and truck





Abbreviation for Kilometre
Abbreviation for kilometre per hour. Maximum speed limits in Canada and Europe are posted in km/h. To convert km/h to mph, divide by 1.609344. Thus 50 km/h is about 30 mph; 70 km/h is 44 mph; 90 km/h is 56 mph; 100 km/h is 62 mph; 110 km/h is 68 mph. Maximum speed in Canada on its freeways is 110 km/h. Also abbreviated kph


Kneeling feature
A device that is put on a van or bus, which allows the entire right side to become lower thus offering someone who has trouble going up steps easy access to the vehicle.
Kneuter valve
This is the unknown part that causes a car’s weird problems that a mechanic cannot find or repair.
Knifing stopper
Fine grade filler for minor dents and chips
Abbreviation for Knock sensor
Knobby tire
On a bicycle or motorcycle, a heavy-duty tire with large rubber knobs spaced relatively far apart to provide traction in wet, muddy terrain.
Knobby tires
  1. A general term used to describe various noises occurring in an engine; may be used to describe noises made by loose or worn mechanical parts.
  2. Preignition, or Detonation.
Knock additive
  1. The action of a brake disc with excessive runout pushing back the brake pads when the brakes are not applied
  2. Brake caliper piston retraction caused by rotor runout driving a piston back into its bore when the brakes are released.
Knock control
A device which retards the spark advance when detonation occurs. The retard mode is held for a certain time, typically 20 seconds, after which the knock control reverts to normal operation
A colloquial term for a Panel puller
  1. Noise created by part movement in a loose or worn bearing.
  2. A condition, accompanied by an audible noise, that occurs when the gasoline in the cylinders burns too quickly. This is also referred to as Detonation.
Knock limit
The degree of spark advance before detonation
Knock off
A single, large Wing nut for fastening a wheel to the hub. Easily removed and replaced, it is struck (knocked off) with a mallet on the wings. Also called a spinner.
Knock-off wheel
A splined-hub wheel with one central locking nut (Spinner) which is knocked on and off with a soft-headed hammer
A Knock off nut
Knock resistance
Knock sensor
(KNK or KS) a piezoelectric accelerometer mounted on the engine to detect the high-frequency vibrations caused by detonation. Since an engine gives the best power and efficiency as it approaches detonation, the knock sensor can relay this information to a computer which can control the factors leading to detonation. Also called detonation sensor
(kn or kt)

  1. A unit of distance of exactly 1,852 metres (about 6,076 feet)
  2. A unit of speed in nautical miles. One knot is exactly 1.852 km/h (about 1.15 mph).
  3. A tie in a line (for instance a square knot).
  1. The joint of a hinge through which the pin passes
  2. The hinged joint between two rods or tubes.
  3. A rounded corner usually found on the bottom of a vessel. It is believed that if a vessel contacts the river bank, a vessel with rounded knuckle plates can be dislodged easier than one that has sharp corners.
Knuckle angle
Knuckle arm
Term for Harley-Davidson’s first overhead-valve Big Twin, introduced in 1936
Knuckle pin


Knuckle Plate
A plate bent to form a knuckle. A knuckle is a rounded corner usually found on the bottom of a vessel. It is believed that if a vessel contacts the river bank, a vessel with rounded knuckle plates can be dislodged easier than one that has sharp corners.
  1. A series of small ridges on nuts and knobs to provide a grip for fingers.
  2. A rough or decorative surface on part of a fastener.
  3. To indent or roughen the finished surface of a piece of metal by pressing a series of cross-hatched lines into the surface and thereby raising the area between these lines.
Knurled nut
A thumb nut with knurled sides
Roughening with knurls
Abbreviation for Key On, Engine Cranking
Abbreviation for Key On, Engine Off
Abbreviation for Key On, Engine Running
Kort Nozzle
A steel tube that surrounds a propeller, directing the water and improving efficiency.
  1. Abbreviation for Kilovolt ampere
  2. Abbreviation for kilopascal, the measurement of air pressure used in some ECU computations. Average pressure at sea level is 101.3 kPa.
Abbreviation for Kilometre per hour. The preferred abbreviation in Canada is km/h. The maximum speed limit in Canada and Europe are posted in km/h. To convert km/h to mph, divide by 1.609344. Thus 50 km/h is about 30 mph; 70 km/h is 44 mph; 90 km/h is 56 mph; 100 km/h is 62 mph; 110 km/h is 68 mph. Maximum speed in Canada on its freeways is 110 km/h.
Abbreviation for Kingpin inclination

Krinkle finish

Hard-wearing, usually mart black finish, often used for rocker covers

Abbreviation for Knock sensor. An input device that responds to spark knock caused by excessively advanced ignition timing
Abbreviation for People killed or seriously injured on the road network.
Abbreviation for Knock Sensor Module

Kyoto Protocol

  1. International agreement among industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997. Canada committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent of 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
  2. The result of negotiations at the third Conference of the Parties: (COP-3) in Kyoto, Japan, in December of 1997. The Kyoto Protocol sets binding greenhouse gas emissions targets for countries that sign and ratify the agreement. The gases covered under the Protocol include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride.