Many drivers are familiar with a number of key car terms, at least enough to have a reasonable conversation at a car dealership. With new technology appearing almost daily, keeping up with the terminology can be a considerable challenge. This guide can help you with a number of car terms and acronyms.

  • ABS- Antilock Brake System

    The antilock brake system engages when you forcefully push on the brake pedal, preventing the wheels from locking in place and causing a dangerous skid. This safety feature is frequently standard on modern vehicles.

  • ACC- Adaptive Cruise Control

    Cruise control uses sensors to monitor traffic and adjusts speed or applies the brakes if needed.

  • AWD-All Wheel Drive

    In an all-wheel-drive vehicle, power goes to all four wheels rather than the front or the rear.

  • BHP-Brake Horsepower

    A measure of the power a machine can develop, BHP measures the resistance from a brake.

  • Chassis

    The chassis is where all the major components, including the frame, suspension, wheels, and engine, are mounted.

  • CVT- Continuously Variable Transmission

    A single-speed transmission that constantly changes through a range of gear ratios.

  • dBA

    The system measures decibels along with sound intensity and pressure to ensure the vehicle's cabin is comfortable to human ears.

  • Drive Range

    The distance an electric vehicle can travel before running out of battery power. In hybrid cars, the drive range includes the distance generated by electric power but not the combustion engine.

  • DRL- Daytime Running Lights

    Lights that turn on automatically when the vehicle is in use; daytime running lights are meant to increase visibility on the road.

  • Drivetrain

    All of a vehicle's parts (engine, transmission, differentials and connecting shafts) that create the power sent to the wheels

  • ECU- Engine Control Unit

    An ECU is a computer that regulates an engine's operation based on information from various sensors. The ECU will use the information to time essential variables.

  • E-REV- Extended Range Electric Vehicle

    A car that uses an internal combustion engine to generate electrical power and maintain a battery charge while using an electric engine for propulsion.

  • ESC- Electronic Stability Control

    A program that can detect when steering control is lost and then apply the brakes to a specific wheel.

  • EV- Electric Vehicle

    An EV is any of a number of cars that get primary power from an electric motor. The classification includes plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars, and extended-range electric vehicles.

  • Four-Wheel-Steering

    A steering system that enhances maneuverability by steering the rear wheels and the front wheels.

  • Fuel Injection

    A system controlled by electronics that measures and mixes fuel and air, causing the engine to combust, is fuel injected.

  • FWD- Front Wheel Drive

    The torque and engine power goes to the vehicle's front wheels are a drive system.

  • Handling

    A general term that describes how a car responds is various conditions and how the vehicle behaves in relation to directional controls.

  • Heel-and-Toe

    A method of downshifting while braking that drivers of vehicles with manual transmissions use. The technique requires skill and practice because the driver must use all three pedals at the same time. The heel-and-toe helps extend transmission life and provides a smooth flow of power.

  • HP- Horsepower

    How an engine's work rate is measured, horsepower is calculated by torque times speed.

  • Hybrid Engine

    ehicles with hybrid engines use two (or more) sources of power. These are typically combustion engines along with electric engines. Most hybrid cars are able to run powered by electricity alone. However, there are often limits to how far a vehicle will go with just electric power.

  • Independent Suspension

    Any suspension system where each wheel can move vertically while not being affected by the movement of the other wheels.

  • Intercooler

    An intercooler is an engine part resembling a radiator that uses outside air or water to cool air heated by compression by a supercharger.

  • Internal Combustion Engine

    This engine generates power by burning oil, gasoline, or other fuel when air is inside the engine. Hot gases are produced and used to drive pistons or do additional work as they expand. In recent years, vehicles with internal combustion engines accounted for around 90 per cent of global sales.


    The ISOFIX system eliminates the need for seatbelts when installing a child seat. This international standardised attachment for child seats enhances safety in the event of a crash and dramatically reduces the chance of improper safety seat installation. When using ISOFIX, a child seat attaches to the corresponding fitting points in the car. An additional top tether or support leg is used to prevent the child seat titling or rotating in an impact.

  • Keyless Entry

    Many newer cars come equipped with specialised sensors that detect the keys from a specific range. This feature allows drivers to unlock the vehicle when the keys are in a purse or pocket.

  • Kickdown

    Downshifting in a car with an automatic transmission that is achieved by pushing down on the throttle.

  • Kilowatt

    A kilowatt (kW) is the unit of measure describing engine and electric motors' output power. A single kilowatt is equal to one thousand watts.

  • LDWS - Lane Departure Warning System

    This safety system works by using cameras and sensors to detect a vehicle moving out of its lane. The system then alerts the driver to correct the problem.

  • LED - Light Emitting Diode

    This type of light replaces filament bulbs on many modern vehicles. The LED light takes less power to run and offers better illumination than conventional light bulbs.

  • Lift

    Lift (a vertical force moving upward) comes from airflow around a moving vehicle body.

  • LSD-Limited Slip Differential

    In vehicles with standard differential, when one wheel loses traction, 100 per cent of the power is sent to that wheel. A limited slip differential will send power to each wheel that still has traction rather than only the spinning wheel.

  • LPG- Liquid Petroleum Gas

    This is a flammable combination of butane and propane that can be used as fuel.

  • NVH- Noise Vibration and Harshness

    The NVH system is a subjective way to rate a car's overall ride quality in terms of comfort.

  • Odometer

    An odometer is an instrument used to measure the distance traveled by a vehicle, such as a bicycle or car. It may be electronic, mechanical, or a combination of both.

  • Oversteer

    An oversteer happens when a car's rear wheels lose traction, and the back end sways from side to side dramatically.

  • PHEV- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle

    The PHEV is a hybrid vehicle with a more extended range in pure electric power because of a larger onboard battery.

  • Pistons

    A vehicle's pistons are an integral part of the engine. These are short fillings located entirely inside a cylinder. Inside the cylinder, the piston moves up and down against fuel, creating a spark and explosion that powers the car.

  • Powertrain

    The powertrain is the combination of a vehicle's engine and transmission

  • Rack and Pinion Steering

    Rack and pinion steering is a type of steering mechanism. It uses a gear-set to convert the motion of the steering wheel into a linear motion necessary to turn the wheels. Additionally, it gives a gear reduction, so turning the wheels is easier.

  • Redline

    The maximum recommended revolutions per minute for a vehicle's engine. A redline shows the upper limit of revolutions in cars with tachometers, which measure engine rpm.

  • RPM- Revolutions Per Minute

    The maximum recommended revolutions per minute for a vehicle's engine. A redline shows the upper limit of revolutions in cars with tachometers, which measure engine rpm.

  • Revolution-counter

    The rev-counter is the instrument on a vehicle that measures rpms.

  • RWD- Rear Wheel Drive

    In vehicles equipped with rear-wheel drive, the power from the engine goes to the rear wheels only.

  • Stop-Start

    The stop-start system is a feature that helps reduce emissions and save fuel. When the driver applies the brake and the car stops for several moments, at a traffic light, for instance, the engine will turn off. Once the driver takes their foot off the brake, the car will start again.

  • TCS- Traction Control System

    A car's TCS helps to contain wheel spins by intermittently applying brakes or shutting the engine off and turning it back on, allowing the vehicle to gain traction.

  • Torque

    Torque is the rotational equal to force measured in pound-feet (lb-ft) or Newton-meters (Nm). A car's torque tells how much force its drive shaft has on it.

  • Turbocharger

    A turbocharger is a system that is added to a conventional engine to increase the engine's power. This happens by forcing air into the engine cylinders, allowing more fuel to be added and ignited, resulting in more power.

  • Tyre Thread

    The tyre tread is the rubber part of a tyre that grips the road. Drivers should monitor the tread, so tyres are replaced when it has worn away.

  • Understeer

    This condition happens when the front wheels lose traction, often because speed and steering lock combine and overwhelm the tyre's grip. The car will plough straight ahead and will not steer.

  • VIN- Vehicle Identification Number

    A vehicle identification number, commonly called a VIN, is a code of letters and numbers assigned to the car when built. All VINs are unique to the car, allowing tracking of the vehicle to determine if the car has been stolen, written off, or damaged.