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AA Motoring Advice

Car Acronyms: What do they mean?

What do they mean?

Don’t know your ABS from your EBD? Acronyms are now part of automotive language and they can be really confusing – even for the most dedicated motoring enthusiast. They often refer to a specific system fitted to a vehicle. To add to the confusion some car manufacturers call the same system different names!

A complete list of automotive acronyms would be virtually infinite, as with every new vehicle model comes new systems and another list of car acronyms.

We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly used motoring acronyms, with a brief description of what each one means. So when you go shopping for a car, you’ll be armed with information to help you to understand the sales jargon.

If you’re buying a new car, there are certain systems you should consider. Things like ABS, ESP, EBD etc are safety related, and many new cars will be fitted with them as standard equipment. Don’t take it for granted that a new car will have them though. If they’re important to you it’s worth asking the question.

So, now that you are armed with some information, you can go shopping with your own list of priorities.

Acronym Name Definition
ABS Antilock Braking System Prevents the wheels of a car locking up and skidding under heavy braking so control and steering is maintained
A/C Air-conditioning Absorbs heat and blows refrigerated air into the cabin of the car, cooling it to below the ambient air temperature
ACC Active Cruise Control Using a front-mounted RADAR, ACC detects slower vehicles ahead and will maintain a relative driving speed to ensure a safe following distance.
AFM Active Fuel Management Also known as MDS (Multi Displacement System) or VCM (Variable Cylinder Management). During light operation the car’s engine can shut off cylinders so less fuel is used.
ATC Active Traction Control Used primarily in off road 4×4 applications ATC (also often referred as A-Trac) brakes spinning wheels and diverts torque to other wheels to gain traction in slippery surfaces.
AWD All Wheel Drive Popular terminology for permanent four-wheel drive systems. Vehicle can distribute power to all four wheels rather than just to the front or rear vehicle wheels only.
BHP Brake Horse Power The measure of a car engine’s horsepower before the rest of the vehicle’s drive train. The metric equivalent is Kilowatts (kW). 1 BHP = 0.745kW.
CRD Common Rail Diesel A single, highly pressurized fuel line supplies diesel to all cylinders allowing for finer control over fuel use. Vastly reduces diesel engine’s noise and improves fuel economy.
CVT Constant Velocity Transmission A continuously variable transmission is an automatic transmission that can vary drive ratios seamlessly using an internal belt and cone arrangement.
DAC Downhill Assist Control A safety feature intended for off-road use. The vehicle’s ABS and throttle control systems to maintain a gradual, more controlled decent on steep or slippery off-road surfaces.
DOHC Double Overhead Camshaft A now very common vehicle engine design that places two camshafts (one to operate inlet valves, one to operate exhaust valves) mounted above the cylinder head.
DSG Direct Shift Gearbox A computer controlled manual gearbox that pre selects additional gears to the current driven gear. No clutch pedal is required and the next gear can be engaged very rapidly.
EBD Electronic Brake Distribution Electronically controls and distributes appropriate brake pressure to all brakes dependant on load and braking force. Replaces traditional mechanical brake proportioning valve.
ECU Electronic Control Unit An ECU is an electronic “brain” which controls a system in a car, such as the engine management system, transmission or body electrics.
EDC Electronic Damper Control An ECU-controlled wheel suspension system that adjusts the shock absorbers and regulates damper forces electronically adapting to changing road, load or driving conditions.
EFI Electronic Fuel Injection EFI systems replace carburetors as fitted to older vehicles. The electronically controlled fuel injectors deliver fuel more efficiently, improving economy, emissions and drivability.
EGR Exhaust Gas Recirculation A proportion of car exhaust gasses are redirected back into the car’s engine to help burn fuel more efficiently and significantly reduce harmful emissions.
ELR Emergency Locking Retractor Seatbelts which are always unlocked except in emergency situations such as rapid deceleration, rapid acceleration or hard cornering vehicle manoeuvres.
ESP Electronic Stability Program Dramatically helps in correcting vehicle instability during uncontrollable under or over steer situations by measuring lateral acceleration at the car’s centre of gravity. Also Known as VSA, DSC, ESC
FSi Fuel Straified Injection Also known as DI (Direct Injection) or GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection). Petrol is injected at high pressure directly into the car’s combustion chamber; the air fuel mixture can run far leaner than conventional EFI systems so is more efficient.
FWD Front Wheel Drive A car’s engine power is delivered through the front wheels. Is more common today than Rear Wheel Drive.
GVW Gross Vehicle Weight The maximum recommended weight for a vehicle, including: the weight of the vehicle itself, fuel and other fluids, passengers, and all cargo.
HAC Hill Assist Control A safety feature intended for off-road use. Helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward or slipping sideways when performing hill start on steep or slippery gradients.
HID High Intensity Discharge High Intensity Discharge lighting technology uses electric inducers to provide an arc inside a gas-filled bulb, enhancing night driving. Only trained technicians should maintain the system.
kW Kilowatt The metric equivalent of Brake Horsepower. Used to measure the energy output of a vehicle’s engine.
LED Light Emitting Diode LED’s are semiconductors that emit light when an electric current is applied. Increasingly popular in vehicle lighting as they have a much quicker response time and last longer.
LHD Left Hand Drive The steering wheel and controls on the left hand side of cars driven on the right hand side of the road in countries such as the USA.
LPG Liquid Petroleum Gas LPG is a popular alternative fuel to petrol or diesel. The cost per liter is less than petrol but it is less fuel efficient.
LSD Limited Slip Differential A limited Slip Differential allows two driving wheels to operate in unison when one breaks traction. It provides improved control and traction in slippery conditions.
LWB Long Wheel Base Front and rear axles are further apart therefore the body or cargo deck of a commercial vehicle will be longer than other model variations.
NM Newtonmetre Measurement of a vehicle’s engine torque. Torque is the turning force of the car’s engine.
OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer Manufacturer/supplier of components fitted to a new car at the time of manufacture.
PAS Power Assisted Steering A system designed to reduce the effort required to steer the vehicle, particularly at low parking speeds. Can be Hydraulic, Electric or a combination of both.
PDC Park Distance Control An audible warning device that alerts the driver when their car is getting close to other cars or objects when parking
RHD Right Hand Drive The steering wheel and controls on the right hand side of cars driven on the left hand side of the road in countries such as New Zealand.
RPM Revolutions Per Minute How fast the car’s engine is turning i.e. how many times the crankshaft rotates in one minute
RWD Rear Wheel Drive A car’s engine power is delivered through the rear wheels. Less common today than FWD.
SAT-NAV Satellite Navigation System Also known as GPS (Global Positioning System). GPS technology interfaces with mapping software either built to provide spoken, turn by turn instructions to drivers.
SWB Short Wheel Base Front and rear axles are closer together therefore the body or cargo deck of a commercial vehicle will be shorter
SRS Supplementary Restraint System Designed to be used in conjunction with seatbelts, SRS refers to a vehicle’s airbag system. A car’s airbags are designed to reduce occupant injury in the event of a car crash and are deployed when the SRS sensors detect a predetermined level of impact force.
TDi Turbo Diesel Injection Most modern diesel engines are now fitted with turbochargers to maximize performance.
VGT Variable Geometry Turbo This system varies airflow angle across a car engine’s turbo blades providing optimum power delivery across a broader rev range. Now commonplace in modern diesel vehicle engines.
VIN Vehicle Identification Number A Unique 17 digit number, for each individual car, that can indentify date of manufacture, manufacturing plant and standards etc.
VVT Variable Valve Timing VVT systems advance or retard camshaft timing to optimizing vehicle engine efficiency, performance and exhaust emissions.