CarCliq’s Guide To Automotive Abbreviations

Make the process of buying a used car easier with our jargon buster.

What on earth is ICE or EPB? Do the seemingly random letters like PHEV or FWD leaving you scratching your head? Let us help you out with our handy guide to motoring abbreviations and acronyms.
Car manufacturers are continuously upgrading their cars with more and more technology, gadgets and gizmos, often with baffling abbreviations and acronyms. But what do they all mean? That’s why we at CarCliq have compiled this handy alphabetical guide to the car jargon you’re likely to come across when shopping for a new or used car.

  • 360 Camera - Cameras around the car show a 360 bird’s eye view of the car to make parking and driving through tight spaces easier.
  • ABS - Anti-lock braking system stops the brakes locking to allow the car to steer when braking. The system also shortens braking distances in the wet.
  • AC - Air Conditioning
  • ACC, Distronic Plus - This could refer to Adaptive cruise control or Adaptive chassis control (see DCC for Adaptive chassis control).
  • Adaptive cruise control uses sensors on the front of the car to keep a constant distance from the car ahead. If the car ahead moves away from the car automatically accelerates to the set speed.  
  • AEBAutonomous emergency braking is a system that uses sensors to detect objects in front of the car and will apply the brakes if it suspects an imminent crash.
  • Alcantara - Soft suede-like material used on car dashboards, steering wheels and seats.
  • Aux - Refers to an auxiliary audio connection. An input jack that allows you to connect phones and music players directly to the car’s audio system.
  • AWD - All-wheel-drive. Power is distributed to all four wheels of the car.
  • Barge - Slang for a large luxury car with a high engine capacity.   
  • BHP, PS - Brake Horsepower is a measurement of power. PS stands for Pferdestarke which is a direct translation of horsepower in German.
  • Black Panel display - Displays digital information about the economy, distance and radio on the speedometer.   
  • Blind Spot Assist - This is a system that warns the driver if a car has entered into a blind spot.
  • CAP - Vehicle data system that supplies information and statistics to many of the UK`s main automotive outlets. Dealers, car manufacturers, insurers, lenders, car hire firms rely on the accuracy and independence of CAP car valuations.
  • CAT D, CAT C - These are cars that have been written off by an insurance company. If the cars have been repaired correctly they can be a good bargain, but it can lead to problems such as higher insurance.
  • CC - Cruise control or climate control. Also cubic capacity – the size of the engine.
  • Co2 - Co2 is a greenhouse gas that cars produce. The amount of greenhouse gas your car pollutes is connected to how much road tax you pay.
  • CVT - Continuously Variable Transmission, a form of automatic gearbox 
  • DAB - Digital Radio
  • DSG, PDK - Double clutch gearbox, an automatic gearbox that allows for quicker and more efficient gear changes.
  • DCC, ACC, DNA, Manettino - selectable options that change the setup of the car. It does this by making changes to the suspension, traction control, electronic differential, and steering weight.
  • DFI/DGI - Direct fuel injection/direct gasoline injection.
  • DRL - Daytime running lights, also called driving lights.
  • EBC - Electronic brake control.
  • ECU - Engine control unit controls the engine to make it run efficiently. The ECU also replaces some components like the carburettor.
  • EMS - Engine management system.
  • EPB - Electronic parking brake. 
  • EPS - Electric power steering.
  • ESP, ASR, ESC - These abbreviations all mean the same thing. Different manufacturers use different names, the main one is ESP or Electronic stability program. ESP applies the brakes to each wheel in event of a skid or loss of traction.
  • EV - Electric Vehicle
  • FCV - Fuel cell vehicle, a car that uses a fuel cell to run off hydrogen.
  • Flexfix - Vauxhall bike carrier system
  • FSH - full-service history, this indicates that the car has been looked after. Usually, FSH is only given to a car that has been serviced by a VAT registered dealer each year. Although the definition of full-service history is perceived differently by many people, so make sure you are happy with the car's history before buying a used car.
  • FWD - Front-wheel drive.
  • GPS - Global positioning system, the standard used for most in-car navigation systems.
  • GT - Grand Tourer, usually a high-performance or luxury vehicle that has been designed for long-distance driving in comfort.
  • GTI - Refers to a high-performance car.
  • Head-Up display - A display that is projected on to the windscreen so the driver can see information such as speed and RPM without looking down at the speedometer.
  • HP - Hire purchase is a type of finance where the cost of the car is spread over a period of time, usually between 2 and 5 years.
  • HPI - HPI is a check that shows you information about the cars past this includes outstanding finance, insurance write-offs and number plate changes.
  • ICE - In Car Entertainment or Internal Combustion Engine, normally petrol and diesel cars.
  • ISOFIX - the Universal loop that connects the car seat directly to the car's chassis.
  • Keyless Entry - A system that unlocks the car when it senses that the key is near the car. You are able to get in and start the car without taking the key out of your pocket.
  • KW - Kilowatt is a measurement of power used in foreign countries. (100kw =134hp)
  • Lease - leasing a car is like a long-term rental – you never own the car, but you rent it from the leasing company and maintain it like your own car.
  • LEV - Low emissions vehicle.
  • LSD, Diff - Diff is a shortened version of a differential. Differentials distribute the power to the wheels when a car turns more power is sent to the outside wheels to prevent tyre wear. LSD (Limited Slip Differential) is a type of differential fitted to sports cars.
  • MDI - Multi Device Interface allows you to browse through music files while an Apple device is plugged into the cars media system.  
  • MPG - Miles per gallon shows how many miles a car can travel on one gallon of fuel. The higher the figure, the more efficient the car. There are 4.54609 litres in a gallon.
  • MPH - Measurement of speed, how many miles are covered in an hour while travelling at a constant speed.
  • N-cap - European Car safety rating; Rated out of 5 stars. Newer cars are put through a tougher test so don`t compare new cars to cars tested over 5 years ago.
  • Nox - A chemical produced mostly by diesel cars.
  • OBD - On board diagnostics, a means of connecting to the car’s built-in computer to see data about the car.
  • ODO - Odometer, the device which measures your car’s overall mileage.
  • PAS - Power-assisted steering.
  • PID - Portable Information Device usually found in the Up!, Mii and Citigo. This computer sits on the car's dash and gives information on fuel consumption, trip information. It can also be used as a satnav.
  • PCP - Personal Contract Plan is a finance option where at the end you have the option to buy the car outright, trade-in for a new one or give the car back.
  • PHEV - Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.
  • RPM - Revolutions per minute, shows how quickly the engine is working.
  • RWD - Rear-wheel drive.
  • Sleeper - Slang for a car with a large amount of power that looks like a regular car. A good example of this is a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate.
  • SORN - Statutory off-road notification.
  • SRS - Supplemental restraint system, the correct name for the airbag. 
  • Sunset Glass, Privacy Glass - Tinted windows.
  • SUV - Sports utility vehicle.
  • TCS  - Traction control system limits the power sent to the wheels to prevent the car from skidding.
  • Torque - Turning force.
  • ULEV - Ultra-low emissions vehicle.
  • VIN - Vehicle Identification Number, also called the chassis number.

Hopefully this should help when it comes to knowing what all these terms and abbreviations mean, making the car buying process that little bit easier! 

Are we missing anything? Let us know via our social media channels.

Other CarCliq articles that might interest you:

Using ABS
Autonomous Emergency Braking
Car Seats...
Leasing A Car
How To Use Cruise Control
Independent & Franchised Dealers
How To Test Drive A Car

          For more CarCliq Guides, click here.

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