The world of cars is littered with a whole variety of terms that leave most people with blank expressions. The list is endless and constantly being added to. We have collated a list of the most used jargon and provided descriptions in plain English to help you navigate your way.
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ABC – Active Body Control. Introduced by Mercedes-Benz the system uses a number of sensors to monitor the body movement of a car at all times. It can then adjust the suspension accordingly, helping to reduce body roll when braking, cornering or accelerating.
A/C – Air Conditioning. Now available on a large number of cars, helping you to keep cool in the British summertime (!) and can improve demisting in winter.
ALR – Automatic Locking Retractor, also goes under the name emergency locking retractor. Seatbelts usually have an emergency locking feature, allowing the belt to be pulled out in normal circumstances, but this locks in the event of a crash.
Auto – Automatic transmission - a car with no clutch or manual gears. In an automatic car you simply choose the ‘drive’ function press accelerator and away you go. Here the transmission automatically selects the right gear, based on throttle position, load and your road speed.
AWD – All-Wheel –Drive. The majority of cars are two wheel drive vehicles, with the engine driving through either the front or back wheels. AWD provides improved traction off road or in freezing conditions (snow and ice), worth remembering though that they do increase fuel consumption.
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BHP – Brake Horse Power. This is a measure of an engine’s horsepower without the loss in power caused by the gearbox, generator, water pump, differential and any other auxiliary components such as power steering, alternator or the AC compressor. The term "brake" refers to the original use of a band brake to measure torque during test (which is multiplied by the engine RPM and a scaling constant to give horsepower).
Brake Assist – a system that senses when the brake has been used in an emergency and follows this with an artificial production of maximum braking effort.
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Catalytic Converter: A catalytic converter is a metal box with chemical catalysts inside it that sits underneath your car. There's a pipe going into one end of the converter from the car engine and another pipe going out of the other end of the converter to the car's exhaust. The catalysts make chemical reactions happen that convert the molecules of pollution into simple, harmless gases. These are much safer to pass into the outside air.
C/C – Cruise Control. With cruise control you set the speed you want to maintain and the system automatically adjust your engine power in order to maintain this speed. To override this system you can either brake or accelerate.
CD-ROM – Compact Disc Read Only Memory. A way to store large amounts of data including maps for navigation systems. Largely taken over by the introduction of DVD.
CO2 Emissions – figures detailing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by an engine. The figures are quoted in grams per kilometre. The lower the figure the better for both your tax band and the environment. Figures can be complicated within this measurement so we have included the What Green Car rating system. This will allow you to see at a glance whether a car is as green as you would like it to be.
CRS – Child Restraint System, a much more sinister term for a child’s car seat, booster seat or cushion.
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DDI – Diesel Direct Injection. This is when diesel fuel is squirted directly into the combustion chamber with extreme pressure. This helps to deliver improved control, fuel efficiency and controls noise and vibrations.
DME – Digital Motor Electronics. This can also be termed Electronic Engine Management. This simply controls ignition, fuel injection and other systems for optimum performance, emission control and efficiency.
DOHC – double overhead camshaft, also known as Dual overhead camshaft or twin cam. This is characterized by two camshafts being located within the cylinder head, one for inlet and one for exhaust valves. Typical automotive engines equipped with dual overhead camshafts can have from two to four camshafts in total, depending on the engine configuration. The term Twin Cam doesn't tell the exact location of camshafts, but it is mostly used to describe DOHC structure.
DVD – Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc. This is the current favoured choice for storing information on a disc. They are used to store anything from music, film and the details for Sat Nav systems.
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EBA – Electronic Brake Assistance.
EBD- Electronic Brake force Distribution. This system helps to balance breaking effort with the front and rear wheels. This is mainly to prevent the rear wheels from locking up as weight transfers forwards, helping to maintain control and stability when hard breaking has occurred.
ECC – Electronic Climate Control. This automatically maintains a preset temperature within the car. This is achieved by either cooling or heating the incoming air.
ECU – Electronic Control Unit - also named electronic engine management. This is an integrated way of controlling functions such as fuel metering and delivery, as well as ignition.
EFI – Electronic Fuel Injection. Simply a way of getting fuel into a petrol engine.
ENCAP – European New Car Assessment Programme. This is a stringent European wide vehicle testing programme for safety. The safest cars receiving the much sought after 5 star rating.
ESP – Electronic Stability Programme. A system which typically uses a series of sensors in order analyse a vehicles cornering stability and when necessary reduce power or selectively apply gentle braking to correct any under or over steer.
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FSH – Full Service History. Here you will find all the servicing history, along with MOT certificates, repair invoices and other documents giving a comprehensive view of the way the car has been used and maintained.
4WD – Four Wheeled Drive. See AWD
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GPS – Global Positioning System. This refers to the use of satellite generated information to calculate a vehicle’s precise position. The essential reference point for satellite navigation systems.
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Hybrid Fuel – a current buzz term, referring to a new generation of high efficiency, low emission vehicles typically combining a small petrol car of diesel engine with electric motors, used interactively.
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Intelligent Cruise Control – you may also hear the term Adaptive Cruise Control. This combines all the functions of cruise control, maintaining a set up speed, together with distance sensing to reduce your speed if needed.
IDI – Indirect Diesel Injection. Instead of injecting fuel directly into the combustion chamber, the fuel goes into a pre-chamber
I/R/S – Independent Rear Suspension. Each rear wheel is mounted and able to move in isolation from the other wheel. This can improve handling and comfort in comparison to cars with rear wheels linked to a common axle.
ISOFIX – referring to the standard child restraint system or child seat restraint system. ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization.
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LED – Light Emitting Diodes. This is a compact, high intensity, fast reacting light source. LED has numerous uses including alarm system indicators and high intensity stoplights.
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MET paint – short version of Metallic Paint.
MPG – Miles per gallon
MPV – Multi Purpose Vehicle, not multi people vehicle, known more as a people carrier.
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NCRS – New Car Security System. Basically how easy (or hard) your car is to break into and to drive away.
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OBC – On Board Computer. OK so you can’t treat them like a laptop (yet). You can however obtain estimated arrival times, fuel consumption, time to next service etc.
OCD – Occupant Detection System. A feature of advanced airbag protection systems. If the system detects that no front passenger is on board then in the event of an accident the airbag will not deploy. The system may also be able to detect the size and position of the passenger, meaning that the airbag can be deployed in a way that provides maximum protection.
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PAB – Power assisted Breaks.
PAS- Power assisted Steering. Providing variable levels of assistance depending on your road speed.
PDC – Park Distance Control. Sensors will detect obstacles and alert you when you are getting near.
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Sat Nav – Satellite Navigation. Sat Nav tells you how to get to where you want to go.
STC – Stability Traction Control system. This combines electronic system control and traction control. Stability control senses steering wheel input and car body movement to detect the onset of sliding or spinning. Traction control adjusts engine power and can apply brake force to limit the amount the driven wheels can slip when accelerating hard.
SUV – Sport Utility Vehicle. Also known as 4x4, and certain estate cars.
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Traction Control – see STC
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VIN – Vehicle Identification numbers. A security safeguard, individually coding each car, you will find numbers etched onto numerous components that can include body shell or windscreen.