How often do you read about a car and come across a phrase or set of letters (like ESC, ISOFIX, or TPMS without having any idea about what they actually mean or stand for? Well fear not, because we’ve created the below information for you to help explain the car lingo and acronyms that you don’t understand. Is there anything missing from this list that you would like us to add? Contact us and we’ll see what we can do!
Active Bending Lights (ABL) is Volvo’s version of an Advanced Front-Lighting System (AFS).
An Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) prevents the wheels of a car from locking up when the driver applies heavy pressure to the brake pedal, usually during an emergency braking situation.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC; sometimes also called autonomous cruise control) is an evolution of standard cruise control where the car is able to adjust its speed of travel based on its surrounding environment – often based on what the car in front is doing. If the car in front of you slows down then your car will automatically slow down as well, then speed up again when the car in front does so. This makes the system extremely useful for motorway driving and busier periods such as rush hour.
An Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) system is one that detects that the vehicle is about to crash into an object ahead and automatically applies the brakes in an attempt to avoid the collision.
An Advanced or Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) automatically adjusts the direction of the headlight beam in different conditions – generally to follow curves in the road.
An Automatic Sound Leveliser (ASL) automatically adjusts the volume of your car soundsystem to account for changing noise levels inside the car.
All Wheel Drive (AWD; or Four Wheel Drive (4WD)) refers to a setup where the power from the engine is distributed to rotate all four wheels. This differs from front- and rear-wheel drive cars where the power is sent to either the front or rear wheels only.
Alloys are mixtures of metals or other elements. Alloy wheels in the automotive industry are generally made from an alloy of aluminium or magnesium (which forms the basis of the common term “mags”). Producing wheels using this method gives designers a huge amount of choice as to how the wheel will look, as well as creating a wheel that is as strong as steel at a much lighter weight.
These systems are fairly new so there is no common, agreed upon term to describe them yet, but what all of these systems aim to do is monitor and correct driver fatigue. Different manufacturers tackle the problem in different ways – some use the existing lane departure assist system to analyse and detect if the car’s movements might be as a result of the driver getting tired, while some systems have a camera that focuses on the driver and analyses facial movements such as drooping eyelids or relaxing muscles.
Automatic parking assistance does exactly what it sounds like it should – assists you in parking your car automatically. Most systems allow you simply to approach a car park space then press a button to have the car manoeuvre in the space by itself. Most systems work with parallel parking, angle parking, and side-by-side parking. The car uses a range of sensors to ensure it doesn’t collide with other cars or objects.
The rear door of a car can be called many things, depending on where you’re from – trunk lid, boot lid, tailgate, liftgate…they all refer to the door to access the luggage compartment at the rear of the car. An automatic (or hands-free) version of this door allows you to open it without any physical interaction with the car.
An autonomous car (also called a self-driving car) is a car that is able to operate with little or no human input. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) classifies autonomous cars from level 0 to level 5.
A Brake Disc Wiping (BDW) system is a safety feature that most UAE drivers will never need to make use of – it wipes off the film of water than can build up on brake discs when driving in the rain or on wet roads.
A Brake Override System (BOS) is a system that detects when the driver is pressing both the brake and the accelerator at the same time, and is able to automatically slow the car down (overriding the fact that the accelerator is being pressed). It works on the theory that pressing both the brake and accelerator at the same time is not normal behaviour and that the probable intention of the driver is to slow the car down.
Blind spot warning systems work by displaying a visual alert to the driver to warn them that there is another vehicle in their blind spot. This warning is normally displayed on either the wing mirror, the dashboard, or on the windscreen if the car is fitted with a head-up display.
In a common petrol engine, the pistons inside the engine move up and down vertically, or on a slight angle in the case of a “V” engine. In a boxer engine the pistons lie flat and move up and down horizontally instead (towards either side of the car).
Cornering Brake Control (CBC) works in a similar way to Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) by distributing the brake force to different wheels depending on where it’s needed to keep the car stable. Some manufacturers consider this part of an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system.
Cross Traffic Alert (sometimes called Rear Cross Traffic Alert) is a system that warns you if a car is approaching from the side when you are backing out of a car park space.
A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is a type of automatic transmission that can seamlessly change through an unlimited number of gears.
A Crash Warning System (CWS; sometimes known as a collision warning system, collision avoidance system, or collision mitigating system) is a system that alerts the driver of an imminent crash with the vehicle in front, and often will apply the brakes automatically if the driver does not take action fast enough. This second feature is referred to as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).
Automatic air conditioning (often referred to as climate control) is a system where the driver only needs to set the temperature that they want the interior of the car to be, and the air conditioning will automatically adjust itself to reach the desired temperature and maintain it. The system will control the speed of the fan but the driver is able to adjust this if necessary, along with the location from which the air is distributed.
Cruise control allows you to set the car to travel at a specific speed, without the need for you to continue to press the accelerator. You simply accelerate up to the speed that you want to continue cruising at then set the cruise control at that speed and the car will automatically continue driving at that speed. Most cars then allow you to alter the speed up or down a little at the touch of a button, so that you don’t need to reset your speed for small changes. The set speed can be cancelled either by pressing a button to cancel it, or by putting even a small amount of pressure on the brakes. Then, when you want to continuing cruising at the speed you had previously set, you just need to select the ‘Res’ option (which stands for Resume) and the car will automatically accelerate back up to the speed you set.
Daytime running lights are lights mounted at the front of a vehicle for the purpose of ensuring that the car is visible to other road users. Daytime running lights are automatically switched on when the car is put into drive mode during daylight hours when the headlights are not switched on. On some cars the daytime running lights are deactivated when the headlights are switched on.
Dynamic Stability Traction Control (DSTC) is simply a combination of Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and a Traction Control System (TCS).
The drivetrain is the set of components that deliver power from the engine (or electric motors) to the wheels, but does not include the engine itself.
Emergency Brake Assist (EBA; sometimes just called brake assist) systems work on the theory that most motorists don’t press the brake pedal hard enough in an emergency braking situation. Due to the fact that few drivers ever need to use the full force of their brakes most people are unprepared for just how hard they need to apply the brakes in these situations. A lot of drivers can also be unnerved by the “bumping” sensation that is felt when the [ABS system](/learn-to-speak-car/abs-anti-lock-braking-system/) kicks in which can cause them to release pressure on the brake pedal at the wrong time.
Engine Braking Control (EBC) is another name for an Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC) system.
Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD; also known as Elektronischer Bremskraftverteiler (EBV) in German) is a system that works alongside ABS to to ensure that the correct brake pressure is applied to each wheel in every situation. The EBD system constantly monitors variables such as the road surface, pressure on the brake pedal, vehicle weight, and more
An Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) is a system which works alongside a stability control and/or traction control system to alter the amount of torque (turning power) that is distributed to the wheels during turning to help the car keep a grip on the road.
Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC) is a system that applies additional torque (turning power) to wheels when needed to keep them rotating in order to prevent the car from sliding. When a driver changes down a gear quickly, or takes their foot off the accelerator suddenly, the air pressure inside the engine changes which causes something called “engine braking ” which slows the car down.
An Electronic Park Brake (EPB) replaces the traditional manual handbrake lever with a button or switch.
An Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system attempts to prevent a vehicle from spinning or sliding by applying the brakes to the necessary wheels to try and correct an inadvertent loss of traction.
An electronic boost controller is an aftermarket device which car tuners attach to the car in order to control the amount of boost pressure provided by a turbo or supercharger.
A Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) car is one where the power from the engine is distributed only to the front wheels.
Hill Hold Control (HHC) is a system that holds the car stationary when facing up a hill – such as a highway ramp.
Hyundai TRACtion (HTRAC) is a traction system developed by Hyundai which splits the power from the engine between the front and rear wheels depending on where it is needed for any given driving situation.
A head-up display is named for the fact that it allows a driver to keep their head up and focused on the road while simultaneously being able to view vehicle information.
The common definition of a hybrid car is one that uses a traditional petrol engine combined with an electric motor (or set of electric motors) to provide power for the car.
The Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS) is a Volvo system that assists the driver by processing information in the car.
ISOFIX refers to the international standard for the attachment points for child safety seats in cars.
Lane departure assist can refer to one of two systems – either a system that warns you when you are about to exit your lane unexpectedly, or a system that combines the warning feature with autonomous steering to actively keep you inside your lane.
MPVs are designed to carry up to around seven people in comfort and safety. They are normally smaller than a van, but larger than the average sedan or station wagon/estate, with a high roof which makes it easy to take loads in and out of the car while giving all passengers plenty of space inside.
Motor Slip Regulation (MSR) is Fiat’s version of an Engine Drag Torque Control (EDTC) system.
A New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) is an assessment organisation in a specific region which crash tests new cars to determine a safety rating for each vehicle based on a number of variables.
A PEPS (Passive Entry, Passive Start) system allows you to open the doors and start your car without needing to take the key out of your pocket or bag.
The term power-to-weight ratio refers to how much power a car has relative to its weight.
Powertrain is a word to describe the parts of a car that generate power and deliver that power to the ground to propel the car forward. In regular cars this includes the engine, gearbox, drive shaft(s), differential(s), and the wheels. In electric and hybrid vehicles the powertrain also includes the battery pack and electric motor as well.