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Learn To Speak Car page 2

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!

Power To Weight Ratio

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.

RAB – Ready Alert Braking

A Ready Alert Braking (RAB) system anticipates when the driver might be about to make a sudden stop and prepares the brakes in case they are required.

RMI – Roll Movement Intervention

A Roll Movement Intervention (RMI) system detects when a vehicle may be on the verge of rolling and takes corrective action through usage of the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system to try and ensure that the vehicle remains upright.

RWD – Rear-Wheel Drive

A Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) system is where the power from the engine is sent to the rear wheels of the car only. The rear wheels then push the rest of the car forward with the front wheels only being used for steering and braking.

Remote Start

Remote start enables you to start your vehicle without being inside it. Remote start systems are either operated by a button on the key fob or an app on your phone. At the press of a button your car will turn itself on and start running which can be a huge benefit in the UAE during the hotter months as it allows you to get the car running with the air conditioning going before you even step outside. Different systems work in slightly different ways – the traditional form of remote start requires you to have a line of sight with the car and be within 50-100m of the car, while more modern systems allow you to start the car using your smartphone from anywhere in the world.

SBBR – Schluss-Blink-Brems-Rückfahrleuchten

This German phrase refers to a tail light setup where all four of the tail light functions – tail lights, indicators, brake lights, and reversing lights are all contained within a single housing and controlled by a single electronic unit.

SIPS – Side Impact Protection System

The Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) is (as the name suggests) a side impact protection system developed by Volvo. It uses advanced vehicle construction techniques combined with airbags to protect occupants against a side impact.

SUV – Sports Utility Vehicle

An SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) is traditionally a large, five-door vehicle with off-road capability.

Speedometer Error

Every car on the road has a degree of speedometer error. In a standard setup where the car has not been modified the speedo will always read a speed that is slightly higher than the actual speed that the vehicle is travelling. Manufacturers deliberately design the system in this way to ensure that the speedo never reads a speed lower than what the car is actually travelling. This is done for both safety reasons and so that the manufacturer cannot be liable for speeding fines incurred by the driver.


A supercharger is a device that forces air into the engine to enhance performance. It operates in a very similar way to a turbocharger, and in fact a turbocharger is actually a form of supercharger (and used to be called a turbosupercharger) but the term “supercharger” in modern automotive use is generally accepted to refer to a supercharger that is mechanically driven (by a belt, chain, gear etc. unlike turbos which are driven by air flow).

TCS – Traction Control System

A Traction Control System (TCS) can work in a number of different ways but the end goal is always the same – to stop a wheel (or wheels) from slipping unintentionally, helping the car to maintain grip.

TPMS – Tyre-Pressure Monitoring System

Sorry to all you American readers – we’re using the international spelling of tyre for this one! A Tyre-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) constantly monitors tyre pressures and will generally alert the driver if the pressure in any tyre drops below a pre-determined level.

TSR – Traffic-Sign Recognition

A Traffic-Sign Recognition (TSR) system uses cameras and image-processing software to recognise various traffic signs.

Trim Level

Trim Level is a term that refers to how well-equipped a certain car model, or sub-model is.


A turbocharger (more commonly known simply as a turbo) is a device that forces air into the engine to enhance performance.

VDC – Vehicle Dynamic Control

Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) is another name for an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system.