Car Advice

List: Common automotive acronyms explained…

ABS, ACC, CVT… They sound like jargon from a TV police drama, but they actually describe vehicle functions. We explain the most common automotive acronyms.

MOTORING REVIEWS and advice articles are littered with acronyms that many scribblers think are well know. And new car dealers are no better, wheeling out a bag full of gobbledegook to wow tyre kickers.

So, we’ve sat down and written out a short list of the some common acronyms used to help you cut through the jargon and talk the talk. The list isn’t a complete one and we’ll add to it over time. But, in the meantime, if there’s a term you think we’ve missed, let us know and we’ll add to our list.

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. More detail here.

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.

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.  More detail here.

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. More efficient than normal automatics.

EBD – Electronic Brake Distribution: Electronically controls and distributes appropriate brake pressure to all brakes dependent on load and braking force, whereas ABS just stops wheels locking. 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 VSC, DSC, ESC

ETC – Electronic Traction Control. Two types; brake traction control brakes spinning wheels and diverts torque to other wheels to gain traction in slippery surfaces, and engine traction control cuts power when multiple wheels are spinning. More detail here.

FSi – Fuel Stratified 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.

GVM – Gross Vehicle Mass: The maximum weight a vehicle can weigh, including: the weight of the vehicle itself, fuel and other fluids, passengers, and all cargo.

HDC – Hill Descent Control: A 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. Also known as DAC.

HID – High Intensity Discharge: High Intensity Discharge lighting technology uses electric inducers to provide an arc inside a gas-filled bulb, enhancing night driving. Also known as bi-xenon.

HSA – Hill Start Assist. Helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when performing hill starts.

kW – Kilowatt: Unit of measurement of the power 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, use less power 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 litre is less than petrol but it is less fuel efficient.

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 Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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: Uses as GPS (Global Positioning System) as the location detection 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. All diesels are fuel-injected, so the “i” is redundant but manufacturers like it anyway.

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.

More to come soon.


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.