Driving Jargon

By Lewis on 26th April 2017 - View Comments

Ever wondered what all the acronyms stand for in the driving industry, well here’s our jargon buster to help you understand the most common terms…

A-pillar: The two vertical struts sitting either side of and supporting the windscreen. The A-pillars are a critical part of the crash structure and increasingly house a side airbags, so have widened over the years. Some A-pillars are split in two (see the Citroën C4 Picasso) in order to improve forward visibility. Behind the A-pillars are found B-pillars, C-pillars and, in the case of larger cars, D-pillars. Also known as A-posts.

ABS: Antilock Braking System – A computerised system that prevents the wheels from locking during emergency braking, improving steering control and reducing stopping distances.

AC – Air Conditioning provides cold air through the heating vents inside your car.

ACC: Adaptive Cruise Control – An advanced automatic vehicle speed management system that monitors traffic ahead and reduces or increases the car’s speed based on the flow of traffic. Also known as Intelligent Cruise Control. See also Mercedes-Benz’s Distronic.

A/T: Automatic transmission – A gearbox that shifts through gears automatically, doing away with the need for a manual clutch and gearstick.

AWD: All-Wheel Drive – When power is fed to all four wheels, otherwise known as four-wheel drive or 4WD.

AWW: Automatic Windscreen Wipers – Wipers that come on when an infrared optical sensor mounted on the windscreen detects changing levels of light reflected by the glass as a result of rain water. The system adjusts the wiper speed in response to the level of water.

B-pillar: The vertical struts running from the roof to the waist-line of a vehicle, between the front and rear side windows. Provides strength to the mid-section of the vehicle.

BHP: Brake Horsepower – The measure of an engine’s horsepower output before frictional losses caused by components such as the gearbox, alternator and differential. Previously, a brake was used to load the engine and its power measured. Today, a dynamometer is used instead.

C-pillar: The third strut running from the roof to the wasitline of a vehicle, after the A-pillar and B-pillar. On saloons and coupés, the C-pillar is the final such post and supports the rear window.

CO2: Carbon Dioxide – an exhaust emission, measured in grams produced per kilometre (g/km) driven. CO2 emissions are also the basis for vehicle tax, with higher emitting vehicles penalised.

DOHC: Double Overhead Camshaft – An engine design with two camshafts positioned at the top of the cylinder heads, one to operate the intake valves and one to operate the exhaust valves. More powerful and efficient than an engine with a single overhead camshaft.

DPF: Diesel Particulate Filter – Traps particulates in a diesel-engine vehicle’s exhaust. Particles are then burned off at high temperatures.

DRL: Daytime Running Lights or Daytime Running Lamps – Low energy lights fitted to the car that switch on automatically whenever the vehicle is in operation to increase the visibility of the vehicle to other road users (rather than to illuminate the road or indicate a manoeuvre). Typically, DRLs are made of white LEDs fitted to the front of the car but they can be found elsewhere on the vehicle and can be other colours. At night or in low light situations, when the headlights are required, DRLs tend to switch off automatically. Since February 2011, European legislation has required DRLs to be fitted to all new passenger cars and small delivery vans. Trucks and buses followed from August 2012. It is possible to retrofit DRLs to older cars using after market products.

DSC: Dynamic Stability Control – see Electronic Stability Control (ESC) or Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

DSG: Direct-Shift Gearbox – Volkswagen Group’s dual-clutch gearbox which dispenses with a conventional clutch pedal and allows either full automatic operation or semi-manual control via the floor-mounted selector and steering wheel paddles.

DVSA – Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. Government agency responsible for issuing driving licences, vehicle registration documents, setting driving test standards, carrying out driving tests, licensing driving instructors and other related activities.

E-REV: Extended-Range Electric Vehicle – a vehicle that uses an electric motor for propulsion but also uses an internal combustion engine to generate electrical power and maintain a minimum level of charge in the battery when it gets low. Unlike a Plug-in Hybrid, an E-REV doesn’t use the petrol/diesel engine to directly power the wheels. E-REVs are designed to eliminate the ‘range anxiety’ associated with pure electric vehicles.

ESC: Electronic Stability Control – An electronic program that applies the brakes to a specific wheel when a loss of steering control is detected. Helps combat understeer and oversteer events to improve safety. Also known as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) or Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

ESP: Electronic Stability Program – see ESC.

EV: Electric Vehicle – A blanket term to describe any type of vehicle that is primarily powered by an electric motor. Can include Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs), Plug-in Hybrids (PHEVs) and Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) vehicles.

FDSH: Full Dealer Service History – as FSH (see below) but the service stamps have been acquired from a registered dealer.

FFV: Flexible Fuel Vehicles – a vehicle that is fuelled by a blend of ethanol and petrol. FFV vehicles can also run on normal unleaded petrol.

FSH: Full Service History – often seen in used car adverts to denote a full log of regular maintenance and annual service stamps from service outlets.

FWD: Front Wheel Drive – When engine power and torque is channelled to the front wheels only.

GPS: Global Positioning System – The network of satellites that provides the location and time information used by a vehicle’s Satellite Navigation (Sat Nav) system. (See also Sat Nav/Satellite Navigation.)

GT: Grand Tourer – A car that is designed for long-distance driving. Usually used as a prefix or suffix on high-performance, luxury vehicles

HP: Horsepower – The measure of an engine’s work rate, which is torque (twisting force) multiplied by speed (how fast it is spinning). It’s a useful measure of how quickly a car can overcome issues like weight and drag when moving. ‘Horse’ refers to the original measure which was based on a comparison of the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses.

HPI Check: A used vehicle history checking service that provides a report to determine if the car is stolen, accident damaged, written off or clocked. (See Clocking.

ICE: Internal Combustion Engine vehicle – abbreviation increasingly used to differentiate vehicles purely powered by petrol, diesel or other form of combustible fuels from electric or hybrid vehicles.

ISOFIX: The international standard attachment for child safety seats which permits a compliant seat to be fixed to anchor points on the car rather than secured solely by the seatbelt.

i-VTEC: Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control – Honda’s variable valve control system that improves efficiency at low engine revs and performance at high revs.

J-turn: A driving manoeuvre in which a car being driven backwards is, without stopping, quickly turned almost about its axis so as to continue in the same direction but facing forwards.

KPH: Kilometres Per Hour – The number of kilometres a vehicle can travel at a constant speed in one hour.

LED: Light Emitting Diode – a type of light source that requires less power to run than conventional filament bulbs and is often used on modern cars for low-beam headlights, brake lights, indicators and daylight running lights.

LSD: Limited Slip Differential – A standard differential will split power to the driven wheels via the path of least resistance, meaning if one wheel is off the ground or on a slippery surface it will be fed 100 per cent of the power and the vehicle will go nowhere. A limited slip diff prevents all the power being transmitted to the spinning wheel, instead allocating a proportion of the power to the other driven wheels that have grip.

LPG: Liquid Petroleum Gas – A flammable mixture of propane and butane that can be used as a vehicle fuel. It is considered a ‘greener’ alternative to petrol because less exhaust CO2 is produced. Also known as Autogas or Auto Propane.

LWB: Long Wheelbase – A lengthened version of an existing vehicle chassis, often available as an option for luxury saloons such as the Mercedes Benz S-Class.

MPG: Miles Per Gallon – The number of miles a vehicle can travel per gallon of fuel consumed. Officially expressed as urban (city), extra urban (rural roads) and combined (a mix of city and rural).

MPH: Miles Per Hour – The number of miles a vehicle can travel at a constant speed in one hour.

MPV: Multi-Purpose Vehicle – a vehicle based on a family-car chassis and designed to provide maximum cabin space and versatility. Also known as People Carriers (UK) and Minivans (USA).

NVH: Noise, Vibration and Harshness – A measure of the noise and vibration characteristics of vehicles as well as a subjective measure of the quality of the ride. There are legal requirements regarding exterior noise and interior vibration but car makers will spend a great deal of time fine tuning the NVH of each new model to make it acceptable to the brand and the vehicle’s class.

OTR: On The Road – Related to car prices, this refers to the cost of the car as it is driven off the dealership forecourt. It starts with the retail cost of the car from the factory to which are added any additional fees required to drive the car away including taxes, insurance, delivery fees, etc. Also known as the “List price”. Customers can almost always negotiate downwards from the OTR price.

PHEV: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle – a type of Hybrid vehicle with a larger on-board propulsion battery that gives better range in pure electric power. The propulsion battery can be plugged into an electrical supply and charged.

PS: An alternative measure of engine power output to BHP, used primarily in Continental Europe. PS comes from the German word ‘Pferdestärke’, meaning ‘horse strength’). To convert PS to BHP, multiply the PS figure by .986.

Q Plate: Registration plates starting with a Q indicate the vehicle was either not originally registered in the UK and proof of its age was not available at time of registration, or that it was built using a large number of off-the-shelf parts (e.g. kit cars)

RPM: Revolutions Per Minute – The number of times the crankshaft of a motor turns through 360 degrees in one minute.

RWD: Rear Wheel Drive – Power from the engine is sent to the rear wheels only.

Segment: Types of car are divided into groups depending on size and shape. In Europe, segments are as follows:
* A: city cars (e.g. Ford Ka / VW UP!)
* B: superminis (e.g. Ford Fiesta / Fiat Panda)
* C: small family cars (e.g. Ford Focus / Honda CIvic)
* D: large family / compact executive cars (e.g. Ford Mondeo / BMW 3-series)
* E: executive cars (e.g Mercedes E-class / Audi A7)
* F: luxury cars (e.g. Mercedes S-class / BMW 7-series)
* S: sports cars / supercars / grand tourers (e.g Audi TT / Ferrari 458 / Maserati GranTurismo)
* M: MPVs, aka people carriers (e.g. Ford B-Max / Vauxhall Zafira)
* J: SUVs & 4x4s (e.g. Renault Captur / Range Rover)

SUV: Sports Utility Vehicle – a tall-bodied vehicle with some off-road capability but designed mainly to perform well on roads. SUVs may have four-wheel drive, but may also be two-wheel drive, and have varying degrees of off-road capability. Examples include BMW’s X5 and Audi’s Q7. Within the catch-all term, SUV, can be found Crossover, a type of vehicle not built from the ground up as an SUV but instead based on a car platform.

TCS: Traction Control System – an electronic system that contains wheel spin by cutting engine power and/or applying brake pulses.

TFT: A type of advanced LCD (liquid-crystal display) screen used to display information about the car’s functions and controls. TFT (thin-film transistor) technology is standard on PC monitors these days as it improves image quality over early “passive” LCD screens, which could not keep up with fast-moving objects. TFT screens are, therefore, more suitable for video and animated menus.

TUV – the TUV is the German equivalent of the UK MOT test. You may also find that individual parts and pieces of equipment have TUV marks – this means they have been tested for safety in use

VIN: Vehicle Identification Number – a unique number, usually 17 digits, given to each vehicle during the manufacturing process. VINs can be used to identify vehicles so that their history can be checked (see HPI Check).

VRM: Vehicle Registration Mark – the number plate.

ZiL lanes: Lanes on some of Moscow’s major roads reserved exclusively for government officials and named after the manufacturer of Russian-built armoured limousines. The term was also used to describe the lanes on roads in London reserved for cars carrying officials and athletes during the 2012 Olympic Games.

If you have any others that your not sure of let us know and we’ll decipher them for you.

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