Vehicle Acronyms What Do They All Stand For?

With new technology comes new terminology. So, as women we’re not alone in trying to decipher what we’re dealing with when it comes to technical specifications and numerous other vehicle-related terms. 

This is an A-Z glossary of the more useful acronyms that you may find helpful whether you’re on the hunt for a new car or just getting to know your current one.

ABS – Antilock Braking System 

An automatic computer-controlled system that prevents any of your car’s wheels from locking and tyres from skidding during an emergency brake. It also helps improve steering and minimises stopping distance. 

ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control 

A.k.a. Intelligent Cruise Control, this is an automated laser- or radar-sensing cruise control management system that monitors traffic ahead of you and alters your car’s speed in order to avoid collisions in front. 

AEB – Autonomous Emergency Braking

This system uses radar to act independently of the driver in an emergency situation. It recognises an imminent collision and intervenes by applying the brakes to avoid an accident. 

AT – Automatic transmission

A gearbox that can shift through gears automatically is one that is the opposite of a manual transmission gearbox. It requires no gearshift or clutch pedal.

AWD – All-Wheel Drive

Contrary to popular belief, AWD is not the same as 4WD. Technically the term refers to a vehicle that is driven on all its wheels, some of which may have six, eight, or more wheels, and are generally suited for road-going vehicles such as large trucks or buses where AWD provides extra grip on road surfaces. See 4WD >

4WD – Four-Wheel Drive

Suitable for slippery off-roading, the two main types are: 

  • Permanent 4WD – All four wheels receive equal available engine power. With 4WD you cannot switch to regular two-wheel drive. 
  • Part-time 4WD – The default setting is two-wheel drive, which is suitable for tarred roads, and four-wheel drive must be physically engaged.

BHP – Brake Horsepower 

This is the horsepower of an engine measured by the resistance of the brake and is the standard unit measurement of the power of an engine.  Usually, the higher the BHP, the higher its top speed and acceleration.  

DRL – Daytime Running Lights 

These low energy lights switch on automatically when you start up to increase the visibility of your car to other road users.

DSC – Dynamic Stability Control

See ESC (Electronic Stability Control) or ESP (Electronic Stability Programme).

ESC – Electronic Stability Control 

A.k.a. DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) or ESP (Electronic Stability Programme).

When a loss of steering control is detected, the programme applies the brakes to a particular wheel to combat understeer or oversteer. 

ESP – Electronic Stability Programme

See ESC (Electronic Stability Programme).

EV – Electric Vehicle

Any type of vehicle that is primarily powered by an electric motor, from Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (E-REVs) to hybrids. 

FSH – Full Service History

A car that has had a full log of regular servicing and maintenance including annual service stamps from approved service outlets in its service log book.

FWD – Front Wheel Drive

Only the front wheels of the car receive engine power and torque.

GPS – Global Positioning System

A car’s satellite navigation system uses this network of satellites that provides the information on location and time. 

GT – Grand Tourer

Especially engineered for long-distance driving and are often luxury and high-performance vehicles.

HUD – Heads-Up Display

A transparent digital display that is projected from a vehicle’s dashboard onto its windshield to provide information within the driver’s direct line of sight.

HP – Horsepower

A standard unit measurement of an engine’s work rate calculated with torque (twisting force) multiplied by speed (how fast it is spinning). 

PSI – Pounds Per Square Inch

A measurement of air pressure used for a car’s tyre inflation.

RWD – Rear Wheel Drive 

Where engine power is channelled to the vehicle’s rear wheels only.

SUV – Sports Utility Vehicle

A tall, relatively large vehicle with some levels of off-road capability, most of which have four-wheel drive, though not all do. 

TSR – Tyre Speed Rating

Indicates the maximum speed the tyre can safely sustain for a ten-minute period.

VIN – Vehicle Identification Number

A unique 17-digit code that act as the vehicle’s fingerprint and each digit have particular identifiers such as country of origin or model year. It is designated to the vehicle during manufacturing and used to keep a record of the vehicle. Older vehicles may still have 16-character numbers.  

ZEV – Zero Emissions Vehicle

A vehicle that emits no exhaust gas from the on-board source of power.

It’s all about buying a car with confidence, so arm yourself with these commonly used acronyms and you’ll no longer feel lost when a car dealer tries to pull the wool over your eyes.

Also see our list of common terms >