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Automotive Acronyms


Looking for your next car can be confusing enough. Trying to decide on what you like or what you need can be difficult and that long list of acronyms in the features list often just confuses you more.

Here we look at some of the more common automotive acronyms used, to help you cut through the nonsense and give you a better understanding of exactly what you are getting out of your next set of wheels.

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 ambient air temperature.

ACC – Active Cruise Control: Using a front-mounted Radar, ACC detects slower vehicles ahead will maintain a relative driving speed to ensure a safe following distance.

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 of 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.

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. It is more efficient than normal automatics.

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

EFI – Electronic Fuel Injection: EFI systems replace carburettors as fitted to older vehicles. The electronically controlled Fuel Injectors deliver fuel more efficiently, improving economy, emissions and drivability.

FWD – Front-Wheel Drive: A car’s engine power is delivered through the front wheels. It is more common today than Rear Wheel Drive.

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

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.

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.

PAS – Power Assisted Steering: A system designed to reduce the effort required to steer the vehicle, particularly at low parking speeds. They can be hydraulic, electric or a combination of both.

PDC – Park Distant Control: An audible warning device that alerts the driver when their car is getting close to other cars or objects when parking.

RPM – Revolutions Per Minute: This is 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. This is less common today than FWD.

SAT-NAV – Satellite Navigation System: Uses a GPS (Global Positioning System) as the location detection system. GPS technology interfaces with mapping software to provide 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.

VIN – Vehicle Identification Number: A unique 17 digit number, for each individual car, that can identify date of manufacture, manufacturing plant and standards etc.

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