Get our newsletter

Simple guide to car speak

A simple, easy to read guide, to help you understand what all these different terms you hear about cars mean. We explain some common car terms, including what different acronyms mean.

Should help you understand what your dealer, or car geek friend, is banging on about!

4WD – Four wheel drive. Means the engine sends power to all four wheels, rather than just the front of back ones. Good for off-road cars, and for getting more grip. Also known as AWD (All wheel drive).

ABS – Anti-lock braking. An electronic system that stops the wheels skidding when you brake. Makes your car safer!

BHP – Brake horsepower. Tells you how much power the engine produces. The bigger the number, the more powerful the engine is.

CO2 – The nasty gas that spews out the back of your exhaust. The more CO2 your car emits, the more you’ll pay in road tax.

DSC – Dynamic Stability Control.  Another electronic safety system. Helps prevent the car skidding.

DSG – Direct Shift Gearbox. A modern type of automatic gearbox, that is especially smooth and fast.  

DVLA – The government organisation that deals with cars and drivers. Deals with road tax, licences and who owns what car. Often send you fines!

ESP – Electronic Stability Programme. Another electronic safety system that helps prevent skidding.

Ex-Demonstrator – A car that the dealership has been using for test drives, that is now for sale. They are usually fairly new, and will be cheaper than a brand new model. If you buy one, you will usually be classed as the first owner (the dealership won’t be classed as an owner).

Facelifted version – Car makers are constantly changing little things about their cars. A facelifted version means that certain areas of the car have been updated or improved, sometimes it's just visual changes.

FWD – Front wheel drive. Means the engine sends power to the front wheels.

Gearbox – The thing that changes gears! There are two broad types – Manual (where you change gears yourself), or Automatic (where the car does it for you). Car makers like to confuse people, by giving them their own special names!

Hybrid – A car with two different sources of engine power. Usually they have an electric engine and a petrol engine, and the power comes from either one, or both at the same time.

ICE – Not the cold stuff, but in-car entertainment. Basically the car’s music system, or if they’re showy, may include some TVs!

ISOFIX – Attatchment points for child seats. Isofix points make it safer to transport small kids around in baby, or child seats.

Keyless entry – A fancy system that means you don’t have to get your keys out your pocket to open or drive the car.

MPG – How many miles a car does per gallon of fuel. The higher the number, the less you’ll spend on fuel.

NCAP score – A EU safety rating program, that measure how safe new cars are. The overall scores are out of 5 stars. The higher the number of stars, the safer it will be in a crash.

Oversteer – When the back wheels start to slide (picture rally cars and you’ll get the drift).

Ride-Quality – How comfortable the car feels while driving. Poor ride quality might mean you feel the bumps in the road too much, making your journey less comfortable!

Road Tax – The tax you have to pay to the government for driving on the road. Prices are based on your car’s age, and how much CO2 it spews out.

Run-flat tyres – Tyres that can be driven for a short distance if they get a puncture. So save you having to change your tyre on the roadside. Some people reckon they make the ride quality uncomfortable though.  

RWD – Rear wheel drive. Means that the engine sends power to the back wheels. Car geeks argue RWD cars are more fun to drive.

Supercharger – A part that makes more air go into the engine, which makes the car faster.

Tiptronic – The word some manufacturers use to describe their automatic gearbox.

Torque – Basically the pulling power of the car. The more torque the better the car acceleration will be. Not really worth looking at for car novices.

Turbo – A part fitted to engines that provides more power. A car with a turbo is referred to as ‘turbocharged’

Understeer – Describes when the front wheels start to slide off-course. Happens most in front wheel drive cars.

V5C – The DVLA document that proves who is the owner/keeper of the car.

V6/V8/V12 – Engines that have the cylinders arranged in a V-shape. The number refers to how many cylinders they are. Usually associated with performance cars. Fun!

VIN – Vehicle Identification Number. A unique number that is stamped in various points in each car. Helps identify stolen cars.

Wankel – A funny word. But also a type of engine that doesn’t use cylinders.

Xenon – A type of headlight which are brighter than usual headlights. Produce a blueish light.


comments powered by Disqus