Car Jargon Buster

Buying a New Car? Then You’ll Need this No-Nonsense Jargon Buster

If you’re buying a new car then you’ll have probably looked at a few models and been confused by the specs or features. This is understandable when you have acronyms such as ABS, ACC, AWD and AWW. Luckily, this no-nonsense guide is going to give you all of the information you need to make an educated and informed decision regarding your purchase.



This refers to the struts which support the windscreen. They are most commonly referenced when talking about the crash structure of a car, and they often house side airbags. Some A-pillars come split into two parts, as this improves the amount of visibility you have behind the wheel. One car that showcases this is the Citroën​ C4 Picasso.


A/T is an acronym for Automatic Transmission. It’s a gearbox that shifts through your gears automatically, removing the need for a gear stick and manual transmission.


ABS stands for Antilock Braking System. It’s a completely computerised system which essentially stops the wheels from locking when you brake quickly. It also reduces your stopping distance, while giving you a much higher level of steering control.


Adaptive Cruise Control. It’s a speed management system that takes into account the traffic ahead, reducing or increasing your speed accordingly. If you were to purchase a Mercedes Benz, this would be called a Distronic system.


This is a diesel exhaust fluid, it mixes with the fumes your car produces to break the gas down and turn it into harmless substances instead.


An airbag is designed to protect you from injury, should you be involved in a vehicle collision. Airbags are normally found in the dashboard and they inflate with nitrogen gas at 1/20th of a second.


This is a material that’s normally found in more premium vehicles. It’s a suede-type material and it’s often an upgrade available in higher-end sports cars.


The alternator converts any mechanical energy from the engine into an alternating electrical current. This powers the electrical system in the car.


AWD stands for All-Wheel Drive. This is when the power of the car is fed to all four of the wheels. Cars like this are otherwise known as being four-wheel drives.


Automatic Windscreen Wipers. If your car of choice features this, then you’ll have an infrared optical sensor mounted onto the windscreen. This sensor detects any changes in light that might come through the windscreen, as the result of rain. The system will then adjust the wiper, continually responding to the amount of rain that is hitting the glass.

Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE)

A Honda-exclusive body design, it helps to distribute crash energy evenly throughout the front of the vehicle and also reduces the collision energy transmitted into the other vehicle.



The B-pillar is a vertical strut which runs from the roof to the side of the vehicle. It provides additional strength to the middle of the car.


Abbreviation for the Brake Assist System which is designed to help in emergency braking situations.


Brake Horsepower. It’s the measure of the total horsepower output, before the frictional loss from your alternator, differential and gearbox. A dynamometer is used to take this measurement.


Volkswagen BlueMotion is a combination of 4 or 5 technologies, designed to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions, which together are known as BlueMotion.


C- Pillar

This refers to the strut which goes from the roof to the centre of the vehicle. It comes after the A-pillar and B-pillar.

Chassis number

Another term for the VIN (vehicle identification number)


A Coupé car has two doors with a fixed roof. The car will have a steeper angle and it will be much shorter when compared to a saloon. The style is often considered to be sporty, but it does have limited headspace for passengers in the rear.


The bottom of the engine, which houses the crankshaft.

Cruise Control

An automated system which keeps the car travelling at a certain speed. See ACC for more information.


The cylinder of an engine is essentially the power unit. It's where fuel is converted into mechanical energy to power the vehicle. There are various cylinder arrangements ranging from three, four or six in one line to six or eight in the shape of a letter V. You can also have the W shape arrangement, which consists of two V shapes.



This is often found in much bigger cars, such as estates or SUVs. The pillars are either side of the rear window.


This is the new way to receive radio without noise interference and loss of sound quality.


Depresses the amount of impact energy the car experiences when rising or falling. Most often referred to as being shock absorbers.


DDI stands for Direct Diesel Injection. If you have a diesel engine, then you will spray atomised fuel right into the combustion chamber of every cylinder. This improves your fuel economy and your car’s performance.

Diesel Engine

A diesel engine runs on diesel fuel. Engines like this do not require spark plugs, which ignite the fuel. With a diesel engine, the fuel is compressed in the cylinders until it reaches the temperature required for combustion. They work at a higher combustible rate and generate higher torque, but use less fuel.


A device which allows the wheels to turn at different speeds. This is done by splitting the torque generated between the wheels. In other words, the outside wheel can rotate faster than the inside wheel when turning sharp corners.


DOHC stands for Double Overhead Camshaft. It’s an engine with two camshafts per bank of the cylinder head, one is for the intake valves and one is for the exhaust valves. Having two camshafts instead of one boosts the efficiency, power and torque, whilst arranging the valves in a more compact and efficient way.


DPF is an acronym for Diesel Particulate Filter. This traps particles in the exhaust, which are then burnt.


This stands for Daylight Running Lamps. This is a low-energy light which is fitted to the car. This will switch on automatically when the vehicle is being driven. It essentially makes your car much more visible when on the road. DRLs are made out of white LED lights.


An acronym for Direct Shift Gearbox, also known as a dual-clutch gearbox, is basically two gearboxes in one. From a drivers point of view it feels very similar to an automatic gearbox, except that it gives you more control and a smoother gear change.



Electronic Brake Control. Prevents the driven wheels from locking owing to the braking effect of the engine when the accelerator pedal is suddenly released, or the vehicle is braked with a gear engaged.


Uses ABS sensors on the driven wheels to determine if one wheel is spinning faster than the others.


Electronic Stability Control. This is an electronic device which applies the brakes to specific wheels when you lose control of steering. It also helps to combat both oversteering and understeering.


Electronic Stability Programme. Improves a vehicle's stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction (skidding).

Estate Car

The Estate is a bodystyle of car, which is typically similar to a hatchback or saloon, but with an extended rear that gives you more boot space without compromising on rear passenger space.


Also known as being an Electric Vehicle. It’s a term used to describe any vehicle that is powered via an electric motor.



Stands for Full Dealer Service History. It basically means that the car's service book has been stamped and updated to confirm that the relevant work has been carried out.


This is an acronym for Flexible Fuel Vehicles. It’s a vehicle which is fuelled by petrol and ethanol. Vehicles under this category can run on unleaded petrol or normal petrol.

Fuel Injection

A fuel-injection system allows fuel to be sprayed right into the combustion chamber of every cylinder in the engine.


FWD stands for Front Wheel Drive. This means that engine power will be sent to the front wheels and not the back.


Volkswagen's brand name for its cars that have four-wheel-drive.


Gross Weight

The kerb weight of the vehicle, plus the amount that can be carried safely on the road.

Gap insurance

This is insurance that cover any "gap" between the amount the lessees insurance company will pay to the lessee if the leased vehicle is stolen or destroyed and the remaining amount the lessee owes at that time to the leasing company.



Horsepower. This is a measure of how hard the engine can work. This is the torque multiplied by the speed. The higher number this is, the more you’ll be able to overcome issues such as weight or drag.

HPI Check

A document showing the vehicle history that reports whether or not the car has been damaged, stolen or involved in an accident.


A car that is powered by a battery-operated electric motor and a petrol engine.


Independent Suspension

A system which allows each wheel on the same axle to move independently.


Hot gas is compressed before entering the engine, meaning that the engine’s power output is significantly increased.


Leaf-Spring Suspension

This is a simple suspension that is made up of curved metal strips. These strips are then clamped together.


LSD stands for Limited Slip Differential. A normal differential will split power to the driven wheels through the path of least resistance. If one wheel is off the ground or on a slippery surface, the power will be fed 100% and the vehicle won’t go anywhere. A limited slip differential stops the power being transmitted to the spinning wheel alone, and instead, transmits power to the wheels which do still have grip.


Long Wheelbase. It’s a lengthened version of the chassis, typically seen in luxurious saloons or commercial vehicles that need more load/passenger space.


MacPherson Strut

A suspension type in which a coil spring is put over the shock absorber. There are less parts and it’s also much lighter when compared to the conventional suspension system.


Miles per Gallon. This is the amount of miles that a car can travel, for every gallon of fuel used. It's a good measure to pay attention to when buying a car, as it will help to give you an indication of how much the car will cost to fuel.


Miles Per Hour. The number of miles a car can travel when maintaining a constant speed for one hour. For example if you're travelling at 30MPH constantly for an hour you will travel 30 miles.

Multi-Link Suspension

This type of suspension uses three lateral arms and one longitudinal arm. This gives you an excellent level of handling, but you do pay more for this type of system.


Audi MMI meaning Multi Media Interface is a system which was designed to streamline the controls for audio, vehicle settings, and available navigation under a common interface, thereby reducing the number of buttons for a cleaner interior appearance.


Naturally Aspirated

Also known as a normally aspirated engine, a naturally aspirated engine is one where the cylinders draw in the fuel mixture under pressure, rather than forcing it into a turbocharger or even a supercharger.


NVH stands for noise, vibration and harshness, it is a measure of vibration and noise in vehicles. There are legal requirements that relate to the noise produced and the vibration, but car manufacturers will often spend a lot of time fine-tuning this in accordance to the vehicle model or class.



A device which is used to record the amount of mileage a vehicle has done in its lifetime. You'll find your vehicle's odometer on the dashboard near the speedometer and fuel gauge.


Where a car corners, and the wheels at the back lose grip. This can lead to a tail-out slide.


Petrol Engine

This is an internal combustible engine that uses petroleum fuel. The petrol is mixed with air and it is then ignited in cylinders. This forces the piston which powers the wheels.

Power Steering

Power steering is normally aided by a hydraulic motor. This reduces the amount of effort that is required by the driver in order to turn the wheels. This is particularly the case when functioning at a lower speed.

Privacy Glass

A term used to describe tinting on the windows, making it harder to see inside, giving added privacy for those inside the vehicle.



Used by the car brand Audi to indicate that all-wheel drive (AWD) technologies or systems



Range references the amount of distance that you can travel when using pure electronic power before you need to charge the battery.

Range Anxiety

Range anxiety is a term which is used when someone is worried about running out of battery when they are driving an electronic vehicle.


RWD stands for rear wheel drive and is a term used for when the power from the engine is being sent to the back wheels only.



A Saloon is a bodystyle of car that can be pretty flexible in terms of what it can offer. Available in a range of sizes from compact to spacious it won't be hard to find one to suit your needs. A saloon usually will have a central compartment for passengers, one in front to house the engine and one behind for cargo.


SUV is normally used to describe a Sports Utility Vehicle. It’s a tall vehicle which has some degree of off-road capabilities. It’s designed to perform well on all roads though. SUVs may have a four-wheel drive, but they can also come in a two-wheel drive option.


A supercharger is very similar to a turbocharger, but the compressor is driven mechanically by the engine as opposed to the gases which are generated by the exhaust. Superchargers do not suffer from any kind of lag, but some part of the engine is required to power them.


The springs, the dampers and even the links that attach a vehicle to its wheels. A luxurious car’s suspension will focus on isolating the occupants from any uneven surfaces, but a sports car’s set will favour more towards handling corners.



TCS stands for Traction Control System. It’s an electronic system that contains the wheel spin. This is normally done by cutting the engine power.


TFT is a type of LCD display. It is used to try and display information about the car’s function. TFT is standard on computer monitors as it improves the image quality. TFT screens are much more suited to animated menus or video.


This is the twisting or the moving force that is generated by the motor. This is normally done by a peak figure in NM, or Newton Metres. Torque essentially determines how quickly the power can be transferred to the wheels. It’s a particularly useful way to determine the measurement of acceleration.

Torque Steer

An imbalance of driving force, between the front wheels of a FWD vehicle. The car may pull right or left when accelerating heavily.

Torsional Rigidity

This is the resistance of the vehicle to various twisting forces. If the rigidity is high, the vehicle will be less likely to flex when travelling over bumps.


This is most often referred to the type of gearbox, whether it is auto or manual. Several types of semi-automatic gearboxes are available however.

Trim Level

This is the specification of the vehicle, which happens to include the wheel type, the materials which have been used in the interior and the bundled tech in general. The choices range from entry-level to range-topping trims. Trim levels do not refer to the engine, but a specific engine might be for each trim level.


A turbine-driven device that increases the engine's efficiency and power output by forcing extra compressed air into engines cylinders. The air is compressed, and it is then blown in. This increases the amount of power that the engine has. The atmospheric air is compressed by a turbine, that spins any exhaust gases from the engine.


Turbo fuel stratified injection, this combines petrol direct injection with turbocharging.


Tiptronic transmission is an automatic gearbox that also has the ability to change gears manually.


An abbreviation for "Turbocharged Direct Injection" and is the branding for its turbocharged diesel engines that have direct fuel injection.



Understeering is a term that is used during cornering. The car tends to push in a straight line, as opposed to following the corner in an arc.



Devices which are actuated by the camshaft. This opens and closes around the combustion chamber and it allows the fuel mixture in. If you were to buy a high-performance engine, then this would normally have four valves. This would include two inlet and two exhaust for every cylinder in the vehicle.


The VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number is a very unique number that is normally 17 digits long. It’s given to every vehicle upon being manufactured. It’s used to identify vehicles so you can check the history of them during every stage.


Vehicle Registration Mark, commonly know as a registration number which is used to uniquely identify a vehicle.


Wankel Engine

This is a type of rotary engine. The combustion process spins around a triangle-shaped rotor inside the housing. The main benefit of this is that it is able to deliver very smooth power from a small number of revs.


This is the horizontal distance between the front and rear axles of a road or rail vehicle



Zero emission vehicle

Of course, choosing a new car can be a daunting and confusing experience but if you are able to take your time and if you make sure that you are not rushing the process, then you will surely come out on top. If you need some additional support choosing a car that is suited to your needs, then contact us today. We can work with you to help you sell your old car, buy a new car on finance and even seek out used vehicles, so you can get a premium model at a budget price. We also have a live chat option available on our website, should you have any questions. If you have enjoyed our car jargon buster guide, then please feel free to get in touch with us today to make a purchase.