Car Words Explained

By Angela Monroe - March 2, 2021

Car Words Explained

The car world seems to have it’s own language sometimes. This isn’t made easier with all the acronyms either.

Here’s a quick look at some of the common car words:

4×4 – The vehicle has four wheels which are all powered.

4WD – The vehicle has four powered wheels. Technically, a vehicle could have more than four wheels with only four being powered. (4WD Vs 4×4: Basically that same. Most people use these interchangeably).

ABS – Anti-lock Braking System. Prevents wheels from locking up and skidding when braking hard.

ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control. Uses a radar system to maintain the distance between you and the car in front. 

AEB – Auto-emergency braking. Stops the vehicle if an imminent collision is detected.

AWD – The vehicle’s drive systems can change between two and four-wheel drive. Sensors can determine when engine power is needed for all four wheels.

BHP – Brake horsepower. The measurement units of power that a car’s engine puts out.

Carbon Fibre – A strong but very lightweight material used to make some car parts, especially on performance cars.

CVT – Continuously Variable Transmission. A kind of automatic transmission having one automatically varying gear ratio, rather than a series of fixed ones. 

Drivetrain – Parts of a car that deliver power to the car’s wheels. For example, transmission/gearbox. Doesn’t include the engine.

DSG – Direct-shift gearbox. A type of gear selection that allows automatic operation or manual override.

EBC – Electronic brake control. Mainly used for trailers.

EVElectric Vehicle.


(An EV – Tesla)

ECU – Engine Control Unit. Uses a variety of sensors within the engine and adjusts things like air-fuel mixture, ignition timing and idle speed.

ESC – Electronic stability control. Applies brakes when it detects a loss of traction to prevent a slide.

FWD – Front-wheel drive.

Hypercar – A race-ready performance car, usually very limited production and commanding a huge price.

Bugatti Chiron

(Mega dollars and mega speed: The Bugatti Chiron hypercar)

ICE – Internal combustion engine. Includes petrol or diesel engines. A Tesla is not ICE.

ISOFIX – Anchoring system for child seats in cars. 

Kerb Weight – The weight of a vehicle with a full tank of fuel but without passengers, cargo or accessories.

LCV – Light commercial vehicle. Vans or small trucks.

LED – Light emitting diode. Not automotive specific but often used in car headlights, running lights and taillights.

LPG – Liquefied petroleum gas. 

MSRP – Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price. The suggested price as per the manufacturer.

OBD II – On board diagnostics. A series of codes that indicate problems or faults with engines. They allow mechanics, assuming they have a diagnostics device, to quickly find faults.

OEM – Original equipment manufacturer. Parts made by the vehicle manufacturer rather than a third party manufacturer.

Paddle Shift – Gear shifters located at the back of a steering wheel often found in supercars from the 2000s.

Ferrari F355

(The Ferrari F355 came with paddle shifters)

PHEV – Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. 

RWD – Rear-wheel drive.

SRS – Supplemental restraint system. The correct name for airbags.

SUV – Sports utility vehicle. 


(An SUV)

Torque – Engine rotation ‘force’. Torque is commonly seen as the ‘strength’ of an engine and horsepower is how quickly that power can be delivered.

VIN – Vehicle Identification Number. A unique serial number for individual vehicles. The VIN can indicate model year, country of manufacture and which assembly plant it came from.

Car words can be confusing

Making sure you’re up to date with car words is an important part of buying a new car. In fact, many people don’t know what features their car may have, meaning some go unused despite their price added to the value of cars.

Next time you’re shopping for a new car, learn the features that you want.

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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