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Glossary of Car Acronyms – Decoding Car Abbreviations

What are the most important car acronyms and abbreviations to know?

Don’t you find it frustrating when you need to discuss a computer issue with an IT specialist and they talk about the restrictions of your field servoid from your mongolian hordes technical department in cybercrud that leaves your own mental bandwidth feeling like you need to reboot? Those in-the-know understand, but you wouldn’t be standing there with your problem if you yourself were in-the-know, would you? The same goes for cyclists about cycling, horse-lovers about anything equestrian and even dancers about ballet combinations!

Us car folk can get carried away with ourselves too. As with all enthusiasts, it comes from a love and eagerness for what we do, that sometimes our own car acronyms and abbreviations make perfect sense to our own in-the-know ilk, but might be alienating to those outside. Let’s break down some of the most common vehicle acronyms with our own car abbreviations list and help make our Subaru-love a little more inclusive!


Car Terminologies

What does ABS stand for?

ABS:     Anti-lock Braking System, designed to prevent the wheels from locking up and skidding under
hard braking


AC:       Air Conditioner


ACC:     Adaptive Cruise Control (check out our feature on this for more information)


AEB:     Autonomous emergency braking, designed to detect objects in front of the car and will apply
the brakes in order to prevent an imminent collision

A/T:     Automatic transmission; when a gearbox shifts automatically. This can range from torque
converter, CVT, dual-clutch and automated manual.

AUX:     Auxiliary. Normally refers to an auxiliary audio connection such as a jack that allows you to
connect phones and music players directly to the car’s audio system.

AWD:    All-wheel-drive, where power is fed to all four wheels of the car. Can be permanent AWD
(power is always fed to all four wheels) or switchable (power is fed to two wheels unless it
detects slip, then it pushes drive to the other two).

BHP:     Brake horsepower which is the standard measure of the power an engine puts out which
affects top speed and acceleration.

CC:       Depending on context, this can refer to cruise control, climate control or even cubic capacity
(the size of the engine, measured in cubic centimetres or litres, for example 999cc or

CEL:     Check engine light. A warning light on the dash that signifies an issue with the engine which
should be checked at your earliest convenience.

CO:       Carbon monoxide. A harmful engine exhaust emission.

CO2:     Carbon dioxide. One of the main gasses emitted from a car’s exhaust.

CVT:     Continuously Variable Transmission. A form of automatic gearbox characterised by having one
automatically varying gear ratio, rather than a number of fixed ones.

DAB:     Digital Audio Broadcasting (often referred to as Digital Radio).

Diesel:  Different manufacturers use a baffling array of codes to signify engine types.

DFI/DGI:Direct fuel injection/direct gasoline injection.

DRL:     Daytime running lights. Also called driving lights, these front lights operate whenever the
engine is on. Manufacturers often use them to create a stylish front to the car.

EBC —   Electronic brake control.

EBD —   Electronic brake force distribution which varies the amount of braking force applied to each
of a vehicle’s wheels to maximise stopping power (always coupled with ABS).

ECU —   Electronic Control Unit or Engine Control Unit. This takes readings from a variety of sensors
within the engine and adjusts the likes of air-fuel mixture, ignition timing and idle speed to
ensure optimum running.

EPS —   Electric power steering, an efficient power-assist system than the hydraulic systems used in
older cars.

ESC —   Electronic stability control which automatically applies the brakes when it detects a loss of
traction to prevent a skid. This is sometimes also called ESP (electronic stability program).

EV —     Electric vehicle. A vehicle which is powered primarily by an electric motor.

FSH —   Full service history. When buying a used car, this refers to the record of completed services,
which should be investigated in context of the car’s value based on how / when the services
were performed and at what intervals.

FWD — Front-wheel drive.

GPS —   Global positioning system (the standard used for most in-car navigation systems).

GVW — Gross vehicle weight. Usually given in kilograms (kg) which refers to the weight of the entire
vehicle, including passengers and luggage.

HSD —   Hybrid Synergy Drive. This is the name that some competitor brands give to their hybrid
technology vehicles.

HP —    Hire Purchase. A way of financing a new or used car, usually with an initial deposit and then
fixed monthly payments covering the rest of the balance.

HPI —    Hire Purchase Inspection; looking into the details of a used car to provide information such as
write-off status, mileage, and any issues with the registration or VIN number.

ICE —    Internal combustion engine or alternatively In-car entertainment.

IMA —   Integrated motor assist.

KPH —   Kilometres per hour.

LCD —   Liquid Crystal Diode; a technology used in the manufacturing of most automotive display

LCV —   Light commercial vehicle, usually referring to vans and trucks with a weight of under 3,500kg.

LDAS — Lane departure avoidance system. A safety measure which prevents the driver from drifting
out of lane, either by means of a warning light and buzzer or by taking control of the

LED —   Light emitting diode. A lighting technology which is steadily phasing out halogen and filament
bulbs due to a superior lifespan and improved light.

LEV —   Low emissions vehicle.

LSD —   Limited slip differential which prevents excessive power from going to one of the driven
wheels to avoid pointless wheelspin.

LWB — Long wheelbase which is in the context of a car with a stretched wheelbase (normally
reserved for luxury models).

MPV — Multi-purpose-vehicle. It’s usually used to refer to a vehicle on a passenger car chassis with a
one-box design intended to provide maximum space and versatility. Also called

MY —    Model year which refers to when a car was produced.

NA —    Naturally aspirated (an engine which does not employ turbocharging or supercharging).

OX —    Nitrogen oxide. A harmful gas emitted from vehicle exhausts.

NVH — Noise, vibration and harshness.

OBD — On board diagnostics which connects the car’s built-in computer to see data about the car.

OD —    Overdrive. Often found on old four and three-speed gearboxes (but is rather rare now).

ODO — Odometer. The device which measures your car’s overall mileage.

OEM — Original equipment manufacturer (the OEM kit comes directly from the car’s manufacturer,
rather than the aftermarket).

PAS —   Power-assisted steering, common across virtually all cars on sale today in either electric or
hydraulic forms.

RPM — Revolutions per minute which signifies how quick the engine’s rotations is.

RWD — Rear-wheel drive.

SUV —   Sports utility vehicle

SWAD — Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive

SWD —  Symmetrical Wheel Drive

TCS —   Traction control system which aids control and grip by cutting engine power or applying the
brakes when it detects a wheel slipping.

TPMS —             Tyre pressure monitoring system which checks the inflation levels of your tyres

VIN —    Vehicle Identification Number (often referred to as the chassis number). This is an identifying
number used when checking a car’s history. Can be found on a plate on the chassis and at the
base of the windscreen.

VTEC —             Variable Valve Timing Electronic Control.



You will notice that many of these abbreviations are safety related, a topic we at Subaru could speak about for days. To find out more on how Subaru has proactively engineered pioneering protocols for safety in our models, please click here.

We hope that this car abbreviations list of vehicle acronyms has helped — or will help — for better understanding when it comes to dissecting car jargon. Why? Because it’s about transparency.

Rather than letting our love for all things engines, interiors, gadgets and all that torque talk get in the way of our relationships with our customers, we’d like to have you on the same page. And while we may not be the best people to discuss what can be done about your coffee-covered laptop keyboard or whether your RAM is affecting your ROM, we’re always here to help when it comes to anything and everything related to your wheels.

Call us on +27 11 608 0116 or email info@subaru.co.za and a skilled member of our team will be happy to assist you. Alternatively, use our store locator to find your nearest dealership, and experience any of our six incredible models first-hand by getting behind the wheel and booking your test drive today.


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