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Car terminology explained

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 year ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • repair

WhoCanFixMyCar's car jargon dictionary explains all the terminology you need to be aware of

Do you know your cabrioles from your coupes and your CV joints from your CVT? Often, car jargon can leave the best of us scratching our heads wondering what on earth a particular word means, which is especially frustrating when we're trying to decipher our car’s latest repair bill or navigate a dealership.

Fear not! We’re here to help you make sense of all the automotive terminology you need to know to speak fluent mechanic…well, almost. So buckle up and get ready for WhoCanFixMyCar’s car jargon dictionary. 🤓📖


A to C

D to F

G to I

J to L

M to O

P to R

S to U

V to Z

WhoCanFixMyCar’s Glossary of Car Terminology

A to C

ABS - Anti-lock braking system

Aftermarket accessory - A piece of equipment/accessory purchased after, or separately from, the vehicle.

AFVs - Alternative fuel vehicles

Anti-theft immobiliser - Prevents the car from starting when the key is not present.

AWD - All wheel drive

Body roll - How much a car ‘leans’ to the side during cornering.

Cabriolet - a car with a roof that can be folded down.

Carbon footprint - A measurement which considers a vehicle’s consumption of resources against the earth’s ability to regenerate those same resources.

Carburetor - Used primarily on older internal combustion engines, it is mounted on the intake manifold and supplies fuel.

Catalytic converter - A canister in the exhaust system containing a substance that reacts chemically with the engine’s fumes to produce less harmful gases.

CAZ - Clean air zone

City car - A small car, such as the Skoda Citigo, which is designed for driving in small towns and cities.

Convertible - A car featuring a roof that can be folded down.

Coupe - Most have two doors and two seats and feature a low, sloping roof line. 

Cruise control - When engaged by the driver, cruise control automatically controls the vehicle’s speed.

Crumple zone - Part of a vehicle that collapses upon impact to protect the passengers and driver.

CC - Meaning ‘coupe convertible’. A coupe vehicle with a roof that folds down.

Crossover - A car that is positioned somewhere between a sports utility vehicle and a family hatchback.

CVT - A transmission that has a continuously variable drive ratio (rather than having the usual gear ratios).

D to F

Direct injection system - A fuel system whereby the injection nozzles are inside the combustion chamber.

Estate - A body style featuring a large and often boxy rear end which is designed to increase the boot space.

EV - Electric vehicle

Ex-demo - Short for ex-demonstrator, this is a car that was once used for test drives by a dealership.

Extended warranty - A vehicle warranty which extends the vehicle’s basic warranty beyond its original period.

Fastback - A car with two or four doors that has a sloping rear end. Mazda uses this term to refer to the Mazda3 hatchback.

Fuel economy - The amount of fuel that a car uses over a certain distance.

G to I

Gross vehicle weight rating - Known also as GVWR. This is the sum of a vehicle’s curb weight, passenger weight capacity and cargo weight capacity. 

Hatchback - This refers to a body style where the top of the boot door stretches the width of the rear-end of the car and has its hinges at the roofline, making it spacious.

HEV - Hybrid electric vehicle

Hot hatch - A fast hatchback

Hybrid - A type of car which uses both regular fuel and a battery.

Hydrogen fuel cell - This is an alternative powertrain that produces electricity via electrochemical reactions. 

ICE - Internal combustion engine.

J to L

Keyless ignition - A system which allows a car to start by the push of a button rather than using a key.

Low emission zone - Sometimes referred to as an LEZ or clean air zone. Areas like this aim to reduce pollution levels.

M to O

MHEV - Mild hybrid electric vehicle. This is a car that has an internal combustion engine but is also assisted by an electric generator.

MPV - Multi-purpose vehicle that’s designed to provide plenty of interior space.

NEDC - New European Drive Cycle. Used to assess emission levels and fuel economy of cars.

OEM - Original equipment manufacturer (e.g. the manufacturer of the car).

P to R

PEV - Plug-in electric vehicle

PHEV - Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle

Range extender - Similar to a plug-in hybrid, however, the engine is only used to recharge the batteries once they are flat.

Regenerative braking - Recharges the battery of a hybrid or electric vehicle by converting kinetic (movement) energy into electrical energy.

Roadster - A two door convertible

RPM - Revolutions per minute of the engine.

S to U

Saloon - A body style where the door of the boot is usually hinged below the rear window.

Station wagon - Another name for an estate car.

Supermini - Smaller than a regular family hatchback but larger than a city car.

SUV - Sports utility vehicle

Torque - A measurement of an engine’s power relating to how forcefully it can rotate the crankshaft at a given speed.

Tourer - Another name for an estate car.

Traction control - A safety feature designed to prevent wheel spin by ensuring maximum traction between the tyres and road.

Turbocharger - A device which uses an exhaust-driven turbine to force air into an internal combustion engine, thereby increasing the engine’s power.

V to Z

ZEV - Zero emissions vehicle

Don't forget, whatever your car needs, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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