Here is our list of over 200 commonly used car terms and jargon that are either not well known or not well understood

If we have left any car terms out that have you stumped, or a definition that you don’t fully understand, please mail us on glossary@heycarter.com and we will add it to the list as soon as we can.

12V DC outlet

This is an electrical socket in your car – that looks like an old car cigarette lighter socket – where you can plug in compatible appliances such as fridges, tyre inflation compressors, mobile phone and gps system chargers, etc

4WD

Stands for 4 wheel drive – power is transmitted from the engine to all 4 wheels of the vehicle – improves stability and traction and, hence, off road driving performance. Differs from an All Wheel Drive vehicle in that two differencials and a transfer case are used to transfer power to all four wheels. This is a rugged system that is best for large, heavy vehicles traversing rugged terrain. It isn’t as well suited to highway speeds as All Wheel Drive vehicles. Generally accompanied by a Low Range Gear box.

A/C

Stands for Air Conditioning – not to be confused with Climate Control

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ABS

Stands for Anti-lock Breaking System – a computer system that stops the brakes from locking up during hard braking to avoid loss of traction and control (to avoid skidding to a stop – you cant steer when you skid…)

ACC

Adaptive cruise control. A cruise control system that “looks out” for cars in front of you on the highway and slows you down if you are late to act yourself

ACE

Stands for Active Corner Enhancement – a computer which adjusts the suspension system during cornering to lessen body roll

Active pedestrian protection system

An electronic system that “looks out for pedestrians” close to or in front of the car and warns the driver

Adaptive cruise control

A cruise control system that “looks out” for cars in front of you on the highway and slows you down if you are late to act yourself

Adaptive headlights

As the car turns, these headlights adjust in the direction of the turn to light the road ahead in the turn

Adjustable pedals

Pedals that can be moved closer or away from the driver’s seat – to assist shorties and accommodate tallies

Adjustable suspension

A computer system that allows the driver to adjust the stiffness of the suspension, depending on road conditions, driving conditions and personal preferences

Aeroboard

A windshield, often made of netting or mesh, that sits behind all passengers in a convertible vehicle to mitigate wind currents and noise caused by wind vortices over and around the windshield when travelling at speed

Aftermarket accessory

An “extra” that is not installed at the factory, but rather purchased and installed by a dealer or other service centre (think exhaust conversions, sports kits, window tinting, etc)

Airbags

These are inflatible soft bags that deploy and inflate in serious accidents to protect passengers from hitting hard objects like the steering wheel, dashboard and sides of the car (in the event of a roll). The system has sensors deep inside the car to determine the extent of the accident and potential danger to passengers.

Angle of approach

The angle of an incline that you can drive up, from a level road, without bumping or scratching the bottom of the front bumper

Angle of departure

The angle of an incline that you can drive DOWN, onto a level road, without bumping or scratching the bottom of the rear bumper. Remember, tow bars and sports-kits with flashy, bulky bumpers may significantly change the car’s departure angle)

Anti-theft alarm

A system that monitors for forced entry into the vehicle and emits a loud, audible alarm to alert the owner or others in the vacinity

Anti-theft codes

Codes installed into either the entertainment system, onboard computer, or both to deter theft of the vehicle

Anti-theft immobilizer

An electronic system that links the engines starter to the key of the car – this disallows the starting of the engine without the key present

Antifreeze

A liquid mixed with water in the radiator of the car to mitigate freezing of the radiator water in cold weather

Aquaplaning

This occurs when a layer of water builds up in front of the tyres and effectively lifts the car off the road (i.e. a layer of water forms between the tyre and road). The tyres lose traction and the driver loses control. This may happen at high speeds on moderately wet roads, or by hitting a large puddle in the road.

AT (sometimes A/T))

Stands for Automatic transmission

Audio format

Audio files that can be read and played by the car’s infotainment system – usually mp3, WMA, WAV and AAC

Auto close boot

A button on the boot closes the boot door automatically

Auto dimming rearview mirror

Also called an “Electrochromatic mirror”. A mirror that reads the ambient light and auto-dims when bright lights approach from the rear

Auto-delay headlights

Headlights that stay on for limit time after the car has been switched off – to light the way when walking away from the car

Auto-leveling headlights

Headlights that automatically adjust to the cars load to ensure that they shine level to the road and not into the eyes of oncoming traffic

Auto-leveling suspension

Suspension that keeps the front and rear of the car level (important when loaded unevenly) – often comes with settings that the driver may control for different conditions and preferences

Automatic (transmission)

A transmission (gear system) that automatically changes gears at particular intervals without a clutch or input from the driver

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Autonomous vehicles

A car that can drive itself – they’re coming!

Auxiliary input (Audio)

An auxillary jack is present in the car where you can plug a standard 2mm aux cable to connect audio from an ipod or similar device

Auxiliary lighting

Lighting installed in the car to light interior areas such as the bott, footwells, cubby-hole, etc

AWD

Stands for All Wheel Drive – all 4 wheels are provided with power from the engine. Differs from 4WD as a front, rear and centre differencial provide power to the wheels – a transfer case is not used. A computer determines how to distribute power between the wheels to cater for loss of traction – hence, AWD systems provide good safety and handling dynamics in slick conditions. Not as rugged as 4WD and not meant for crawling over boulders or rugged terrain. On all the time – unlike 4WD that can be switched on and off.

Base price

This is the price of the vehicle before options, financing charges, insurance activation fee and “on road” registration and admin costs

Basic warranty

A warranty that covers all parts of the vehicle that are not subject to wear and tear (such as tyres). Basic warranty generally covers all mechanical faults and failures resulting from ordinary and reasonable driving conditions, within the specified mileage and timeframe. NOTE: certain modifications to the car – especially the electronics, infotainment and / or computer system can immediately void the basic warranty. Know your Ts & Cs – read the fineprint and check with your warranty provider before any modifications to your car

Beverage cooler

A standard, included cooler box that is cooled by the air conditioner or other cooling system in the car. Often found in the cubby hole on smaller cars

Blind spot

The area between what you can see at the edge of your side mirror and what you can see in your periferal vision – basically the area from 3 o’clock to 4:30 / 5 o’clock in your circle of vision – cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and other objects can remain unseen in these areas on both sides of the car if not checked correctly by the driver turning their heads. Some mirrors and technology cater for this to assist the driver – however, these should not be relied upon

Blind spot detection / monitoring

A computer system that monitors for objects in the blind spot and warns the driver – generally by visual queues such as light indicators or alarms when changing lanes

Bluetooth

The infotainment system of the car can connect to a mobile phone, ipod or tablet in order to play music or take telephone calls over the bluetooth link using the cars infotainment system\

Booster seat

This generally refers to child safety seats made for children aged approx 3 to 12 years old (±15 to ±36 kgs). The aim of the seat is to raise the child to a level where the seatbelts can be used and not endanger the child. These seats generally inclide side impact protection and grow with the child.

Brake fluid

Fluid used by the hydraulic system that drives the brakes – without fluid, the system cannot work. Brake fluid levels are checked during services. Your car’s warning lights should notify you if there are issues with the system – if it does, get help immediately from your trusty Carter dealership

Brake pads

Brake pads are the specially made metal pads that are pressed against the wheels discs to slow the wheels (and car) down. If your brakes begin shuddering, grinding or squealing, it may be because the pads have worn out or there is an object (like a stone) lodged in them – have them checked out by your trusty Carter dealer asap

Braking assist

An electronic system that monitors the brake pedal – if it picks up that the driver is applying sudden, rapid pressure to the pedal, the system increases the power / force to the braking system to increase reaction time of the brakes

Breakover angle

The angle of a symetrical ridge that the car can drive over without scraping the bottom of the car or becoming stuck

Brush guard

A guard at the bottom of the front bumper, generally found on off road vehicles and cross-overs, to protect the front of the car from long vegetation like grass

BSM

Blind Spot Monitoring

Bumpers

The plastic surrounds at the front and back of the car – generally the first to hit aything in a crash – that are made out of cheaper plastic materials so as to crumple easily, and are cheaper to replace, in the event of a minor collision. Distance sensors are generally mounted in the bumpers.

Cabin

Where you sit – the interior of the car

Cabin lighting

Lights generally located in the front and middle of the interior roof to light the cabin on entry and exit – generally have automatic switches linked to engine cut off or door opening and also have manual switches to be activated when idling or moving

Car seat

A safety seat designed for children that is securely fastened or connected to the car using either the seatbelt or ISOFIX connectors. Often refers to seats for toddlers and larger children but can refer to seats for new borns and babies. Using regular seat belts for children, without a car seat or booster seat, can cause serious harm to the child in an accident.

Catalytic converter

A system in the exhaust of the car that chemically reacts with the exhaust fumes to limit the harmful emissions

Center console

The section between the driver and the front passenger of the vehicle – this includes the gear lever, cup holders, storage compartment and handbrake lever or button

Child seat

A safety seat designed for children that is securely fastened or connected to the car using either the seatbelt or ISOFIX connectors. Often refers to seats for new borns and babies but can refer to toddlers and larger children

Child seat anchors

See also ISOFIX anchors. These are standard anchors that connect to the body of the car. A car seat ISOFIX base clips into these anchors for an easier and more reliable installation of an ISOFIX compatible car seat.

Childproof safety feature(s)

This refers to the ability to lock electric windows and door locks so that children cannot use them. May also refer to the ability to turn off passenger side airbag to accommodate a child seat. NOTE: it is highly recommended NOT to put a child in the front passenger seat, for their safety

Climate control

An electronic system that controls the temperature inside the car through the use of sensors and autonomous control of the heating and cooling mechanisms to achieve the desired internal temperature specified by the driver. Some systems have independent systems for driver and front passenger

Climate-controlled seats

Generally front seats that incorporate heating and cooling technology

Collapsible steering column

The steering column includes the steering wheel and all the mechanics in front of it. A collapsible steering column collapses in the event of a serious frontal collision, in order to protect the driver. Some safety systems include a disengagement of the drivers seat so that it may slide to its back-most position to give the steering column and crumple zone more room to move and collapse in a frontal collision

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Combined fuel economy

Fuel economy as reported by the manufacturer, accounting for both city and highway driving – measured in litres per 100 km

Console

A storage container – often without a lid or closure – in the centre of the vehicle, dashboard, boot, under seats and in doors. Sometimes used to describe an area of controls, storage space and the like (centre console, or instrument console)

Convertible

A car that has a roof that can retract or be removed – either manually or mechanically; soft or hard

Convertible roof type

A car that has a roof that can retract or be removed – either manually or mechanically; soft or hard

Convertible wind blocker

A windshield, often made of netting or mesh, that sits behind all passengers in a convertible vehicle to mitigate wind currents and noise caused by wind vortices over and around the windshield when travelling at speed

Coolant

A liquid mixed with water in the radiator of the car to mitigate freezing of the radiator water in cold weather

Cooled seats

Seats with integrated air conditioning to keep them cool

Cornering brake control

Some ABS computer systems can distribute brake pressure across the wheels to mitigate an oversteer – especially when applying heavy brakes in a corner

Cornering lights

Specially designed side headlights that point tangentially to the straight line of the car, to illuminate the line of travel when cornering

Coupe

A car with a fixed roof and 2 doors. Generally very sporty, chic styling. May be a two seater or a four seater with a very tight rear. Trivia: coupe comes from the French word for “to cut”

Crash test ratings

Standardised ratings that rate standardised tests of a vehicles performance in various crash scenarios. EURO NCAP being very common in South Africa

Crossover

A car with SUV trimmings and sometimes raised ground clearance. Not really meant to go offroad. Just looks rugged(ish)

Cruise control

An electronic system that allows the speed of a vehicle to be set by the driver. The system automatically controls engine power in order to maintain the set speed. This allows the driver to relax their right foot and leg but must still remain vigilant to steer and brake if necessary. This is a convenience device and not an auto-pilot!

Crumple zone

This refers to the area in the front, sides and back of the car that is designed to crumple in a crash to absorb as much of the impact force as possible and lessen the impact on passengers

Curb weight

The weight of the car with a full tank of petrol or diesel, all mechanical fluids in place and all standard equipment (mechanical and electronic), excluding driver, passengers and cargo. This is particularly helpful in delivery vehicles where curb weight, weight of the driver, and weight of cargo will give total weight of the vehicle – this can be compared to maximum permissible weight on a particular road. Also helpful in determining real power to weight ratios; and comparing offroad cars to be used on sand where lighter cars may be more desirable

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Curtain airbags

This refers to airbags that run down the side of the car to protect passenger from banging their heads on windows and pillars in the event of a side impact or roll of the car

CVT

Stands for Continuous Variable-drive Transmission. This is a gearbox configuration that does not have step changes between gears. The gear box is build to continuously and smothly move through all gear ratios from 1 to 6. Although quite effective, the lack of step change can be quite subconsciously disturbing when you are used to feeling a car change gears. A CVT effectively does not “change” gears – it has a variable gear mechanism

Dashboard

The front panel of the car from driver side to passenger side – generally incorporates infotainment system, air conditioning / climate control system, air vents and storage compartments

Daylights

Typically a set of LED bulbs or rings or stripes of LED light around the headlights used during the day to make the car more visible to other roads users

Demo

Refers to a car that has been used for demonstration purposes – mainly test drives by interested clients, or used by a member of staff as their own vehicle to show customers, conduct test drives and drive around town in to “show off” the vehicle. Demos generally have anything from 150km to 15,000km on the clock depending on what they were used for

Descent control

This is an off road vehicle system that automatically controls the brakes, and traction control systems, to manage the power to the wheels and descend a steep incline smoothly, without slipping or sliding down the incline. The driver does not use the brake or accelerator in the process, they only steer

Cubic centimetres (cc’s)

Engine displacement, this is the total volume of the engines cylinders. The more volume the engine has (more cylinders, and / or bigger cylinders) the more power the car’ engine can generate

Displacement (CCs)

Measured in cubic centimeters, this is the total volume of the engines cylinders. The more volume the engine has (more cylinders, and / or bigger cylinders) the more power the car’ engine can generate

Easy entry

A electonric system that automatically moves the driver seat backwards and / or steering column forward (when the engine is switched off) to allow the driver more space to enter and exit the car

Electric vehicle

A car that is run on electricity rather than petrol, diesel, biodiesel or hybrid technology

Electrochromatic rearview mirror

An auto-dimming mirror that reads the ambient light and auto-dims when bright lights approach from the rear

Electronic brake force distribution

An addition to ABS technology where brake force and traction is managed for each wheel independently to optimis traction control when braking

Electronic stability control

A system that monitors traction of the four tyres and detects any slippage or skids. The system then automatically controls the brakes to each wheel, and in some cases reduces engine power, until sufficient traction is regained to maintain control of the vehicle

Emergency brake assist

An electronic system that monitors the brake pedal – if it picks up that the driver is applying sudden, rapid pressure to the pedal, the system increases the power / force to the braking system to increase reaction time of the brakes

Emergency braking preparation

An adaptive cruise control additional feature which, on detecting the gap between you and the car in front of you closing too quickly, will automatically prime the brakes and move the bads closer to the disks to minimise reaction time of the system

Emissions standards

These are the legal standards governing harmful emissions emitted into the atmosphere. They are governed by each company through either limits, taxes or both. Many South African cars are imported from countries such as Japan and adhere to more stringent emmisions standards than local laws. You are charged an emissions tax on your vehicle as part of your annual car license cost

Engine Auto Stop/Start

This is a mechanisms that automatically stops the engine when stationary for a specified time and then restarts the engine when the brake pedal is depressed and / or the accelerator is engaged. This is a fuel saving mechanism

Engine size

Measured in cubic centimeters, this is the total volume of the engines cylinders. The more volume the engine has (more cylinders, and / or bigger cylinders) the more power the car’ engine can generate

ESC

Electronic Stability Control. A system that monitors traction of the four tyres and detects any slippage or skids. The system then automatically controls the brakes to each wheel, and in some cases reduces engine power, until sufficient traction is regained to maintain control of the vehicle

EV

Stands for Electric Vehicle

EV effective range per charge

The is the average distance an Electric Vehicle can travel on a single chart as per standard testing by manufacturers or industry bodies

Excess wear and tear

Any wear and tear to vehicles, its mechanical parts or electronics, that is deemed to be from unreasonable or irregular use of the vehicle

Extended warranty

A warranty that is generally sold from a third party that is not the vehicle manufacturer that extends the life (mileage and time) of the basic warranty

Exterior camera

A video camera usually mounted on the rear of the vehicle to show video footage of objects behind the vehicle when reversing, on a display in the dashboard of the vehicle. NOTE: these video cameras generally look down only so you will not see any obstructions at or above camera height such as ceiling, wall or tree overhangs. It is important that video cameras are used to compliment ordinary driver awareness and checks and not relied upon.

Exterior mirrors adjustment type

This specifies whether the mirrors are manual or electronically adjustable. Also may specify whether the vehicle has a memory capability of driver positions and corresponding mirror positions that can be set by the driver

Factory-installed

Equipment that is installed by the Original Equipment Manufacturer of the vehicle at the assembly plant / factory

Fog lights

Low mounted lights at the front of the vehicle to light the way but mitigate glare in the fog. Rear mounted, very bright red light(s) to notify following vehicles of your presence in the fog

Fuel consumption

A measure of how effectively a car uses fuel – i.e. how much fuel do you need to use to travel 100km. Sometimes expressed as kilometers per litre but more commonly in litres per hundred kilometers travelled. Companies generally differencial between city driving consumption (in traffic, stop start) and highway or freeway consumption (on the open road – which is more efficient)

Fuel economy

A measure of how effectively a car uses fuel – i.e. how much fuel do you need to use to travel 100km. Sometimes expressed as kilometers per litre but more commonly in litres per hundred kilometers travelled. Companies generally differencial between city driving consumption (in traffic, stop start) and highway or freeway consumption (on the open road – which is more efficient)

FWD

Front wheel drive vehicle. This is the standard for entry level and moderately powered cars as they do not require significant rear wheel traction. FWD cars may be considered safer as the rear wheels follow the path of the driven front wheels which can be particularly helpful in oversteer situations

Gap insurance

Sometimes, in an accident, there is a gap between what you insurance will pay out and what the cost of repair or replacement is. You can get a separate insurance policy to cover the potential gap if you don’t have lots of money in the bank to cover this kind of thing

GPS

Global Positioning Satellite or Global Positioning System – the satelitte infrastructure and coordinate system we use for GPS navigation. The reason why no one knows how to read a map anymore. The reason men never have to ask for directions ever again…

Gross vehicle weight

A measure of how much the car will weigh “all in” – including car, standard equipment, petrol and operating fluids, cargo as capacity and passengers at capacity

Ground clearance

The distance in millimetres between a level surface (effectively tyre level) and the lowest point of the car, measured with standard equipment but no passengers or cargo. Generally used to determine how “off road” a car can be comparitively. Not used to actually measure what you can drive over

GVW

Gross vehicle weight: A measure of how much the car will weigh “all in” – including car, standard equipment, petrol and operating fluids, cargo as capacity and passengers at capacity

Gyro sensor

An electronic device that is used by the car’s GPS and / or compass to determine the direction the car is travelling in / facing. Can be used by sme systems to determine the degree of acceleration and deceleration (braking) of the drive

Frontal airbags

Airbags generally fitted in the front of the car in the steering wheel and passenger side dashboard to protect the front passengers from hitting these hard surfaces in a serious collision from front or back. Compliments seatbelts

Head airbags

Same as Curtain Airbags. This refers to airbags that run down the side of the car to protect passenger from banging their heads on windows and pillars in the event of a side impact or roll of the car
Head room Headroom has an actual measure – it’s not just “a little tight in the back” or “not for tall drivers” as some reviews say. Headroom is measured from a passengers hip position to the interior of the roof of the car. Not a commonly quoted specification however

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Head unit

Another name for the infotainment control system at front and centre

Headlight washers

Little sprayers (and sometimes even mini wipers) for car headlights. Particularly useful for SUVs when travelling in muddy and dusty conditions. Those little stick on eye-lashes don’t really do much…

Heads-up display

A display mechanism that projects a picture / information onto the windscreen (generally bottom centre), for the driver, and does not require its own screen

Horse Power

A measure of engine power as related to the power of horses. Still used in some places – we metric users have smarter measures like kilowatts and torque. 1 horsepower is approximately 746 watts. So a 100kW engine is roughly 134 horsepower (times 1,000 and divide by 746)

HP

Horsepower. A measure of engine power as related to the power of horses. Still used in some places – we metric users have smarter measures like kilowatts and torque. 1 horsepower is approximately 746 watts. So a 100kW engine is roughly 134 horsepower (times 1,000 and divide by 746)

Hybrid

A car that uses more than one power source – typically petrol and electric like the Toyota Prius

Hybrid engine

A car engine that uses more than one power source – typically petrol and electric like the Toyota Prius

Infotainment

A blend of information (navigation) and entertainment (music and radio) – the infotainment system is the integrated guidance and entertainment system that usually comes with a touchscreen nowadays

Instrument Cluster

This is the set of counters in front of the steering wheel – typically, fuel gauge, warning lights, temperature gauge, rev counter, odometer and speed indicator

Integrated side mirror indicator

Indicator (turning) lights built into the side mirrors for added visibility for other road users

Interior trim

The finishes of the cabin (dashboard, centre console, doors and seats) – can be plastic, wood, chrome, leather or other materials

Key Fob

Generally used to describe an integrated key and remote device – used to lock and unlck the car, open the boot, and start the car. Some can switch on lights remotely and sound alarm remotely

Keyless entry

Technology that allows a transmitter to let the car know you are near and unlock – or a boring old remote where you push a button to open the doors

Keyless ignition

Driver presses a stop start button to start the car without inserting a key. A transmitter in the key lets the car know it is present

Knee airbags

Airbags integrated into the underside of the dashboard to protect driver and front passengers knees in the event of an impact

Lane departure warning system

LDWS. A system that tracks the position of the lanes on the road and alerts the driver if the unintentionally stray over the lines

LDWS

Lane departure warning system. A system that tracks the position of the lanes on the road and alerts the driver if the unintentionally stray over the lines

LED

Light emitting diode bulbs – bright, concentrated light with long lifespans. Can be used in daylights, headlights and brakelights

Leg room

Like headroom – this is an actual measurement – the distance from the bottom curve of the leg well (heel point of passenger) to the position of the passengers hip joint on the chair

Limited Slip Differential

This mechanisms ensures that power is sent to both wheels in the event that one has no traction or is raised off the ground. Standard differentials would send all power to the raised wheel in order to try gain traction and no power to the wheel with traction

Luggage capacity

A measure of storage space in cubic centimetres – does not account for shape, only volume

Manual (transmission)

A transmission (gear system) that requires the used of a clutch to change gears with the gear lever. Americans can never seem to be able to drive these in the Amazing Race.

Manufacturers engine code

This is a unique alpha-numeric code marked on engines by the manufacturer – like a serial number – to to track engines and the cars that they are in

Marie biscuit

This is a small spare wheel supplied with some smaller cars. It is intended to tide you over until you reach a repair centre to repair or replace a damaged tyre. Generally limited to 80 km/h (for good reason)

 

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Max Torque RPM

The revs per minute that generates the maximum torque by the engine

Model

Manufacturers differenciate their various ranges through a model name or number (Fiesta vs EcoSport; 320 vs M3). Within a model range, you get different “variant”s with different engine sizes, extras, styling and so forth

Model year

This is the year that the particular model or version was manufacturer. Often confused with year of first registration

MPG

Miles per gallon. A silly imperial system term.

MSRP

Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price or List Price – this is the price the car is advertised at by the manufacturer. Dealerships often offer cars below this price to compete with one another

Navigation system

Generally refers to an integrated GPS navigation system as either standard or an optional extra. Not to be confused with portable Garmin and TomTom devices that are not integrated into the cars infotainment interface

Number of speeds

Number of gears – normally 1 to 5 (5 speed gearbox) or 1 to 6 (6 speed gearbox)

OEM

Original Equipment Manufacturer. The guys that designed and built the car – Toyota, Ford, VW, BMW, etc

One-touch windows

Windows that can be rolled all the way down with a single solid depress of the electronic window toggle. Generally can be rolled up with a single solid lift of the toggle (although not all models allow this)

Optional equipment

This is generally equipment that is purchased from and fitted by the dealership – generally specifid as optional extras on the spec sheets

Oversteer

This is either the tendency of a cars steering mechanism to turn the car more than the driver intended. Or, this is when you turn a corner too sharply and the back of the car wants to swing out, causing you to lose control. This would happen if travelling too fast and turning too aggressively for that speed, or due to loss of traction because of water or other causes. Whenstunt drivers drift cars, they intentionally initiate an oversteer (see Fast & Furious…)

Parking assist / Park Assist

ASSIST is when the car uses positioning technology to determine its proximity from obstacles and PARKS ITSELF. As opposed to Parking Sensors

Parking lights

Generally a single rear or brake light on the road side of the parked car that remains on to improve visibility of the parked car to road users

Parking senors

Sensors on the back and sometimes front bumper that emit an audible distance warning – allowing the driver to both identify potential obstructions and / or measure the distance from an obstruction. The shorter the beeps, the closer the obstruction. Not fool proof – do your driver checks and use the parking sensors as a supporting tool

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Passenger memory settings

Settings for seat positions for the front passenger seat can be stored and recalled

Push button

Ignition start / stop button used to switch engine on and off – generally doesn’t require a key or the key fob to be inserted, just present

Rain-sensing wipers

A rainfall sensor picks up the presence and intensity of rain. The wipers are activated automatically and the speed controlled automatically. The sensitivity of the speed settings can be adjusted to suit the driver. Manual overrides are provided

Rear spoiler

This is the aero-dynamic “fin” that you see on the back of Subaru WRX’s and the like. In the case of hatchbacks, they are often integrated into the top of the boot’s door. Mostly for show. Actually, totally for show.

Regenerative braking

A system generally used in hybrids that captures energy from the brakes and converts it into electric energy to further charge the car’s batteries

Remote start

A car that can be started by a button on the key fob. Helpful in cold conditions where you want to warm up the car.

Remote boot opening / release

The ability to open the boot of the car with a button on the remote. May include the ability to close with a button on the remote or on the boot itself

Remote window operation

The ability to open or close the windows of the car with the remote – helpful to cool the car down on a hot summers day before jumping in. Merge with remote start and air conditioning and you’ve made it!

Roadside assistance

Some insurance companies include roadside assistance in their policies. Or else there is the AA. Whether it is a flat battery, wheel nut that is too tight, or being broken down in a dodgy area, roadside assistance is really worth it

Roof rack

These are two racks that fit across the roof of the car to carry luggage, canoes, mountain bikes, etc

Roof rail

Roof rails are two rails that run along the length of the roof from front to back and are the easiest things to attach roof racks to. They are generally integrated into the cars design but may be optional extras

Rotating tyres

The process of swapping tyres around to increase their life span. The front left is swapped with the rear right and the front right swapped with the rear left. Should be done every 10,000 to 20,000km or annually with the annual service. Not to be confused with tyre balancing

RPM

Revs per minute – the number of times a piston drives a full revolution of the crankshaft

Rear engine

Cars like the old VW Beetle and the Porsche that have their engines in the back rather than he front. This puts more weight on the rear wheels for traction

Run flat tyres

Tyres that are specially built to be able to be driven on, at lower speeds, when they are flat. This eliminates the need to put on a spare in order to drive to a tyre repair centre

RWD

Rear wheel drive cars. The driven wheels of the car are the two back wheels. This is particularly helpful in performance cars as the weight shifts to the back in raid acceleration and this places more frictional force (and hence traction) on the driven wheels to mitigate wheel spin and maximise power transfer from tyres to road surface. RWD can be less helpful in oversteer situations as it may exacerbate the propensity of the rear of the car to push past the front and make the oversteer worse / spin out entirely. Do an advanced drivers course on a skid pan with both a FWD and RWD car – there is a reason they use FWD MINI Cooper S’s in Italian Job…

 

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Service plan

This is an insurance policy that covers the cost of your required services. It is different to a warranty and often runs over a different time frame

Seat adjustment type

Either manual with bars and levers and dials, or electronic (with or without presetting and memory)

Seat belts

If you don’t know what these are, you shouldn’t have a drivers license. Please move along, nothing to see here…

Seating capacity

This is the number of people that can be seated AND properly restrained in the vehicle by seatbelts. Generally 2, 5 and 7 until you get to vans.

Self-leveling headlights

Headlights that automatically adjust to the cars load to ensure that they shine level to the road and not into the eyes of oncoming traffic

Side airbags

Small airbags on the outsides of the seat to protect a passengers ribcage from impact with the door

Skid plate

Generally found in serious SUVs – the skid plate is there to protect the front part of the under-carriage against bumps and scratches from boulders, ridges and other obstacles

SmartKey

Refers to a keyfob that can lock and unlock the car and keyless start the car. May have additional features such as keyless entry, remote start, light switch, window open and close

Spare

The spare tyre – generally found along with wheels spanner and jack in the bottom of the boot. Sometimes attached to the rear base of the car under the boot to optimise space. May be Marie-biscuit type or may be a full spare

Speed-sensitive volume control

This volume control caters for road and wind noise – the faster you go, the higher the wind, road and engine noise, so it adjusts the volume up by a preset proportion. On slowing it will lower the volume in the same way so the music isnt blaring

Speed-sensitive wipers

Windscreen wipers that automatically cater for road speed. Where auto wipers will activate and cater for amount of rain, these will also cater for the speed of your car

Speedometer

The thing that tells you how fast you are going

Spoiler

This is the aero-dynamic “fin” that you see on the back of Subaru WRX’s and the like. In the case of hatchbacks, they are often integrated into the top of the boot’s door. Mostly for show. Actually, totally for show.

Stability control

Electronic Stability Control or ESC. A system that monitors traction of the four tyres and detects any slippage or skids. The system then automatically controls the brakes to each wheel, and in some cases reduces engine power, until sufficient traction is regained to maintain control of the vehicle

Start-stop

This is a mechanisms that automatically stops the engine when stationary for a specified time and then restarts the engine when the brake pedal is depressed and / or the accelerator is engaged. This is a fuel saving mechanism

Steering column lock

This is a mechanism that locks the steering wheel into one position when the steering is locked (key in the remove position). With keyless starters, the system locks the steering when the engine is switched on

Steering wheel adjustment

This is a mechanism that allows you to adjust the steering wheel up and down to cater for the drivers height and size

Steering wheel controls

These are controls integrated into the steering wheel – typically for infotainment system and cruise control

Strapping hooks

Hooks on the structure of the car used to tie the car down during transport – NOT TO BE USED FOR TOWING as it may cause serious damage to your car or snap the hook off

Sunshade

These are retractable blinds built into the back doors of the car to shield children from direct sunlight and glare. Also provides a level of privacy

Supercharger

This is an air compressor that increases the density and temperature of the air pumped into the cylinders. This creates more fire-power in the cylinders and increases the output of the engine. This is run off crankshaft energy – as opposed to turbocharger which is a turbine that runs off exhaust pressure

SUV

Sports Utility Vehicle. They now come in mini, crossover, city, country and hardcore segments so becoming less descriptive as a stand alone term

Tachometer

The thing that measures the revolutions (revs) of the engine

Tail lights

The rear lights, brakelights, indicators and reverse lights are collective called tail lights

Tyre balancing

This is a process of rotating a tyre at speed and placing a small weight on the tyre to ensure it doesn’t wobble at high speed due to imbalances across the tyre. If you have ever fely a car’s steering start shaking at high speed, its probably because one or more of the wheel’s balancing is out

Tyre diameter

The tyres diameter in inches from edge to edge through the centre

Tyre pump

The air or nitrogen pump found at petrol stations

Tyre inflator sealant cartridge

Car tyres are tubeless and need to have flush contact between the wheel rim and tyre to properly inflate – the easiest way to do this is with a burst of air. Compressed air cartridges do this. They are filled with a sealant to plug small holes that may cause punchers / deflation. Some damage wont be fixed by these and you’ll have to change the tyre

Tyre numbers

Tyre prefix

This shows what the tyre is meant for: P for passenger, LT for Light Trucks, etc

Tyre pressure monitoring system

Some cars have a electronic system that measures tyre pressure and alerts you if they are running low or flat

Tyre profile

The number which show the tyres width to height ratio. See our blog article on Tyre 101

Tyre size

Information is given on the tyre and inside the driver door well by the latch as to the correct tyre size for the car. See our Tyre 101 for a comprehensive explanation

Tyre speed rating

Information is given on the tyre of the maximum speed it can safely withstand (tests are done in 10 km/h increments over 10 minute intervals to determine that the tyre can safely handle the speed without deforming or being damaged)

Tyre valve

This is the valve on the car’s tyre that you connect the tyre pump to to inflate the tyre

Torque

Torque is a good measure of how easily you can overtake someone at mid to high speeds. In semi-technical terms, it’s a measure of how forcefully it can turn the crankshaft at any given speed to initiate acceleration

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Kilowatts

kW’s measure power – the ability to change fuel into movement. Kilowatts are a good measure of acceleration at low speeds – like 0 – 100 km/h

kW

Kilowatts – measure power – the ability to change fuel into movement. Kilowatts are a good measure of acceleration at low speeds – like 0 – 100 km/h

Tow hooks

Hooks built into the chassis of the car for towing purposes – strong and specially placed on the car to avoid damage or harmful forces being placed on the body and structure of the car in towing. NOT TO BE CONFUSED with strapping hooks! Strapping hooks are to tie down the car for transporting and not to be used for towing! They look similar – know the difference!

Towing capacity

This is the maximum weight the car can safely tow – trailer weight plus cargo – in kilograms

Traction control

Traction control uses brakes to cut power to a spinning wheel to send that power elsewhere. It may also control engine power or cylinders firing. In off road vehicles this is helpful when a wheel may be elevated and have no contact with the ground – the traction control system will reroute that power to other wheels which have traction. This is quite different to Electronic Stability Control which cuts power to one to three wheels to regain traction in a spin. Traction control thinks about one wheel. ESP considers all four to try move the car back towards the intended direction when some or all control is lost

Transfer Case

A transfer case connects the transmission to the front and rear axles, transferring power to all four wheels

Transmission

This is the gear mechanism in the car – which transfers power from the engine to the wheels. Typically manual transmission, automatic transmission or CVT (continuous variable-drive transmission).

Trip computer

This electronic device measures things like trip distance (often has two trip settings that can be reset independently by the drive), fuel consumption, remaining petrol range, etc – depending on its sophistication

Turbocharger

This is a turbine, driven by the car’s exhaust flow, that pushes more air and fuel into the cylinders to get greater engine output than you would get from normal atmospheric pressure. At higher altitudes, these are particularly helpful. Compare to a supercharger which is mechanically driven by the crankshaft

Turning circle

The diameter of the circle the car makes when it turns a full 360 degrees

Two-stage unlocking

One press of the unlock button on the remote only unlocks the driver’s door. Second press unlocks all other doors and boot

Understeer

This can either be a characteristic of the cars steering sensitivity where the car turns less than is intended by the driver. Or, this is when a car is travelling too fast to enter a corner and skids forward instead of turning. This often happens when aquaplaning. The steering and wheels may be turned but the vehicle continues skidding forward along a different line. Compare to oversteer.

Vehicle Identification Number

VIN. Also known as chassis number. A unique identifying number which includes a serial number to identify cars, motorbikes, towed vehicles, trucks, etc, in line with ISO standard ISO 3833

VIN

Vehicle Identification Number.

Wheel alignment

Wheels are aligned to make sure that they run straight and true and in line with the vehicles steering mechanism. This is to ensure correct steering and mitigates excessiveor uneven wear and tear on one or all of the tyres. If you see uneven wear on your tyres, your alignment may be out. If you take your hands off the wheel when driving and the car drifts to the side, your wheel alignment may be out. Visit a repair shop as soon as possible.

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