12 Terms That’ll Make Understanding Car Jargon Easy, Not Irritating

by | Oct 25, 2018 | Life

Torque, diff lock, ABS… Car jargon sounds like a different language to some. Expert, Juliet McGuire translates some of the most commonly used motoring terms.


An antilock braking system prevents the wheels from locking when you brake. Basically, if you slam on brakes, especially in an emergency situation, the ABS will maintain tractive contact with the road surface and will help to avoid uncontrolled skidding.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Like cruise control, this system keeps your car at a constant speed but also monitors the traffic ahead and reduces or increases the car’s speed based on the flow of traffic. It’s a form of autonomous driving and can make those long road trips far more relaxing.

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Also referred to as 4WD or four-wheel drive, all-wheel-drive powers all four wheels unlike a front-wheel drive (FWD) car, which only sends power to the front wheels. AWD drive means better traction and therefore safety and so it is often the preferred option.


This mechanical device allows the wheels of a car to turn at different speeds. A diff-lock is designed to overcome this and locks two wheels, which is useful on uneven terrain. You will find a diff-lock on most hard-core 4X4 vehicles – not on your average AWD SUVs.


Full service history – this is something you definitely want to see when buying a second-hand car. It should show a full log of regular services and maintenance stamps from accredited service centres. Do not compromise on this, it is one of the guarantees you have that the car has been well looked after.

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A hybrid car uses two different types of engines (a petrol engine and an electric engine) to propel itself. These cars usually have very low CO2 emissions and are eco-friendly, leaving behind a smaller carbon footprint. Read about the new BMW i8 Roadster (right).


This is the international standard attachment for child safety seats in a car. It eliminates the need to use seat belts to secure the seat. Basically, it’s the far more convenient way to attach a baby seat.


Noise, vibration, harshness. This is the search for and modification of the noise and vibration characteristics of a car. No one wants to have to shout over the rattles of the car and the rush of the wind while driving and chatting, so manufacturers go to great lengths to correct any problems.

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This is what can happen if you go into a corner too sharply and too quickly: the rear wheels lose grip so the back of the car starts to skid while the front remains in contact with the road. Don’t speed and you shouldn’t have a problem. Easy.


This occurs when you brake too hard when turning into a corner at a high speed. The front wheels lose adhesion before the rear wheels do and so the car tends to push in a straight line rather than follow the arc of a corner. With both understeering and oversteering, the best precaution is to drive slowly and carefully. If you don’t speed into corners, you won’t fall victim to either of these terms.


Simply put, torque is the engine’s rotational force – it refers to the amount of work an engine can exert. Think of it as the “oomph” or the “pulling power” of the car. So if power is an indicator of how fast a car can go, torque is about how hard it can push you towards that top speed. The heavier a car is, the more torque you will want in order to get it moving.

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Also known as ESP or DSC, electronic stability control applies brakes to a specific wheel when a loss of steering is detected. This helps with understeering or oversteering and is therefore a safety feature. It pretty much helps us out when we lose control of the car.

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