Glossary of car acronyms - Decoding cars

No clue what some words related to cars mean? We’ve got easy definitions for you

In the market for a new car and the jargon around it is littered with acronyms, or you’re reading an article and the features listed sound like made-up words from a three-year-old. Seriously, you’ve deciphered texts from a teenager quicker than you can figure out what this car has on offer. We’ve listed the most obvious and universal acronyms, and broken them down to a basic understandable level of what they do.

Glossary of Acronyms

ABS = Anti-lock Braking System

Not referring to your amazing six-pack or an Automatic Braking System as we often hear. ABS is there to make sure a car’s wheels don’t lock up and skid causing a loss of control when braking suddenly to avoid hitting something.

Fun fact: ABS does not mean a car stops instantly, it is not a law in South Africa that new cars need to have ABS.

EBD = Electronic Brakeforce Distribution

Often found alongside ABS, it’s an assistance feature that applies the force of the brakes differently to each wheel as needed so that the driver remains in control in emergency braking situations.

ESC = Electronic Stability Control

ESP = Electronic Stability Programme

DSC = Dynamic Stability Control

The above all refer to the same thing, an electronically controlled programme that keeps the wheels on the tarmac and not on the grass bank. How does it do this? Using sensors that detect which wheels have lost traction the system electronically does what it needs to do to fix it. Not all cars have this safety feature, and on high-performance cars you turn this feature off to utilise the cars full potential on a track.

Fun fact: Only arrived on cars in the mid-1990s and built by Bosch (yes, the fridge, dishwasher and power-tool people).

READ: Toyota C-HR gets facelift and new tech toys

FSH = Full Service History

It means the car has been serviced on time and by a manufacturer-approved outlet, the supporting evidence will be the service booklet with the dealer stamps and details of each service carried out.

HAS = Hill Start Assist, Hill Start Control

A great feature if you live in a hilly area and often need to stop on the incline of a hill. This electronic feature holds the brake pressure in ‘place’ for a few seconds as you move your foot from the brake pedal to the throttle to pull away. The feature prevents the car from rolling backwards and is great for drivers that struggle with clutch control.

“kW is about how fast you hit a wall, Nm (torque) is about how far you take the wall with you”

kW = Kilowatts        

This is how the power output of a car is measured. There are two formats of power measurement, in South Africa we use kilowatts – kW, the other is horsepower – hp, which we don’t use. The higher the number in front of the kW, the more power.

Nm = Newton metres

Torque is measured in Nm, and is the amount of force an engine can produce. Torque helps for going up hills and carrying heavy loads, diesel engines produce more torque than petrol engines as you’ll see in the list below.

A basic reference guide for how much power a car has can be referenced against popular models and their power figures as listed below.



Renault Kwid



Ford Figo



Suzuki Swift



Golf 7 1.4 TSI



BMW 320i



Mercedes Benz C220d



Mercedes Benz A250



VW Golf R





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