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24 Motoring Acronyms Every Car Owner Should Know

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As a car owner, you’ve probably come across lots of terms and acronyms – and you’ve perhaps not always known exactly what they meant. You’re in luck, as this week we’ve created this handy guide to common motoring acronyms and their meanings to make things clearer. 

ABS (Anti-lock Braking System)

A safety feature present in all modern cars. ABS ensures that, during sudden braking, the wheels do not lock up. This helps tyres to maintain their grip on the road, which improves vehicle stability and assists the car in braking more safely. If you have noticed an ABS warning light on your dashboard, it could indicate that the ABS is faulty or deactivated. 

AC (Air Conditioning)

A vehicle air conditioning system maintains comfortable interior temperatures by cooling the air which is pumped in through vents. This feature is incorporated into most modern cars as standard. 

AUX (Auxiliary Port)

An auxiliary port refers to a car audio system’s in-built jack or port which allows any device to connect, as long as it possesses the standard headphone connection. This enables a motorist to easily channel their device’s audio output through the vehicle speakers. 

BHP (Brake Horsepower)

BHP is a way of referring to the amount of power that a car engine can produce. Brake horsepower tells you how much work an engine can do, while still considering any power loss brought on by braking or friction. Generally speaking, the higher the BHP, the greater the engine’s power. 

DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting)

A digital radio is common in most modern vehicles, and works to broadcast the radio via digital means rather than by an analogue signal. This grants a motorist access to a wider range of radio stations on a national level, and generally experiences less interference than its analogue cousin. 

DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter)

A feature fitted exclusively to diesel cars. Diesel particulate filters were introduced in 2009 with the purpose of reducing engine particles, such as soot, from entering the wider atmosphere. These particles are harmful to humans, animals and the environment, so the introduction of DPFs was a vital step in combatting their expulsion from diesel vehicles. 

DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency)

Part of the UK Department for Transport, the DVSA is an agency which sets the standards for safe driving in the country. Their responsibilities, among many others, include conducting driving tests, approving people to become driving instructors and also MOT testers, and carrying out checks to ensure that any buses or lorries are roadworthy and safe to drive. They are also responsible for the evaluation of vehicle recalls and will also carry out roadside checks on vehicles. 

ECU (Engine Control Unit)

An ECU is essentially a device which controls a specific function, and a car may possess multiple ECUs to control different aspects of the car – ranging from steering control all the way to airbags and door locks. Most ECUs feature specific software which reads inputs from the vehicle in order to perform its designated function, and in this way, a car’s network of Engine Control Units can be seen as the vehicle’s brain. 

EV (Electric Vehicles)

Electric vehicles are powered by electricity. EVs are quickly growing in popularity as they do not produce the harmful emissions of gas and diesel engines, making them a more eco-friendly choice for motorists. They are usually fitted with a type of fuel cell or battery which must be charged up for the engine to power up.

GPS (Global Positioning System)

A well-known global navigation system. GPS technology is incorporated into many modern vehicles to inform motorists of the location of the vehicle – this is not only useful when driving, but is also a superb security feature for tracking the location of a stolen vehicle. 

ICE (Internal Combustion Engine)

An ICE is a standard vehicle engine that powers diesel and petrol cars. It was invented over 100 years ago and works by burning fossil fuels to generate its energy. Many world leaders are gradually moving away from the manufacture and sale of ICE vehicles, and phasing in greener alternatives, such as electric cars, for the benefit of the planet. 

LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle)

An LCV is any commercial vehicle which weighs in at 3500kg or less. Most commonly this refers to vans and pickups. 

MPG (Miles Per Gallon)

MPG is a measure of a car’s fuel economy that tells you how far a vehicle is able to travel on one gallon of fuel. This can help buyers to work out how expensive a certain car will be to run based on how much fuel it’s likely to consume over certain mileages. 

MPH (Miles Per Hour)

A common measurement of a vehicle’s speed. UK speed limits are always expressed in miles per hour. 

MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

MHEVs are cars which are fitted with a standard internal combustion engine that partners up with a small battery pack. This electric battery will assist with smaller manoeuvres, such as pulling away, which helps to lessen the burden on the combustion engine, thus saving fuel. However, as the name suggests, the influence of the electric battery component is only mild, and therefore these vehicles cannot run on electricity alone – the combustion engine still does most of the work. 

OBD (On-Board Diagnostics)

On-board diagnostics refers to a computer system built into a vehicle which monitors the overall health of the machine via a network of sensors. Once a fault has been identified, the system alerts the driver to minimise delays in the correction of any problems. 

ODO (Odometer)

An odometer tracks the distance travelled by a vehicle and is usually displayed on the vehicle dashboard. They measure distance in miles.  

PCP (Personal Contract Purchase)

PCP is a type of vehicle financing that is designed to make it easier to purchase a car when full funds are lacking. PCPs are loans that require you to pay a 10% deposit on the value of the car at the very beginning. This type of loan has many facets to it, and can be viewed as more of a long-term rental than a full purchase, as many who take out a PCP don’t always end up with full ownership of a car – this depends on what course of action you take once the contract is up. 

PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

A plug-in hybrid vehicle combines a standard combustion engine with a large electric battery, creating a ‘hybrid’ vehicle. Because the battery in a PHEV is quite large, longer distances can be travelled on the electric battery before the fuel engine has to kick in to help. This car type is seen as a good stepping stone between a full combustion engine and a full electric vehicle. 

RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)

RPM is a term that refers to how quickly a car is operating by measuring how many ‘rotations’ the engine makes within one minute. This information can be useful in diagnostic situations, as the RPM can relay important information about a vehicle’s efficiency and overall performance. 

SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification)

If you own a vehicle that you no longer wish to drive or park on public roads, you can apply for a SORN. Once approved, you won’t have to pay tax on this vehicle. As long as a SORN is in place, you will be disallowed from driving or parking it on public roads. 

SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle)

An SUV is a typically larger, taller and bulkier car with bigger wheels that can withstand being driven on a variety of tough terrains, and gives greater performance in all weathers. They are also usually more spacious and possess a larger boot. 

TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System)

A TPMS is an important in-built safety feature which alerts a driver if a tyre is under-inflated. By doing so, the driver can avoid travelling on a potentially dangerous under-inflated tyre and instead quickly resolve the issue. 

VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)

A VIN is a unique number given to every vehicle in order to identify it. The VIN is given to a car on the production line and cannot be changed – the number can be found in multiple locations throughout a car, including in the engine bay. The VIN is important because it allows vehicles to be tracked easily by the police in criminal and other types of situations, or to establish ownership of a vehicle. 


If you’re searching for a friendly, local autocentre, then look no further than Mr Tyre. We have over 35 branches across Central England, providing the full package of services for car owners – including tyre fitting, MOTs, servicing, and much more. With over 50 years of industry experience, we really know our stuff. Pay us a visit today. 

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