Automotive Abbreviations and Acronyms

Posted Monday, Jan 25, 2021

The automotive industry loves automotive abbreviations and acronyms almost as much as the US military and teens on social media. In fact, if you look on your car’s instrument cluster, owner’s manual, or back panel, you’ll see many such abbreviations: ABS, TPMS, GL-S, and so forth. Well, this begs the question, “What do all of these automotive abbreviations and acronyms mean?” If you're curious, or you just had a tech scan your OBD and diagnose your car as having a failing ECU or CVT, or you’re debating between buying a BEV or FCEV, read on.

automotive abbreviations and acronymsABS- Anti-lock Braking System. This is the system that prevents the wheels from completely locking when the brakes are applied; hence, it keeps the car from skidding during a stop. In other words, the system “pumps the brakes” for you and shortens the stopping distance.

AC or A/C- Air Conditioning. Self explanatory.

ACC- depends on the context. On your fuse diagram or your ignition, refers to Accessory. On newer cars, can refer to Adaptive Cruise Control, a system that uses radar or lasers to modulate speed such that your vehicle remains at a predetermined distance from the vehicle in front of you. Lastly, if you're a Tigers fan like me, it stands for the Atlantic Coast Conference (the college conference that Clemson dominates in football every year).

AEB- Adaptive Emergency Braking. Another current safety feature that automatically applies the brakes if an object is detected in the vehicle’s path and presents danger.

AEV- All-electric vehicle. A vehicle that is powered entirely by electricity as opposed to a hybrid.

A/T- Automatic Transmission. Self explanatory.

AUX- Auxiliary. Can refer to an auxiliary power supply, but most commonly is the auxiliary port for an external audio device. However, Bluetooth technology has replaced these.

AWD- All Wheel Drive. In contrast to 4-wheel drive, AWD is a powertrain in which any wheel, or combination of wheels, can receive power from the transmission.

BEV- Battery Electric Vehicle. An AEV that stores and draws current from batteries, as opposed to a FCEV.

BHP- Brake Horsepower. The standard unit to designate power in the US.

BMW- Bayerische Motoren Werke, or Bavarian Motor Works in English.

CEL- Check Engine Light. The ever-dreaded engine symbol that illuminates on the dash when you have some engine issue. I’ve found that it almost always has to do with oxygen-sensors. They seem to fail with the same frequency as ill-conceived government programs. Regardless, have your OBD scanned soon after seeing a CEL.

CO and CO2- Carbon Monoxide and Carbon Dioxide. Both are emitted from burning fuels.

CVT- Continuously Variable Transmission. Although you don’t have to manually shift gears in a CVT, it differs from an automatic transmission in that an A/T has gears within while a CVT has two pulleys, which can effectively change diameters, linked by some manner of belt. Therefore, it has an infinite number of ratios between its lowest and highest ratios.

DFI- Direct Fuel Injection. An engine in which fuel is injected directly into the cylinders.

DOHC- Dual OverHead Cam. An engine that has separate cams for the intake and exhaust valves. Obviously, these cams are housed above the cylinder heads.

DPF- Diesel Particulate Filter. A device that burns off emissions particles in diesel exhaust. Think diesel catalytic convertor.

DRL- Daytime Running Lights. Front lights that are illuminated anytime the engine is running. Marketed as a safety feature. Maybe, but just another bulb to replace.

EBC- Electronic Brake Control. The system that attaches to, and sends signals through, the electric hook-up from the vehicle to a towed trailer whereby the trailer’s brakes are recruited.

EBD- Electronic Brake Distribution. The system that manipulates the braking force applied to each wheel for more effective stopping.

ECU- Electronic Control Unit. Usually what is meant by the vehicle’s “computer,” it regulates all aspects of an engine’s variable controls.

EGR- Exhaust Gas Recirculation. The system that routes some of the exhaust gases back into the intake for reduced emissions.

EPS- Electric Power Steering. A newer power steering system that relies on servos to assist in turning the wheels as opposed to hydraulics.

ESC- Electronic Stability Control. The system that can apply brakes and control power to each wheel to keep the vehicle going in the direction the driver intends even in cases of limited traction.

EV- Electric Vehicle. Any vehicle that is powered at least partially by an electric motor. Includes AEVs, BEVs, FCEVs, and PHEVs. There are others, but enough’s enough!

FCEV- Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicle. An AEV that stores power as compressed hydrogen. They extract this power by combining the hydrogen with atmospheric oxygen inside a fuel cell thereby creating electric current. Since it combines hydrogen and oxygen, the only emissions are water and air.

FWD- Front Wheel Drive. A drivetrain in which the power is transmitted solely to the front wheels.

GPS- Global Positioning System. It tells your position on the globe, and it directs your car's navigation system. But you have a smartphone- you know about GPS.

GVW- Gross Vehicle Weight. The maximum recommended weight of the vehicle when fully loaded.

ICE- Internal Combustion Engine. Gasoline and diesel engines. And those running on peanut oil.

KPH- Kilometers Per Hour. How you measure your speed elsewhere.

LDAS- Lane Departure Avoidance System. A modern system that assists you in staying within your current lane.

LED- Light Emitting Diode. Modern lighting that boasts much longer lifespan that conventional bulbs.

LSD- Limited Slip Differential. A device that regulates the power sent to each wheel to minimize wheel spin. On another note, if you’re wanting to experience synesthesia, LSD is an illicit substance that will aid in that endeavor.

MPG- Miles Per Gallon. The standard unit of measurement in the US for fuel-efficiency; many countries use miles per liter.

MPH- Miles Per Hour. The standard unit of measurement in the US for vehicle speed. Or, the standard unit of measurement on the backroads for intestinal fortitude.

MPV- Multi-Purpose Vehicle. A crossover vehicle maximized for space and utility.

NA- Naturally Aspirated. A vehicle devoid of forced induction. No superchargers, turbochargers, or compressed air here.

OBD- On-Board Diagnostics. The interface whereby the vehicle’s computer can be accessed for diagnosis of engine attributes, running conditions, and issues.

OD- Overdrive. A final gear ratio in a transmission of higher than 1.0:1. Sometimes, there’s a button for locking your automatic transmission from shifting into overdrive. Just in case you haven’t burned enough fuel recently.

OEM- Original Equipment Manufacturer. A parts supplier that manufactured the parts originally, as opposed to aftermarket suppliers.

PCV- Positive Crankcase Ventilation. A one-way valve that releases gases that slipped around the pistons into the crankcase.

PHEV- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. A vehicle powered by both an electric motor and an ICE. Additionally, the on-board batteries can be charged by the ICE or via a plug.

RPM- Revolutions Per Minute. A unit of measurement of the speed of rotation of the crankshaft.

RWD- Rear Wheel Drive. A drivetrain in which the power is transmitted solely to the rear wheels. More conducive to power oversteer than FWD; hence better for drifting.

SRS- Supplemental Restraint System. The airbag system.

SUV- Sport Utility Vehicle. A passenger vehicle often based on a truck chassis combining the room of a wagon or van with the ground clearance of the truck.

TCS- Traction Control System. The system that monitors and prevents wheel slippage for increased traction. A great safety feature, but it limits the vehicle’s fun if you wanna go drifting- that’s why the button to disengage TCS is there!

TPMS- Tire Pressure Monitoring System. The system that will alert when a tire has below the recommended air pressure. Some TPMS even specify which tire. If you want to know you to properly evaluate your tires' pressures, go here: How to Check Tire Pressure and Inflate/Deflate Accordingly

ULEV- Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle. Just because people seem to be in love with abbreviations ending in EV.

VIN- Vehicle Identification Number. The “serial” number of that particular automobile. It can be found on the chassis, a tag in the lower left of the windshield, a plate on the B-pillar, and the car’s title.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it contains the most common automotive abbreviations and acronyms you’ll encounter, IMHO.

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