New vehicle features, technology and accessories have become more sophisticated and, in many ways, have become the main selling points on cars. But with every car company having a different name for their own system, it can get pretty confusing!
When you know the names of many of these systems, you can make better decisions about options you may want to purchase with or look for on your new car.
To help decode the language, here is a quick review to help put you at ease with understanding some of the more common terms.
- Adaptive Cruise Control: An advanced form of cruise control, where the car is fitted with radar to monitor the distance between it and the car in front. Most systems have the ability to set the following distance.
- All-Wheel Drive (AWD): A system where all four wheels can be driving at the same time, rather than just the two front or two rear wheels. Depending on the vehicle, computer controls may engage all wheels all of the time or only two wheels until the tyres lose some grip.
- ANCAP: The Australasian New Car Assessment Program provides car buyers with independent information on the level of safety provided by cars in the event of a serious accident. Ratings are given between 1 star, the lowest rating, to 5 star, the highest rating.
- Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS): ABS uses electronic sensors to detect whether when one or more wheels have stopped turning and begun to skid (or locked up) during heavy braking. When this happens, the brakes then momentarily release until traction is regained allowing the wheels to turn and letting the driver steer.
- Bi-Xenon HID (High Intensity Discharge) headlamps: A form of lighting technology where both the brightness and colour temperature are increased over standard halogen lamps.
- Cabin Air Filter: A filter which removes dust, pollen and other airborne particles from the air coming in to the vehicle through the air conditioning or heater vents.
- Common Rail Diesel: A modern type of diesel engine providing less noise and vibration, and lower fuel consumption. Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT): Becoming more popular, it is a transmission that can change seamlessly through an infinite number of ‘gears’ between a set minimum and maximum. This can provide better fuel economy than conventional transmissions, as the engine can stay at its optimal efficiency.
- Direct Petrol Injection: A type of fuel injection used in modern petrol engines which can bring improved fuel efficiency and reduced emission levels. Can also be abbreviated as GDI or Gasoline Direct Injection.
- Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD): A braking system that electronically distributes braking between the front and rear wheels under heavy stopping conditions to balance the car. This helps reduce your stopping distance. This is a different system to ABS.
- Electronic Control Unit (ECU): An electronic system that controls many functions in the engine, such as ignition, timing and fuel delivery.
- Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) or Electronic Stability Control (ESC): An electronic system that monitors vehicle speed and direction, and compares this data to how much the driver is steering and braking. It therefore helps the driver maintain control during difficult driving conditions by helping to keep the car straight. In some cars this system cannot be completely switched off. Other common names used for this technology include Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Active Stability Control (ASC), Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
- Emergency Brake Assist (EBA): Is a safety system designed to apply maximum brake pressure when the system senses a rapid release of the accelerator pedal and application of the brakes.
- Front Wheel Drive: a type of engine/transmission layout where the engine at the front of the vehicle powers only the front wheels.
- Lane Departure Warning: A safety system which can ‘read’ line markings on the road surface and alert the driver when they are unintentionally crossed.
- Limited Slip Differential (LSD): Splits the power evenly between two drive wheels to maximise traction. It prevents one wheel from spinning when the other wheel is stationary.
- Park Assist: A relatively new system which can identify an empty car space and automatically steer the car into the space, with only minor input from the driver.
- Park Distance Control (PDC): A system which uses proximity sensors mounted on the rear and/or front bumper of the vehicle to warn the driver of objects surrounding the vehicle. Warnings can be audible, visual or a combination of both.
- Rear Differential Lock: An electromechanical system that locks both rear axles together providing them with equal drive power. For use in limited traction low-grip off-road situations.
- Rear Wheel Drive: a type of engine/transmission layout where the engine at the front of the vehicle powers only the rear wheels.
- Traction Control System (TCS): An electronic system that senses slippage at the drive wheels and reduces engine power, or applies the brakes, to regain traction.
- Variable Valve Timing (VVT) – Variable Cam Timing (VCT): Monitors and adapts the timing of variables in the intake and/or exhaust valves or camshaft to improve engine efficiency for better performance and fuel economy. Other common industry names for this technology include Honda’s VTEC and i-VTEC systems, Mitsubishi’s MIVEC and VVTL-i from Toyota.
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