From fan belts and brake callipers to catalytic converters and torque, the motoring world is full of weird and wonderful terms that can bamboozle even the most dedicated petrol heads.

But fear not, as the team have compiled a list of some of the most commonly used words, phrases and acronyms to do with driving.

Millions of British adults enjoy the luxury of driving and owning their own vehicles, but an alarming number will probably not know or understand much of the lingo associated with getting and keeping a vehicle on the road.

When it comes to your car’s annual MOT or you’re simply having some minor repairs done at the weekend, many of us are guilty of letting any motoring jargon heard in the garage slip in one ear and straight out the other.

But knowing your fan belt from your cam belt could be the vital nugget of information that saves you a hefty repair bill or an embarrassing break down on your morning commute.

Whilst some of the words and terminology are self-explanatory, others require some careful thought and dissection in order to really get to grips with what’s going on underneath the bonnet.

From A-Z, we’ve busted 25 pieces of motoring jargon:


This refers to the Anti-Lock Braking System – the system that takes control of your brakes when it senses that your wheels may lock up and cause skidding. The ABS rapidly applies and releases your brakes, to help give you steering control under heavy braking.


Car wheels made of aluminium, rather than steel. They’re mostly chosen for style reasons, plus they weigh a lot less too.

Brake calliper

The brake calliper is the part of the brake that squeezes the brake disc when you press down the foot pedal, slowing the rotation of the wheels.

Cam belt

The cam belt is a rubber belt that drives the moving parts inside the top of the engine. It can also be referred to as the timing belt, and they have specified replacement intervals so it’s imperative to have your cam belt replaced on schedule. If your car’s cam belt breaks, it can cause huge damage that could cost thousands of pounds to repair.

Catalytic converter

Catalytic converters are fitted as part of the car’s exhaust and do a great job of reducing harmful emissions (e.g. carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide) by turning them into less harmful gases or water vapour.


The underpart of a motor vehicle, consisting of the frame on which the body is mounted.


Larger than a family hatchback but smaller than an SUV, the crossover is usually capable of carrying five adults while being modestly capable off-road too.

Cruise control

An electronic system that enables you to set a fixed speed for the car and then take your foot off the accelerator which can be good for long runs on motorways and A roads. Cruise control will automatically maintain a fixed speed until you brake or accelerate.


This stands for Driving Standards Agency. The DSA is responsible for setting driving test standards, carrying out driving tests and licensing driving instructors.


This acronym refers to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. The DVLA is a government agency responsible for issuing driving licences, vehicle registration documents and other related activities.


An estate is a type of car body that typically refers to vehicles that have a large, cubic boot area with a vertical ‘tailgate’ door at the back that incorporates the rear windscreen.


These are long pipes running from the side of the engine to the back of the car which help to get rid of waste gases. Modern car exhausts also help silence the engine and neutralise some of its gas emissions with a catalytic converter

Fan Belt

The fan belt uses the engine to drive things such as the alternator and water pumps. Fan belts tend to stretch and sometimes even fall off, so might need adjusting or replacing periodically.

Fog Lights

Additional front and rear lights that are specifically designed for use in foggy conditions. You shouldn’t use them at other times, as they can be dazzling to other drivers.


Cars where the passenger compartment and the boot are not separate, and the boot lid extends to the roof of the car, incorporating the rear windscreen.


A car that has both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor with batteries. The electric motor is used when possible with the regular engine providing additional power when necessary.


Horsepower is a unit used to measure a vehicle’s power output.


An immobiliser is a piece of electronic theft prevention equipment that is wired into your car’s engine and ignition system. When the immobiliser is active, you can’t start the engine – even with the key.


A type of car body where the boot and passenger area are completely separate. The boot lid will normally hinge at the bottom of the rear windscreen. Saloon bodies are most common on executive/luxury model cars and less so on family models.


This is purely a styling feature on most cars and is usually found as a raised lip on the boot. Otherwise, it’s an aerodynamic device with the purpose of ‘spoiling’ unwanted air movement across a body of a vehicle in motion – usually described as turbulence or drag.


A complicated spring setup at each corner of the car that allows the wheels to move independently of the chassis, reacting to bumps and unevenness in the road.


Torque is a measure of twisting force usually expressed in pound feet (lb ft) or newton metres (Nm), which effectively tells you how much pulling power an engine generates.


The patterns cut into the rubber on car tyres. When the tread wears down, tyres provide less grip, which is why there is a legal requirement to have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm across the central 75% of the width of your car’s tyres.


A turbo uses recirculated exhaust gases from the vehicle’s engine in order to generate extra power and improve efficiency.


This is a Vehicle Registration document, issued by the DVLA, that has all the details about your vehicle. This must be updated when you move to a new house or when you buy or sell a car, and you should never buy a new car without one.