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Jargon-busting guide to talking about cars

Last Updated On Wed Mar 13 2024

Let’s be honest, the car world has a lot of confusing terminology. You might find yourself frowning when reading car reviews online, or losing interest in conversations with car-lovers as they hurl one term after another your way. What even is horsepower? And what can be “special” about fuel? If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry: we’ll explain these and other commonly-used but still confusing examples of car terminology below.

Horsepower (HP)

Horsepower measures the work rate or power output of a car engine, and the HP quoted by car manufacturers usually applies to the maximum amount of power an engine can generate.  Knowing a car’s horsepower helps drivers understand how well it can handle drag, weight, and related issues while on the road. But put simply: the more horsepower an engine boasts, the more powerful it is. (And yes, it did originate from measuring the power of steam engines versus actual horses!)

Special fuel

In Dubai and across the UAE, you’ll see two fuel types at fuel stations: Special 95 Octane and Super 98 Octane.  Octane ratings are numbers assigned to the performance quality of an engine and fuel: the higher a fuel’s Octane rating, the more compression it can take before it detonates. Fuels with lower Octane ratings can lead to “knocking” (when the air/fuel combination is off and fuel doesn’t burn as it should).  Super fuels are designed to offer more power per liter. If you have a powerful engine, the high pressures created might be too much for Special 95 fuel to withstand, so it’s always best to find out which is right for your car! For more information on Special vs Super fuels, check out this blog.

Hubcap

This is a pretty easy one to crack: a hubcap is that shiny metal disk that usually covers a wheel’s central area (AKA “the hub”).  Manufacturers add this to reduce the amount of damage your wheels take from debris (rocks, stones, etc.). They also help to safeguard nuts and bolts from rust and corrosion, often caused by exposure to moisture. 

LPG

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) is seen as a more eco-friendly type of fuel as it generates less exhaust CO2. That makes it a welcome option for drivers conscious of their carbon footprint and keen to reduce it in simple but effective ways.  LPG is a flammable combination of butane and propane. You might also see or hear it referred to as Auto Propane and Autogas. 

Vehicle Registration Number

A Vehicle Registration Number is a combination of letters and digits displayed on a car’s front and rear plates. These are essential additions to any vehicle, as they’re used to identify vehicles for legal and taxation purposes. Here in the UAE, each Emirate has its own unique vehicle registration plate system and design. For example, Dubai’s plates include as many as two letters (A or AA) and up to five numbers. But in Ajman, plates can carry one of six letters and as many as five digits. 

MPV

An MPV is a Multi-Purpose Vehicle. This type of vehicle is designed with a focus on maximizing cabin space, ideal for families looking for more room in the back than standard cars provide. They usually include between five and seven seats.  While more and more people are turning to SUVs, MPVs still have their place, too!

Coupé

A coupé is a car with two doors, a sloped rear, and a fixed roof. They have a sporty, sleek look that many drivers prefer to saloons, though the two-door format might put others off.

Autopilot

Autopilot is a new feature in cutting-edge cars, automating the power to manage basic driving functions. It can handle acceleration, steering, and braking automatically, but it’s not the same as having a self-driving car.  You can’t switch a car to Autopilot mode and take a nap while it drives you to work every day. You need to stay alert and be ready to take the wheel instantly to stay safe.

Cruise control

Often confused with autopilot, a car’s cruise control function maintains a specific speed, without the driver’s foot being on the accelerator. Cruise control should only be used when it’s safe to drive at the same, steady speed — when you’re on the highway, for example.

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