RV Definitions & Terms
There is potentially a boatload of terms when it comes to RVing, hoping to cover quite a few but by no means is this an exhaustive list, those who say they have the exhaustive list are lying 😊.
Am I missing some, feel free to email me info@RVingForNewbies.com to suggest edits to this page.
Links to Alphabetical listing
120 Volts AC: Power source which most RV appliances operate on, which includes (but not limited to), some refrigerators, outlets, microwave, dishwasher, washer/dryer, air conditioners and to charge your RV battery.
12 Volts DC: aka battery power, needed for fan on the furnace and to ignite the propane, same for some refrigerators for their control board and to light propane, most of the ceiling fans that vent to the outside, most of the lights (although some are 120V).
4-Pin Electrical Connector: This supplies power from the tow vehicle to the RV for lights only.
7-Pin Electrical Connector: This not only supplied power from tow vehicle for light but also provides power to the electric brakes on the RV.
AC – Alternating Current Electricity see 120 Volts AC above.
A/C: Air Conditioner.
Airbag: A shock absorber positioned at the front and rear axles of a motor home.
Amp:(A) is short for ampere, the electric current unit of measure. You will see it commonly used when talking about RV electrical hookups, 50A, 30A, 15/20A, if your RV is 30A and you show up at a campground with only 50A receptacles, you will need a “dog bone” adapter, see Dog Bone below.
Anode Rod: used in a specific brand of water heater (usually Suburban), attracts the items from the water that would cause corrosion and failure of your water heater tank. Usually, the steel tanks are the ones that need an anode rod. Aluminum tanks do not need them. If you were to install one for an aluminum tank it will prematurely age it, learned that in my water heater tank class. Check your owner’s manual to be sure and if your tank has one, check it at least once a year to make sure it is does not need replaced.
Arctic Pack: You will see this as something optional to add to protect your tanks, water lines, etc. to insulate them in case you want to do winter camping.
Auxiliary battery: An extra battery for the RV, some RVs only come with one battery and if you have the room, you can add a second, third, etc.
Awning: A movable structure made usually made of canvas, which can provide shade, you will see them over door entrances, sometimes on windows also. They can be manual or electric to roll out and in. Keep in mind during windy weather, you will want to bring them in, having an awning torn off your RV can create some serious damage.
Back In: A RV spot in a campground that is made to be backed into with the RV, aka NOT A PULL THRU site. Keep in mind, most campers are more than willing to help new RVers to backing in, others will sit and watch you potentially struggle.
Backup Monitor/Camera: Not all RVs have them but those that do, it is a camera mounted looking at the things behind the RV, cars, etc. It is extremely useful when driving to see traffic back there as well as when backing into a spot.
Ball Mount: Part of your hitch that supports the hitch ball.
Basement: The compartments accessible mostly from outside where you can store things. I say mostly as some of mine can be accessed from inside the RV.
Batwing Antenna (for TV): These are almost all gone nowadays but you still can find them on older units. It looks like wings of a bat when raised. They are raised and lowered from inside with a crank. Nowadays most digital TV antennas are more circular.
Black Tank: This is the holding tank connected to the toilet. It holds the #1 (pee) and #2 (poop) from the toilet. You will fill this tank u at some point and if not at a FHU (full hook up site), will need to drive to dump station or if you carry a blue boy, can dump into that and tow that to the dump station. Now some RVers will not put toilet paper down the toilet and still others will not poop in the black tank for fear of clogging up the sensors. I personally put toilet paper and #2 down the toilet.
Black Water: Liquids and solids from toilet, aka sewage, not much else to say.
Black Water Capacity: In gallons the wastewater from the toilet that the black tank can handle. I have seen this firsthand, when the black tank is beginning to get full and you go to flush the toilet, it will burp. Meaning when you push the button or pedal on the floor to flush and air comes up from the toilet hole (which usually stinks) and it makes a burping sound, it is time to dump the black tank but NEVER ON THE GROUND, only at your full hook up site or at the dump station (or into the blue boy if you have one).
BLM: Bureau of Land Management, they control/manage quite a bit of public lands. You will hear BoonDockers talking about BLM camping.
Blue Boy: Portable plastic tote with wheels used to transport tank contents from your RV to a dump station, used normally if you are not at a full hook up site and do not want to drive the RV to the dump station.
Boondocking: aka known as dry camping refers to camping without any hook-ups, no electric, water, or dump station hookups. Some consider staying at an interstate rest area, Walmart parking lot, etc. as boondocking. If you have a generator, you have electricity, water in your freshwater tank, means you got water also.
Booth Dinette: A kitchen table with seats on each end and it usually can be converted to a bed.
Brake Actuator: Specialized device mounted under the dash to control the trailer’s braking system.
Brake Controller: Specialized device mounted inside the tow vehicle that will apply the trailer brakes when the tow vehicle brakes are applied.
Breakaway Switch: An electrical switch on trailers which is used to engage the brakes of the trailer if the trailer becomes disconnected from the tow vehicle.
BTU: aka British Thermal, measurement of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water 1 degree F.
Bunkhouse: In an RV it is an area where there are multiple beds, aka bunk beds.
Cabover/Cab-Over: Think of a Class C motorhome, it is that part that is over the cockpit part of the RV.
Camber: This has to do with wheel alignment. It is the number of degrees each wheel is off vertical.
Camper: Just a different term for an RV.
Camper shell: Think of a camper van, a pickup truck with a camper in the bed.
Camper Van: aka Class B RV
Cargo Carrying Capacity: The maximum weight of all pets, personal belongings, food, tools, and other supplies you can carry in your motor home.
Cargo Weight: The total weight of all items added to the RV. Things in the compartments, etc.
Cassette Toilet: Some toilets have a small removable holding tank so you can empty it.
Castor: Your steering wheels desire to return to center.
CCC: See Cargo Carrying Capacity
Chassis: The framework your RV is built upon.
Chassis Battery: This is your battery in your motor home for operating the engine and vehicle components, think of it just like your car/truck battery but in the motorhome.
Chucking: Back and forth motion, it can happen during towing, it can be caused by an unbalanced tire on the trailer.
Class A: A RV on a truck chassis. The appear to look like a bus.
Class B: A RV on a van frame, usually a minivan of sorts, some may have a roof that can be raised.
Class C: A RV on a van or truck chassis, it is noticeably different where is a section over the driver for sleeping.
Coach: Term that can be used for any type of RV but usually is associated with a Class A.
Cockpit: The area where the driver of the RV sits, it implies a motorhome, Class A, B, C.
Condensation: The water you see on the windows in your RV during the “cold” season. Utilize your roof vents to help reduce humidity levels. There are also dehumidifiers both electric and chemical kind that can help.
Converter: A converter is the device in your RV, it converts 120-volt AC (alternating current) to 12-volt DC (direct current). It also can power your 12VDC items in the RV when connected to shore power.
Coupler: The part of your RV trailer that connects to hitch ball.
Curbside: The side of the RV that would be at the curb when parked.
Curb Weight: The actual weight of a vehicle or trailer, including all standard equipment and the following: full fuel tanks, full freshwater tanks, full propane bottles, and all other equipment fluids. This weight does NOT include people or other cargo.
DC: Direct Current aka battery power on the RV.
Diesel Puller: Front Engine Diesel in a motorhome.
Diesel Pusher: Rear Engine Diesel in a motorhome.
Dinette: Kitchen table, normally, that you can sit and eat and usually converts to a bed.
Dinghy: Vehicle being towed by a motorhome; you will also hear it referred to as a toad.
Direct Spark Ignition (DSI): This term is defined as a method to ignite propane, it can be found on refrigerators, furnaces, and water heater and on stove tops.
Dog Bone Adapter: This is an adapter for your electrical cord to convert between 50 amp and 30-amp type receptacles. The make them to go from male 50 -> female 30 amp plugs and vice-versa. Example of when you might need one, you have a 30A RV and the campground only has 50-amp receptacle at the pedestal, you need a go between commonly known as a dog bone adapter.
Doughnut: Rubber ring that fits at the end of your stinky slinky, aka sewer hose that seals the end of the hose to the dump inlet.
Dry Camping: aka Boondocking.
Dry Weight/Unloaded Weight: Dry Weight is the actual weight of a vehicle or trailer containing standard equipment and nothing more, it does not include fuel, fluids, cargo, passengers, or optional equipment.
Dual Electrical System: This is when your RV can operate lights/appliances on the 12V battery and when in a campground or on generator when 120v AC power is available, the converter takes the 120V AC and converts to 12V DC to power those items.
Dually: A vehicle with four tires on one rear axle, could be a pickup truck or even a motorhome.
Ducted A/C: Air conditioning in the RV is pushed through ducts in the ceiling throughout the RV.
Ducted Heat: Heat from the furnace is pushed throughout the RV via ducts in the floor, like a house.
Dump Station: Location where you can empty your grey and black tanks.
Dumping Tanks: The act of emptying the black, grey tanks.
Enclosed aka sealed underbelly: An RV which has its bottom surface closed shut or insulated usually for cold weather camping.
Engine: Self-explanatory, it powers your motorhome, diesel or gas-powered.
Entry level: A RV priced at for first-time RV buyers.
Equalizing Hitch aka weight distributing hitch: Hitch that using spring bars placed to help distribute some of the weight to the trailers and vehicle front axle.
Extended Stay Site: For those who want to camp for longer periods of time like a month or maybe a whole season.
FHU aka Full Hook Up: At your site you have access to shore power, water, and sewer.
Fifth Wheel: A type of RV that is pulled by a pick-up truck using a trailer hitch mounted in the truck bed.
Fiver: Another name for a fifth-wheel RV.
Folding Trailer aka Popup Camper: It is a small lightweight camper that can be towed by light vehicles such as cars, SUVs, and mini pickup trucks.
Free Standing Dinette: Dining table/area with individual chairs and a table in-between.
Fresh Water Capacity: The amount of water in the RV’s freshwater tank, this needs sanitized on a regular basis.
Fresh Water Tank: Tank for holding fresh water for drinking (mostly) but also for cooking, and bathing, not to be confused with city water connection, this is used mostly when traveling or boondocking.
Front Galley: RV floorplan with the kitchen located in the front section of the RV.
Front Living: RV floorplan with the living room located in the front section of the RV.
Front Sleeping: RV floorplan with the master bedroom located in the front section of the RV.
Fuel Type: Motorhome fuel type: gas or diesel.
Full Hookup: RV site with water, electric, and sewer facilities.
Full Timer: People who live full-time in an RV, having no other home.
Galley: The kitchen of an RV.
Galley Tank: A grey tank for the kitchen.
Garden Tub: Bathtub angled into the bathroom so plants can be put on the edges.
GAW aka Gross Axle Weight: The actual weight placed on a single axle.
GAWR aka Gross Axle Weight Rating: The maximum number that the GAW of a single axle should never exceed.
GCW aka Gross Combination Weight: The actual weight of the fully loaded tow vehicle. This includes the following: towed vehicle, all cargo, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment.
GCWR aka Gross Combination Weight Rating: The maximum number that the tow vehicle GVW plus towed vehicle GVW (or GTW) should never exceed, this includes the vehicle, tow vehicle, passengers, cargo, and all fluids which includes water, fuel, propane, etc.
Generator: A device to produce AC electricity. It can be powered by diesel, gasoline, or propane.
Genset: Same as a motorhome’s electric generator.
Gooseneck Adapter: Device that attaches to the fifth wheel trailer’s king pin. It couples with a ball hitch mounted in the bed of a truck.
Grade: The inclination ascending/descending of a road. Six percent (6%) is considered steep.
Gray Tank: Tank connected to the sinks and shower/bathtub; you will also see it spelled GREY.
Gray Water Capacity: Amount of used water from the kitchen sink, bathroom sink or shower that the RV gray tank can handle, you will also see it spelled at GREY.
Gray Water: Wastewater that is defined as anything that does NOT go down the toilet. Depending on your RV, some have bathroom sink plumbed into the black tank and some into the gray tank.
GTW aka Gross Trailer Weight: The trailer weight fully loaded in its actual towing condition. It is the same as GVW when talking about a trailer.
GTWR aka Gross Trailer Weight Rating: Maximum allowable weight of a trailer, fully loaded with EVERYTHING.
GVW aka Gross Vehicle Weight: The weight of the vehicle including people, cargo, optional accessories, etc.
GVWR aka Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: The amount of total loaded weight a vehicle can support as determined by the manufacturer, DO NOT EXCEED THIS WEIGHT.
Hard-sided: When the RV walls are made of some hard surface.
Heat Exchanger: It is a device that transfers heat from one source to another. Your propane furnace is an example of this.
Heat Strip: An electric heating element located in the A/C system with the air conditioner and are used to take the chill out of the air, not like a real furnace.
High profile: A RV, usually a 5th wheel with a higher front end.
Hitch: The connection between a tow vehicle and an RV.
Hitch Capacity: Towing capacity of the hitch.
Hitch Ratings: The maximum amount of weight the hitch can handle, normally a fifth-wheel hitch can handle up to 25,000 pounds. You can also find some that are not listed for other different weights.
- Class I up to 2,000 pounds
- Class II up to 3,500 pounds
- Class III up to 7,500 pounds
- Class IV up to 10,000 pounds
- Class V up to 14,000 pounds.
Hitch Weight: Amount of the trailer weight that rests on the tow vehicle’s hitch.
- Travel Trailers: Weight should be 10% to 15% of the RV’s total weight.
- 5th Wheels: Weight should be 15% to 20% of the RV’s total weight.
Holding Tank: A generic term used in RV world to denote a tank that holds something, it could be a freshwater tank, a black tank, or a gray/galley tank.
Honey Wagon: A truck or trailer with large liquid tank on it used to empty RV holding tanks at a campsite where you might not have Full hookup (FHU).
Hookups: 3 typical types of hookups are: electrical, water, and sewer. Some campgrounds also offer cable TV and internet.
Hose Bib: A campsite faucet with fresh water.
House Battery: One (or more) batteries in a recreational vehicle for operating the 12-volt lights, appliances, and systems in the RV, not to be confused with chassis battery in a motorhome, those are normally different.
Hula Skirt: A device placed at the backend of motorhome, near the ground to keep debris from kicking up and damaging the vehicle being towed behind the motorhome.
Interior Height: The measurement from floor to ceiling inside an RV.
Inverter: Device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), they come in two types, both pure sine wave (expensive) and modified sine wave (cheaper). Difference is most important for electronics; you will want pure sine wave. How can you tell the difference, pure sine wave inverters will tell you right on it. Keep in mind the wattage you will and how long it will last is entirely dependent on the amount and size of your batteries.
Island queen (when talking about a bed in an RV): A queen-sized bed with walking space on both sides.
Jake Brake: Engine brake used on some diesel vehicles.
King Pin: Seen on 5th wheels, it is the pin that slides into the fifth wheel hitch and locks in place.
King Pin Weight, aka known as pin weight: It is the actual weight pressing down on the fifth wheel hitch by the trailer. The recommended amount of King Pin Weight is 15% – 25% of the gross trailer weight (GTW).
Laminate: Pieces parts of an RV, all compressed together like frame members, wall paneling, insulation, and exterior covering, that forms walls, roof, etc. of the RV.
Laminated Walls: Usually refers to the outside walls of the RV, consists of aluminum frame, Styrofoam, fiberglass sheeting.
Length: Front to back in feet usually of the measurement of a RV.
Leveling: Putting the RV in a position where it is level. You could be using blocks, wood, some have manual/electrical jacks.
Leveling Jack: A jack lowered from the underneath of RVs, its sole purpose is to level the vehicle.
Livability Packages: Items you can rent for “living” in an RV. Most rentals are not supplied with the items you need to be able live in the RV, like linens, blankets, towels, pillows, dishes, pots/pans, and silverware.
Loft Bed: Where the bed is on a platform that can be raised above another room or multi-use area.
LP Gas aka LPG or Propane: Liquefied Petroleum Gas. Propane is used to fuel appliances in RV, not all but most commonly: Stove, Water Heater, Oven, and it could be also your refrigerator, although not all fridges operate on propane.
Moochdocking: When you are “dry” camping for free on someone’s property, such as a relative or friend, meaning you are not paying to camp.
Motor Home (MH): A RV built on a truck or bus chassis and designed to be as self-contained living for recreational travel.
MSRP: Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price
NCC aka Net Carrying Capacity: The maximum amount of people, cargo, optional equipment that can be added to the RV, this is all of things that was NOT delivered with the RV, this also includes water, propane as part of NCC. Keep in mind you cannot exceed the GVWR, also NCC=GVWR-UVW
Newbie(s): Someone new to the RV world, someone just starting out.
NPS aka National Park Service: The department that manages the United States natural preserves and parks.
Park Model: A type of RV that is designed to be permanently parked in one area; it is more like a small mobile home than an RV is quite a few cases.
Part-Timers: people who live in their RV for more than a few weekends, but less than full-time.
Payload Capacity aka weight rating: Max weight that can be in or on a vehicle. This includes cargo and all accessories, also fuel, fresh water, propane, passengers, and hitch loads.
Pilot aka pilot light: small flame used to light the main burner of a propane-fired appliance. A pilot light can possibly be found in furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, ovens, and stovetops.
Pop-up aka folding camper trailer: You will recognize these as they are mostly flat, low profile camper that have mechanism to raise up during setup.
Porpoising: Up and down motion in an RV while traveling.
Porta-Potti aka Porta-Potty: A portable plastic toilet found most in RVs without facilities like pop-up campers or used by tent campers.
Potable: Most used in phrase potable water, it is suitable for drinking.
Propane: see LP Gas above.
Puller (opposite of a pusher): Usually used as a term for a motorhome with the diesel engine mounted in the front of the vehicle.
Pull Through: A camping site that allows you to pull through instead of backing into the site. Way easier for those new to driving/towing RVs.
Pusher (opposite of a puller): Usually used as a term for a motorhome with the diesel engine mounted in the rear of the vehicle.
RBR aka Really Big Rig.
Rear Kitchen: RVs with a kitchen located in the rear of the RV.
Rear Living: RVs with the living room located in the rear of the RV.
Rear Sleeping: RVs with the master bedroom located in the rear of the RV.
Receiver Hitch: Where the tow ball resides.
Recreational Vehicle: Vehicle with living capabilities in it, used for traveling and other recreational activities, come in various types/models.
RGAW aka Rear Gross Axle Weight: The weight placed on the rear axle.
RGAWR aka Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating: Maximum weight that the GAW that the rear axle should never exceed.
Rig aka a RV: What many RVers call their RV.
Roof Air Conditioning: The air conditioning unit mounted on the RV’s roof.
RVer: Anyone who owns an RV.
RV: see Recreational Vehicle.
Safety Chains: Chains attached to both the trailer and the tow vehicle while towing, they are to keep the trailer attached to the tow vehicle in the event of a hitch failure.
Sanitation Dump aka Sani-Dump: Where RVers dump their waste tanks.
Self-Contained: A RV that needs no external connections, it has all the following: water, heat, sleeping, cooking and waste disposal. It can be parked anywhere.
Sewer Doughnut see Doughnut above.
Shore Cord: Electrical cord that connects the RV to external electrical hookup, usually at a campground.
Shore Power: A term adopted by the RV community (boating term) to mean to connect to an electrical power hookup by a fixed, external source (not by a portable generator).
Sleeping Capacity: Number of sleeping spaces in an RV. Some of them are:
- Booth dinettes (that convert to a bed)
- Drop-down bunks
- Jack-knife sofa beds
- King Size beds
- Standard Queen
Slide: A part of the RV that can move in/out, it makes room when pushed out to make more living space.
Slide-In: The living part of an RV that slides into the back of a truck bed.
Slide-Out aka Slide.
Snowbird: Someone that moves south in wintertime to a warmer climate. That same person moves back to north when spring/summer arrives back up north.
Soft sides: Expanding side panels on an RV mostly commonly seen on a pop-up RV.
Solar Panel: A device that can convert sunlight to DC electricity.
Stabilizing Jack: A device that is under a RV that can be lowered to help stabilize the RV, during movement inside the RV.
Sticks-and-Bricks: Refers to buildings and houses.
Stinky Slinky: Slang for the sewer hose, one end of it connects to the RV piping, the other end into the sewer dump.
Street side: The side of the RV on the street side.
Sway Bar System: An optional piece of equipment designed to reduce the side-to-side sway movement of a towable RV.
Tail Swing: The extra distance the rear end of the RV uses during a turn. Keep in mind the longer the distance between the back wheels and the end of your RV implies the larger the tail swing will be.
Thermocouple: A device that watches pilot flame of a propane appliance. If the pilot were to go out, then the gas valve will be shutoff.
Three-way appliance: An appliance that can operate on a 12-volt battery, propane, or 120-volt electrical power.
Toad aka towed: Term referring to a towed vehicle behind a motor home.
Toe aka wheel alignment: The measure of whether the front of the wheel, as seen from the top, are closer than the back of the wheels (toe-in), if farther than the back of the wheels (toe out).
Tongue Jack: It is a jack at the front end of a travel trailer that is made to bear a major portion of the trailer weight, aka tongue weight, usually 10-15%.
Tongue Weight: The weight pressing down on the hitch ball located on the tow vehicle.
Tow Bar: A device used for connecting a toad/towed vehicle to the RV, usually a motor home for towing with all four wheels on the ground, meaning not on a tow dolly.
Tow Car: A car that is being towed by an RV to be used as transportation when the RV is parked.
Tow Dolly: It is a small two wheeled trailer.
Towed: see Toad.
Tow Rating: Max weight a tow vehicle can safely tow.
Toy Hauler: This can refer to either fifth wheels or travel trailers. It is an RV made to carry “toys” like four wheelers, motorcycles, etc.
Trailer Brakes: Brakes on a trailer that are engaged by electric or by a surge mechanism.
Travel Trailer: A RV trailer that hooks up via a hitch onto a ball mount on the tow vehicle.
Triple Tow: When you tow something behind your RV AND tow something behind that, so 3 things are rolling down the road, depending on the state it could be illegal to triple tow.
Truck Camper: A pickup truck with living quarters slid into the back part of the truck, some could be removed and stand on its own legs at a campground.
Turning radius: The distance you will need to be able to make a turn with your RV.
Underbelly aka undercarriage: Bottom area of a RV, sometimes it is protected by a covering to protect the tanks.
Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) aka dry weight: The RV weight as built, so it includes engine, generator, fuel, and fluids. It does NOT include water, propane, supplies, and passengers.
VBR: Very Big Rig.
Wastewater Tanks: see Black and Gray Tanks.
Water Pressure Regulator: Device you install between the city water connection and your RV to limit the water pressure going into the water lines of your RV. You want one of these, worst enemy of a RV is water, a busted water line due to too much pressure can seriously ruin a RV.
Weight Carrying Hitch aka deadweight hitch: A device designed to accept the entire hitch weight of the trailer.
Weight Distributing Hitch: Ball hitch system that distributes some of the tongue weight to all axles of the tow vehicle and trailer. Standard ball hitches, all the tongue weight rests on the tow vehicle’s rear axle; the weight-distributing hitch uses spring tensioned bars to distribute it among the axles.
Weight Distribution System: Moves the weight from the tongue of the trailer, redistributes it to the front of the tow vehicle.
Weights (of some common fluids):
- Diesel fuel weighs 6.6 pounds per gallon.
- Gasoline weighs 6.3 pounds per gallon.
- Propane weighs 4.25 pounds per gallon.
- Water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon.
Wet Weight: The weight of the RV with the fuel, freshwater, and propane tanks full.
Wheelbase: Distance between the center of the front and rear wheels of a vehicle, usually expressed in inches.
Wheel Chocks: Slanted blocks of normally plastic but could be wood, used to help prevent the RV from rolling.
Width: The side-to-side measurement of an RV (does not include the added width of extended slide-outs).
Winterize: To prepare the RV for winter use or storage, there are two schools of thought, feel free to contact me to ask my preference.
- The process of introducing non-toxic antifreeze into the water lines of an RV for winter storage to prevent freezing and line breaks.
- Blowing out the water lines with air.
Workamper: A person who makes a living while camping (or RVing). Could be someone who works remotely to a distant job but also includes those who work at a campsite.
Workamping: Generally, refers to RVers exchanging work for a free campsite, utilities, and possibly a small wage.