RV Glossary

A height adjustable ball mount allows the ball and tongue height to be properly matched between tow vehicle and trailer. Back to top
Not the one in your steering wheel. Airbags in the suspension system of a truck or RV act as shock absorbers, a pump system allows for higher pressure to accommodate a load. Higher end RVs can also run Air Over Hydraulic leveling systems allowing better leveling when on soft or uneven ground. Back to top
An anode rod is used for protection against corrosion in a steel hot water heater's tank. They should be inspected annually. Back to top
Also referred to as a Polar Package. - An optional package typically combining extra insulation and tank heaters for extended season camping. An Arctic Pack-equipped RV is not necessarily safe for four season camping without other preparations such as skirting and heated water hookups. Back to top
An extra 12-volt battery is a popular option among dry campers (boondockers) to ensure they have enough power to run fans and lighting while camping away from shore power. These are especially useful for people who have installed solar panels. Back to top
The relationship between the rotation of the driveshaft and the rear (or drive) axle(s). Axle ratios have a large impact on tow ratings. Back to top
A video camera and display to assist in backing up or trailer hookup. Systems are available as a vehicle mounted system or a trailer mounted system. Back to top
Supports the hitch ball and connects the trailer coupler. Ball mounts come in two types: load carrying and weight distribution. Back to top
basement model image An RV with large storage areas typically under a raised chassis providing "basement" storage. Back to top
Wastewater (sewage) from the toilet. Usually contained in a Black Water Holding Tank mounted beneath the floor of an RV. Back to top
A portable wastewater tank used by RVers in sites with only water/power hookups. Typically around 40 gallons a blue boy allows wastewater to be transported to the dump station without having to break camp and move the RV. Back to top
Remote or Dry Camping in an RV without access to electric, water, or sewer hookups; aka self-contained camping. Back to top
box image The living space in a motorhome. Back to top
A vehicle-mounted control unit for the trailer's brakes allowing them to work with the tow vehicle's brakes. Brake controllers can be adjusted to adjust the trailer brakes sensitivity or to actuate the brakes manually. Back to top
A safety device to activate the trailer's brakes in the event that it disconnects from the tow vehicle. Back to top
Heating and air conditioning units are rated in BTU. A BTU is the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water by one degree. Back to top
A condition where the front suspension bottoms out on the jounce bumpers (rubber stops that limit suspension travel) and that energy is transferred back into the steering system. This may cause the wheels to actually move off track or just be felt in the steering wheel through the steering column. Back to top
Rarely seen in modern trucks, this refers to a hitch ball which screws directly into the bumper. Nearly all RVs require a receiver-mounted hitch that attaches directly to the frame of the vehicle. Back to top
Colloquialism for towing a travel trailer or pop-up with a conventional receiver and ball mounted to the rear of the tow vehicle. Bumper pull as opposed to a fifth wheel setup (or gooseneck) in the bed of a truck. Back to top
An RV with bunk beds, sometimes in the main living space or in some instances in a separate room. Back to top
cabover image The part of a Class C overhanging the vehicle's cab, usually containing a sleeping bunk or storage area. Some manufacturers are now offering an entertainment center instead of a bunk. Back to top
A removable unit over the bed of a pickup truck. Back to top
RVers traveling together as a group. Back to top
A toilet with a small holding tank. Popular in Class B vans, the tank can be removed from outside the vehicle and emptied at a rest stop eliminating the need to find a dump station. Back to top
The 12-volt battery in a motorhome that runs the electric components of the drivetrain. Back to top
class a image An RV build on a straight or drop rail frame. Class A's typically have a flat front end with gas engines located in the front and diesels in the rear. Diesel Class A's are known as pushers. Class A coaches are available in front or mid-entry and even some toy hauler floor plans are available. Back to top
class b image AKA a Camper Van. Class B's are built within a van body, sometimes with a raised roof. With all the systems available in a larger motorhome, a Class B is considered by many as an ideal adventure vehicle as they are small enough to get around town and typically accepted by HOA covenants. These flexible coaches are a great choice for short trips or Full Timing. Back to top
class c image An RV built on a van cutaway chassis, typically with a bed that overhangs the cab area. Known as a "mini" or "mini-motorhome" Class C's are a great entry point into motorhome ownership for many people. Back to top
Motorhomes are often referred to as a coach. Back to top
cockpit image The front areas of a motorhome where the controls are located and the driver and passenger sit. Back to top
Converts 120-volt-AC power into 12-volt DC power when an RV is hooked up to shore power. The 12-volt system in an RV runs many lights, sometimes the refrigerator and other accessories like sound systems. Back to top
The part of the tongue or a-frame of a trailer that attaches to the ball. Back to top
The weight of an RV including all standard equipment, full fuel tanks, full fresh water tanks, full propane bottes, and all other equipment fluids. This is typically an actual weight taken without passengers or personal cargo. We suggest reading your manufacturer's definition carefully because there can be some variation between RV brands as to what's included in this weight. Curb weight is important to calculating cargo carrying capacity(payload). See also UVW: Unloaded Vehicle Weight and Dry Weight. Back to top
Also referred to as Camp Side. This is the passenger side of an RV, the side that faces the curb when parked. Back to top
A diesel motorhome with the engine in the front. This would be very rare as it typically refers to Class A motorhomes. It is more common to see a front engine diesel in a Class C. Back to top
diesel pusher image Another name for a diesel-powered motor coach with its engine in the back. Back to top
dinette image A booth dining area, sometimes two benches or a U-shape. Most dinettes convert into a bed. Back to top
Acronym 'DW' the manufacturer's listing of the approximate weight of the RV with no supplies, water, fuel or passengers. Back to top
Direct Spark Ignition, used in propane-fired appliances. Burners are lit with an electric spark and monitored by a flame sensor. Back to top
RV lights and appliances run on 12-volt power when self-contained and utilize a converter when run on shore power or an electric generator. Back to top
A pickup truck with four tires on one rear axle. Back to top
Air conditioning supplied through a ducting system located in the RV's ceiling equipped with various vents to supply cooling air. Back to top
Warm air via the furnace supplied through a ducting system located on the RV's floor. Back to top
An underground sewage system located at a campground or other facility offering dump service to RV travelers. Back to top
A heat exchanger, similar to a small radiator, where engine oil passes through and is cooled by airflow. Trucks towing a heavy load may use an Engine Oil cooler to prolong engine life and help keep the engine within its ideal operating temperature range. Back to top
A hitch utilizing spring bars placed under tension to distribute a portion of the trailer's hitch weight to the tow vehicle's front axle and the trailer's axles (also known as 'weight-distributing hitch'). Back to top
fifth wheel image Towable trailers coupled to a special hitch mounted in the bed of a truck over the rear axle. These trailers can have one to three axles and are the largest in the towable class. Due to hitch requirements, they can only be towed by trucks or specialized vehicles prepared for fifth-wheel trailer compatibility. Back to top
The reduction ratio found in the gearset located farthest from the engine (also known as 'axle ratio'). Back to top
Slang for a fifth wheel trailer. Back to top
Abbreviation for Family Motor Coach Association. Back to top
A hitch bolted to the vehicle frame or cross members. This hitch may have a permanent ball mount or may have a square-tube receiver into which a removable hitch bar (or shank) may be installed. Back to top
Potable Water, water suitable for human consumption. Back to top
Accommodations in a campground offering fresh water, sewer/septic and electricity; can also refer to an RV with the ability to utilize a full hookup. Back to top
Living in one's RV all year long. Back to top
galley image The kitchen of an RV. Back to top
Slang for a motorhome with a rear engine running on gasoline. Back to top
gaucho image Sofa/dinette bench that converts into a sleeping unit. Back to top
Gross Axle Weight Rating, the manufacturer rating for the maximum allowable weight an axle is designed to carry. Applies to tow vehicle, travel trailer, fifth wheel and motorhome axles. Back to top
Gross Combination Weight Rating, the maximum allowable weight of the tow vehicle and towable, or motorhomes and dinghy. This number includes the weight of both vehicle and towable, cargo, passengers and a full load of fluids (water, fuel, etc). Back to top
Brand name for an auxiliary transmission designed to give the driver control of the vehicle's gear ratio and be able to split gears for peak performance while simultaneously having an overdrive. Back to top
generator image An electrical device powered by gasoline or diesel fuel (and sometimes propane) for generating 120-volt AC power. Back to top
Abbreviation for generator set. Back to top
A type of hitch used on fifth wheel trailers, Goosenecks are common for farm and construction equipment but do not generally offer the same stability as a standard fifth wheel pin and capture plate setup. People tend to use a gooseneck only when the truck needs to pull double duty. Back to top
Used water from kitchen sink, bathroom sink and shower. This water drains into the gray water holding tank located under the main floor of the RV. Back to top
Gross Trailer Weight Rating, the maximum allowable weight of a trailer, fully loaded with cargo and fluids. Back to top
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, the total allowable weight of a vehicle including passengers, cargo fluids and hitch weight. Back to top
RV walls made of aluminum or another hard surface. Back to top
A device that transfers heat from one source to another; e.g., your furnace. Propane flame and combustion products are contained inside the heat exchanger that is sealed from the inside area. Inside air is blown over the exchanger's surface, where it is warmed and blown through the RV's ducts to heat the inside of the RV. Combustion gases vent into outside air. Back to top
An electrical heating element located in the air conditioning system with the warm air distributed by the air conditioner fan and ducting system. They are typically 1500 watt elements merely functioning to 'take the chill off'. Back to top
high profile 1 image high profile 2 image
A fifth-wheel trailer with a higher-than-normal interior space in the front cap allowing more than six feet of standing room so the average-height person can walk around without ducking. Back to top
The fastening unit joining a moveable vehicle to the vehicle pulling it. Back to top
The amount of weight imposed directly on the hitch when the towable is coupled (also known as 'tongue weight'). For a travel trailer, hitch weight is approximately 10-15 percent of overall weight; for a fifth wheel it is usually 18-20 percent. Also referred to as tongue weight on a bumper pull trailer of pin weight on a fifth wheel. Back to top
Tanks retaining wastewater when the RV is not connected to a sewer. Gray water tank holds wastewater from sinks and shower; black water tank holds wastewater from the toilet. Back to top
Electrical, water and sewer connections in a campground. If all three are available, it is called a full hookup. Hookups may also include wifi and cable TV in some campgrounds. Back to top
house batteries image Battery or batteries in a motorhome that operate the 12-volt system independent of the chassis batteries. Back to top
Abbreviation for 'horsepower'. Back to top
Abbreviation for 'Holiday Rambler', a well-known motorhome manufacturer. Back to top
A type of skirt accessory with fringe RVers can use on their motorhome͛s back end to aid in the protection from debris thrown by the rear wheels into the vehicles behind them or being towed by them. Back to top
A unit changing 12-volt direct current to 110-volt alternating current to allow operation of various items such as computers and TVs when an RV is not hooked up to electricity. Back to top
island queen image A queen-size bed with walking space on three sides. Back to top
90 percent angle created by turning towable with tow vehicle. Warning: jackknifing a short bed truck towing a fifth wheel without the use of a slider hitch or extended pin box can result in severe damage to the truck. Back to top
Kampgrounds of America, a franchise chain of RV parks across North America offering camping facilities. Back to top
A sandwich of structural frame members, paneling, insulation and exterior covering adhesive-bonded under pressure and/or heat to form an RV's walls, floor and/or roof. Back to top
The act of positioning an RV in camp to be level, using ramps (AKA levelers) under the wheels, built-in scissor jacks or power-leveling jacks. Back to top
A mechanism designed to limit the speed and torque differences between its two outputs, ensuring torque is distributed to both drive wheels even when one is on a slippery surface. Back to top
Items available for rent to equip a motorhome for daily living as opposed to buying or being brought from home. Can include bed linens, pillows, blankets, towels, pots, pans, utensils and cutlery. Back to top
LP Gas image Abbreviation for Liquid Petroleum Gas; aka propane, bottled gas, LPG and CPG. Back to top
Abbreviation for 'motorhome'. Back to top
A motorhome on a 'bus-type' chassis. Back to top
Abbreviation for National Automotive Dealer's Association. Back to top
Net Carrying Capacity, maximum weight of all supplies, food, fresh water and passengers (if applicable) derived from subtracting the UVW from the GVWR. Back to top
Water not suitable for human consumption. Back to top
Abbreviation for Original Equipment Manufacturer designated as such on replacement parts. Back to top
park model image Type of travel trailer designed for permanent parking. It is shorter in length than a mobile home but generally has equal amenities. Also known as 'Destination Trailer'. Back to top
RVers who use their RV for longer than normal vacation time but less than a year. Back to top
The maximum allowable weight placed in or on a vehicle including cargo, passengers, fluids plus any towable hitch loads. Back to top
A small standby flame used to light the main burner of a propane-fired appliance once the appliance is turned on. Pilots can be found in furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, ovens and stove tops. Back to top
RV campground slang for 'get-together', generally associated with 'pitching-in' by bringing a dish to share. Back to top
Abbreviation for 'pop-up' camper. Back to top
A room that 'pops out' of an RV for additional living space commonly found on older RVs prior to the popularity of slide-out rooms. Back to top
The up-and-down motion of an RV. Back to top
Camping without the conveniences of full hookup facilities (also known as 'dry camping' or 'boondocking'). Back to top
LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas), used in RVs for heating, cooking and refrigeration (also known as 'bottle gas'). Back to top
Slang most often used for front-mounted diesel engine motorhomes. Back to top
A campsite allowing the driver to pull into the site to park, then pull out to leave without backing up. Back to top
Slang most often used for rear engine diesel motorhomes. Back to top
The portion of a hitch permitting insertion of a hitch bar or shank. It may be either 11/2-, 15/8- or 2-inch square. The smallest is coined as a 'mini-hitch'. Back to top
RV slang for refrigerator in either a 'two-way' or 'three-way' operating mode. Two-way functions on LP gas and AC electricity; three-way functions on gas, AC or 12-volt battery. Back to top
What many RVers call their RVs. Back to top
A lack of ability to maintain the motorhome in a straight line of travel without constant back and forth motion on the steering wheel. Back to top
Cooling apparatus strategically placed above an RV's living area to keep RV occupants comfortable. Depending upon size, some RVs can have up to three units. Back to top
Abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle, the generic term for any vehicle containing living accommodations. Back to top
Abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle Dealer's Association. Back to top
Abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. Back to top
A set of chains attached to a trailer's A-frame that must be connected to the tow vehicle. They're intended to keep the trailer attached to the tow vehicle in the event of hitch failure. Should be installed in an X-pattern to keep the coupler from dragging on the road if a separation occurs. Back to top
screen room image An enclosure attaching to an RV's exterior to enable a 'bug-free' outside experience. Some screen rooms have a canvas-type roof for rain protection as well. Back to top
An RV with the ability to park anywhere overnight needing no exterior connections to provide short-term cooking, bathing and heating. Back to top
AKA hitch bar or stinger, the shank is a removable portion of the hitch system sliding into a receiver that houses the ball or adjustable ball mount. Back to top
shore cord image The external electrical cord connecting the RV to a campground hookup. Back to top
Electricity provided to the RV by an external source (such as a campground hookup) other than the RV battery(s). Back to top
See Slide-out. Back to top
A type of truck camper mounting on a truck as it 'slides in' to the truck bed. Back to top
slideout image Additional living space that 'slides out' when the RV is set up for camping, sliding mostly by electricity or hydraulics, but sometimes manually. Back to top
Slang for slider-hitch. Back to top
A hitch used on short bed trucks enabling them to tow fifth wheels that allows the truck sufficient clearance to jackknife the fifth wheel. Back to top
Someone from a northern climate who heads south in winter months. Back to top
soft side image Side panels on pop-up tent campers or expandable travel trailers for sleeping quarters. They're usually constructed of canvas or vinyl and mesh netting. Back to top
Component parts of a weight-distributing hitch system installed and tensioned in such a manner as to distribute a portion of the trailer's hitch weight to the tow vehicle's front axle and the axles of the trailer. Back to top
Brakes positioned in the hitch coupler to detect when your vehicle is stopping or slowing to activate trailer brakes hydraulically. Back to top
Fishtailing action of the trailer setting the trailer's mass into a side-to-side motion, also known as 'yaw'. The trailer's wheels serves as the axis or pivot point. Back to top
Devices designed to dampen a trailer's swaying action via a friction system or a 'cam action' system to slow and absorb the movement between tow vehicle and trailer. Back to top
The act of a motorhome's back end to 'fishtail' out when turning sharply. Normally occurs in motorhomes with short wheel bases and long overhangs behind the rear axle. Awareness of the potential for tail swings is the key to prevention. Back to top
The last RV or vehicle in a caravan. Back to top
Compacting from front to back and/or top to bottom (such as folding down a pop-up) to make the camper smaller for towing and storage. Back to top
A device monitoring the pilot flame of a propane appliance. If the pilot flame becomes extinguished the thermocouple activates to shut off the flow of gas to both pilot flame and main burner. Back to top
Fridge that can operate on propane, electric power or battery. Back to top
A tow car or dingy towed behind a motor home. Back to top
Same as hitch weight, it's the pounds imposed upon the hitch at the point of coupling. Back to top
Simply put, it's the towing device to attach your drive-around-town vehicle to your motorhome that keeps all four wheels on the road. Back to top
AKA Maximum Tow Rating, it's the maximum weight limit that can be towed by your vehicle according to the vehicle's manufacturer. Maximum Tow Rating is based upon several criteria including engine size, transmission, axle ratio, brakes, chassis, cooling systems and other special equipment. Some ratings will impose limits on overall trailer length and frontal area of the trailer as well as weight. Back to top
A car towed by a motorhome so you can go to places your motorhome can't, like Lombard Street in San Francisco. Back to top
toy deck image An exposed, open-air attachment generally located on the front of a travel trailer to carry motorcycles, ATVs and more. Back to top
toy hauler image An RV with the ability to take your motorcycles, ATVs and more. Toy haulers are mostly fifth wheels but can be found in travel trailers and select Class A and C motorhomes. Back to top
Brakes built into a trailer axle system so when you hit the brakes in your vehicle, the trailer brakes work as well. Back to top
A heat exchanger to aid in preventing your engine from overheating as transmission fluid passes through it to be cooled by airflow. Back to top
travel trailer Any camper with an A-frame hitch system at its front needing a tow vehicle to move it. They can have from one to three axles and, depending upon weight, mostly towed by a truck or SUV with some light enough to be towed by a car. Back to top
Three vehicles linked together, usually a truck-fifth wheel/trailer-boat combination. Be super careful regarding both maximum tow rating and the laws of the state(s) where you're camping. Back to top
Abbreviation for Television or Tow Vehicle, your choice. Back to top
The power cable connecting your RV to a campground's electrical hook-up or the wiring harness connecting your tow vehicle to the trailer so you have brake lights, electric brakes and some juice to charge your trailer's batteries. Back to top
Everything located under the floor of an RV. Back to top
Uniform Tire Quality Grade Labeling, it's an acronym created by the government (hence why its so long) that stands for a system to classify tires in terms of treadwear, traction and heat resistance. Each manufacturer does the testing then labels their tires. As it is, RV tires are good for about six years. Back to top
Unloaded Vehicle Weight, the weight of a towable or motorhome without installed options and completely empty of fuel, water, or any supplies. Back to top
The leader who guides a caravan of friends and family in their respective RVs on an excursion. Back to top
Slang for Wal-Mart, makes you sound hip at campgrounds when you use it. Back to top
The dead weight hitch, so basically any hitch system accepting the entire hitch weight of the trailer directly on the hitch. Back to top
AKA an equalizing hitch, they're hitch systems utilizing spring bars placed under tension to distribute some of the trailer's hitch weight to both the tow vehicle's front axle and trailer's axles. Back to top
The weight of an RV fully loaded, all storage and holding tanks completely full. Back to top
RVs with widths larger than the traditional 96 inches (aka 8 feet). Back to top
Nickname for Winnebago. Back to top