RV glossary

Words and terms used to describe RVers, RVing, RVs and parts of RVs

This RV glossary will help you to find out the meanings of words and phrases used about RVers, RVs, RVing and parts of RVs.

Numbers: RV words starting with numbers

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115 volt system: The electricity as it is sourced from the local mains supply in some countries including much of North America.

12 volt system: The main electrical system for most cars, vans, Travel trailers and smaller RVs.

24 volt system: The main electrical system for most trucks and buses and so for most Motorhome.

240 volt system: The electricity as it is sourced from the local mains supply in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe and many other countries.

5th wheel trailer: Also called a fifth wheel trailer, 5th wheel, 5th wheeler or a fiver. See Fifth wheel trailer.

A: RV words starting with A

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A-frame: A device for pulling a Toad on its own wheels behind a Motorhome . Also the front of the frame of a Travel trailer or Caravan. The name comes from the shape of the component being like a capital A. See also Towbar.

Adjustable Ball Mount: Allows the Towball to be raised, lowered and sometimes even tilted in small amounts to allow fine tuning of the Weight distribution hitch, to level the trailer or to compensate for tow vehicle squat that happens with a lot of combinations when the trailer Coupler or Tow cup is lowered onto the towball.

Airstreaming: Using an Airstream Travel trailer. or an Airstream Motorhome as a recreational vehicle, also means towing an Airstream travel trailer.

Arctic pack: An RV Arctic pack is set of modifications to a recreational vehicle to make life more comfortable for the people inside in extreme cold.
Having an Arctic pack usually also makes extreme heat more bearable because of the extra insulation.
The package varies from supplier to supplier, so make sure yours covers what you need.

Some inclusions may be:

  • good insulation that is installed properly and works well for the worst cold and preferably also the worst heat you will encounter while camping;
  • insulated gas-filled windows fitted to hard walls;
  • removable insulation for pop-up walls that is effective when in place and can be packed away to put the poptop down; and
  • heating for tanks to prevent them freezing in winter.

ATV: All-terrain vehicle. Any vehicle that is designed to go across all types of terrain.

Awning: The plastic, canvas or aluminum shade mounted on an RV. An awning usually rolls out off a roller like a Holland blind or folds out from a zipped container (sometimes called a bag awning). They may be mounted at the side or rear or in two or more locations. Some are self-supporting, others need to be propped up with poles attached to the RV or standing on the ground. Some are attached to the tow vehicle to provide shade there.

Axle ratio: The number of times the driveshaft needs to turn to make the axle turn one time. It is the result of the difference (ratio) between the pinion and the ring gears in the differential. With a 3.55:1 ratio, the driveshaft turns 3.55 times for each turn of the axle. This brings the number of revolutions of the axle and wheels to an appropriate rate and in the process multiplies the Torque provided by the engine by the same amount.
The higher the ratio (the bigger the first number), the more engine RPM it takes for any given road speed in the same gear. A lower ratio produces a matching smaller increase in the torque at the wheels and a matching lower increase in the RPM to maintain that speed. A ratio of 3.31:1 would give the same road speed at lower RPM or higher road speeds at the same RPM. The torque at the wheels would be correspondingly less than with the 3.55:1 ratio.
Although a bigger ratio also usually means more fuel used for that same speed and gear, it is sometimes the opposite. Some setups are better with a bigger ratio because it better matches engine power and torque to the load on the engine. For hauling a heavy load or pulling a heavy trailer, you are generally better off in a every way with the bigger ratio.

B: RV words starting with B

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Back-up monitor: See Reversing monitor.

Ball height: Distance from the ground to the center of the hitch ball or Towball when parked on a flat surface. Used as a starting point when deciding the amount of drop or rise needed in the ball mount to make the trailer ride parallel to the ground when being towed. Also used to assess whether a Weight distribution hitch is required.

Ball mount: The portion of the towing vehicle that holds the Towball or hitch ball, and the connecting device for the sway bars if a Weight distribution hitch is fitted. Called a Towbar in some countries.

Battery: A device to store electrical current so it can be used later. Generally charged by a solar panel, wind generator, mains-powered charger or from the alternator on the RV's motor.

BHP: Brake horsepower - see Horsepower.

Black water: Water from a toilet system. It is normally held in an onboard holding tank until disposed of responsibly.

Black water tank: The Black water tank or black tank is a holding tank for storing toilet waste - Black water as distinct from Gray water, drinking water = White water and Yellow water.

Blueboy: Because plastic portable waste holding tanks often come in a shade of blue, the tank gets called a blue boy.

Boondockers: People who go Boondocking. Independent campers, also called Boondocking campers, Wilders, Free campers, Off-grid campers, Wild campers and Primitive campers.

Boondocking: This is known by many names, for me the clearest name is Independent camping.
Boondocking basically means camping without hooking up to electricity, sewer or water - in other words, self-sufficient camping off the grid.
Camping this way can get you closer to nature, can save you money and will allow you to stay in more places and usually for longer.
The word is sometimes used of staying at a campground without hooking up to the utilities even when these utilities are available.
Boondocking is done by campers:

  • who like to enjoy nature at its fullest, regardless of any supposed limitations boondocking imposes or
  • who just want to avoid commercial campground fees.

Once you are self-sufficient or close to it and can travel independent of hookups, you can camp for free or for very little in lots more places that are often close to nature.

There are many other terms used to mean much the same thing in different regions or by different people including:

Boondocking campers rely on simple manually-operated systems or on fancier onboard systems. Manually-operated systems may include battery lighting, sponge baths, bucket shower, portable toilet, hole in the ground etc.

Onboard systems make the term "primitive camping" a little odd and may include: generator, batteries, water purifier, wind generator, solar panels, stored water, washing machine, clothes dryer, LPG, air conditioner etc. But that goes to show there are many ways to boondock.

And the people who do it are called various things and particularly Boondockers.

For more, visit our Boondocking page on RVgreening.com.

That page has links to other pages telling you where you can camp independently, for free or for very low cost in various places around the world.

Brake controller: A device usually mounted under the dashboard of a towing vehicle to control the braking system on a towed vehicle. The brake controller senses the amount of braking force of the tow vehicle and applies a proportional force to the trailer's braking system. The controller is adjustable to suit the load, driving style and driving conditions. Some do not work very well on corrugated surfaces. They can be used to apply the brakes manually and to turn the brakes off fully on the towed vehicle.

Breakaway switch: A safety device that activates the trailer brakes if a trailer or other towed vehicle becomes accidentally disconnected from its towing vehicle.

Bring a plate: See Potluck. Also called a Pitch-in.

British thermal unit: The heat that is needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. RV air-conditioners and furnaces are BTU-rated in the USA and sometimes in other countries that once used a measurement system based on the old British one. Approximately 1.055 kilojoules or 1055 Joules.

BThU: See British thermal unit.

BTU: See British thermal unit.

Bubble level: A device used to indicate whether an RV is level. A bubble level can be T-shaped, crescent-shaped, round, or cylindrical. A round level is used on a flat surface that is meant to be parallel to the ground. Cylindrical levels are placed in a T-shaped pattern at the front of the trailer or separately with one at the front of the trailer to indicate whether the trailer is level from side to side with the other cylindrical level placed on the side of the trailer to indicate whether it is level from front to back. T-shaped levels combine this into a single device. Crescent shaped ones are handy when attached to the front of a towed vehicle for seeing in the rear-view mirror when the towed vehicle is level side to side.

Bump steer: Used to describe a situation where the steering of a vehicle is being affected because the steering axle is hitting the rubber bumpers or stops on the suspension. There can be several different causes to the problem with different cures for each condition. Sometimes all it takes is a simple fix such as replacing shock absorbers or fitting a steering stabilizer; sometimes more detailed corrections are needed for correcting serious manufacturing faults or accident damage. Different from a bum steer where someone tells you something that is completely wrong.

Bumper: The parts on a vehicle that are supposed to protect the front and rear ends in a collision. Unfortunately most of them provide little protection because they collapse into the surrounding bodywork and complicate the resulting damage. They used to be chromed metal, but these days many of them are made of plastic and are a similar color to the surrounding bodywork.

Bumper-mount hitch: A North American term for a Towbar and tow hitch. It is available in two forms: a bracket with a Towball attached to the bumper or with the towball attached directly to the bumper. These hitches are usually for light duty use only and are generally not suited to pulling RVs.

Bumper-pull: Slang term for the hitch or for the towing method for a conventional (not a fifth wheel) travel trailer or similar. It consists of a receiver and ball-mount hitch.

Burner: The component in every stove, water heater or furnace where the air and fuel are mixed so that they can burn safely. The fuels are most commonly LPG or diesel but can be alcohol or petrol/gasoline.

Butane: See Liquefied petroleum gas.

C: RV words starting with C

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Cabover: A cab-over or cabover is also called a Luton, Peak or Overhang. The part of a Truck camper or of a Class C Motorhome that overhangs the driver and passenger seats. In North America the term often also refers to a Truck camper that has such a cabover.

Camber: Camber of the wheels refers to the number of degrees each wheel is off the vertical when viewed from the front. If the tops of the wheels are further apart than the bottoms, this is called positive camber. If the load is increased or the springs weaken over time, positive camber can become neutral camber and eventually negative camber. See also Castor.
Camber of the road surface refers to the number of degrees from the horizontal that the road slopes from left to right or right to left. Camber is important in draining rain and other liquids and solids such as small rocks from the road and on high-speed corners the road can be banked to allow vehicles travel faster, more safely or both.

Camper trailer: A trailer that folds up in a way that is similar to how a tent does. The upper portion is usually made of canvas or a synthetic flexible material. They are one of the most popular RV types in Australia. They come in two main forms: Hard floor and soft floor, each with its own advantages and disadvantages and thus suited to different people and different trips etc. See also Folding camping trailer, Lightweight RV, Popup, Tent trailer and Popup trailer.

Campervan: Also called a Camping van conversion or a Van camper. See Class B.

Camping van conversion: Also called a Campervan or a Van camper. See Class B.

Camping without hookups: Also known as boondocking, so see the main definition at Boondocking.

Caravan: In Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries this is the name for what in North America is called a Travel trailer.
In North America, caravan usually means a group of RVers traveling together in a convoy. Large caravans or convoys often space RVs a few minutes apart with CB radios or cell phones to stay in touch. The last RV is sometimes called the Tail-end Charlie or tailgunner and its job is to watch out for any member who has a problem. They assist or organize someone else to assist if possible.

Castor: This refers to the angle the steering head is set at. The kingpins are the swivels for each front wheel and they basically lean back.
Castor causes the front wheels to return to center when you turn the steering wheel away from straight ahead. The further the kingpin leans from the vertical, the more it causes the wheels to attempt to return to the straight ahead position. Castor increases the directional stability of the vehicle. Pushbikes and motorbikes have a high degree of castor.
Castor also refers to a (usually) small wheel on a swivel such as is fitted to the front of supermarket trolleys. A few trailers have been made with one or two large castors and a Towball Coupler to make towing small amounts of gear simple. They are called Castor trailers. See also Camber.

Chassis: The frame of a vehicle. This is the main structure of many vehicles and all other parts attach to it: suspension, body, engine etc. See also Frame.

Chassis battery: The battery fitted to a Motorhome or other RV for operating 12 volt components of the driven part of the vehicle as distinct from the House battery that runs the living areas.

Chassis electrical system: Brake lights, turn signals and running lights powered by the RV's 12 volt or 24 volt system.

Class A: A Motorhome built on a chassis or on a cab and chassis similar to those used for trucks, coaches or buses. The living areas are built on as an integral part of a self-propelled motor vehicle. Models typically range from 21 to 40 feet (about 7m to 12m) long. Class A are the largest motorhomes and usually have the most features, are the most luxurious and most expensive. Class A are usually large or full-sized motorhomes.

Class B: A small Motorhome that is a modified and sometimes expanded conversion of a standard van such as a cargo van. Usually the smallest of the all-in-one motorhomes. These are built on a van chassis with no change in the length or width of the original body and chassis. However, some have slide outs and increased roof height. In short, it is a van that has been turned into a camper.
They are smaller, easier to drive and generally get better fuel mileage than a Class A. This usually means that you will give up some comfort and amenities. Also called a Van camper, a Camping van conversion or a Campervan.
Most are made as a conversion from a van, such as a delivery van by fitting windows, appliances, cupboards, beds, tables and so on. They are built within the dimensions of the van, but sometimes with a raised roof to provide more headroom. Models usually range from 16 to 22 feet (about 5m to 7m).

Class C: A Motorhome that is smaller than Class A and are often based on the cab and chassis of the same vehicle as the Class B but with a custom body. Sometimes they have the standard van body with modifications. This often includes a Cabover with a full-sized bed in the cabover section. This allows room for ample dining and lounging seating, kitchen and bathroom facilities in the living area. Sometimes the seating and dining area converts into an additional bed. Lengths range from around 16 to 32 feet (5 to 9 m). They have a van-like front, with the entire back taken up by a manufactured living area. If you want a recreational vehicle with more space or a better layout than a Class B, a Class C may suit. Unlike in the alphabet, in motorhomes C comes between A and B. Also called a "mini-motorhome" or "mini."

Condensation: Water settling out of the air, usually when the air is warmer than the surface the moisture is condensing on, such as the inside walls or the inside of windows in an RV - the result of warmer moisture-laden air contacting a cold surface. Keeping a vent open helps to reduce humidity levels. Cooking, showering and using unflued LPG heaters creates most of the avoidable condensation. The rest of it comes from breathing and that's unavoidable for most of us.

Conventional trailer: See Travel trailer.

Converter: A device for changing mains power at 120-volt AC (alternating current) into 12-volt DC (direct current) electrical power. RV appliances and devices mostly run on 12 volt DC power supplied by the battery. The battery allows the RV to function independently of shore power. When shore power is available, the converter changes the voltage from 120 to 12 volt to supply appliances and recharge the battery. See also Inverter.

Coupler: The part of the trailer that attaches to the Towball on the hitch or Towbar. Also called a Tow cup.

Coupling: The act of connecting a towing vehicle and a towed vehicle. Also called hitching or coupling up.
The connection between them consisting of say a Towball and a Coupler or a Tow cup.

Curb weight: There are many terms for this, depending on where you live, who is using the term and where they came from. Basically they all mean something along the lines of: The weight of the RV completely empty of fuel, water, food, clothing etc. Curb weight usually includes the fuel because it refers to the vehicle as it weighs at the curb ready for you to drive away.
See also Wet weight which is Dry weight with added fluids.
There are many other ways of saying Curb weight including Dry weight, Net weight, Tare weight and of course with a slightly different spelling, Kerb weight.

D: RV words starting with D

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Deep cell: See Deep cycle battery.

Deep cycle battery: A battery designed to survive deep discharging and to provide energy over a long period. It is different from a starting battery that supplies larger amounts of energy for a very short period. Most deep cycle batteries are used exclusively by the living area of an RV and not to start the vehicle. The more deep cycle batteries, the longer your onboard power can last, assuming the same usage pattern and assuming that they get recharged. The batteries can charged by the engine's alternator as you drive (if the tow vehicle is set up appropriately), when hooked up to mains power (if the RV has a charger), by a generator, or by solar or wind power. Also called a Deep cell.

Delam: Delamination. See also Laminate.

Delamination: A term for the separation of the two layers in paneling or benchtops etc. If it is delamination of a fiberglass wall of an RV, the exterior fiberglass skin may have a bubbled or wavy appearance. Large areas of delamination can be expensive to repair. Also called Delam.

See also Laminate.

Demand water system: See On-demand water system.

Demountable: In English-speaking Europe, Demountable and Dismountable are sometimes used to refer to what is known as a Truck camper or a Slide-on camper elsewhere.

Diesel puller: A front-engined diesel motorhome. Also called a Puller.

Diesel pusher: A rear -engined diesel motorhome. Also called a Pusher.

Dinette: A booth-like dining area with a table that can be lowered to convert the unit into a double bed or sometimes a single bed.

Dinghy: Term for "towed vehicle", also known as "toad". Also a boat used as a rowing boat or a yacht tender to get to and from the shore. That is similar to its use with a motorhome where it allows the motorhome to stay in one spot while the occupants zip around town etc in their dinghy. See Toad.

Dismountable: See Demountable

Domestic: Means to do with the home or to do with home matters.
Sometimes in advertisements for used RVs you might see a statement such as "fitted with new domestic refrigerator" or some other appliance. It could mean that there is a household refrigerator rather than an RV refrigerator, but it is often just a mis-spelling of Dometic, a manufacturer and supplier of products for RVs including awnings, toilets and refrigerators.

Dometic: See Dometic, a manufacturer and supplier of products for RVs including awnings, toilets and refrigerators.

Double wide: An RV or more commonly, a park home or mobile home that has a width of around twice the single wide's width so that the double wide is 4.8 m or 16 feet. See also Single wide.

Drawbar: A removable coupling platform (with a Towball) that slides into a hitch receiver and fastens, usually with a pin and clip. Also refers to the tongue part of a fixed-tongue hitch.

Drive-through: See Pull-through.

Drop-down: A Ball mount or Towbar with a drop in it to have the Towball height lower so the trailer will sit and travel parallel to the ground.

Dry bath: This is not a dustbath like a bird might have but what most of us have had in our non-motorized homes. A dry bath has a shower area that is separated from the rest of the bathroom by a curtain or a wall and often a door or is in a cubicle. This gives the bathroom a more homey feel but usually means that the shower area is smaller or the bathroom takes up more space. See also Wet bath.

Dry camping: Also known as boondocking, so see the main definition at Boondocking.

Dry weight: There are many terms for this, depending on where you live, who is using the term and where they came from. Basically they all mean something along the lines of: The weight of the RV completely empty of fuel, water, food, clothing etc or empty except for fuel.
See also Wet weight which is Dry weight with added fluids. There are many other ways of saying Dry weight including Net weight, Dry weight, Tare weight, Kerb weight and Curb weight.

Dual battery system: The setup that equips a vehicle with a chassis or starting battery that runs all things associated with the driving and motive power and a separate house battery for the RV part or to run other appliances. Once the Chassis battery is charged, the system switches the excess power over from the chassis battery to charging the house battery.

Dual electrical system: The setup that equips an RV with lights and appliances that run on:

  • 12 V battery power and with a converter or inverter on 110 V AC or 240 V AC when self-contained and
  • whatever the local mains voltage is - usually 110 V AC or 240 V AC - when in campgrounds or when running an onboard or portable generator.

Dually: A Pickup truck or other tow vehicle with four tires on one rear axle. The name refers to the Dual wheels at the rear.

Dump outlet: The valve that (hopefully) controls the flow of effluent from the holding tanks.

Dump point: The place where the Black water and Gray Water holding tanks can be emptied, using a hose attached to the vehicle's holding tanks. Also where a Blueboy, Porta Potti or Portable toilet can be emptied. At some dump points, there is a fee. Also called a Dump station.

Dump station: See Dump point.

E: RV words starting with E

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Electric brakes: Trailer brakes that are activated by an electrical connection when the tow vehicle brakes are applied. An electric brake controller synchronizes the braking of the trailer with the braking of the tow vehicle. Usually there is an adjustment to balance them against the tow vehicle brakes so they provide smooth braking. They often have a hand control on the cab-mounted electric brake controller to allow the driver to apply the trailer brakes independently or to turn them down or off, such as on corrugated roads where they can be a menace.

Electrical system: There are generally two electrical systems in an RV:

  1. the 12 volt system 24 volt system and
  2. the mains voltage system. The mains power system may be a 115 volt system or a 240 volt system, depending on where the RV was made and is used. Mains voltage is only necessary if you need to run appliances on it. However, it can be more efficient to run appliances on mains and they are usually cheaper and more readily available in more variations to suit your needs and wants.
Some systems are managed by a power converter that switches from the 12 volt traveling system to the mains system.
Some vehicles have a generator to supply mains voltage, others have auxiliary batteries that feed the 12 volt system.
Some have both.

Engine oil cooler: A heat exchanger similar to a small version of the engine's radiator. Engine oil passes through this and is cooled by airflow as the vehicle moves through the air or as the air is drawn over it by a fan . Cooling the oil reduces the likelihood that an engine will overheat as well as improves lubrication in extreme heat, either generated by the motor or as a result of surrounding air temperature and towing loads.

Equalizing hitch: See Weight distribution hitch.

F: RV words starting with F

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Family Motor Coach Association: FMCA is an international association of people who own and use motorhomes. It has been operating for 50 years.

Fifth wheel trailer: Also called a Fifth wheel, Fiver, 5th wheel trailer or a Gooseneck trailer. Fifth wheel trailers couple to a special hitch that is mounted over the rear axle in the bed of a pickup or other truck. Fifth wheel trailers can have one, two or three axles and are usually the largest type of trailer built. Because of their special hitch, fifth-wheel trailers can only be towed by trucks or other vehicles with a matching tow attachment. The turntable (this is the "fifth wheel" that gives this trailer its name) replaces the Towball and Towbar and it sits on or in the tray or tub of the towing vehicle - usually a small truck. The trailer is in fact a semi trailer, because it lacks front wheels. It has landing wheels or skids for when it is uncoupled. On the road it is a more stable trailer, easier to drive and easier to back and it usually offers a large amount of living space. They usually have a raised forward section that results in a two-level floor plan. The smallest I have seen was 5 m long (16') - built in the USA, but spotted in a campground in the Clare Valley in South Australia a few years ago. The maximum size is set by the regulations of the state where it is registered.

Fiver: Another name for a Fifth wheel trailer.

Flat tow: Term for towing a vehicle (such as a Toad) with all four wheels down on the ground, rather than having the front wheels on a Tow dolly or the whole of the vehicle on a car trailer.

FMCA: Family Motor Coach Association.

Folding camping trailer: A lightweight towable RV with sides usually made of canvas or similar flexible material so that they can collapse to allow the roof to come down and make the trailer lower for towing and storage. They are also known as pop-up trailers. These are usually small RVs that are easy to tow. They combine some of the benefits and the experience of tent camping with some of the comforts and conveniences of other RVs. Although being light and low to tow, they can provide cooking, dining and sleeping facilities for up to eight people. In Australia and some other countries they are called a Camper trailer and tend to fold up and out rather than just rising with the floor plan remaining the same as it does in many US versions. See also Camper trailer, Lightweight RV, Popup, Tent trailer and Popup trailer.

Frame: The part of a vehicle that forms the base that other parts attach to. The frame used to be called a Chassis.

Frame-mount hitch: Class II and higher hitches in North America are designed to be bolted to the vehicle frame or cross members rather than to the bumper. The hitch may have a permanent ball-mount or a square-tube receiver into which a removable hitch bar or shank is installed. In many other countries, this is the only sort of hitch that is legal apart from a Fifth wheel trailer hitch or Gooseneck hitch.

Free camping: Also known as boondocking, so see the main definition at Boondocking.

Fresh water tank: A tank on an RV for storing fresh water. One of two sources of fresh water on an RV. The other is a hose or pipe connecting the RV to a water hookup. Also called a Fresh tank.

Full hookup: Connecting to all three of the campground's facilities: electric, water and sewer. Also refers to campgrounds offering water, sewer/septic and electricity and to a RV with the abilities to use these hookups. Hookups may also include telephone, internet and cable TV in some campgrounds.
Why stop at that? Who knows what else is on the way: maybe hot water, compressed air, chocolate, alcohol and sedatives?

Fulltime RVing: Fulltime RVing is:

  1. the way to go and go and go or
  2. the way to go and stay, go and stay
and just keep on doing this.
Is fulltiming is the best word in the English language?
Fulltiming is that joyful experience of the open road, meeting new friends and exploring new places that never comes to an end. You don't have to go back to the office, you have put all that behind you. You can be fulltiming too using our Fulltime RVing page to see why we think RVfulltime is the best word in English. It has links to simple guides including a $27 book that can show you how a couple can RV fulltime on just $50 a day.

Fulltimer: The term used for people who live in their RV full time, or at least the vast majority of their time.

Fulltiming: Refers to living in an RV fulltime or at least the majority of the time, such as most of the year.

G: RV words starting with G

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Gas puller: A front-engined gasoline-powered Motorhome.

Gas pusher: A rear-engined gasoline-powered Motorhome.

Gaucho bed: A Sofa bed. Also called a Rock'n'roll hinged bed, a Roll over couch, a Night and day divan and no doubt many other names.

Generator: A motor-driven device that runs on gasoline, petrol, diesel fuel or LPG and generates 12-volt DC and or 120-volt or 240-volt AC power.

Genset: Abbreviation for Generator set.

Gooseneck: A Class 5 hitch that mounts a ball in the bed of a pickup truck to engage a coupler on a trailer. Originally came from the gooseneck-like shape of some Fifth wheel trailers, particularly those used for transporting heavy equipment such as bulldozers.

Gooseneck trailer: Another name for a Fifth wheel trailer.

Gray tank: See Gray water tank.

Gray water: Disposal water from sinks and shower. In some units, this is held in a holding tank separate from Black water.

Gray water tank: The holding tank that stores Gray water, - used dishwashing water and showering or bathing water.

Greener RV: To be called a green RV it basically must use less fuel in a year, have less impact on the environment and this can mean big savings in energy. Often this also means the RV is greener than living in a conventional house and driving a car.

Grey tank: See Gray water tank.

Grey water tank: See Gray water tank.


H: RV words starting with H

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Heat exchanger: A device that exchanges or transfers heat from one source to another. Almost all motor vehicles including Motorhomes have a heat exchanger to cool the engine. This is usually called the radiator and it allows air forced through it by a fan and by the forward movement of the vehicle to absorb heat from the engine's water cooling system. This reduces the temperature of that water so that it can cool the cylinder the next time it passes around it.
There is a heat exchanger in an RV furnace - the diesel or propane flame and combustion products are confined to inside the heat exchanger. This is isolated from the inside of the RV, by blowing inside air over only the outside surface of the heat exchanger. This surface is often layered or made with lots of fins and is usually made from a metal that has high heat conductivity so that the maximum amount of heat is transferred to the inside air. The flame size should be matched by the furnace mechanism to the airflow to achieve the temperature you have set on the thermostat Thermostat. The air is warmed as it is blown through the heat exchanger and back into the living space of the RV. The combustion gases are continuously vented to the outside air rather than polluting the inside of the RV.

Hitch rating: Hitches are rated by the manufacturer and indicate the maximum amount of weight they are engineered to handle continuously. Overloading a hitch or using a hitch extension without reducing the load accordingly can cause significant damage including an accident. It can lead to the voiding of your insurance that means the insurance company will not pay out or will pay less on any accident that they consider the hitch had any involvement in.

Hitch weight: Also called Towball weight. The amount of a trailer's weight that rests on the tow vehicle's hitch or towball. A commonly recommended hitch weight for fifth wheel trailers is 15-20 percent of the total weight of the trailer. Many people believe that for Travel trailers or Caravans, it should be 10-15 percent of the total weight of the trailer.
Check the manufacturer's specifications for each component - tow vehicle, hitch etc. However, your situation may be different and in fact in Europe a different weight is often recommended. Test it and see.
The main things you are trying to achieve are:

  1. Minimizing yawing/fishtailing and other poor tracking of the trailer;
  2. Minimizing the impact the trailer has on the handling and the steering of the car on bends;
  3. Minimizing the impact the trailer has on the angle the car takes to the horizontal and thus on the aiming of the headlights, the tendency to scrape the hitch or Towbar going over bumps and
  4. any impacts on braking.

Holding tanks: Tanks that hold water or other liquids. There are three holding tanks on most independent RVs: Fresh water tank, Gray Water tank and Black water tank. The fresh water tank holds fresh water for drinking and washing. The gray water tank holds waste from the sinks and shower. The black water tank holds waste from the toilet. See also Yellow water tank for a peek into one aspect of the future of RV power.

Hookups: Connections to a campground's facilities. The major types of hookups are electrical, water and sewer. Hookups may also include telephone, internet and cable TV in some campgrounds. Full hookups refers to a combination of water, electricity and sewer.

Horsepower: A measure of an engine or motor's capacity to do work. The standard form for motor or engine power is brake horsepower or BHP. One BHP is roughly equal to 750 watts or 0.75 kW.
In practical terms:

  • Horsepower is what gets you up to speed, fast. It delivers acceleration and keeps you moving at high speeds as well as getting you past another vehicle when overtaking. Racing cars are big on horsepower at (usually) very high engine revs.
  • Torque is what drags a heavy load off the start or up a tough hill. It delivers pulling power. Trucks are big on torque at all engine speeds, including from a very low RPM.

House battery: The auxiliary battery installed in some RVs to provide 12 or 24 volt power and light when the tow vehicle is not connected and/or when the motor is not running. When installed with a battery isolator that has an automatic charging solenoid (also called a Dual battery system), it is charged by the engine's alternator once the starting battery has been fully charged. It is kept electrically separate from the system used to start the engine in case the house battery is flattened otherwise it would then drain the Chassis battery and it may not be possible to start the engine.

Housebus: A bus that has been turned into a house on wheels. Some of these look like a wheeled version of a "real" house, rather than like a Motorhome. Some are bare minimalist, some are junkyard-ready, some are handcrafted hippie style and some are fitted out as luxuriously and as beautifully as some of the houses in magazines.

Housetruck: A truck that has been turned into a house on wheels. Many of these look like a "real" house that has been planted on the back of a truck rather than like a Motorhome, others look like an ordinary delivery van with a few small windows or like a large version of a Truck camper. Some are bare minimalist, some are junkyard-ready, some are handcrafted hippie-style and some are fitted out as luxuriously and as beautifully as some of the houses in magazines.

HP: Abbreviation for Horsepower.

Hula skirt: Flexible skirt attached to the back of some RVs and towing vehicles to reduce the amount of debris thrown up by their rear wheels to the trailer being towed behind them or the vehicles driving behind them. The skirt is usually the width of the vehicle. Many are made up of strands hanging down and so they look like a short version of a Hawaiian hula or grass skirt.

HVAC: Heating, ventilation, air conditioning. Term that refers to all the systems and equipment involved in heating, ventilating and air-conditioning an RV.

Hybrid camper: Another name for a Hybrid RV.

Hybrid RV: Term for a Motorhome, Fifth wheel trailer or Travel trailer that has been built to be different from the standard interior living space such as by having Popout ends as bedrooms that give a tent-like area for sleeping.
Can also be used to refer to other unusual designs combining more than one style of RV or combining more than one style of materials in one RV.

Hybrid vehicle: Term for a car or truck driven by a combination of an internal combustion engine and usually electric power. Can also refer to a vehicle powered by liquid fuel such as gasoline or petrol and a pressurized petroleum gas.
Gasoline electric and diesel electric hybrids are becoming more common in cars and now in trucks. It will eventually be much more common in RVs. The electric power is usually generated by a petrol or diesel motor and drives the vehicle as well as charges the batteries. During periods of low demand, such as in stop-start city traffic, the electric power from the batteries may be enough to drive the vehicle. A combination of internal combustion engine power and electric power can be used to increase acceleration, particularly from a standing start where the need is greatest and where electric motors are very effective.
Whether they will be effective in RVs depends on the technology (better batteries and solar panels particularly), the price and what mix of driving and stopping the RVers use.

Hydrogen fuel: This is the fuel of the future, it's just not clear when that particular future gets to be fully here. To be more efficient and effective than the current crop of petroleum-based fuels, hydrogen has to:

  • come from a renewable source such as wind or solar power;
  • be readily available or have some backup method such as a dual fuel motor so people can travel reasonable distances;
  • be able to be stored and used safely;
  • be affordable

I: RV words starting with I

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Independent camping: Also known as Boondocking, so see that.

Inverter: A device for changing 12-volt or 24-volt DC into 120-volt or 240-volt AC or mains-equivalent power.

J: RV words starting with J

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Jack-knife: To turn sharply any articulated combination, such as a semi trailer, fifth wheeler or any car or truck and trailer, particularly when maneuvering it into position when reversing. A 90 degree angle with the tow vehicle used when backing a fifth wheel or travel trailer into a spot that requires a tight turn. Jack-knifing a short bed truck with a fifth wheel attached without using a slider hitch or extended fifth wheel pin box can damage the front of the fifth wheel trailer, the back of the truck cab or the back window of the truck cab when the truck and trailer collide. See Jack-knifing and Slider hitch

Jack-knifing: Making a towing vehicle and its trailer form a right angle or similar to back into a tight spot.
Originally it referred to a semi-trailer truck accident where the combination folded at an angle that looked like the partial closing of a jack-knife or folding pocket knife. This sort of jack-knifing leads to losing control of an articulated combination, such as a semi trailer, fifth wheeler or any car or truck and trailer as a result of sudden braking or swerving at speed. The trailer goes out of control and swings around violently, ending up at a sharp angle to the towing vehicle.
However jack-knifing need not present any problems when used to turn sharply any articulated combination, such as a semi trailer, fifth wheeler or any car or truck and trailer, particularly when maneuvering it into position backwards. See Jack-knife c

K: RV words starting with K

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Kerb weight: There are many terms for this, depending on where you live, who is using the term and where they came from. Basically they all mean something along the lines of: The weight of the RV completely empty of fuel, water, food, clothing etc. Kerb weight usually includes the fuel because it refers to the vehicle as it weighs at the kerb ready for you to drive away.
See also Wet weight which is Kerb weight with added fluids.
There are many other ways of saying Kerb weight including Net weight, Dry weight, Tare weight and of course, thanks to the marvels of English, with a slightly different spelling, Curb weight.

KiloWatt: A measurement of power; each kiloWatt equals 1,000 Watts. Roughly 1.3 BHP which is explained at Horsepower.

kW: See KiloWatt.


L: RV words starting with L

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Laminate: Any material made up of layers of other materials bonded together to form a sandwich construction. Some common laminates include: Plywood; Formica; Glass-reinforced plastic; The aluminum, urethane and plywood sandwich used to make the walls, frame and roofs of many RVs. Laminates are used for structural frame members, wall panels, insulation and exterior coverings. See Delamination which is when it all comes unstuck, literally.

Leveling jack: A device located at the front and on each rear corner or at all four corners of the RV to provide a solid and level foundation. Generally not designed for lifting the RV, for that, use a Lifting jack. However, some Lifting jacks may also do what is normally done by a Leveling jack - check your manual.

Lifting jack: A device located on all four corners of an RV to raise it off the ground. Also can be a movable jack such as is used when changing a tire. Some Lifting jacks may also do what is normally done by a Leveling jack - check your manual.

Lightweight RV: Generally refers to a towable RV that is designed to be towed easily by most minivans, light-duty trucks and cars. See Teardrop trailers which flourished after the Second World War and is now enjoying a mini boom because of its general appeal and because it is retro. See also Camper trailer, Folding camping trailer, Popup, Tent trailer and Popup trailer.

Limited-slip differential: A differential (diff) designed to limit the differences in speed and torque between its two outputs (usually the axles driving the left and right wheels of the rear axle or powering the driveshafts for the front and rear axles of a 4WD). It ensures that torque is distributed reasonably evenly to all drive wheels, even when one is spinning.

Liquefied petroleum gas: A gas that has been compressed until it has become liquid. Depending on where you buy it, it may be a mix of or just one of propane gas and butane gas. Each is a flammable hydrocarbon that is a by-product of refining petroleum or natural gas. Also called bottled gas, liquid petroleum gas and less commonly, CPG (compressed petroleum gas).

Livability package: Items to equip a rental RV such as a Campervan or Motorhome for daily living. Often these can be rented at a nominal cost, rather than brought from home. Includes such things as: bed linen, pillows and blankets, bath towels, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, cutlery. Always best to check what is included rather than assume - unless you like surprises.

LP gas: Abbreviation for Liquefied petroleum gas.

Luton: What a Cabover is called in Britain.

M: RV words starting with M

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Manufacturer's suggested retail price: Unlike with cars, it can difficult to find the recommended or suggested price for RVs. However, a lot of dealers buy in on a 20% profit margin and some get as much as 40% or more off the suggested retail price. This leaves plenty of room to negotiate prices, right up until the time you agree on price. Before you get there, make sure you have agreed on all other conditions including delivery time and all options. Called the RRP - for Recommended retail price in some places.

MH: Abbreviation for Motorhome.

Mini: Also called a Mini-motorhome. See Class C.

Mini-motorhome: Also called a Mini. Class C. Class-C

Minnie Winnie: A model that Winnebago USA introduced in 1973. It was built on a Dodge B-series van chassis at first and was just under 6m (19 feet) long (later models were on Chevrolet or Ford chassis). Like Pinocchio's nose and most vehicles, over time it grew to more than 9m (30 feet) and was decidedly un-mini. By this stage it was no longer appropriate as a name and was dropped. Winnebago USA uses a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis for many of its smaller models today.

Motorcoach: Motorhome on a bus-type chassis. The word is mainly used in North America.

Motorhome: A self-propelled motor vehicle that has living areas built on as an integral part of it to provide accommodation for living on the road. Normally this includes a sleeping space, a lounging/dining space, a cooking space and usually at least a basic bathroom. They range from the basic to the luxurious and from small to very large. They are most common in North America. See Class A motorhome, Class B motorhome and Class C motorhome for more detail on the different types.

MSRP: See Manufacturer's suggested retail price.

N: RV words starting with N

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NADA: Abbreviation for National Automotive Dealers Association.

National Automotive Dealers Association: See NADA, a US-based association of dealers.

National Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association: The National Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association of the USA is generally known by its abbreviation, RVDA. An association that supports dealers.

Net weight: There are many terms for this, depending on where you live, who is using the term and where they came from. Basically they all mean something along the lines of: The weight of the RV completely empty of fuel, water, food, clothing etc.
See also Wet weight which is Net weight with added fluids.
There are many other ways of saying net weight including Dry weight, Curb weight, Tare weight and of course with a slightly different spelling, Kerb weight.

Night and day divan: A Sofa bed. Also called a Rock'n'roll hinged bed, a Roll over couch, and a Gaucho bed and no doubt many other names.

O: RV words starting with O

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OE: Abbreviation for original equipment.

OEM: Abbreviation for original equipment manufacturer. Much equipment used in motor vehicles, computers, offices etc is manufactured cheaply to specification in huge factories in China, Thailand, Korea, India and Taiwan and other countries. It is then shipped to a branded manufacturer of the final product - the truck, RV or PC etc. This manufacturer then sells it as if it had been made by them, often with their brand and always with their markups on it.

Off-grid camping: Also known as boondocking, so see the main definition at Boondocking.

On-demand water system: A water pressure system that is activated when you turn on a tap or faucet in the RV. As a result of opening the tap, the pressure in the pipe falls and a switch turns on a pump that runs until the depleted pressure is restored to the switch-off point for the system. Having a pressure tank can smooth out the pressure variations and mean the pump comes on less often, runs for a bit longer then shuts off. Also called a Demand water system.

Over-ride brakes: Trailer brakes that are activated when the tow vehicle slows strongly or suddenly enough - usually as a result of braking. A hydraulic or mechanical device activates the trailer's brakes, roughly in sync with how much the trailer is gaining on the tow vehicle.
Usually there is an adjustment to balance them for smooth braking and to make sure they come on when required. They usually have a hand control to allow the trailer brakes to be applied when disconnecting the tow vehicle.
On corrugated roads they are usually less of a menace than electric brakes. But on bends and in corners they can have unpleasant effects on the tow vehicle's handling.
To reverse, you may have to put a sleeve or other stopper in place so the trailer brakes don't come on when the tow vehicle backs up but the trailer is not as easily moved.

Overhang: Any part of the vehicle that hangs over or extends beyond the wheelbase or any other main part of the vehicle. The part that is behind the rear axle is often called an overhang. In a Truck camper and in a Class C motorhome, overhang can also refer to the part that is over the driver's cab. In such a motorhome, this may be integrated into the bodywork, but is still called an overhang. See Cabover.

P: RV words starting with P

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Park model: Type of RV that is usually designed for long-term or permanent parking. It may move only occasionally and then often with the assistance of a truck designed for the purpose. They usually have all the amenities of a mobile home but are not built for recreational travel.

Part-timers: A term used for people who fall between Fulltimers (who are on the road fulltime over the year) and people who use their RVs only for vacation periods and weekends. This is a fairly arbitrary distinction that depends on the person using it. Usually refers to people who use their RV for longer than normal vacation time but less than all the year.

Patio mat: Carpet or more commonly a woven mat that is laid on the ground outside the RV. Used whether or not a concrete patio pad is available where camping. When camping on grass, many campgrounds require that such a mat allows the grass to grow and the water to pass through. There are many of these mats available that allow the dirt and rain to fall through and thus reduce the problems with dirt and mud entering the RV.

Peak: See Cabover.

Pickup truck: A small truck, often with a style side or tub-style back with a tailgate rather than a flat tray with fold-down sides. The Australian term is Ute or Utility and covers both the traditional tub-style and the much more common flat tray.

Piggyback camper: See Truck camper.

Pilot: A person who guides you in to a destination. Some road service clubs provide them for a nominal fee in major cities.

Pilot flame: A small standby flame used to light the main burner of a gas-fired appliance when the Thermostat calls for heat. Pilot lights are used in water heaters, gas-powered refrigerators, furnaces and sometimes in ovens and stove tops. Pilot lights need to be turned off before entering any area where there are flammable gases, such as a fuel stop or LPG refilling station.

Pilot light: See Pilot flame.

Pitch-in: See Potluck. Also called a Bring a plate.

Popout: Term for a room or any other space that pops-out to provide additional living space in RV. This way to expand the living area was more common before the technology of Slide-out rooms became better, lighter and cheaper. However, with the increasing demand for lighter RVs, some manufacturers are using popouts more.

Poptop RV: A recreational vehicle where the roof can be raised to create more headroom when stopped and lowered to reduce drag and improve clearance when traveling. A poptop is distinct from an RV with rigid walls. The walls of the raised section are often made of vinyl or a similar fabric. Some poptops have a roof that raises in a similar way but the raised section has more solid walls that fold up or down as part of or after the roof is raised or lowered.
A poptop can be raised under human power with assistance from gas struts or springs or can be raised by an electric, hydraulic or pneumatic form of mechanical power. A poptop can be a Travel trailer or Caravan, a Truck camper and even a Motorhome and it is quite common in Campervans.
Poptop RVs and rigid-walled RVs each have advantages. Choose well so you get your ideal RV. Here's help with choosing between a poptop and an RV with rigid walls so you get the right one for you.

Popup: Another name for a folding camping trailer. Also a name for any sort of tent, RV or camper that pops up, as many do these days. See also Camper trailer, Folding camping trailer, Lightweight RV, Tent trailer and Popup trailer.

Popup trailer: Also known as a folding trailer, often bought by people new to RVing because it is simple, cheap and often has a good capacity for a family. See also Camper trailer, Folding camping trailer, Lightweight RV, Popup and Tent trailer.

Porpoising: What happens when an RV gets into an up and down motion. It can feel like what a porpoise looks like when it travels forwards by diving in and out of the water.

Porta Potti: A registered trademark for a brand of portable toilet made by Thetford Corporation.

Portable toilet: A toilet with a built-in water tank to provide flush water and a holding tank to store what you flush. When the holding tank is full, it can be removed and taken to a dump station or emptied into a toilet. Be aware that a lot of the chemicals used in portable toilets are extremely damaging to the environment and to septic systems and are highly perfumed. For some people the perfume smells worse than the contents of the toilet. To reduce the unpleasant smell and the unpleasant environmental impact of such toilets, use a biological breakdown solution rather than a strong chemical.

Portapotty: Generic name for a portable toilet.

Potable water: An "official" term for drinking water.

Potluck: When you take potluck, that is the luck of whatever is in the pot - a bit of a lucky dip. This usually refers to an RV campground get-together, a meal where everybody brings a contribution to the meal. In some countries it is called Bring a plate (with something on it that is a contribution to the meal) or a Pitch-in that usually means pitching-in a covered dish or casserole.

Primitive camping: Also known as boondocking, so see the main definition at Boondocking.

Propane: Propane or LPG fuels appliances in the RV, such as the stove, oven, water heater and refrigerator. Propane tanks are usually rated in kg, pounds or gallons.

PUC: Abbreviation for Pickup camper. See Truck camper.

Pull-through: Also called Drive-through. A camping space such as in a campground that only requires the driver to drive forwards into the camping spot and when it comes time to leave the camp, again to just drive forward. In other words, there are no tricky maneuvers and particularly no reversing needed to position yourself to stay and then to go.

Puller: Nickname for front-engined Motorhome. Most commonly refers to front-mounted diesel motorhomes.

Pusher: Nickname for rear-engined Motorhome. Most commonly used to refer to rear-mounted diesel motorhomes.

Q: RV words starting with Q

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Quality: A measure of what you get. There are various quality levels, usually tied to price levels, but not always. For example in food you can have a McDonald's burger or a five-star restaurant meal. Only you can say which is the better quality for you.

R: RV words starting with R

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Recommended retail price: The Australian equivalent of Manufacturer's suggested retail price. Under laws to limit restrictive trade practices, many governments have made it illegal for manufacturers to force dealers to stick to a particular price or any minimum price. This allows for greater competition and reduces bullying by manufacturers. As a result, the buyer is better off and often the dealer is too. The dealer typically gets between 20% and 40% of the recommended retail price and this should leave you enough room to negotiate. The best time to negotiate on price is after everything else is organized (such as all the options, delivery times and so on) and before you agree with the salesperson on price.

Recreational vehicle: See RV

Recreational Vehicle Industry Association: The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association of the USA is the national trade association that says it represents RV manufacturers and their component parts suppliers who together build more than 98 percent of all RVs produced in the USA.

Reefer: Truck driver slang for refrigerator van or just refrigerator. See RV Refrigerator.

Regulator: There are two key types of regulator in many RVs:

  • electrical regulator: The device that controls the electricity coming from a solar panel, generator or alternator to ensure that it is within the correct voltage range.
  • Gas regulator: The valve controlling the gas flow through all appliances and maintaining appropriate pressure in the LPG system. Some also have a safety shutoff set so flow is stopped if there is a sudden high flow that might indicate a burst or broken hose.

Relief valve: Also called a Safety valve. A safety release valve that opens or "blows" when the temperature or pressure exceeds a set limit. They are used on pressurized water systems and on LP gas systems. Also found on pressure cookers.

Reversing monitor: This is the display that shows the images picked up by a video camera mounted on the rear of the RV to assist the driver with backing up or reversing the RV. The monitor is often used in much the same way as a rearview mirror to keep an eye on traffic behind the RV and to watch a towed vehicle. Some come with more than one camera - usually one for the rear of the towing vehicle and on for the rear of the towed vehicle. Having one on the rear of the towing vehicle makes it easier to align the Towball with the Coupler or Tow cup when coupling up. The image is displayed on a screen or monitor mounted where it can be viewed from the driver's seat. Also called Back-up monitor.

Rig: What many RVers call their RV, particularly if it consists of two parts rather than a single unit such as a Motorhome. What truckers often call their semi, B-double etc.

Road wander: Term used to describe a situation where an RV or other vehicle tends to meander rather than travel in a straight line unless the driver applies frequent corrections with the steering wheel.

Rock'n'roll hinged bed: A Sofa bed. Also called a Roll over couch, a Night and day divan and a Gaucho bed and no doubt many other names.

Roll over couch: A Sofa bed. Also called a Rock'n'roll hinged bed, a Night and day divan and a Gaucho bed and no doubt many other names.

Roof air conditioning: See Rooftop air conditioning.

Rooftop air conditioning: An air conditioning unit mounted on the roof of an RV to cool the RV when parked. When moving, most Motorhomes are cooled by air conditioning units that are powered directly by the engine. Some are cooled by a Rooftop if the vehicle has a suitably-large alternator or generator. Others have no air conditioning in motion, only having it when stopped and connected to a Generator or Shore power. Some have no air conditioning at all.

Rooftop tent: A tent that mounts on the roof rack of a vehicle or can be similarly mounted on a trailer to provide sleeping accommodation off the ground. Some have legs that raise them high enough to remove the underlying vehicle or trailer for touring around the area, leaving the tent as a base camp. Some people have combined them with a trailer to allow them to carry their "toys" on the trailer while still providing a solid sleeping base that is easy to erect.
Rooftop tents do more than go on the roof, they allow you to turn almost any vehicle into an RV. They are practical as well as cute and fun, like a treehouse on wheels. Just add some cooking facilities and if necessary shower and toilet facilities and you have an instant and economical RV.
A tent on the roof provides a sleeping space well off the ground, away from moisture, rocks, ants and many other things that can take away some of the joy of camping in the wild. They provide protection from predators such as alligators and crocodiles - until you come down, so take care.
And they make it easy to set up camp and break camp.
They are also called cartop tents or cartoppers and they've been around since before the Second World War. Most of the manufactured models have been developed since the 1950s and many are much more recent.
They are having a bit of a resurgence because they allow flexibility so the family vehicle can be oriented around the family and yet transform in minutes into an RV.

RRP: See Recommended retail price and Manufacturer's suggested retail price.

RTT: See Rooftop tent.

Running gear: A general term for the suspension system, axles, brakes, bearings, wheel and tires.

RV: Abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle. A motorized or towable vehicle that combines transportation and temporary or permanent living accommodation for travel, recreation and/or camping. RVs come in all shapes and sizes for any budget or need. They range from camping trailers costing a few thousand dollars to luxurious Motorhomes with prices well into six figures. RVs is the plural.

RV refrigerator: RV refrigerators are usually either two-way or three-way.
Most two-way refrigerators have either:

  1. a bottled gas mode and an AC (mains) mode or
  2. a 12v or 24v DC mode and an AC (mains) mode.
Three-way RV refrigerators have a bottled gas mode, an AC (mains) mode and a 12v or 24v DC mode.
Ammonia is the usual coolant in RV refrigerators that have a bottled gas-powered mode.

RVDA: Abbreviation for National Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association of the USA.

RVDA of Canada: Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada who are at rvda.ca.

RVers: Owners, operators or users of RVs

RVIA: Abbreviation for Recreational Vehicle Industry Association of the USA.

S: RV words starting with S

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Sacrificial anode: A metal rod that "sacrifices" itself to save other products from corrosion. Often used on metal boats and outboard motors and in water heaters. When used in a water heater, an anode attracts corrosion-causing products in the water to attack the sacrificial anode instead of the steel tank or the element. The anode should be inspected according to the product instructions or about once a year and should be changed when it is about a quarter of its original size. An aluminum tank or other item has its exposed surface or inner layer anodized with an anode metal to do a similar job. Also called an Anode or an Anode rod.

Safety chains: A set of chains permanently attached to the trailer A-frame and connected to the tow vehicle for towing. Safety chains keep the trailer attached to the tow vehicle if the hitch becomes disconnected or fails. They prevent the trailer from taking off on its own and causing a collision. Generally they should be connected in an X-pattern (crossed) so the tow Coupling is held off the ground if the trailer and tow vehicle become unhitched.

Safety valve: A safety release valve that opens or blows when the temperature or pressure reaches or exceeds a set point. They are used on pressurized water systems and on LP gas systems and on top of pressure cookers. Also called a Relief valve.

Screen room: A screened "room" that attaches to the outside of an RV or stands separate from it to provide a sitting area that is "bug free". Some screen rooms have a roof that is rainproof and some have rainproof walls that can be attached for privacy and dryness. Some people use a pop up tent as portable screen room.

Self-contained RV: An RV that needs no external connection to electrical, drainage or water supply. This allows it to be parked overnight anywhere. Most self-contained units can also hook up to facilities when at campgrounds.

Septic tank: The black water holding tank that holds the output of the toilet. Refers to the operation of the tank being septic rather than antiseptic. This means that bacteria and other bugs are allowed to break down the fecal matter rather than being killed off with the strong chemicals used in some holding tanks.

Shore power: Electricity provided by an external power supply or mains electricity.

Single wide: An RV or more commonly, a park home or mobile home that has a width of around 2.4 m or eight feet. See also Double wide.

Slide-in: See Slide-on and Truck camper.

Slide-on: A camper that mounts on a truck bed. Mostly these campers are gently lowered onto the truck, rarely do they actually slide in to the truck bed. Also (rarely) called a Slide-in. See Truck camper which is clearer and more accurate and is rapidly becoming the most popular term.

Slide-out: Additional living space that slides out. The movement can be brought about through hydraulics or electricity or it can be done manually. Generally slide-outs must be retracted to move the RV and can only be extended once the RV is set up for camping.

Slider: Slang for Slider-hitch. See Slider hitch.

Slider hitch: A hitch that can be slid or moved back and forward in the bed of a truck. It is used to tow a Fifth wheel trailer with a short-bed truck and is then slid back to allow enough clearance to Jack-knife the trailer or turn it sharply. See Jack-knifing.

Slipstreaming: Traveling in convoy so closely behind other vehicles that they provide a shield and you provide them with an extended tail (or the other way around), reducing the drag for all. Illegal in many places. Stupid unless you are all trained in it and very experienced at it and have good communication between you. Truckers often manage it well on certain sections. However, is it still usually illegal under these conditions - for good reasons.

Snowbird: Someone in a northern climate who heads south for the winter months and north for the summer months just as a winged and feathered snowbird does. Sometimes used in Southern Hemisphere countries to refer to someone who travels north for the winter or south for summer, depending on where their base is.

Sofa bed: The built-in couch or sofa in an RV that converts into a bed, usually by lifting up the back and front edges and releasing a catch, then laying the whole thing flat. Some need support legs for the bit that extends out. Others use various methods to avoid this. The seat base and seatback become the mattress. It often has built-in storage. Also called a Rock'n'roll hinged bed, a Roll over couch, a Night and day divan and a Gaucho bed and no doubt many other names.

Stabilizer: Also called a Stabilizing jack. A set of two, three or four legs used to stabilize the RV once it is parked. Sometimes these are also used to level a lightweight RV.

Stealth camping: Camping in an RV or other vehicle in such a way that you are not obvious. Used by many people to camp for free in areas where they are not permitted to by law or are considered unwelcome by neighbors.

Streamlining: Making a vehicle flow through the air more efficiently. You can make significant or minor modifications to achieve greater efficiency. One of the simplest ways to smooth your passage through the air is with Airtabs. You can buy Airtabs at airtab.com where you can find out more about how Airtabs Streamline your RV and save you fuel and money and there are links to your local supplier

SUT: Short for sport utility trailer. Can be either a fifth wheel or travel trailer with a built in cargo area for ATVs, bikes, motorcycles, mopeds, or other "toys" you want to take with you inside your RV. Another name for toy hauler.

SUV: Short for sport utility vehicle, a term that is increasingly being used to describe what used to be called a 4WD or four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Sway: See yaw.

Sway bar: A device connected from the A-frame of the trailer to the hitchball platform of the tow vehicle in order to reduce sway. Sway bar is also a short name for the anti-sway bar that is part of the suspension on some vehicles.

Sway controller: Also called a Sway control. A device designed to reduce or damp the tendency some trailers have to yaw or sway. The damping is usually done through a cam and lever system or through a friction system. The sway control system slows and absorbs the pivoting and articulating action between the trailer and the tow vehicle.

T: RV words starting with T

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Tag-along: Another name for a Bumper-pull trailer.

Tag axle: An axle behind the drive axle (it tags along). It is not driven by the engine. The tag axle increases the load capacity.

Tail-end Charlie: Also called Tailgunner. The last RV or other vehicle in a convoy or in North America, in a Caravan.

Tail swing: What happens when a vehicle with an Overhang behind the rear axle turns. Tail swing is particularly large if the wheelbase is short, the overhang is long and the turn is sharp. As the vehicle turns a corner the rear overhang swings out sideways. It can strike objects nearby such as road signs, walls and parked vehicles. It can be struck by other vehicles if it happens when they are in the next lane and the overhang swings into that lane. Drivers need to allow for the tail swing of other vehicles as well as of their own vehicles to prevent accidents.

Tailgunner: See Tail-end Charlie.

Tare weight: There are many terms for this, depending on where you live, who is using the term and where they came from. Basically they all mean something along the lines of: The weight of the RV completely empty of fuel, water, food, clothing etc or empty except for fuel.
See also Wet weight which is Tare weight with added fluids. There are many other ways of saying Tare weight including Dry weight, Net weight, Kerb weight and Curb weight.

TC: Abbreviation for Truck camper.

Teardrop trailer: Teardrop campers are often but not always shaped like a teardrop. They are cute, cheap, tow easily, provide a great sleeping space and a kitchen and can even be made into a family home away from home with an annex. They can be built by anyone who is moderately handy and can follow plans. They are great conversation starters.
There is more on the Teardrop campers page about how teardrop trailers are cheap, fun and easy to tow and can even be made into a family home away from home with an annex. The page has links to pages with info about teardrop plans and teardrop kits.

Tent trailer: A trailer that folds up similarly to a tent. The upper portion is usually made of canvas or similar flexible material. See also Camper trailer, Folding camping trailer, Lightweight RV, Popup and Popup trailer.

Thermocouple: A device that responds to temperature and is often used to switch something on or off as the temperature passes through upper or lower limits. Thermocouples are often used to monitor the flames of a gas appliance. In such a case, if the Pilot flame goes out, the thermocouple would cause the gas valve to shut off the flow of gas to both the pilot flame and the main burner.

Thermostat: Part of a control unit that senses the temperature of a system and keeps the system's temperature near a desired point or in a range. A thermostat is part of controlling your engine's temperature by switching a fan on and off and by letting more or less water flow through the radiator. A different thermostat setup controls your RV furnace or air conditioning by switching a fan on and off and by letting more or less air flow through the furnace or over the cooling cools and by controlling the size of the furnace flame or the amount of cooling the air conditioning compressor does.

Tip-out: Term for a room (generally in older RVs) that tipped-out to expand the living space once the RV was parked. Some had solid walls, others had canvas or other flexible material for walls. Newer RVs mainly use slide-out room extensions to do the same job, but with growing demand for lighter RVs, the tip-out may be coming back.

Toad: Slang for a towed vehicle. A vehicle towed behind a Motorhome, sometimes with the front wheels on a special trailer called a Tow dolly, sometimes with all four wheels on the ground and sometimes with all wheels off the ground on a trailer. When it is pulled by a special towing hitch called an A-frame, the toad is said to be Flat towed.

Tongue: The part of the trailer that projects forward from the camper body and carries the Tow cup or Coupler that connects to the towing vehicle. Also called an A-frame because of its shape.

Torque: Basically, this is the grunt of an engine. Where Horsepower will get you top speed, torque will haul a heavy load off the line, over a hill and out of a high-drag situation such as clinging mud. Torque is what gets trucks and other heavy vehicles, including RVs moving. It moves even the lightest car but is more important as vehicle weight rises. A flat torque curve means the torque is available over a large range of engine revs and is thus more useful. They used to say there is no substitute for cubic inches.
With RVs, the truth of it is: There is no substitute for torque.

Tow cup: The cup-shaped device on a trailer that mates with the Towball to create a successful Coupling suitable for safe towing.

Tow dolly: A low, wheeled frame with a platform used for towing heavy objects. Some motorhomers use tow dollies to haul a car or SUV behind their RVs.

Tow rating: The manufacturer's rating of the maximum weight limit that can safely be towed by a particular vehicle. Note that some tow ratings come with speed or other restrictions. Some are affected by the load on the towing vehicle - passengers, cargo, fuel etc.

Tow vehicle: The vehicle that pulls a trailer or other device such as a Toad.

Towball: The ball-shaped device that attaches to a Coupler or Tow cup and allows the towed trailer and towing vehicle to be a range of angles to each other in three planes. Neat, simple effective solution to getting two vehicles to dance divinely in all sorts of conditions.

Towball weight: See Hitch weight.


  • In some countries refers to the A-shaped device used behind a Motorhome to pull a Toad or dinghy with all four wheels on the ground. This is called an A-frame in some places.
  • In other countries Towbar refers to the towball and its attachment to the tow vehicle that is known as a Frame-mount hitch elsewhere.

Toy hauler: Term for any RV or trailer with built-in (usually interior) cargo space for toys for kids young and old such as motorcycles, bikes, etc.

Trailer brakes: Brakes that are built into the trailer and activated by electric impulse or by an override mechanism or a surge mechanism. In most jurisdictions, an RV must be fitted with some sort of braking if it weighs more than a certain weight (often around 750 kg or 1500 pounds). Most use electric trailer brakes that are actuated when the tow vehicle's brakes come on or when a brake controller is manually activated. Surge brakes or override brakes use a hydraulic or mechanical device attached to the Coupler that detects when the tow vehicle is slowing or stopping and activates the trailer brakes.

Tranny: Slang for transmission

Transmission cooler: A heat exchanger similar to a small version of the engine's radiator. Automatic transmission fluid passes through this and is cooled by airflow. Automatic transmissions can overheat under towing loads and a transmission cooler can solve this problem. However if conditions are particularly hot and hard and you try to run an air conditioner, you may find the air in the engine bay is too hot after it has been through a radiator for the engine and a radiator for the transmission.

Travel trailer: An RV that is towed behind a car or a truck and consists of a living space without any ability to transport itself. To distinguish them from fifth wheel trailers they are also called conventional trailers. As with most other RVs, travel trailers come with anything from basic facilities to the full honeymoon suite treatment. They attach to the towing vehicle through a Tongue or an A-frame and a Coupler or Tow cup that mates with a ball mount (towball on a Towbar on the tow vehicle. Travel trailers have one, two or three axles. Some have even been made with just a single ball-type castor wheel but these are rare today.
Called a Caravan in many countries including Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Truck camper: An RV unit that can be temporarily or permanently attached to the bed or chassis of a truck. In a styleside, tub-style, pickup truck or utility, the tailgate may need to be folded down or removed. Most truck campers are attached to the truck with frame-mounted tie-downs to prevent movement and provide greater stability. Truck campers sleep from one to eight people. Some can also be mounted on a trailer. Also called Slide ins, Slide ons, Pickup campers, Piggyback campers, Demountables, Dismountables, Ute campers or Utility campers.
If a truck camper is permanently attached to the truck, most jurisdictions consider it to be a Motorhome. If the camper has a passageway connecting it to the truck cabin, it is even more likely to be considered to be a motorhome.

TT: Teardrop trailer or Travel trailer.

U: RV words starting with U

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Umbilical cord: A wiring harness that connects the tow vehicle to the towed vehicle. It supplies power to the trailer's turn indicators, reversing, clearance and brake lights. It may also supply power to electric brakes, the 12-volt DC refrigerator and to charge the trailer's batteries.

Ute: Australian term for a Pickup truck.

Utility: Australian word for a Pickup truck . In the past, most were tub-style but most are now trayback models and many are used as trades vehicles during the week and RVs on the weekend and holidays. As a result, lots of them are bought as extended cab or dual cab models. Most are Toyota, Mazda, Ford, Isuzu, Mitsubishi etc one-tonners. The weight capacity and tray length is steadily rising. This makes a 4WD model ideal for carrying a Truck camper.

V: RV words starting with V

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Van camper: Also called a Campervan or a Camping van conversion. See Class B motorhome.

Van conversion: Conversion of a small or large van into a campervan or small Motorhome. See Class B motorhome.

W: RV words starting with W

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Wal-Mart: A large chain of stores in North America, generally considered to be the world's largest retailer. Wal-Mart allows RVers to stay overnight in many of its carparks and this helps reduce theft and vandalism for Wal-Mart.

Wally World: Slang term for Wal-Mart.

Wander: See Road wander.

Weekenders: People who use their RVs mainly for weekend and vacation use.
A farm, home, cabin or shack that is mainly used for weekend visits.

Weight distributing hitch: See Weight distribution hitch.

Weight distribution hitch: A hitch that uses spring bars or rods that are put under tension once the tow vehicle and trailer are coupled. The hitch uses use spring bars or torsion bars that are put under tension to transfer part of a trailer's hitch weight to the tow vehicle's front axle and part to the trailer's rear axle. Also known as an Equalizing hitch.

Wet bath: This refers to a bathroom that houses a shower stall, toilet and sink or hand basin. Because they are all in one small area, the water from the shower can go all over the toilet and basin. This makes for a more compact bathroom or a larger shower area in the same space. See also Dry bath.

Wet weight: Weight of a vehicle with all fuel and freshwater tanks full. Sometimes is expanded to refer to a vehicle with a full load of gear for travel. There are many terms for this, depending on where you live, who is using the term and where they came from. Basically they all mean something along the lines of: The weight of the RV with some or all of fuel, water, food, clothing etc.
The same thing but with various items removed is Dry weight and there are many ways of saying it, including Tare weight, Net weight, Kerb weight and Curb weight.

Wheelbase: Distance between the center line of the front axle and the center line of the rear axle of a vehicle.

White water: For some RVers it's what they kayak and raft down. For most RVers white water is drinking water or water that is untainted and can be used for any purpose. Officials like to call it potable water.

Wide body: An RV that has a width greater than 2.4 m or eight feet. Wide bodies are usually 102" (8'6") or around 2.5 m. Before buying one, check whether you can tow it where you plan to travel.

Wild camping: Also known as boondocking, so see the main definition at Boondocking.

Winnebago: Winnebago USA, an RV manufacturer that is so well known that its name is sometimes used as a generic term for Motorhome When the company believes there is a satisfactory market, such as in times of high fuel prices, it has made more economical models such as the Minnie Winnie and the Winnie Wagon.

There is an Australian Winnebago, using the name under licence but quite separate from the US-based one. Again, it is so well established that in its market its name is also sometimes used as a generic term for motorhome.

Winnie: Nickname for Winnebago.

Winnie Wagon: A discontinued US Winnebago model with a low profile and a pop-top.


X: RV words starting with X

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Xerocamping: Camping in arid environments. Formed from the Greek word xeros meaning dry. It's really only in this glossary to make sure there is a word for X. And why not have some fun while I'm at it by coining words just as Shakespeare did?

Y: RV words starting with Y

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Yaw: The fishtailing movement of a trailer often caused by external forces such as wind but can be the result of imbalances. The trailer develops a lateral (side-to-side) weaving motion. The trailer's wheels are the pivot point. Also called Sway.

Yellow water: Urine, or what will perhaps one day go in the Yellow water tank as a source of energy.

Yellow water tank: Believe it or not, the RV of the future may well run on urine - at least some of the time. There is a lot of energy in what goes down the drain and unless it is used to grow plants, it is usually wasted and can be a source of a very harmful greenhouse gas. So we may end up with a yellow water tank to catch this then convert it to fuel leaving perhaps a small amount of waste. A further benefit is that we will not have to empty the Black water as often.

Z: RV words starting with Z

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Zero-impact camping: An attempt to minimize the impact on an ecosystem from camping and associated activities. Required in some particularly fragile environments. It involves such things as sticking to paths, carrying in all that you will need and carrying out all waste. This is just camping and being responsible and is pretty much my view of camping and walking in the wilds, anyhow:

  • Why would anyone want to leave their waste there?
  • Why not take in all that you need?
  • Why not stick to the existing paths, tracks and roads?
  • If we don't care for the wilds, they cease to be the wilds and become something less appealing and less available. End of sermon.
And coincidentally, that is the end of this glossary. I hope it has been useful.

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