The RV industry is full of specific vocabulary and jargon that even veteran RVers have a hard time keeping up with.
This glossary covers all of the most common RV terms and definitions to help you navigate the RV lifestyle like a pro!
RV Terms and Definitions Glossary
|A secondary battery system in an RV, separate from the main engine battery, providing power for the RV’s living area.
|A retractable or fixed shade structure attached to the exterior of an RV, which provides protection from the sun and rain.
|A storage area beneath the living area of an RV, accessible from the exterior via compartments, used for storing luggage, outdoor equipment, or supplies.
|Black Water Capacity
|The maximum volume of waste that the black water tank can hold before it needs to be emptied, usually measured in gallons.
|Black Water Tank
|A holding tank in an RV that stores waste from the toilet, keeping it separate from other wastewater systems like gray water tanks.
|Camping in an RV without hookups, typically in remote or undeveloped areas, relying on self-contained systems for power, water, and waste management.
|A dining area in an RV that features a table with bench seating on either side, resembling a restaurant booth, often converting into an additional sleeping area.
|An electronic device that manages the application of electric trailer brakes, ensuring that the braking force of the towing vehicle and the trailer are synchronized.
|A safety device that activates the trailer’s brakes in case the trailer accidentally detaches from the towing vehicle, helping to prevent accidents.
|BTU (British Thermal Unit)
|A unit of measurement for heat energy, often used to describe the heating or cooling capacity of RV appliances such as furnaces, air conditioners, and water heaters.
|A section of an RV that contains bunk beds, typically located in the rear, providing additional sleeping accommodations, often popular in family-oriented RV models.
|The driver’s compartment of a motorhome or the front section of a truck used to tow an RV, containing the driving controls and seating for the driver and passengers.
|A sleeping area or storage space located above the cab in some RVs, typically in Class C motorhomes, taking advantage of the space above the driver and passenger seats.
|A group of RVs traveling together, often organized by RV clubs or communities, or a term used outside North America to refer to a travel trailer.
|CCC (Cargo Carrying Capacity)
|The maximum weight of cargo, including personal belongings, food, water, and propane that an RV can carry, calculated by subtracting the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) from the unloaded vehicle weight (UVW).
|The structural framework that supports the body and components of an RV or motorhome, including the engine, transmission, and suspension system.
|The battery that powers the engine, ignition system, and other vehicle components of a motorhome or tow vehicle, separate from the auxiliary battery that supplies power to the living area.
|The back-and-forth movement or jerking motion experienced in a tow vehicle when towing a trailer, often caused by uneven road surfaces or improper weight distribution.
|A type of motorhome built on a specially designed, heavy-duty chassis, characterized by a large, bus-like appearance, with a flat or vertical front end, and offering extensive living and storage space.
|A smaller, more compact type of motorhome built on a van chassis, often called a camper van, offering basic living amenities and improved fuel efficiency compared to larger motorhomes.
|A type of motorhome built on a truck or van chassis, featuring an over-cab sleeping area or storage space, and offering a balance between size, amenities, and drivability compared to Class A and B motorhomes.
|The driver’s area in a motorhome, similar to a cab, containing the driving controls, instrumentation, and seating for the driver and passengers.
|The centralized control system in an RV that allows users to monitor and operate various systems and components, such as lighting, heating, air conditioning, water levels, and battery status.
|An electrical device in an RV that converts 120-volt AC (shore) power to 12-volt DC power, used to charge the auxiliary battery and power the RV’s 12-volt systems while connected to an external power source.
|The process of preparing an RV for use after it has been winterized, including flushing antifreeze from the water system, inspecting and reconnecting hoses, refilling the fresh water tank, and checking all systems for proper operation.
|A motorhome built on a diesel-engine chassis with the engine located at the front of the vehicle, providing increased torque and fuel efficiency compared to gas engines.
|A motorhome built on a diesel-engine chassis with the engine located at the rear of the vehicle, offering better weight distribution, a quieter driving experience, and improved fuel efficiency compared to front-engine motorhomes.
|A smaller vehicle, often a compact car, towed behind a motorhome, used for local transportation when the motorhome is parked at a campsite. Also known as a “toad” or towed vehicle.
|The weight of an RV without cargo, fluids, or passengers, often used as a baseline measurement for calculating cargo carrying capacity and tow vehicle requirements.
|DSI Ignition (Direct Spark Ignition)
|A type of ignition system used in RV appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces, that uses an electronic spark to ignite the propane gas, eliminating the need for a pilot light and improving efficiency.
|An air conditioning system in an RV that uses a series of ducts to distribute cooled air evenly throughout the living space, providing more consistent temperatures and quieter operation compared to non-ducted systems.
|A heating system in an RV that uses a series of ducts to distribute warm air evenly throughout the living space, providing more consistent temperatures and more efficient operation compared to non-ducted systems.
|A designated facility, often found at campgrounds and RV parks, where RVers can empty their black and gray water holding tanks into a sanitary sewer system.
|Electrical Connector (4-Pin)
|A standard connector used to connect an RV’s or trailer’s basic lighting functions to the towing vehicle.
|Electrical Connector (7-Pin)
|A more advanced connector that provides connections for an RV’s or trailer’s lighting functions and additional features like electric trailer brakes and 12-volt power supply.
|A type of towable RV that connects to a truck using a special hitch mounted in the truck bed, known for its increased stability and spacious floor plans.
|Free Standing Dinette
|A dining area in an RV that features a table and individual chairs, as opposed to a booth dinette with bench seating, offering a more residential feel and the flexibility to rearrange or remove seating as needed.
|Fresh Water Capacity
|The maximum volume of fresh water that an RV’s holding tank can store, typically used for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, usually measured in gallons.
|A campsite or RV park offering connections to all essential utilities, including electricity, water, and sewer, allowing RVers to use all their onboard systems.
|RV enthusiasts who live in their RVs full-time, either traveling frequently or staying in one location for extended periods.
|The kitchen area in an RV typically containing a refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, sink, and storage for cookware and utensils.
|A designated storage area in some RVs, particularly toy haulers, designed to accommodate motorcycles, ATVs, or other recreational vehicles, often featuring a ramp for easy loading and unloading.
|A type of couch in an RV that can be converted into a bed by sliding the base forward and laying the backrest flat, providing additional sleeping accommodations.
|GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)
|The maximum weight that can be safely supported by a single axle on an RV or tow vehicle, including the weight of the vehicle itself, cargo, fluids, and passengers.
|GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating)
|The maximum allowable combined weight of an RV or trailer and its tow vehicle, including passengers, cargo, and fluids, as determined by the manufacturer. Exceeding this weight can compromise safety and performance.
|A device that generates electricity by converting mechanical energy, typically fueled by gasoline, propane, or diesel, used to provide power to an RV’s electrical systems when shore power is not available or during boondocking.
|A combination of the words “glamorous” and “camping,” referring to a style of camping that incorporates luxurious amenities and comforts not typically associated with traditional camping, often associated with upscale RVs or rental accommodations like cabins or yurts.
|Gray Water Capacity
|The maximum volume of gray wastewater that the gray water tank can hold before it needs to be emptied, usually measured in gallons.
|Gray Water Tank
|A holding tank in an RV that stores wastewater from sinks, showers, and other non-toilet sources, separate from the black water tank.
|GTWR (Gross Trailer Weight Rating)
|The maximum weight that a specific trailer or towable RV can safely carry, as determined by the manufacturer. The GTWR includes the weight of the trailer itself, as well as any cargo, fluids, and passengers.
|GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)
|The maximum allowable weight of an RV, including passengers, cargo, and fluids, as determined by the manufacturer. Exceeding this weight can compromise safety and performance.
|The vertical distance from the ground to the highest point of an RV, including any roof-mounted equipment, important for clearance considerations when driving or parking.
|Hitch (or Receiver Hitch)
|A device mounted to the rear of a tow vehicle that connects to a trailer or towable RV, providing a secure connection for towing.
|The maximum weight that a hitch or receiver hitch can safely support, as determined by the manufacturer, often expressed as the maximum tongue weight or total trailer weight.
|The tanks in an RV that store fresh water, gray water, and black water, allowing users to manage their water supply and waste disposal while camping.
|The process of connecting an RV to external utilities, such as electricity, water, and sewer, at a campsite or RV park.
|An outdoor faucet or water spigot, typically found at campsites or RV parks, used to connect a fresh water hose to an RV’s water system.
|Another term for the auxiliary battery in an RV, which powers the living area’s electrical systems separate from the chassis or main engine battery.
|The vertical distance from the floor to the ceiling inside an RV, important for user comfort and determining if the RV is suitable for taller individuals.
|An electrical device in an RV that converts 12-volt DC power from the house battery to 120-volt AC power, allowing users to operate household appliances and devices while not connected to shore power.
|King Pin Weight
|The downward force or weight applied by a fifth-wheel trailer on the hitch located in the bed of the tow vehicle, important for ensuring proper weight distribution and towing stability.
|The horizontal distance from the front to the rear of an RV, including any protrusions like bumpers or ladders, important for determining if the RV is suitable for certain campsites, parking spaces, or storage facilities.
|Mechanical or hydraulic devices used to stabilize and level an RV when parked, providing a more stable and comfortable living space.
|An elevated sleeping area in an RV, typically located above the living area, providing additional sleeping accommodations while saving floor space.
|Liquefied petroleum gas, commonly referred to as propane, used as fuel for RV appliances such as stoves, ovens, water heaters, and furnaces.
|A self-propelled recreational vehicle that combines living accommodations and vehicle chassis into a single unit, available in different classes (A, B, and C) based on size, features, and chassis type.
|Water that is not suitable for drinking or cooking, often used for cleaning or flushing purposes in RV systems.
|A type of RV designed for seasonal or long-term use in RV parks or campgrounds, often featuring residential-style amenities and construction, but still classified as a recreational vehicle rather than a permanent dwelling.
|RV enthusiasts who use their RVs for vacations or extended trips but do not live in them full-time.
|A type of towable RV featuring collapsible sidewalls and a roof, allowing for a lower profile during transport and expanding to provide living and sleeping accommodations when set up. Also known as a folding trailer.
|Water that is safe for drinking and cooking, typically stored in an RV’s fresh water tank and connected to the water system through a hose.
|A slang term used to refer to an RV or the combination of an RV and its tow vehicle, often used by RV enthusiasts.
|An RV equipped with all necessary systems for independent living, including power, water, and waste management, allowing users to camp without hookups or external utilities.
|Electricity supplied by an external source, such as a campground or RV park, allowing RVers to power their electrical systems without using a generator or draining the house battery.
|The maximum number of people an RV can comfortably accommodate for sleeping, typically based on the number of available beds, convertible dinettes, and other sleeping arrangements.
|Extendable sections in an RV that increase living space when the RV is parked, typically containing furniture, appliances, or sleeping accommodations, and retracting for travel.
|A stabilizing device used in towing systems to reduce lateral movement or sway of a towable RV, improving control and stability while driving.
|A type of towable RV designed to be pulled behind a car, truck, or SUV, featuring a range of sizes and floor plans and offering a wide variety of amenities and sleeping accommodations.
|Another term for a dinghy, a smaller vehicle, often a compact car or jeep, towed behind a motorhome, used for local transportation when the motorhome is parked at a campsite.
|The downward force or weight applied by a towable RV on the hitch of the tow vehicle, important for ensuring proper weight distribution and towing stability.
|The maximum weight a vehicle can safely tow, as determined by the manufacturer, including the weight of the trailer, cargo, and fluids.
|A type of RV, either motorized or towable, designed to transport recreational vehicles, such as motorcycles, ATVs, or bicycles, in a dedicated storage area or garage and offering living accommodations in the remaining space.
|The enclosed area beneath the floor of an RV, often containing storage compartments, tanks, and utility systems, and protected by a weatherproof covering to reduce heat loss and protect from road debris.
|Weight Distribution System
|A type of hitch system designed to distribute the weight of a towable RV more evenly across the tow vehicle’s axles, improving stability, control, and braking performance.
|A compact bathroom in an RV that combines the toilet, shower, and sink in a single waterproof space, allowing users to shower and use the toilet without the need for a separate shower stall or enclosure.
|The distance between the center of the front and rear axles on a vehicle or motorhome, important for determining stability, ride quality and turning radius.
|The horizontal distance from one side of an RV to the other, typically measured at the widest point, important for determining if the RV is suitable for certain campsites, parking spaces, or storage facilities.
|The process of preparing an RV for storage during cold weather, including draining water systems, adding antifreeze to plumbing lines, and disconnecting and storing batteries, to prevent damage from freezing temperatures.
Printable RV Terms & Definitions Guide (With Abbreviations & Slang)
This comprehensive, 17-page printable guide contains over 150 essential terms, abbreviations, and slang phrases used in the RV world. Easily print off the guide, store it in your RV, and have the most common terms at your fingertips when you need them. Or view the PDF download on your PC or mobile device – even without an internet connection!
Are there any abbreviations we missed? Add them in the comments below.