RV Glossary

Welcome to the Changing Gears RV terms glossary!

Scroll through the entries or jump to your chosen term using our Table of Contents.

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Table of Contents


Amp is short for ampere, the electric current unit of measure. RV sites with electric hookup will specify the maximum amps supported, which generally come in units of 20, 30, or 50 amps. The RV power connector must match the various plugs of the site amp rating.

Articulation Point

A joint between two objects which allows movement. In the case of RV’s, an articulation point is where two vehicles are coupled together by a ball or fifth wheel hitch. When a truck is pulling a travel trailer or fifth wheel, a single articulation point exists. If a boat is towed behind the trailer then two articulation points exist.


A roof-like structure made of canvas or other artificial materials which extends from the RV body to provide shade. Awnings are generally placed over entrances. Some extend and stow manually while others are operated electrically.

Back In

A slot in an RV park with a single entrance, designed to be backed into with the RV.


The storage compartment of RV’s under the main living area. Basements are generally found on motor homes and fifth wheel trailers.

Batwing Antenna

TV antenna on the roof on an RV characterized by two horizontal elements. Batwing antennas are generally raised and rotated with a hand crank from inside the RV living compartment.

Black Tank

Holding tank connected to the toilet, designed to hold sewage until it can be dumped into a septic system.

Black Water

Waste water from the toilet; sewage.

See also Black Tank


Strictly speaking, boondocking is camping far away from civilization without any facilities such as water or electricity; roughing it. In a more general sense it has come to mean camping or parking anywhere without facilities, relying strictly on the comforts provided by the RV. Many RVers refer to spending the night in an interstate rest area, shopping center parking lot, or truck stop, as boondocking.

Brake Controller

Electronic device mounted in the tow vehicle to control the trailer brakes. It is connected to the tow vehicle brake system to sense when braking needs to be applied to the trailer. It has a lever for manually engaging the trailer brakes.

Breakaway Switch

An electrical switch on trailers designed to engage the breaks in case the trailer breaks away from the tow vehicle. The switch is connected by a cable to the tow vehicle. Breakaway is detected when the switch cable is pulled out during vehicle separation.

Bumper Pull Trailer

See Travel Trailer


See Slide

Bus Conversion

A passenger bus converted to an RV.


This term can refer to one of two things: 1) a Class C motor home, or 2) the sleeping area which is over the cab in Class C motor homes and truck campers. 


Another term for an RV, especially smaller RV’s that are towed behind or carried on top of light trucks. Truckers generally refer to all RV’s as “campers” in their CB conversations.

Camper Trailer

See Folding Trailer

Camper Van

See Class B

Cargo Weight

Cargo Weight is the actual weight of all items added to the Curb Weight of the vehicle or trailer. This includes personal cargo, optional equipment, and Tongue or King Pin Weight.


See CB Radio

CB Radio

Citizens Band radio is a general use, short distance, two-way radio primarily used by truckers. CB’s are also helpful to RV drivers to call for help in an emergency and listen for driving conditions. Many CB’s on the market today also have weather channels with alerting features.


See Commercial Drivers License


The frame of a vehicle or motor home including the engine, transmission, drive train, axles, and wheels. When referring to a van or truck, the chassis also includes the cab.

Chassis Battery

Battery in motor homes and tow trucks for operating the engine and vehicle components. Gas engine vehicles generally have one chassis battery and diesels two. Also referred to as the starting battery.

Class A

A motor home built on a stripped truck chassis where the driving compartment is an integral part of the RV interior. Class A motor homes look like busses.

Class B

A motor home created from a mini van. Most models have raised roofs, but otherwise the living space is constrained by the dimensions of the van.

Class C

A motor home built on a cut-away van or truck chassis, including the cab. It differs from the class A motor home in that the class C uses the cab designed for the chassis.


See Commercial Motor Vehicle


A vehicle with enclosed passenger accommodations. In the broadest sense of the term, coach can be applied to most recreational vehicles. When used by itself, it usually refers to a motor home, most likely a Class A.

Commercial Drivers License

License issued by states to drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). Some states require special licensing or endorsements for large RV’s, but a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is rarely required for non-commercial RV’s. 

Commercial Motor Vehicle

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration definition: A commercial motor vehicle is any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle: (1) has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR)—or a gross vehicle weight (GVW) or gross combination weight (GCW)—of 4,536 kilograms (10,001 pounds) or more, whichever is greater; or (2) is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers, including the driver, for compensation; or (3) is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, whether or not it is used to transport passengers for compensation; or (4) is used in transporting material found by the Secretary of Transportation to be hazardous under 49 U.S.C. 5103 and transported in a quantity requiring placarding under regulations prescribed by the Secretary under 49 CFR, Subtitle B, Chapter I, Subchapter C.

Conventional Trailer

See Travel Trailer

Conversion Van

See Class B


A device that converts alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) used to charge the RV batteries and to operate 12 volt DC devices while plugged into an AC source.

Curb Weight

Curb Weight is the actual weight of a vehicle or trailer, including all standard equipment, full fuel tanks, full fresh water tanks, full propane bottles, and all other equipment fluids, but before taking on any persons or personal cargo.

Diesel Pusher

See Pusher


See Toad

Direct Spark Ignition

A feature of new propane appliances whereby the gas is ignited by an electrical spark and monitored electronically.


One’s fixed and permanent legal residence. Among RVers this generally refers to the state of legal residence.

Difference between domicile and residence, as explained by the State of New York Court of Appeals:

Residence means living in a particular locality, but domicile means living in that locality with intent to make it a fixed and permanent home. Residence simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to make it one’s domicile.


See Dual Rear Wheels


See Dual Rear Wheels

Dry Camping

Camping in an RV without external water or sewer hookups.

Dry Weight

Dry Weight is the actual weight of a vehicle or trailer containing standard equipment without fuel, fluids, cargo, passengers, or optional equipment.


See Direct Spark Ignition

Dual Rear Wheels

A truck having two wheels on each side of the rear axle for a total of four wheels.


See Dual Rear Wheels

Dump Station

Facilities for emptying gray and black water from the RV holding tanks.


See Exhaust Temperature Gauge

Exhaust Brake

A device installed on the engine which causes deceleration by restricting the exhaust gases. Exhaust brakes are used to supplement the service brakes of a vehicle and to increase stopping power. Especially useful to slow heavy loads down steep grades.

Exhaust Temperature Gauge

Gauge indicating engine exhaust gas temperature as measured by a probe inserted into the gas flow. Temperature is generally measured directly after the exhaust manifold or after the turbo. Useful in preventing engine overheating.


See Full Hookup

Fifth Wheel

A trailer and hitch configuration connected to the tow truck directly above the rear axle by way of a special fifth wheel hitch. This causes several feet of the connected trailer to hang over the tow truck, placing about 15 to 25% of the trailer’s weight on the rear axle of the truck. Commercial trucks and trailers use this hitch configuration. Also commonly spelled as 5th wheel.


See Fifth Wheel


Abbreviation for Fair Market Value.

Folding Camper

See Folding Trailer

Folding Trailer

Small, light-weight trailer that folds or collapses into a low profile, suitable for towing behind light vehicles such as cars, SUV’s, and mini pickup trucks.

Fresh Water Tank

Tank for holding fresh water for drinking, cooking, and bathing while not connected to a city water supply.

Full Hookup

An RV site with water, electric, and sewer facilities.


A person living full-time in an RV, having no other home.


See Fifth Wheel


The kitchen in an RV.

Gas Pusher

See Pusher


Gross Axle Weight (GAW) is the actual weight placed on a single axle.


Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) is the maximum number that the GAW of a single axle should never exceed.


Gross Combination Weight (GCW) is the actual weight of the fully loaded tow vehicle plus the towed vehicle (trailer, car, boat, etc.), including all cargo, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment.


Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) is the maximum number that the tow vehicle GVW plus towed vehicle GVW (or GTW) should never exceed.


A trailer and hitch configuration connected to the tow truck directly above the rear axle by way of a standard ball hitch in the truck bed and a vertical, slender arm on front of the trailer. Gooseneck hitching is common on horse and utility trailers, but rarely found on RV’s.

Gooseneck Adapter

A device that attaches to the fifth wheel trailer’s king pin and extends down about two feet. It couples with a ball hitch mounted in the bed of a truck, enabling the fifth wheel to be towed like a gooseneck trailer. 

Gooseneck Extender

See Gooseneck Adapter


The degree of inclination of a road. A grade of 6% or higher is considered steep.

Gray Tank

Holding tank connected to the sinks and shower, designed to hold waste water until it can be dumped into a septic system.

Gray Water

Waste water from the sinks and shower.

See also Gray Tank


Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) is the same as Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) when referring to a trailer.


Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the actual weight of the fully loaded vehicle or trailer, including all cargo, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment, as measured by a scale.


Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum number that the GVW or GTW should never exceed.

Half Ton

Truck rating originally conceived to indicate cargo carrying capacity of a half ton (1,000 lbs). Today, tonnage rating is no longer an accurate indication of cargo carrying capacity—it is more of a relational indication among trucks in different categories. Common one ton pickup truck models are the Chevrolet 1500, Dodge 1500, Ford F-150, and GMC 1500.

Hauler Back

Truck body installed on a chassis in place of a bed, designed to tow or haul various loads. Most hauler backs look like a typical car wrecker without the lift. Hauler backs intended for RV towing have a flat surface and a hitch installed above the rear axle. Common options added to hauler backs are storage compartments and tool boxes.

Heavy Duty Truck

Commercial truck designed for heavy duty. Heavy trucks are suitable for towing the heaviest of trailers, though they are rarely used for RV towing. A few examples: semi trucks, Chevrolet Kodiak C8500, Ford F-750, GMC TopKick C8500. 

Holding Tank

One of several storage tanks on an RV designed to hold fresh and waste water. Common holding tanks are the fresh water tank, gray tank, and black tank.

Honey Wagon

Euphemism for the sewage pumping truck. Honey wagons are used to empty RV holding tanks in places where full hookups and dump stations are not available.

House Battery

One or more batteries in a recreational vehicle for operating the 12 volt lights, appliances, and systems. House batteries can be 12 volt units tied in parallel or pairs of 6 volt batteries tied in series (to double the voltage). The term house battery is of more significance in motor homes because they contain one or more other batteries for the operation of the engine, referred to as the chassis or starting batteries.


A device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for powering AC equipment while the RV is not plugged into an AC source. Typical DC sources are batteries and solar panels.


Abbreviation for Internet Service Provider.

Jake Brake

See Exhaust Brake

King Pin

The pin by which a fifth wheel trailer attaches to the truck. It slides into the fifth wheel hitch and locks in place.

King Pin Weight

King Pin Weight (also called Pin Weight) is the actual weight pressing down on the fifth wheel hitch by the trailer. The recommended amount of King Pin Weight is 15%-25% of the GTW.

Landing Gears

See Leveling Jack

Landing Legs

See Leveling Jack

Leveling Jack

A jack lowered from the underside of trailers and motor homes for the purpose of leveling the vehicle. A leveling jack is designed to bear a significant portion of the RV’s weight, even lifting it off the ground on certain models.

Light Duty Truck

Personal truck designed for light duty, typically rated at one ton and below. Light trucks are suitable for towing small to medium trailers. A few examples: Chevrolet Silverado 3500, Ford F-250, Dodge RAM 1500. 


Liquefied Petroleum Gas, commonly written as “LP gas”. Two examples of LPG are propane and butane. LPG is heavier than air in gas form and about half the weight of water in liquid form.


See Medium Duty Truck

Medium Duty Truck

Commercial truck designed for medium duty, typically rated above one ton. Medium duty trucks are built with heavier frames, brakes, and transmission compared to light trucks. A few examples: Chevrolet Kodiak C4500, Ford F-450/F-550, International 4200.


See Motor Home

Mini Motor Home

See Class C

Motor Coach

See Motor Home

Motor Home

A motor vehicle built on a truck or bus chassis and designed to serve as self-contained living quarters for recreational travel. Also commonly spelled as motorhome.


Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price


Net Carrying Capacity (NCC) is the maximum amount of persons, personal cargo, optional equipment, and Tongue or King Pin weight that can be added to an RV. The formula for NCC is GVWR – UVW. NCC differs slightly from the more widely used “payload” term, by including full fresh water and propane tank weights.

One Ton

Truck rating originally conceived to indicate cargo carrying capacity of one ton (2,000 lbs). Today, tonnage rating is no longer an accurate indication of cargo carrying capacity—it is more of a relational indication among trucks in different categories. Common one ton pickup truck models are the Chevrolet 3500, Dodge 3500, Ford F-350, and GMC 3500.

Park Model

A travel trailer that requires park facilities to function. It lacks holding tanks and dual-voltage appliances, requiring to be plugged into water, sewage, and electrical facilities. A park model is more of a small mobile home than a recreational vehicle, in appearance and function.


Payload is a weight rating. It is the maximum weight that persons plus cargo should never exceed.

Pop-Up Trailer

See Folding Trailer

Pressure Regulator

See Water Pressure Regulator

Pull Through

A slot in an RV park with an entrance and an exit, designed to pull the RV in one end and out the other, without having to back up.


Motor home with rear mounted engine. Most pushers are equipped with diesel engines, but some gas engine models are also available.


See Exhaust Temperature Gauge

Rear Differential

A set of gears found in the rear axle of vehicles, designed to distribute drive shaft power to the two wheels. It applies power to both wheels while allowing each to spin at different rates during cornering.

Rear End

See Rear Differential

Recreational Vehicle

Vehicle or trailer with living accommodations used for traveling and recreational activities.


Rear Gross Axle Weight (GAW) is the actual weight placed on the rear axle.


Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating (RGAWR) is the maximum number that the GAW of the rear axle should never exceed.


Special equipment or gear used for a particular purpose. In the RV world it generally refers to an RV or truck.


See Recreational Vehicle


Abbreviation for the RV Consumer Group organization.

Shore Power

A boating term adopted by the RV community to mean an electrical power hookup supplied to the RV by a fixed, external source (not by a portable generator). A full hookup RV site has shore power.


A compartment added to an RV to increase interior space. It slides into the body during travel and slides out when parked.

Slide-In Truck Camper

See Truck Camper


See Slide


A person who moves from cold weather to warm in an RV, generally staying a season.

Solar Panel

Device containing an array of solar cells which convert sunlight to electricity. Typically mounted on the roof of RV’s and used for charging the batteries.

Sport Utility Trailer

See Toy Hauler

Stabilizing Jack

A jack inserted under or lowered from trailers and motor homes for the purpose of stabilizing the vehicle. A stabilizing jack is not designed to bear a significant portion of the RV’s weight, only a small amount to reduce movement during occupancy. Stabilizing jacks are generally found toward the back of trailers, under the king pin of fifth wheels, and under some slides.

Starting Battery

See Chassis Battery

Stinky Slinky

Slang for the sewer hose, constructed from a spiral wire covered with vinyl. One end attaches to the RV piping and the other into the local sewer dump facilities.

Tagalong Trailer

See Travel Trailer

Tent Camper

See Folding Trailer

Tent Trailer

See Folding Trailer

Three Quarter Ton

Truck rating originally conceived to indicate cargo carrying capacity of three quarter tons (1,500 lbs). Today, tonnage rating is no longer an accurate indication of cargo carrying capacity—it is more of a relational indication among trucks in different categories. Common three quarter ton pickup truck models are the Chevrolet 2500, Dodge 2500, Ford F-250, and GMC 2500.


A vehicle towed behind the RV. That which was “towed”.

Tongue Jack

A jack lowered from the frame of a travel trailer, directly behind the tongue, for the purpose of leveling the trailer. A tongue jack is designed to bear a significant portion of the trailer’s weight, called the Tongue Weight (10% – 15% recommended).

Tongue Load

See Tongue Weight

Tongue Weight

Tongue Weight (also called Tongue Load) is the actual weight pressing down on the hitch ball by the trailer. The recommended amount of Tongue Weight is 10%-15% of the GTW.

Toy Hauler

The term toy hauler is applied to both fifth wheels and travel trailers, and it describes an RV designed to carry toys—small cars, dune buggies, four wheelers, motorcycles, etc. Distinguishing features of a toy hauler is the large door in the back which opens down to create a ramp, dedicated garage area or fold-away furniture in the main living compartment, and often a third axle to support the heavy toys.

Travel Trailer

A towable trailer that hitches onto a ball mount on the tow vehicle and designed as living quarters for recreational travel.

Travel Trailer Coach

See Travel Trailer

Truck Camper

Living quarters designed to slide into the bed of a truck. The camper is fastened to the truck frame during transport and slides out onto its own legs at the camp site.


See Travel Trailer

Umbilical Cord

Wiring harness which connects the trailer to the tow vehicle during transport. The umbilical cord supplies the trailer with DC power for charging the batteries and operating DC equipment. It also operates the trailer brakes and signal lights.

UVW (Unloaded Vehicle Weight)

Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) is the weight of a vehicle as manufactured at the factory. It includes full engine and generator fuel tanks and fluids, if applicable. It does not include cargo, water, propane, or dealer-installed accessories. It may or may not include factory installed options. Be aware that some manufacturers weigh each unit to determine UVW, while others provide only the average or estimated weight for each model.

Van Camper

See Class B

Water Pressure Regulator

Device installed on water hose attached to city water to limit the water pressure entering the RV. Most regulators limit water pressure to 40 psi.

Weight-Distributing Hitch

A ball hitch system that distributes some of the tongue weight to all axles of the tow vehicle and trailer. With standard ball hitches, all of the tongue weight rests on the tow vehicle’s rear axle; the weight-distributing hitch uses spring tensioned bars to distribute it among the axles. This provides more weight on the front axle for better steering control, and less weight on the rear axle to allow towing a heavier trailer that may otherwise overload the rear axle.


Distance between the center of the front and rear wheels of a vehicle, usually expressed in inches.


An RV having an external body width greater than 96 inches (8 feet). The most common wide-body widths are 100″ and 102″. Also widebody.


See Wireless Internet


The process of introducing non-toxic antifreeze into the water lines of an RV for winter storage to prevent freezing and line breaks.

Wireless Internet

Technology that enables computers equipped with wireless network cards (also called WiFi) to connect to the Internet without requiring wired connections such as phone lines or cables. This service generally requires an additional fee and a sing-up process.

Work Camper

A person living in an RV and working. Many spell it as “workamper” after the web site and service by that name.


See Work Camper

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