Huh? What's that ? What in tarnashun did he say ? Where the heck is the RV Dictionary?

An RV Dictionary? A few folks have written to me, asking about this term or that. I figured maybe there was still a need to offer a little explanation.

Back on the ranches I know that slang and terms change from area to area. A cowboy from down south looks and talks different than a Buckaroo from the Great basin. Different slang, differant gear. Takes some getting used to when you change areas. Figure it might just be the same here.

I've compiled this RV Dictionary mostly for new RVers. Oldtimers, if I was successful, will hopefully get a chuckle or two out of it here and there, and maybe the newer RVers as well.

There's a whole herd of words to fill up an RV Dictionary. For newer folks there are many new and confusing terms and RVer slang used by RVers about our rigs and our lifestyle. Even more for those of us who refer to ourselves as RV Boondockers. I am certain sure that I don't have them all here. So if you have a term/word you use in a different way or one that is just not here at all, pass it on!

Hopefully, when we meet in some boondock camp sometime, we won't have to pull out our RV Dictionaries to communicate!

A lot of these, maybe even most, are pretty self explanatory, but hopefully there will be a little bit new to you here and there.

And one last thing. Sometimes, my fingers and my brain act like they aren't connected. If you spot something that I put here that looks to you like that disconnection has occured, don't be bashful! Let me know!

Most dictionaries are alphabetical ............ you'd think an RV Dictionary would be too, wouldn't you? I though of that, but not for very long!

In my RV Dictionary I have "grouped" related terms to allowlogical organization.

OK, so I admit it, sometimes my "logic" is a bit differant than how other folks think. Landing on your head too many times canproduce that sort of "eccentricity".

But give it a chance. I think it may just make a little sense the way I did it. And anyways, folks have always said "Brian, you make little sense!"

So off to the...

RV Dictionary


Deep Cycle battery: Batteries that are constructed to allow deeply discharging them with minimal degradation of their capacity. Unlike "starting" batteries that are fairly quickly damaged by deep discharges.However, minimizing the depth of discharge of "Deep Cycle" batteries will lengthen their service life.

House Battery: Some really really big D cells? Or the collection of batteries used to store all the power you need to run your lights, stereo, furnace etc. Usually a bank of 2 to 6 batteries.

Starting battery/Chassis Battery: Battery used for starting the engine of your RV (Motorhome or Tow Vehicle). Designed for minimal depth of discharge. Overdischarging can seriously damage a starting battery and significantly shorten its service life.

Golf Cart Battery: Common slang for a variety of deep cycle batteries. Generally a lead / acid type of battery. You do not have to Play Golf or own a Golf cart to use these batteries!

Battery Bank: A big expensive building where you deposit your batteries ................... you have to tell a few bad ones to make the good jokes be more than just average don't you? Actually the collection of deep cycle batteries used to power your RV "House" systems. Generally 2 to 6 batteries connected in series and/or parallel.

Chassis Battery: Another name for the engine starting battery

Parallel Connection: This is where multiple batteries are connected positive to positive and negative to negative to increase available amperage.

Series Connection: This is where multiple batteries are connected positive to negative for the purpose of doubling voltage. ie. (2) two trojan T-105, 6 volt deep cycle batteries, connected to produced 12 volts for the house systems.

Series-Parallel Connection: This is generally where you have 4 to 6, (6) volt batteries. They are paired in series to produce 12 volts, and then the pairs are connected in Parallel to increase available amperage.

****Water Systems****

Blue Boy: A little man with too many tatoos? Nope, just little, blue, portable tanks with wheels, used to transport waste tank effluent to a usually nearby dump station when you are not hooked up.

Macerator Pump: Sort of a garbage disposal for the sewer / black water tank. It grinds the solids to 1/8" or less so it can be pumped through a hose as small as 3/4", up into a tank on your tow vehicle or toad. This allows you to get your tanks dumped when you are boondocking without having to move your whole rig. Nice thing when you are twenty miles out in the bush. All you have to do is haul the tank to a dump station when you go into town for groceries or those little blue pills!

Grey / Black / Fresh water: Fairly self explanatory. Fresh is your potable water. Grey is kitchen and bath water, and black water is that nasty stuff that we don't talk about in polite company! You know what it is. That stuff you produce in the "little room".

Holding Tanks: The tanks under your rig to hold the various waters. Fresh, grey and black.

Dump Valves: The valves used to control the dumping of your holding tanks.

Dump Station: Facilities set up for RVers to dump their waste tanks. NOT a hole dug in the ground south east of somewhere!

****Electrical systems****

Shore Power: Another term borrowed from boaters. It's the receptacle you plug your RV power cord / umbilical into at your campsite in an RV park, friends house ............. your neighbors trailer when no one is looking .............. NOT!

RV Umbilical: That heavy cord on your RV that you attach to "Shore Power" or the campground electrical pedestal to supply electrical power to your RV.

Inverter: Changes (Inverts) your battery power from 12volt to 110 volt for use of standard tools and appliances. Usually also contains a 12 volt charger to fill up your rigs house batteries. The chargers contained in inverters are generally of superior quality to those that the manufacturers put into the converters when the rig is built. (a sore spot with a lot of RVers)

Converter: Changes (Converts) 110 volt to 12 volt to run your low voltage lights and appliances (when plugged in to shore power) as well as battery charging. Generally, the chargers on converters are pretty low power and low quality. Changing to an inverter frequently yields better battery life due to the more propercharging capabilities of the improved chargers built into most inverters.

Gen-Set or Genset: A generator for powering 110 volt appliances in the absence of an inverter or for charging depleted batteries.

Generator: The machinery that produces 110 volts to run your rig in the absence of shore or solar power. Usually gasoline but can be diesel or propane powered. Some folks are even carrying wind generators that they set up for longer term, boondocking camps! ............... also refers to a little part that supplies the fuel to the mantle on old white gas coleman type lanterns.

****Hitches and related parts and subjects:****

Pull, Tag, Bumper pull Trailers:That variety of trailer where the hitch is connected to the bumper or reciever hitch on the tail end of a tow vehicle.

Fifth Wheel, Fiver, 5W Trailer:5er:That sort where the hitch is located in the bed of a pickup or medium duty truck, similar in configuration to semi-truck setups.

Hitch Ratings: The weight rating or weight capacity of the hitch on your RV.

Equalizing Hitch: A hitch "accessory" that transfers some of the hitch/tongue weight of a tag/bumper/pull type trailer to the front axle of the tow vehicle and the axles of the trailer. Pretty much a required piece of equipment (in my opinion) for tag/bumper/pull typetrailers in excess of 5,000#. This changes the "attitude" of the hitch, leveling the tow vehicle / trailer combination

Weight Distributing Hitch: Another name for equalizer hitches. Used to redistribute theweight on a tongue heavy trailer to the front axle of the towing vehicle and the axles of the trailer.

Slider hitch: A fifth wheel hitch designed to overcome the short comings of hauling a fifth wheel trailer with a short bed pickup. In this situation the trailer is too close to the cab. When making very tight turns you can get a conflict where the rear corner of the cab and the leading corner of the fifth wheel attempt to occupy the same space. The resulting noise is generally sure to make for a lousy day. The slide hitch, some automatic, some manual, slide temporarily to the rear, increasing the distance from trailer to cab and allowing tighter turns without "confict". They must be returned to towing position before resuming high speed hauling and can only be used at relatively slow speeds.

Safety Chains or Cables: The chains on your hitch or tongue used to keep the trailer or towed vehicle connected to the Tow vehicle in the event the hitch fails. You want proper rated chains to ensure the towed vehicle can not break totally free. We don't want a 10,000# trailer wandering around the interstate unsupervised at 65mph!

Tow Bar or Tow Hitch: The hitch system used to attach, generally to a motorhome or bus, to tow your "Toad".

Break away system: This is a switch, cable and small battery, somewhere on the hitch, which automatically powers the brakes of the trailer, if the hitch fails and the trailer comes loose. The idea is that the brakes come on and stop the "runaway" trailer. Hopefully, before anything else "goes wrong".

****General Random Terms:****

Dry camping: setting up camp out in the boondocks with no hookups. It's still "dry camping" even when it's raining! Using the self containment of your rig for the purpose it was designed!

Boondocking and Variations: Urban Boondocking, Primitive Camping: Camping / Parking your Rig without hookups of any sort. No water, no electricity and no sewer beyond what is self contained in your rig. Using it for its intended purpose. Boondockers Never admit to getting stuck in the mud. Instead: "Naw, I ain't stuck, I just dug that hole to keep the rig from getting pushed around in the wind!"

Dispersed Camping: Dry Camping / Boondocking on National Forest and BLM lands, in approved areas, where there is no developed campground. Most National Forests and BLM (Bureau of land management) lands are open for "dispersed camping". Just find a nice spot in a "Legal" area, pull in, set up camp and start chillin'. Check on the two sites National Forest and Bureau of Land Management to check for dispersed camping in a particular area.

Toad: Not what happens when you kiss your prince (though my daughter did experience this transformation a few times!)........... The slang used to reference the "Towed" vehicle behind your motorhome or sometimes behind a fifth wheel.

Dinghy: Optional term for your toad ............ I expect this one got started by boaters who frequently pull a dinghy behind their big boat.

Exhaust / Jake Brake: There are two types of brakes. Exhaust and engine. An exhaust brake is a butterfly in the exhaust pipe that creates back pressure, holding back the vehicle. A true "jake" is an "engine brake". That is a system built into the valve train of an engine during manufacture. An exhaust brake can be added after market. An engine brake can only be a part of the original engine manufacture. Exhaust brakes are frequently called "Jake brakes" in a casual slang usage.

Full Hookup: Nope, this is not the marriage ceremony .................. This is a camping site where you have full shore power, water and sewer hookups.

Hookups: Some think this is when you find a new girlfriend ............... actually it is where you have one or more of the three possible hookups. ie. electrical, water and sewer.

Full-Timers, Full-Timing:Part-Timers: The lucky buggers who have abandoned brick and mortar houses for the glorious life of gypsies wandering the backroads and open country !

Recreational Vehicle Types: For Boondocking, unless you are staying in relatively open areas, I would say that 30' length (of your towable) is about the limit. Get much longer than that and you start finding trouble getting in to National Forest camps etc. and just moving around on smaller roads and tighter areas. Motorhomes can get to maybe 34' without a lot of trouble. Their turning radius starts becoming an issue as you get bigger. ********************************************

Bus conversions: The big "Hollywood" Motorhomes built on large bus chassis. Awful impressive, but your wallet better be thicker than mine, and you better not be thinking of much in the way of Boondocking with one of these 40 foot and bigger giants!

Diesel Puller: A Class "A" Motorhome configuration where the diesel engine is in the front.

Diesel Pusher: A Class "A" Motorhome where the engine is located in the rear of the vehicle. Much, much quieter!

Fifth wheel trailer: Trailers where the hitch overlaps the bed of the tow vehicle, usually a pickup, so that the hitch attachment point is a few inches in front of the rear axle of the tow vehicle.

Folding/tent trailers: Small trailers, with canvas sides, often with a hard roof, that fold up/collapse into a very compact package for transport.

Pop-up trailers: A style of small trailer that is hard sided, where the walls sort of telescope up to full height when you set up in camp. Collapsing back down approximately 50% for travel.

Motorhome, Class "A": motorhomes built on a truck chassis.

Motorhome, Class "B": Motorhomes that are very small and compact, which are simply van conversions. Packing self contained facilities into a van.

Motorhome, Class "C": Motorhomes built on a van chassis and utilizing the cab of the van. Newer versions are using meduim duty truck chassis/cab setups.

Toy Hauler/Toy Hauler Trailer/Toy House Trailer: Trailers with a "garage" area accessed by a ramp on the rear of the trailer.

Travel Trailer or Trailer: generic term, usually applied to bumper pull type trailers.

Truck camper: The type of camper that slides into the bed of a truck.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Sites: There are millions of acres of land all over the west, That we own.. Much of this land is administered by the BLM. You can gain a lot of information by going to their website and doing a bit of looking. See their link above.

Corps of Engineers (COE) Camps:The Army Corp of engineers has sites all over thecountry.Generally they are areas where the Corp has built dams, reservoirs, etc.

Caravan: In europe, a common name for an RV trailer. In the U.S. a common name for a group of RVers traveling together in an organized fashion. Or disorganized ................... depends on the group!

Jacks: Leveling jacks: Manual, electric or hydraulic jacks. Multiple jacks attached to the vehicle frame to level the rig either manually or automatically. Depends on how much you want to spend!

Crank operated jacks: Self exlanatory. You have to hand crank these jacks. Can be scissor or vertical style. Used for leveling and the verticle style of hitch jacks on bumper pull trailers.

Power operated leveling jacks: See "leveling Jacks" above.

Stabilizer jacks: These are typically lighter, manually operated, jacks only used to stabilize a trailer or motorhome that has been leveled with blocks under the wheels. They are only used to stop the rig from bouncing in the wind or broadcasting to the neighbors know that you are feeling "frisky"!

Truck Camper jacks: The jacks used on slide in truck campers to unload the camper from the truck bed.

Leveling: Setting your rig level, front to rear and side to side. This is required for proper operation of most RV refrigerators as well as making it a lot easier to get to the bathroom in the dark! Not to mention stopping the blood from pooling in your head in bed at night when your feet are a foot higher than your noggin!

Bubble: As in "1/2 bubble off" (torpedo level): The glycerine bubbles in various forms of carpenters levels. Very useful for helping in the leveling process! Also a description of a few RVers ......

Torpedo level: Simply a short level of maybe 6 or 8 inches. A very convenient size to use to check levels when setting up. Available at any hardware store.

Marriage Saver: A meter used in adjusting your dish to maximize satelite reception. She can get a little cranky if she misses "As the world turns" ................. he'd never complain if he can't watch the football game!

Pop-Out (See also Slide-out): An older term. More commonly referred to today as "slide outs". That portion of your RV that you slide or "pop" out after you are parked, to expand your interior living space.

Tip-Out: Another term, generally an older usage, again referring to the expanable portion of your RV. That area that moves out to expand your interior living space.

Slide out: Probably the most common term in present day use. Frequently referred to simply as a "slide". The expandable area of a trailer or motorhome that "Slides" out to yield a greater living space and slides back in to provide a more compact package for transport.

Porpoising: The action, when rolling down the highway where the hitch area "porpoises", bouncing up and down on uneven pavement. A bit more common in truck and trailer combinations. Can still occur with motorhomes as well, with the rig rocking front to rear. Rather unsettling. Generally the result of an overloaded situation or improperly distributed weight. Can also be caused by improper hitch installation or weak springs / shocks. Sometimes on really bad pavement, a rig that is totally correct and proper will still porpoise a mite. Nothing you can do but slow down untill you get back to pavement that has more resemblance to a road!

Pull Through Site: That sort of campground configuration that keeps embarrasment to a minimum! You don't have to back up. The rig is pulled in at one end, and just "pulls through" and out the other end when you depart.

Quick Disconnect: What happens when you realize it's your mother-in-law on the telephone ................... or simply electrical / water / propane connections that only require a quick tug (without tools) to disconnect

Tag Axle: On motorhomes / buses with two rear axles, this is the one, to the rear, that is not connected to a drive shaft. It only serves to carry weight and provides no drive or impulsion. Tail Gunner: In a Caravan the Tail Gunner brings up the rear of the procession. He / she makes sure nobody gets left behind due to breakdown or other unintended consequences. They are usuall pretty highly experienced in RVs and are capable and equipped to make minor repairs, on the road, to get you underway.

Wagon Master: This is the person who leads the group and keeps things organized and on schedule.

Trailer Brakes: The brakes on your trailer. Used to keep you from becoming intimately associated with other folks on the road and various, miscellaneous bridges and such.

Wide Body: Again, Not your mother in law! Most RVs are a maximum 96" wide. Law allows a maximum of 8' 6" or 102" width. The wide body rigs, mostly all motorhomes / buses are built to the 102" dimension.

Workamping: Many RVers, myself included, need to make a few dollars to supplement our income. Some only need to work for a site to defray their expenses. Workamping refers to the various ways that RVers can achieve that goal. From camp hosting, Vendors at shows, wagon masters & tail gunners, retail clerks at some of the parks or campgrounds, the list of possibilities is nearly endless. Restrained only by your imagination. I would however counsel against being an itinerant bank robber. A 40' diesel pusher is not going to blend into traffic very well as you make your getaway!

Navy Shower: This is where you wet down, turn the water off, soap up, turn the water back on and rinse off, maybe repeat? How dirty are you? In the army we used even less water. Just a quart in a "steel pot" (our helmet) a bar of soap and a wash rag! Might not get you clean enough for civilized tastes ........................ but for a bunch of grunts in the bush, almost heaven! Since water conservation is one of the "big" things in RV Boondocking, this or some variety of it is an important technique.

Jackknife: This is where you get your tow vehicle turned 90 degrees, perpendicular, to your towed vehicle. OK if you are carefull, and backing into a tight campsite etc. Kind of risky with a short bed truck and fifth wheel. A really unpleasant experience when you are not backing up slowly but rolling down the highway at road speed! Guaranteed to give you the quivering wiggles when that happens!

Towing Double: A term used to describe the action of towing two trailers or vehicles in tandem. ie. a fifth wheel and boat or atv trailer.

Triple towing: Same as "towing double". This one just includes the tow vehicle in the equation.

Wally World: Referring to the sometimes demonized Wal Mart corporation stores.


Hitch Weight or Hitch Tongue Weight: The actual weight your RV or towed vehicle applies to the hitch of the towing vehicle.

Wet Weight: Total rig weight, including water, fuel, propane, groceries etc.

Unsprung Weight: Weight of those parts of the rig not supported by suspension (ie. tires, wheels, axles, hubs)

UVW (Unloaded Vehicle Weight): Pretty much the same thing as dry weight.

Dry Weight: Total rig weight unloaded. No fuel, water, groceries, propane, personal property, tools etc. .....totally empty!

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR): The maximum approved weight capacity of an axle. Frequently a trailer will have a "Gross vehicle weight rating" that is significantly larger than the total Axle weight rating. This is because the manufacturer is subtracting what the expected hitch or tongue weight will be. They are calculation that the tongue weight will be carried by the tow vehicle, not on the axlesof the trailer.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): The total approved weight rating of your rig including all cargo, not excluding pin or tongue weight on trailers.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): The total combined "wet weights" of your tow vehicle and alltrailers or your motorhome and all towed vehicles.

NCC (Net Carrying Capacity):

The capacity for cargo. Subtract your actual dry weight from your gross vehicle weight rating. This number should equal your NCC

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