rv terminology

You’ve just returned home after attending a local RV show and touring the latest models from RV manufacturers. But your head is still spinning after listening to all of the RV terms and definitions being thrown around by salesmen during the past few hours.

While you’re sure you asked as many questions as you possibly could, it would be easier if someone created a mini online glossary of RV terms, right? Well, your wish is our command. Check out this quick guide to some of the most used, but least understood, RV terms along with the definitions to match.

RV Terminology

Airbag: This term doesn’t mean the same thing when referencing an RV as it does when referring to a standard passenger vehicle. In RV terms, it refers to a shock absorber that is positioned at the forward and rear axles of a motorhome.

Axle Ratio: The final drive gear ratio created by the relationship between the ring and pinion gears and the rotation of the driveshaft. For example, on a vehicle with an axle ratio of 4.1:1, the driveshaft would have to rotate 4.1 times in order to rotate the drive wheels once.

Black Water: Waste from the on-board toilet that is flushed into a black water holding tank, typically located underneath the main floor of the RV.

Boondocking: RV camping without the benefit of an electrical hookup, fresh water or waste utilities.

Box: On a Class A RV, this is the term used to refer to the living space from the chassis up.

Cabcover: The portion of a Class C RV that overlaps the top of the vehicle’s cab and usually contains a sleeping or storage unit.

Curb Weight: The weight of an RV unit without fresh or waste water in the holding tanks, but including automotive fluids such as fuel, oil, and radiator coolant.

Diesel Pusher: The term for a motorhome or RV with a diesel engine mounted in the rear of the vehicle.

DW: Abbreviation for dry weight, which refers to the manufacturer’s listing of the approximate weight of the RV without supplies, water, fuel or passengers.

Exhaust Brakes: Diesel engines have poor compression slowing due to the fact that the air inlet to the engine is wide open at all times (there is no butterfly valve as is found in gasoline engines).

To get around this problem, some manufacturers supply diesel exhaust brakes that consist of a heavy-duty butterfly valve mounted immediately following the turbo charger in the exhaust system. When actuated, the butterfly is closed to almost completely block the path of the exhaust gases. This forces the engine to act like a large air compressor and provides substantial braking action.

Fiver: Another term for a fifth wheel.

Full Timers: folks who literally RV all the time instead of having a brick and mortar house.

GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating): The manufacturer’s rating for the maximum allowable weight that an axle is designed to carry.

Hula Skirt: Term for a dirt skirt accessory that aids in protection from debris thrown from an RV’s rear wheels to the vehicles directly behind them, or being towed behind them. This dirt skirt is usually the length of the rear bumper and resembles a shorter version of a Hawaiian hula skirt. Aloha!

Payload Capacity: The maximum allowable weight that can be placed in or on a vehicle — including cargo, passengers, fluids and Fifth-wheel or conventional hitch loads.

Self-contained: An RV that doesn’t need any external connections in order to provide short-term cooking, showering, and heating functions. Includes a fresh water tank and generous storage areas.

Toe: When referring to wheel alignment, this RV term pertains to the measure of whether the front of the wheels (looking down from the top) are closer (toe-in) or farther (toe-out) than the back of the wheels.

Widebody: RV designs that stretch from the traditional 96-inch body width to 100 or 102 inches.

On a final note here is a basic rule of thumb for the 2 types of RVs as categorized by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association:

Type 1 are pull behind RVs like 5th wheels, travel trailers, truck campers and camper trailers. Type 2 are motorized RVs like the Class A, Class B and Class C Rvs as well as conversion vans.

Hopefully you have a better understanding of RV terminology after reviewing this list. Are there any other strange or unusual RV terms you’ve heard lately? If so, what are they? Share your questions and comments on our Easy Escapes RV Facebook Page.