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RV Dictionary

One of the challenges when renting your first Motorhome is the whole set of new vocabulary words that come with it.
Here are the most common words and terms used when talking about RVs: 

AC = Air-conditioning
is a cooling system that allows you to cool interior areas. There is a dashboard AC button located in the driving cabin that cools this area.  There may also be a roof based AC unit, which is used to cool the rear coach or living area. There is not always AC in motor homes, especially in European vehicles located in regions temperatures are moderate. The roof mounted AC units only operate while connected to an external power source. Dashboard AC units get their power from the vehicle engine, like in ordinary car, and only operate while the motor is running.

A special liquid, which prevents water from freezing.  Anti-freeze is used in vehicle cooling systems, such as the radiator as well as in all areas where water is used in a motor home during the winter months. This prevents the water from freezing and breaking pipes and holding tanks.


Black Water Tank
The tank which stores the waste water from the toilet exclusively. It gets its name form the color of the chemical which is usually used in the motor home septic system. This tank must be emptied only in an approved dump station.


Boon Docking  (Also  Dry Camping or Self Contained)
Parking with no hook-ups, such as fresh water, electricity or sewer. Using the motor home as a self contained living entity.

Cab Over Bed
A bed which is located over the driving cabin in a raised area.  Usually a double bed.

Campground or Campsite
A place used for overnight stays for various RV's and tents. There are 2 types of campgrounds- Public and Private, which are rated in various camping/motor home/RV guides. Ratings are based on the  types of facilities, cleanliness, surroundings and location to attractions. Most of campgrounds are closed in the off-season.

Cassette Toilet
A chemical toilet with cassette holding the waste water, which must be emptied.

Camper or Caravan
The European terms for a RV. These terms include all vehicles used for traveling, include motorized vehicles and towables. In French you call it Camping Car.

The mechanical base on which the vehicle is built.

The living unit of the motor home.

Convenience Kit
Additional equipment such as bedding, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, etc. given by the rental companies. Sometimes there is a basic kit included in rental price while other equipment is rented for an additional charge.


Electric device for transforming 120V or 240V into 12V used by the electrical systems in motor homes.


Dash A/C
Dashboard airconditioning (AC) in the driving cabin. (See AC above.)

A dining area which is made up of a table and sofas. These areas commonly convert into a bed by folding down the table and reconfiguring the cushions.

Dry Camping or Boon Docking or Self Contained
Parking with no hookups as water, electricity or sewer.

Dual Electrical System
Refers to electric appliances which can operate on both on 12V or 120V (North America) or 220V (Europe). This allows appliances to be used while ‘dry camping’ via the batteries or while plugged into a power source at a campground that supplies such facilities.

Dump Station
A place to empty the waste water tanks. Dump stations often have fresh water to refill the fresh water tanks as well. Many are free of charge, some require a small fee. Dump stations can be found in campgrounds, rest areas and in some gas stations.


Fifth Wheel
A trailer or coach towed by a pick-up truck via a special hitch located in the cargo area of the truck. Usually recognized by the raised front section that sits over the cargo area of the truck. This extra section is usually used as a sleeping area.


Flush toilet
Ordinary toilet that uses water. In a motor home the water comes from the fresh water tank and is used to wash the waste into the wastewater tank. In these types of toilets chemicals must be added to avoid odors.


Folding Camping Trailer (Also Pop-Up)
A lightweight trailer base that holds living area that is accessed by opening a folding tent area.  The trailer is towed by a motorized vehicle.

Full Hookups
Facilities at a campground site for RV's that includes electricity, water and sewage. Additional services, such as cable TV, etc., can also be found in some campgrounds.
Fresh Water Tank or White Water Tank
A tank that contains the clean water used for drinking or which is used in the kitchen, shower, and in some models, in the toilet. It is advisable to re-fill the fresh water tank daily.

A heating unit.


An external electrical power generating unit which working on fuel and allows operating all motor home systems while dry camping away from external electrical hook-ups. These units can be very noisy.

Computerized navigation system.

GVW =Gross Vehicle Weight
The GVW refers to the total weight of  the vehicle when it is fully load with passengers, water ,fuel, and luggage.  There are maximums which must not be exceeded.

Grey Water
Waste water from the sink and shower.


An electrical device used to transform 12V into 120V or 240V.


LPG = Liquid Propane Gas
Propane gas is a type of fuel that is burned to release heat and is commonly compressed, under pressure, into tanks known as balloons.  This gas is used for heating and cooking in RV's. The balloon can be refilled or replaced at some gas stations or special filling stations.  Gas consumption is dependent on the level of use of the various gas powered appliances, such as the stove and refrigerators.


A motor home built on a bus chassis.


Motor home
A motorized vehicle used transportation and living.  A motor home is usually built as one unit, which contains a driving area and a living area that usually contains facilities such as kitchens, sleeping areas, toilets, showers, etc.  These are an ideal vehicle for travel are commonly rented.


NCC = Net Carrying Capacity
The maximum weight of the luggage carried by the motor home, not including the weight of the passengers or vehicle systems (water, gas, fuel etc).

Pilot Light
A small flame that burns continuously in the appliances that use propane gas, such as the stove or refrigerator.  The pilot light allows the units to work continuously without requiring that they be continuously re-lit. 

Pop-Up (Also Folding Camping Trailer)
See "folding camping trailer" above.


See "LPG" or "Liquid Propane Gas" above.


Private Campground
See Campground above. A privately operated area used for the parking of RV's or camping.  Services offered may vary as well as prices. 


Public Campground
See Campground above. An area used for the overnight parking of RV’s and/or camping which is operated by a government entity such as a National, State or Local Park Service. Services offered may vary as well as prices. 

Pull Through
With this type of site, it is possible to pull into the site and out of the site without ever needing to back in or out.

Recreational Vehicle or RV
All vehicles used for recreation, including, but not limited to motor homes and towables. 


Rest Area
An area used for temporary parking usually found on the side of the road or highway. These areas commonly include public services such as toilets, public phone, picnic areas, pet exercise areas, etc.

Roof AC
A cooling system mounted on the roof of a motor home which is used to cool the rear coach or living area. The roof mounted AC units only operate while connected to an external power source.

RV Park
See Campground above. A parking area for RV's that may not allow tents. Usually privately owned and operated. Most RV Parks offer hook-up services.


Self Contained
A motorized vehicle that is able to operate all systems with no hookups. Most models can run self-contained for 2 to 7 days, depending on it’s size and the number of passengers.

A parking area within a campground or RV park that will accommodate a motorhome or tent. Most sites are numbered and assigned upon registration at a campground.

Slide out
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.

Travel Trailer
A coach or living unit that is towed by a vehicle.


Three-way Fridge
A refrigerator that operates on a 12V battery while driving or by propane gas or electricity while parked.


Van Conversion (Also Conversion Van or Class B Motor home)

A standard van chassis that is converted to a compact motor home with all the facilities.

White Water Tank or Fresh Water Tank
See Fresh Water Tank above.

Water Pump
Electric pump that operates on 12V battery power. This pump is used to pressurizes the water so that it will flow out of faucets. While driving or when the water tank is emptied, the water pump must be turned off to avoid leaks and damage to the water systems and pump itself.


12V Battery
A deep drain battery that yields on 12V of power. It is recharged while via the vehicles engine is idling or while driving.


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