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Old 11-27-2006, 04:34 AM   #1
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Default The A B C's of RV Terminology

The A B C's of RV Terminology
By Mark Polk

I guess because I work in the RV Industry and around RVs almost everyday I take some things for granted. One of those things is RV terminology. When you hear these terms everyday you just assume that everybody understands them.


Aluminum Frame Construction - When the RV framing is made of aluminum as opposed to wood.

Artic Package - An RV that is equipped with additional insulation and heated holding tanks for winter camping.

Awning - A canvas or vinyl covering mounted to the side of an RV that provides shade. Some awnings are retractable and use a spring-loaded roller tube. Other awnings must be rolled out by hand and are supported by poles, rope tie downs and stakes.

Axle Ratio - The number of times the drive shaft must turn to turn the axle one time. If you have a 3.73:1 axle ratio the drive shaft turns 3.73 times for each full turn of the axle. The higher the numeric value of the axle ratio the better the vehicle will tow, and the higher the numeric value the more gas you will use.


Backup Monitor - A monitor located in the drivers view that is attached to a small camera on the back of a motor home. It is used to assist in backing the motor home and to monitor what is happening behind you while you are traveling.

Ball & Ball Mount - Hitch balls have three basic measurements, the ball diameter, the shank diameter and the shank length. Ball diameter sizes come in 1 7/8, 2 and 2 5/16. The ball size must be the right size for the coupler on the trailer you are towing, and be rated to tow the trailers GVWR. The ball mount is the removable portion of the hitch that slides into the hitch receiver. For Weight Carrying (WC) hitches it may be necessary to find a ball mount with a drop or rise to help level the trailer when its hooked up to the tow vehicle. An adjustable ball mount is used for heavier trailer applications. Adjustable ball mounts allow the ball to be raised, lowered or tilted to compensate for trailer tongue weight and to attain proper height adjustments. Adjustable ball mounts are normally used with Weight Distributing (WD) hitches.

Basement Storage - Storage compartments or storage area located below the floor of the motor home. You access the storage from outside. Some storage areas are referred to as pass through storage, which means it goes from one side of the RV to the other with no dividers, and can be accessed from either side.

Black Water Holding Tank - A tank mounted under the RV that collects water and waste from the toilet. When the tank is 3⁄4 or more full it is emptied or dumped into an approved dump station or campground sewer. The black water tank is treated with chemicals to control odor and assist in breaking down waste.

Brake Controller - An electronic controller that is normally mounted under the dashboard of the tow vehicle, but within hands reach of the driver. The controller is designed to activate the trailer brakes when the tow vehicle brakes are applied. It also has a manual over ride that can be used to activate the trailer brakes without using the vehicle brakes.

Breakaway Switch - A switch that is wired into the trailers brake system. It is attached from the trailer to the tow vehicle by a cable lanyard. In the event that the trailer and vehicle separate the cable pulls a pin from the switch and the trailer brakes are activated. The switch must have a 12-volt source to operate.

Bumper Pull - A term used to describe towing a travel trailer or pop-up. Also referred to as a pull behind.


Cab over - The portion of a class C motor home that extends over the vehicle cab. It is usually designed as a bed.

Campground Hook-Ups - When you hook-up or connect your RV to the campground electric, water and sewer utilities. This would be considered a full hook-up. Some campgrounds may only offer one or two of these connections.

Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC) - is the maximum permissible weight of personal belongings and cargo that can be added to the RV. CCC is equal or less than GVWR minus UVW, full fresh water weight, and full LP gas weight.

City Water Connection - A water connection on the outside of the RV that is used when you have an external water supply such as at a campground. A potable water hose is used to connect the water supply to the city water connector on the RV.

Class A or Type A motor home - They are the largest of the motorized RVs ranging in size from 25 to 45 feet. Commonly referred to as a conventional motor home they are the ones you see that look similar to a bus, and depending on the price they can be equipped with features like washers and dryers, multiple slide out rooms, satellite dishes, home entertainment systems and much more.

Class B or Type B motor home - They are the smallest of motorized RVs ranging in size from16 to 20 feet. They are conversion vans that have been modified and equipped with sleeping, eating and bathroom facilities and amenities found in other RVs in a compact size.

Class C or Type C motor home - They are also referred to as mini-motor homes and are built on a cutaway van chassis. They range in size from 20 to 31 feet.

Converter - An electrical device that converts 120-volt AC power into 12-volt DC power. With the exception of the roof air conditioner, microwave, TV and the electric mode of the refrigerator almost everything in an RV operates on 12-volt DC power supplied by a battery. When youre plugged in to a 120-volt electrical source the converter changes the 120-volts AC to 12-volts DC so everything can operate without draining the battery(s). The converter also has a battery charger that will keep the battery(s) topped off when you are plugged in to a 120-volt power source.

Coupler- Located on the front of the trailer A-frame the coupler attaches the trailer to the ball on the hitch.

This list is not all-inclusive, but if you learn these terms you will soon be understanding RV terminology.

Happy Camping,


Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101

RV Expert Mark Polk, seen on TV, is the producer & host of America's most highly regarded series of DVD's, videos, books, and e-books.

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