If you are new to Rving here are some common terms and definitions that are frequently used by RVers.This guide will get you feeling like a pro in no time! Here at Ray Citte RV, we have qualified Team Members that will help get answers to your questions. Please do hesitate to give us a call.


When towing, your trailer's wiring system needs to be connected to your vehicle's wiring system. This requires a plug and socket. The 4 way provides power from your tow vehicle to your RV for the lights only. If you have this type of connector, it will need to be re-wired to a 7 way connector because the law now requires electric brakes on your trailer and a 4 way does not provide any signal to the electric brakes in your trailer.  


This provides power from your tow vehicle to your RV for the lights as well as the electrically operated brakes.


On most newer RVs, the manufacturer includes a roll-out awning. The awning is attached to the door-side of the RV and is often about 75% of the length of the RV. The awning is usually electrically operated. Another type of awning used by RVers is a portable pop-up canopy or tent that provides a temporary solution to people who want to be outdoors and enjoy shade.

Aluminum Exterior Sidewalls

This term refers to the outside construction of your RV. It’s made up of wood framing with an aluminum exterior and batten fiberglass insulation.

Battery Disconnect

A solenoid which is wired first in the 12-volt system that, when activated, opens or closes and turns 12-volt power on or off to that system. Usually controlled by either manually opening or closing the solenoid by turning it or moving a lever, or electronically operated via a remote switch mounted inside the RV. A disconnect turned off, represents a battery circuit 'dead' and no power will be available from the batteries. Generators and starter motors usually bypass these systems due to high power demands.

Black-water Tank

Wastewater from the toilet of your RV. The tank stores the black-water. When full, the operator of the RV will connect a sewer hose from the black-water tank to a suitable sewer connection at their campsite or a dump station for emptying. This connection cannot simply be left open: If the water is allowed to constantly drain off, the solids tend to remain behind, eventually producing what is termed "the brown pyramid of death." It can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to replace the black-water tank in this eventuality. Ensure the tank approaches full; then empty it all at once, followed always by the graywater.

Black-water Tank Flush

A spray system built into the black-water holding tank that is connected to a source of pressurized water via a hose to a connector on the trailer that is used to help flush solids from the holding tank at a dump site. If using a black-water tank flush system in a campsite, the use of a back-flow preventer on the end of the hose to prevent sewage from flowing into the potable water system is recommended. The tank should be flushed with water upon every second tank draining, with normal use. The tank should also be sprayed any time the sensors appear erratic.

Brake Controller

A device used to control the electric brakes on the trailer. Taking power from the tow vehicle's battery, it is activated by sensing voltage to the brake lights. Upon this signal it sends power, through the seven-way plug at the rear, to the electromagnets inside the trailer's brake drums, activating the brakes. Usually adjustable to control the amount of braking power applied as well as incorporating manual operation to allow the trailer brakes to be activated independently from the tow vehicle brakes. Some models also incorporate G-force sensors which will apply the trailer brakes when it senses a deceleration.

Breakaway Switch

If your trailer is separated from the tow vehicle, this safety switch will automatically activate the brakes on the trailer.

Chemicals (for wastewater tanks)

A variety of commercially produced chemicals need to be added to the black-water and gray-water tanks to control odors. Commonly referred to as "blue" or "green," the latter being designed to be less harmful to the environment. "Blue" chemicals may or may not kill the bacteria in the tanks and may or may not have an adverse effect on septic systems. Some "green" wastewater tank chemicals contain enzymes that control odors and help break down the organic materials in the wastewater.


Converts your 120 volt AC power to 12 volt DC power and also charges your 12 volt battery. An electrical device that is usually supplied built-in the RV by the manufacturer. The converter takes AC power from a campground electrical hookup (shore power) or generator and converts that power to 12 volts DC for use in the vehicle. Converters also charge the house batteries.

Dry camping (boondocking)

Camping in a campground or any area without water, electricity and sewage hookups, including parking lots or driveways. In the United States, most campgrounds operated by the US Department of the Interior (BLM, National Park Service, National Monuments, National Wildlife Areas) and US Department of Agriculture (National Forests, National Grasslands), as well as many state and county campgrounds do not have full hookups for water, sewage or electricity. Dry camping is more comfortable by having:

1. A supply of potable water storage within the RV

2. Enough house-battery power to supply basic camping needs (low voltage lights, water pump, control portion of refrigerator, etc.)

3. A means of recharging the house battery(s), such as solar panels or generators

4. Enough wastewater tank capacity to contain the wastewater for several days of camping

Dry Weight

This is the weight of just your RV when it’s finished being built. This does not include supplies, water, fuel, or passenger weights.

DSI Ignition – Direct Spark Ignition

This term is used to describe the method of igniting the main burner on a propane-fired appliance.

Dump Station

A place where RV waste-water tanks are emptied. Usually a small concrete pad with a 3 to 4-inch brass fitting embedded into the concrete. The fitting accepts a sewer hose from the RV. Sewage dumped into the station goes into a sewer or a septic system. The brass fitting usually has a pivoting cover to keep rocks and other objects out of the dump station piping. Dump stations are usually situated so that an RV can be driven next to the receptacle. Dump stations often have running water for rinsing the RV's sanitary pipes and for cleaning up the dump station pad. This water should not be used to fill an RV's potable water tank. RV etiquette demands that the user of an RV dump station cleans up any spills.

Fresh-water Tank

Storage tank for fresh water when "dry camping" or on the road. This water should be drained periodically to ensure that it stays fresh. This tank can vary in size depending on the trailer and manufacturer.

Full Hookup

This is when an RV campsite offers a water supply, sewer/septic, and electricity.


When you live in your RV year round. Typical full-timers would include retired couples who have sold or rented out their immovable domiciles, favoring a life on the road.


Waste water from the sinks and showers. It is not truly "clean", but it is not as "dirty" as "black-water." It is called graywater because it looks gray from detergents in the water. RVers who have ignored the LED warnings will receive a secondary indication of a full graywater tank when the lowest drain backs up, usually the shower. This can become of particular importance for RVers with washing machines. They should ensure the sewer hose is connected and the graywater valve open before turning on the washer and wandering away from their coach. RV washer/dryers use large amounts of water, and that water will need to go somewhere.

Graywater has the important role of washing out the sewer hose, as RVers empty the black-water first, then the soapy graywater in sequence. Problem: While the black-water tank must be kept closed until full, many campers normally keep the graywater tank open when connected to a sewer pipe. RVers soon learn to monitor the black-water level and, as it approaches full, they close the graywater valve to store water for when it becomes necessary to empty the black-water and flush the hose. Otherwise, the operator must literally send fresh water down the (sink) drain until sufficient water has been collected, around a quarter tank, for a good flush.

Older RVs might not have a gray water tank, in that case an aftermarket will have to be purchased, connect a hose if full service or use a 5-gallon bucket

The amount of used water from the kitchen sink, bathroom sink or shower, your RV’s gray water tank can hold.


Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – The maximum weight your RV can be to ensure safe traveling. Includes the vehicles chassis, body, engine, fluids, fuel, accessories, passengers, cargo, etc.

Holding Tanks

This term refers to your fresh-water tank, gray-water tank, and black-water tank. Tanks built in or mounted under the floor, used for storage of black-water and gray-water. Separate tanks are used for black-water and gray-water, often adding an extra tank for the shower or washing machine, if equipped. Tank level is monitored by an LED display inside the RV and all tanks drain to a single external hook up point for dumping. Usually found on American RVs where almost every RV in production incorporates holding tanks.

King Pin Weight

Actual weight pressing down on the 5th of your tow vehicle. Generally 15% – 25% of the GVW.

Leveling Jacks

Installed under the RV help to get the vehicle level once it has a place to stay. Many newer class A motorhomes and fifth-wheel trailers have computer-controlled leveling jacks that, at the touch of a button, automatically extend and level the RV. Not to be confused with Stabilizer Jacks on trailers, the manufacturer often installs rear stabilizer jacks that are lowered by hand crank or a motor to give the rear of the trailer more stability.

Shore Power

Electricity that is available to an RV from a power company. The minimal service in US campgrounds is a standard two-prong with ground 120-volt AC outlet with 15–20 amperes. Most newer US campgrounds with electrical hookups offer three outlets in the connection box: two-prong with ground 120-volt AC 20 amperes; three-prong RV 120-volt AC 30 amperes; and a four-prong RV 120/240-volt AC 50 amperes (which can power 120-volt loads and the large 240-volt loads at the same time). A variety of plug converters are available from RV supply houses to convert from one type of plug to another. High voltage can injure or kill when wired incorrectly, and the fact that an appliance works does not mean that it is wired correctly. A simple 50-to-30 ampere or 30-to-15 ampere converter from a major supplier may be assumed safe. A special adapter, picked up at a card-table booth at an RV show that enables the user to plug into two 30 ampere circuits at once to get 60 amperes for their 50-ampere coach may "smoke" the campground's equipment, if not the user.

In the United Kingdom and most of the rest of Europe, 240-volt power is supplied through a 16-ampere socket which is designed for outdoor use. In continental Europe, although the socket is rated at 16 amperes, the circuit is often limited to a much lower current, sometimes as low as 3 amperes. Less modern campgrounds may use domestic sockets similar to those found in homes.

Operators of RVs that offer some warning when shore power has been left connected should ensure that their power cord is always laid out and connected first, with water and sewer lines purposely laid to cross the power cord. Because the RV has no way of "knowing" that the operator failed to disconnect either water or sewer, this scheme will ensure that warning is given unless all three lines have been properly put away before the owner is ready to drive off.

The term "shore power" was borrowed from the boating industry/navy; no water is involved, at least if all pipe connections are fastened down thoroughly.

Sewer Hose

An RVer cannot spend too much money on a proper sewer hose, but can easily spend too little. A cheap, thin-walled hose that has developed small holes either through abrasion or UV damage since its last use does not leak, it sprays: The top of a full blackwater tank may be three feet or more above the level of a failing hose, bearing a lot of pressure. One must particularly be wary of free starter kits given upon RV purchase; even motorhomes approaching half-million dollars in cost may be supplied with a thin hose that starts spraying in less than a week. A proper hose, well maintained, will last for a long time, reducing what could be an onerous task into an abstract, odor-free procedure of pulling a couple valves in sequence, in which the only fluids ever witnessed are a few drops of soapy graywater fresh from the sink or shower, upon disconnecting.


An area of the RV which can be expanded outwards from the side of the vehicle, thus increasing the interior space. Many modern North American RVs feature at least one slide-out section. This is generally used to expand the area to better accommodate seating. Newer and larger motorhomes and larger fifth-wheel trailers (over 30 feet) often have three slide-outs: one in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in the bedroom.


A fixed awning attached to the top of a slide room and the side of the RV. When the room is opened, the awning opens with it, covering the roof of the slide room. Mainly used to keep debris such as leaves and snow from building up on the roof of the slide room. It will open and close with the room by use of spring tension which is applied when rolled out and recoils when the room comes in, closing the awning up.

Tongue Weight

This is the actual weight pressing down on the hitch ball(located on the tow vehicle). Generally 10% – 15% of the GVW.

Tow Rating

The maximum weight your tow vehicle can safely tow (set by the vehicle manufacturer).

Underbelly Enclosed/Sealed

This term refers to the bottom surface of your RV being closed shut to help against weather. Manufacturers will also offer additional packages that will increase the amount of seasons you can use your RV in.

Weight Distribution System with Sway Control

Takes weight from the tongue of your trailer and redistributes it to the front of the tow vehicle. Designed to reduce or eliminate side to side sway movement of your trailer.