When you’re shopping for an RV, you will most likely come across a long list of features included on each RV. Some features are pretty self explanatory, such as a sleeper sofa, memory foam mattress, and a 22” oven. But others can sound pretty mysterious and leave you wondering, What does this feature even do? So we've compiled a list of RV features that we think can leave you scratching your head and have put together some helpful information on what they are and what they do.
On a manufacturer's Features list you will probably see “R-7 insulation in side walls,” or something similar. The "R" value is the amount of heat transfer that is stopped by the insulation. The higher the "R" value, the more insulated the rig is. For example, R-7 is typically the lowest amount of insulation you'll find, while you'll see "R" values of up to 38 on higher-end models that are made for winter camping!
Powdered I-Beam Construction
The I beams are the basics of your frame’s construction and are made of metal. Since metal rusts, manufacturers have to take precautions to keep that from happening. The powder put on these I beams helps to keep corrosion and rust at bay while also allowing the I beams to flex a little while you head down the road.
Spring-and-Leaf vs. Torsion Axles
Spring-and-leaf axles use a series of metal springs and have built-in weight equalizers. Torsion axles use rubber springs and are fully enclosed. Torsion axles take up less room than spring-and-leaf axles and have a lower center of gravity, making it easier to control the trailer. While spring-and-leaf axles require more maintenance than torsion axles, if they get damaged, they can be repaired, whereas torsion axles can not. Since torsion axles are enclosed, the entire thing has to be replaced if they are damaged.
Flipped axles are great if you like to venture off the beaten path! Most axles have their springs underneath them, which results in a better center of gravity and more control. But this also results in less ground clearance. Flipped axles reverse the configuration and put the springs up on top, which gives you more clearance. However with the springs on top, this raises your RV's center of gravity, which can make driving more difficult, especially in high winds.
Your RV's battery disconnect switch helps you extend the life of your RV battery. If you plan to put your rig in storage or let it sit for an extended period of time unused, then you'll want to be able to disconnect it from things that will slowly drain your battery! Items like your smoke detector, LP leak detector, radio, and refrigerator will constantly pull small amounts of power from the battery, even when you're not actively using them. To avoid coming back to a dead battery, you'll want to take advantage of having this disconnect feature.
Wide-stance axles are simply spread a little farther apart from one another than typical RV axles. You will usually see these on lightweight RVs because spreading them farther apart allows for better balancing of weight, which reduces your RV's tongue weight. A downside to having wide-stance axles is that they don’t track or turn as well as the standard dual axles because of their width and the fact that they don't match up with your tow vehicle's wheels.
The docking station is where you'll find your RV's hookups. Depending on the features and amenities that your RV has, you will use the docking station for your water heater bypass, black tank flush, cable or satellite, winterization system, outside shower, and more. Some RVs will also have a battery disconnect switch here.
Correct Track Alignment
Many fifth wheels come equipped with Correct Track Alignment. This component by Lippert easily allows service technicians to alter your wheel alignment to match your load requirements. It also makes it easy for them to correct any misalignment that occurs from hitting potholes or curbs. A misaligned suspension can cause towing problems, uneven wear on tires, and difficulty towing your RV. With Correct Track Alignment, you can rest easy knowing that any misalignment will be a breeze to fix.
Air Ride & Rota-Flex Pin Box
The place where a fifth wheel attaches to a tow vehicle is called the pin box. With both the Air Ride and Rota-Flex Pin Boxes, the box is rubberized so it flexes as you move down the road. This results in a smoother ride with less jarring from stopping and starting.
Equa-flex® Rubberized Equalizer
An Equa-flex® Equalizer helps to absorb the shock from bumps and vibrations so that it's not transferred on to your RV. This delivers a smoother ride and reduces chucking (the tugging of the trailer on the tow vehicle as you hit bumps).
Day vs. Night Shades
Shades are shades, right? Not exactly. Day shades are designed mostly for privacy and really don't filter out much sunlight. Pull them down to keep others from seeing into your RV during the daytime if you desire privacy. Nightshades, however, can be used for both privacy and light filtration. You'll often find nightshades on bedroom windows and also in the living room if you have a sofa sleeper or other sleeping accommodations in that room.
30 vs. 50 Amp
In this instance, more isn't always better! Let's look at the pros and cons of 30 vs. 50 amps.
Most campgrounds are equipped to handle 30-amp service, so you can feel confident that you'll be covered almost anywhere if you need 30 amps. But 30 amps isn't all that hefty, so you may not be able to run everything at the same time, like your A/C, fridge, and microwave. If you run too many things at once you could cause a breaker in your RV to pop.
Fifty amp service offers enough power that you can use everything in your RV at the same time, but many campgrounds aren’t set up for it. So you have to keep an adapter handy so you can plug into the 30-amp outlet. But beware! You're still only plugged into 30 amps, and you can actually cause issues with the entire electrical system at the campground itself if you try to run too many appliances this way.
The dream dinette is so dreamy because it increases the sleeping capacity of your RV! The dream dinette's table easily slides down and lines up with the base of the seats. You then take the cushions off the back of the seats and place them on the table for a soft place to lay down. Your dinette is now a bed where your overnight guests or little campers can have sweet dreams!
A radial tire is a simple yet fantastic design. The cord piles inside these tires are placed at a 90-degree angle from the center of the tire. These tires feature a more flexible side wall, they result in less heat build up, they give off fewer vibrations, and they result in a much smoother ride. These tires also tend to last longer than the bias ply tires.
Some RV tires come filled with nitrogen instead of just regular air, and this offers many advantages. Nitrogen molecules are larger than air molecules, so they don't escape out of the tire as easily. This means that nitrogen-filled tires maintain tire pressure longer than air-filled tires, which equals better MPGs for you! Nitrogen-filled tires also do not succumb to temperature changes the way that air-filled tires do. When tires experience a temperature change, the moisture in air-filled tires turns to gas or liquid. This can result in corrosion of the wheel or premature aging of the tire. Nitrogen doesn’t hold moisture, so nitrogen-filled tires don't experience this change back and forth due to altered temperatures.
Jackknife (or J-Steel) Sofa
A jackknife and J-Steel sofa are one in the same. So what's a jackknife sofa? It's simply a sofa that folds down into a bed. But unlike a hide-a-bed sofa or tri-fold sofa that actually has a mattress hidden down in it that folds out of the sofa, a jackknife sofa just lays flat at the point where the back and the seating area meet, kind of the way a futon folds out. A J-Steel sofa is Jayco's name for their version of the jackknife.
A jalousie window is one that is louvered, or made of several horizontal slats of glass, kind of the way mini blinds are put together. These types of windows offer more ventilation than a standard window since the entire window can be opened. With a sliding window, you can really only open half of it since that sliding piece of glass is always still in the way. Jalousie windows allows you to angle the glass the way you want so you can direct which way the breeze comes into your RV.
Typical windows on an RV will have a rubber-sealed frame running around it that you can see. On frameless windows, however, there isn't a frame to see. There are a few benefits to frameless windows. First of all, they look sleek! Also, frameless windows open outward on a hinge from the bottom so you can open them in the rain and the glass will deflect the water away from the window. Like the jalousie window, the entire window opens for great ventilation. If these windows are tinted, your seals will last longer since they’re under the glass and the tint will keep sun damage inside your RV to a minimum.
Double Pane Windows
Double pane windows offer all kinds of benefits. True to their name, they offer two panes of glass on each window. Not only do they allow less heat to escape from inside your RV, but they dampen sound so you can sleep even when the campground gets a little wild at night. Double pane windows are harder to break than single pane windows as well. With double pane windows you'll enjoy safety, security, and comfort!
Aluminum vs. Fiberglass Exterior
It's an age-old debate--which is better, aluminum or fiberglass exterior? Since there are pros and cons to both, we'll let you decide!
Aluminum is less expensive than fiberglass. If you have to repair an aluminum exterior, it might cost less than fixing fiberglass, but this depends on how your RV is constructed. Some aluminum RVs are constructed of multiple panels that go together, so you can simply remove a damaged panel and replace it. Others, however, are made of one big sheet down the side, making it pretty costly to repair since the entire sheet has to be replaced. Aluminum is also lighter than fiberglass, making it easier and less expensive to tow!
Fiberglass may be heavier, but it often tends to be better insulated than aluminum, resulting in lower heating and cooling costs for you. It also doesn’t dent as easily, and when it does, dents are pretty easy to fill on fiberglass. Finally, the finish on fiberglass is easier to keep clean since it’s a high gloss. The matte finish on the aluminum tend to hold on to dirt more.
Full-Length Welded Outrigger
The frame of an RV can only be so wide without having areas that sag. Because of this, manufacturers weld on “outriggers” that extend past the I-beam so they can build the walls on them. This enables them to make 8 foot-wide rigs. All RVs come equipped with full-length welded outriggers, but some manufacturers boast about them and some don’t.
Stabilizer Jacks vs. Leveling System
Some RVs are equipped with stabilizer jacks, while some feature a full hydraulic auto leveling system. So what is the difference? Read on.
Stabilizer jacks work to keep the RV still while it’s parked. If you step into an RV that does not have the jacks down, you’ll notice that it’s very bouncy and can rock back and forth as you move around. This is because it’s still resting on the suspension system that’s designed to allow it to take on the bumps from the road. Stabilizer jacks take the pressure off the suspension and give it something more solid to sit on. Generally RVs are equipped with two to four jacks depending on the size of it and whether it’s a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Stabilizer jacks do not level an RV. You need to level it before you set up the stabilizer jacks, and then use them to keep it there. When working with only stabilizer jacks, generally your leveling process will include wood blocks under the tires of the side that’s lower.
A leveling system on the other hand will automatically level your RV. This system works by lifting and lowering the areas of the RV that are off balance to get it into the right position with jacks that automatically move up and down. This leveling system also doubles as your stabilizer jacks, so you don’t have to set them up afterward. These systems usually will have four to six jacks to allow for optimum leveling.
What is the point of putting a skirt on your RV? While it may make her look pretty, skirting for an RV has a much more important job. When you head out for cold-weather camping, you’ll find that the wind can whip right under it, creating a nasty chill inside! Also, this invasion of wind can also cause your tanks to freeze up! Skirting helps to keep you and your tanks warm and toasty when the temperatures start to drop!
An RV with a basement? “Basement” is simply a term used for exterior storage that is located underneath the living space, especially the pass-thru storage that runs from one side of an RV to the other. This space is perfect for gear that you want to bring along but don’t want to put inside the RV, such as campfire tools, camp chairs, fishing poles, coolers, surfboards, and so much more.
How can an RV have a laundry chute? Well, just like a laundry chute in a house that carries the dirty clothes to the basement, this RV laundry chute does the same thing. It’s basically an opening, typically in the master bedroom, that opens into the pass-thru storage area (the "basement"). This feature helps you keep your RV neat and tidy in between laundry days!
Under-bed storage is a lifesaver! Unlike your bed at home, an RV bed is built on a box, not on a frame. Some RV manufacturers have taken advantage of this great space within the box by adding struts to the bed so you can easily access the open space inside. Simply lift up the bed, like how you'd lift the hood on your car, and store whatever you want inside. It’s a great place for bulky items like paper products, large bottles of laundry detergent, suitcases, and more!
When you’re towing a trailer and apply the brakes on your vehicle, it’s up to the tow vehicle to stop everything. If the trailer doesn’t have brakes, your tow vehicle can be put under a lot of pressure from all the weight of the moving trailer, which can make stopping very difficult! Electric brakes on an RV "talk" to the tow vehicle. The tow vehicle sends information to the trailer when the brakes are applied, and then the brakes on the trailer are applied as well. This takes a lot of that pressure off your tow vehicle, lessens the distance in which it takes to stop, and helps you to maintain better control of your vehicle and trailer.