Motorhome Beginners Guide 2019 – Understanding the Jargon


Hi, I’m Chris, I run Horton Common along with my father Robert.

Whether you have just purchased your first motorhome or you are just exploring a possible purchase there are various bits of beginners jargon you need to be familiar with. I’ve previously written a post on caravanners beginners jargon. Therefore I thought I should also write a post on a beginners guide to motorhome jargon. There is a bit of cross over between what a motorhome beginner and caravan beginner needs to learn. The most important factor is that you are prepared to learn the various aspects of owning and using a motorhome. The fact you are reading this post is obviously a good sign that you want to learn as much as you can.

Motorhome Beginners Guide Understanding Jargon
As a beginner, there is a lot to learn when it comes to owning and using a motorhome: Original Image: Adria.co.uk

This post is by no means a comprehensive motorhome beginners guide, its really intended as a starting point. Throughout this post, there will be links to my various other posts which go into more detail on the various topics. Depending on how much of a motorhome beginner you are some of the information below may even seem obvious to you. Therefore, feel free to use my Table of Contents below to skip to any particular sections you are interested in.

Introduction to a Motorhome Beginners Guide to Understanding The Jargon

When I write these posts for my website, the information is from a range of sources. Some of the topics I discuss are from discussions I’ve had with our guests over the years. For instance, when I have guests who are new motorhome owners I’ll sometimes ask them as beginners what they struggled to understand the most. However, when I write my posts its not purely based on discussions I’ve had with our guests. I like to research the topic and where applicable reference other good quality posts and videos I find. For this post on beginners jargon, Practical Motorhome produced a video several years back which I’ve included below. The video doesn’t reference everything I wanted to discuss in this beginners post, but its a good starting point:

This video is under 5 minutes long and I would encourage you to watch it to learn some basic motorhome beginners jargon.

Motorhome Batteries for Beginners

So as this is a beginners guide to owning a motorhome its important to reference the fact that you have two batteries on your motorhome (potentially even more). The first battery is your starter battery located in the engine bay. The second battery is your leisure battery located externally or internally within the motorhome. I’ve previously written another post on why motorhome leisure battery placement is important.

Motorhome Leisure Battery

The are various different sizes of leisure battery fitted in motorhomes. Larger leisure batteries can provide more power for longer. However, they are also heavier and therefore deduct more for your user payload: Image – Amazon

Starter Batteries vs Leisure Batteries

The starter battery and leisure battery may appear similar as they both operate at 12V, however, they are actually very different. The starter battery is designed to provide short bursts of power at high amps to turn the engine over. Whereas the leisure battery is designed is design to run lower-powered appliances over longer periods of time. This will typically include the lights and water pump within the motorhome, along with appliances such as the fridge or TV. You can also potentially run 230V appliances from the leisure battery with an inverter. Say you wanted to charge or power your phone or laptop. However, there are pros and cons to using an inverter. You can very easily damage a leisure battery with overuse of an inverter draining the battery below 50%.

Motorhome 230V Inverter

Most motorhome beginners should be ok using a low power (300W) inverter such as this. However, I would avoid higher-powered inverters until you are more familiar with how much power your leisure battery can provide: Image – Amazon

Battery Sharing Chargers for Motorhomes

So if you are purchasing a new motorhome you don’t need to worry about battery share chargers, one will be fitted already. However, if you are looking to purchase an older second-hand motorhome a share charger may not be fitted or it may have failed. As John references in the video above, the starter battery and leisure battery may be linked directly together. However, that’s by no means ideal and can lead to problems. Really, the better solution is to have a battery share charger located between the starter battery and the leisure battery.

Motorhome Battery Sharing Charger

This is a typical example of a battery sharing charger fitted to many motorhomes: Image – Amazon

When you are on-site and using mains hookup the leisure battery will get charged first, but then power will also be fed to the starter battery. Furthermore, when you are at home, particulary over the winter months you should be using a leisure battery charger. This will keep your leisure battery in good condition. With a sharing charger, your starter battery will also be kept in good condition. If you have a solar panel fitted to your motorhome, again the sharing charger can help to send power over from the leisure battery into the starter battery. It really is an essential bit of kit to keep both batteries in good condition, and important tip for beginners to check if you have one in your motorhome and that its in good working order.

Understanding Your Motorhome Owners Manuals

Now, this topic is not necessarily jargon per se, and you may also be thinking isn’t understanding the owners manual rather self-explanatory? Well, yes and no. As John shows in the video the owners manuals for a motorhome will very rarely be one document. It will usually be a pair of documents or just a series of manuals on the different features of the motorhome. For instance, your motorhome may have Alde heating which needs to be serviced. The first manual regards the base vehicle which is the engine and chassis of the motorhome. John shows in the video a Fiat Ducato manual, the most popular platform for most UK motorhomes. The second manual will be from the company who coach built the body and the habitation area of the motorhome, in Johns example Bailey.

Before I started to write this beginners guide to motorhome jargon I had actually written a post on motorhome weight plates. The reason I want to bring this up is because the user payload of your motorhome is not stated on the motorhomes weight plate, but it may be started in the owners manual. Again though, it would not be stated in the Ducato manual, to try and find the payload rating in there you would be wasting your time. You would need to search through the Bailey manual, or whoever built the habitable area for your motorhome. Its vital you understand your user payload so you do not exceed the MTPLM stated on your motorhomes weight plate. If you are caught doing so by the police they can issue you with a fine or even a court appearance. Therefore after reading this beginners post I would very much encourage you to read my post on motorhome weight plates.

Beginners Guide to Motorhome Adhesive Sealant

Now, if you are a motorhome beginner who has purchased a new van, you shouldn’t need to concern yourself with using adhesive sealant. However, with older motorhomes and if you are purchasing a second-hand unit, good quality adhesive sealants are something you do want to get familiar with. Over time seals fail, you can either go the DIY route and fix damaged seals yourself or get someone else to do the work. The main point being, anyone doing that work should only be using a good quality adhesive sealant. Don’t take the approach of ‘that cheap bathroom silicone will do!’. It won’t, its not UV stable and it will fail.

Motorhome Adhesive Sealant

If you need to fix damaged sealant on a motorhome only use adhesive sealants designed for the job such as those from Sika: Image – Amazon

There are various brands of adhesive sealant, the brand I personally rate is Sika, and their ‘Sikaflex’ adhesive sealants for caravans and motorhomes. So if you notice that sealant is missing or cracked around a window or vent fix it as soon as you can. The core body structure on many motorhomes is made from wood. So you need to fix any failed sealant as quickly as possible. Otherwise, when testing with a damp meter you may get a nasty surprise. However, not all motorhomes bodies have a wooden core. The Bailey ‘Alu-Tech’ system which John references in the video being one example. I hope to write a post soon on the different construction techniques for motorhomes and caravans which avoid the use of wood.

Motorhome Camping Kettles – Are They Essential?

When I have guests here at Horton Common who are motorhome or caravan beginners something which has happened a couple of times is hookup issues with guests using a standard domestic kettle. I’ve written a post on camping kettles, and that post goes into more detail on the issue. I’ll just quickly summarise my points from that post here. Essentially we provide 16A of power here at Horton Common, at thats the most you will find on other sites too. Well if you use your kettle from home that will commonly be a quick boil kettle and consume 3,000W or roughly 13A. So, while a domestic kettle on its own may not trip the pitch RCD and turn off the power, if you have any other appliances running it likely will. Therefore, unless you want your motorhome to frequently trip the pitch hookup, you need a camping kettle.

Motorhome Low Wattage Kettle

I own this 1.7L Kampa 1,000W kettle and it does the job, but there are lots of other camping kettles to choose from: Image – Amazon

The are lots of different camping kettles to choose from. You don’t necessarily need to go as low as 750W as John shows in the video. Many of our guests use a slightly more powerful 1000W camping kettles and don’t trip the electrical supply to their motorhomes. What I would also say is don’t forget the good old gas hob and metal camping kettle. That way you won’t have to worry about tripping the supply.

Motorhome Thermal Blinds – Are They Worth It?

Quite a few of our more experienced motorhome guests fit thermal blinds to their motorhomes while on-site, during both the colder and warmer months of the year. I have had guests in the past who were motorhome beginners asking me what that are for. Well with a motorhome the large front windscreen creates two problems. It either lets in too much solar radiation and its gets too hot in the motorhome. Or during the colder months as its not insulated glass, it lets out a lot of heat. You can, therefore, get either internal or external thermal motorhome blinds, each with their pros and cons as I discuss in my post linked above.

External Motorhome Thermal Blind

A typical example of an external motorhome thermal blind I’ve seen some of our guests using: Image – Amazon

Our guests who are experienced motorhome users have varying opinions on thermal blinds. Some think they are an invaluable tool, others think they are a faff and don’t provide sufficient benefit. Whether I would recommend them to motorhome beginners is a tricky one. What I would probably say is try to use your motorhome without one in various different climates first and see how you get on. You can then always choose to get one later. As with most things, read some reviews before making your choice.

Conclusions on Jargon For Motorhome Beginners

Really, this post is just a light introduction to some of the terminology or jargon a motorhome beginner needs to become familiar with. I’ve got lots of other relevant posts on how to level a motorhome for instance and levelling ramps which you may find useful. Also, if you are considering buying a used motorhome online, be cautious to avoid bad deals. I’ll be adding more post over time as well, so please feel free to use the search function at the top of the page and just type in ‘motorhome’ to find all the applicable posts.

I also hope once your full set up with your motorhome you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common to experience our fully serviced pitches hard standing pitches. Either way, thanks for reading šŸ™‚

Chris - Site Manager

Hi, Iā€™m Chris, I along with my father Robert we operate and maintain Horton Common.

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