So, you’ve had your last caravanning trip of the season and it’s time to put your unit into hibernation until spring. No matter where you store it, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that everything is in good working order when you get it out again for next season’s touring.
Much of this relates to draining down water systems to prevent any possible damage from icing, ensuring best possible ventilation around the van, and checking the internal and external fabric is set-up for long-term storage. As well as the cold, other climate factors to be aware of include damp and even air pollution.
Preparing the exterior of your caravan pre-winter will certainly pay dividends the following spring. Irrespective of whether you intend using a cover or overwintering wax coating to help protect your ‘van, a thorough cleaning is fundamental. A thorough body cleaning also provides the opportunity to inspect the bodywork for any kind of damage as the winter season is a good time to get it fixed when workshops are less busy.
Always use proprietary caravan cleaning agents that are designed to be kind to the various materials used in caravan construction. Beware the use of pressure washers. These are often powerful and can direct spray under trim and damage bodywork and seals. Pay particular attention to removing any signs of green or black mould, if left to grow over winter it may create conditions where the aluminium or plastic surface is permanently marked.
Also, take a personal-safety-first approach to cleaning your caravan. Be careful about stretching and using ladders, especially when it comes to cleaning the roof, which might not appreciate your weight on it!
Other external aspects to consider:
- Tyres do not like standing around on the same piece of tread for long periods. Consider turning the wheels, say every six to eight weeks, to alleviate any problems, and ensure pressures are correct. Ideally shield the tyres from sunlight to help prevent degradation of the rubber but avoid using plastic bags that seal the wheel and bearings and may cause condensation in the hub. Winter wheels (special clamps instead of wheels) can be used, but they do not meet the required criteria for some caravan insurance policies.
- For added security remember to fit hitchlocks, wheelclamps and the like, especially if required by your insurer.
- On older caravans, exterior light fittings can benefit from the removal of the lens, a quick clean of the seals and lens (inside and out) and the checking of any electrical connections, before replacement.
- Check your 12N and 12S (7-pin) or 13-pin car-to-caravan connectors for any signs of wear or damage. The electrical contacts should be cleaned and wiped over with petroleum jelly or sprayed with a water dispersant such as WD-40 (after checking it will not affect the plastic).
- Ideally, store your caravan with all corner steadies down and the handbrake off, to prevent it sticking. Use wheel chocks if necessary.
- Apply grease to any moving mechanical parts or linkages, such as corner steadies’ rotating screws and the spare wheel carrier .
- Finally, if you have been on the road late in the year during icy conditions then it will be worthwhile washing and brushing down the chassis to clear off corrosive road salt.
Drain down procedure:
- Start by opening all taps (for mixer taps ensure the lever is in the central position to allow both hot and cold to drain).
- Open all drain valves and remove any drainage plugs (keeping them in a safe place), not forgetting the external plug for older water heaters.
- The shower head is best removed and shaken free of water.
- If you have an internal water tank, it should have some means of drainage and/or removal.
- Remove any filters and save them for when you sterilise the system in spring (some sterilisation treatment damages the filter) and then replace.
- If you have an on-board pump, run it for a few moments to clear it of water, most good pumps can be run dry for a minute or so without any problem – check your handbook for details. Your external submersible pump can be shaken free of water.
- Don’t forget your portable water container, drain it and allow it to dry out thoroughly to prevent mould growth.
- Finally, one of the more effective ways of achieving full drain down is to empty the system on your last stay on site and leaving any drainage points open before towing home. The final journey allows the last drops of water to leave the system. Be aware, however, that it is illegal to discharge water on to the highway.
- On recent water heating systems, there’s a simple draincock; move mixer taps to the centre position and leave open; if your ‘van has an internal fresh water tank, don’t forget to drain it fully; leave waste outlets open but use stocking-type covers to prevent insects getting in; removing any water filter is a good idea. They can usually be re-used the following season