Winter Storage Advice for Motorhomes and Caravans
It’s starting to feel quite autumnal outside and many of you might already be taking your last caravan or motorhome trips of the year. To ensure that your leisure vehicle is still in tip-top condition when you bring it out of hibernation in the spring, there are several things you’ll want to do before putting it in storage or before you ‘lay up’ for the winter. The last thing you want is to find that your vehicle has suffered from damp or that poor weather has damaged any of the electrical or plumbing systems.
Preparing your motorhome or caravan for storage
First things first. Check your motorhome or caravan handbook for lay up advice as there might be something you need to watch out for with your particular model.
Protect your water systems
If you leave any water in any of the systems, there’s the risk that it might freeze during the winter and cause damage so you’ll need to go through a thorough drain down procedure.
If you can’t locate your handbook or it doesn’t have detailed instructions, here are some steps to follow that will work for most motorhomes and caravans:
- Open all of the taps on board, making sure that any mixer taps are in the central position.
- Locate the water system drain valve, open this and drain the fresh water tank.
- Run the pump briefly to drain it of water.
- Check that any other water containers or external pumps are empty.
- Make sure the waste tank and any toilet flush water supply is all empty too.
- It can be a good idea to drain down your system at the last campsite on your last trip and then leave the taps and valves open on the drive home so you can shake any excess water out on the road.
- If you keep the valves open throughout the winter to help them dry out, make sure to cover the outlets with some sort of semi-permeable material to stop any unwanted visitors crawling into your tanks.
Ensure good air circulation
The key thing is to avoid any moisture building up inside your leisure vehicle during the winter. This can cause all sorts of problems with damp and mould which is bad news for soft furnishings, your electronics and sometimes even the structural integrity of the vehicle.
Ensuring a good degree of ventilation can really help to prevent this from happening. Your motorhome or caravan may have ventilation built in so that air can circulate even when all windows and openings are closed. You can encourage more air circulation by opening interior lockers and doors, especially the floor lockers where the gas vents are usually located. If you don’t have a cover for your motorhome or caravan, make sure the exteriors of any vents are protected from rain or insects.
Give everything a thorough clean
It’s really important to give your motorhome or caravan a good clean if you’re not going to be using it for a long period of time. You don’t want to come back to it and find the fridge and the soft furnishings have gone mouldy.
- Pay particular attention to the kitchen, making sure that there are no traces of food left in the fridge or any of the cupboards. This can grow mould and attract mice and rats. Leave the fridge door ajar to help air circulate.
- Remove as much of the soft furnishings as possible and store in your home. This will help with ventilation, especially if you have fixed beds and will protect the upholstery. If you need to keep them in your motorhome or caravan, cover them with something like an old sheet and place items like seat cushions upright to improve ventilation and prevent mould.
- Wipe down all the surfaces, paying particular attention to the bathroom and any surfaces where food might have been left and vacuum wherever you can reach.
- Prevent metal from rusting with a light layer of oil, especially when it comes to hinges.
Keep it covered
In order to prevent the build up of dirt, algae and grime over the winter, it’s best to keep your motorhome or caravan covered. You’ll need to give the exterior a thorough clean before you put the cover on as any dirt left between the cover and the surface of the vehicle can cause damage.
The best covers to use are the purpose-made covers for motorhomes and caravans that are breathable, helping to prevent the build-up of moisture and letting air circulate to the interior of the vehicle. If you can, find a cover that has been tailor made for your motorhome or caravan body.
Look after the leisure battery
If you don’t use the leisure battery for long periods of time, they can become discharged and, in some cases, permanently damaged.
In most circumstances when it comes to caravans, the best thing to do is to disconnect the battery and store it in a garage. You’ll still need to charge it occasionally, perhaps getting a trickle charger to keep it topped up.
For motorhomes, this can be easier said than done, especially if there’s a security system relying on the battery. Make sure that the rest of the motorhome’s electrical equipment is isolated from the battery if this is the case. When you take your motorhome for a drive every now and then, both batteries will benefit. You might also want to consider a solar panel with enough power to keep both of the batteries topped up.
Make sure you check your motorhome or caravan manual before removing the battery as some recommend that you keep them in the vehicle.
Disconnect the gas
You’ll also need to make sure that your gas systems are properly disconnected and cylinders correctly stored. Make sure all valves are closed and that any open pipework is capped off. If you’re keeping your vehicle on a storage site, check what their regulations are when it comes to gas cylinders as they may not allow you to keep them in the vehicle. If you need to store the cylinders somewhere else, make sure it’s in an appropriate place, preferably in open air, away from heat and any materials that might ignite easily.
If you’re storing a motorhome…
...it can be a good idea to go for a drive every now and then. The base vehicles are not designed for long periods of inactivity. Take your motorhome out periodically to get everything up and running at the usual temperature and keep all the moving parts in good condition. Here are some other tips for keeping your motorhome in good condition over the winter:
- Chock the wheels and keep the motorhome in gear so you can leave the handbrake on and prevent the brakes from seizing up.
- Keep tyres fully inflated and move the wheels slightly every now and then to keep them in good condition and avoid flat spots.
- Check the battery regularly.
- Keep the fuel tank full to prevent any moisture getting in there and any corrosion from taking place.
Where to store your motorhome or caravan
You might be lucky enough to have the perfect spot to lay up your motorhome or caravan up for the winter at home. Ideally this will be a space that’s under cover, free of damp and with good air circulation. You might have a garage or a covered area outside.
If you’re not able to find the perfect spot to store your caravan or motorhome at home, there are secure storage sites available. If you do decide to go down this route, make sure that the site you choose has security precautions in place. Check out the Caravan Storage Site Owners Association (CaSSOA) to find a site near you.
Things to look out for with these sorts of sites include looking at the ground as you may struggle to get in and out of a grassy pitch when the ground is wet. You’ll also want to avoid pitches with overhanging trees as falling debris and bird droppings could cause problems. Ask what facilities there are for battery charging and make sure there won’t be any problems with pests as small creatures like mice can cause a surprising amount of damage in a short period of time.
Double check your insurance before you leave your leisure vehicle at one of these facilities and make sure you’ll still be covered. You might have to let them know what security measures you’ve put in place.