Caravan & Motorhome Winterisation Guide

As the end of the season draws closer many of you might already be taking your last caravan or motorhome trips of the year. At this point your mind is already probably turning to preparing your leisure vehicle for storage. To ensure that your caravan or motorhome 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.

By the end of this guide you will have a full list of jobs to work through to prepare your caravan or motorhome for winter storage, from deep cleans through to caring for your water system.

Caravan & Motorhome Winter Storage Tips

Your last trip is done, it’s time to say goodbye to your leisure vehicle over the cold winter months. Use the caravan and motorhome winter storage tips list below as your checklist to ensure your leisure vehicles is protected whilst stored away.

Where to store your motorhome or caravan

You might be lucky enough to have the perfect spot to store your motorhome or caravan for the winter at home. Ideally, this will be a space that's undercover, free of damp and with good air circulation. You might have a garage or a covered area outside.

If you’re not able to store your caravan or motorhome at home, there are secure storage sites available. If you decide to go down this route, ensure 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. When choosing one of these sites check out their security measures for yourself, locked access control gates and perimeter fencing are a must. Check out the ground as you may struggle to get in and out of a grassy pitch when the ground is wet. Avoid pitches with overhanging trees as falling debris and bird droppings could cause problems. Double-check your insurance before you leave your leisure vehicle at one of these facilities and make sure you’ll still be covered.

Should I use a cover for my caravan or motorhome?

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. Before doing this 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.

Whether you’re storing at home or at a storage site, it is wise to implement some of your own security measures. These can be visible deterrents, such as a steering wheel and gear stick locks, as well as something more high-tech such as a specialist tracking device.

How to prepare your caravan or motorhome for winter storage

Use the below list as a guide for all the jobs you should be carrying out before you put your caravan or motorhome into storage for the winter.

Give your leisure vehicle a thorough clean

It’s really important to give your motorhome or caravan a thorough clean before you put it into storage for the long winter months, or any time that you're not going to be using it for a long period of time. Fail to do so and you risk finding the fridge and the soft furnishings have gone mouldy. When doing a winterisation deep clean we recommend following the below advice:

  • 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.
  • Once you have emptied and cleaned the fridge, 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.

Drain down 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. To avoid this you’ll need to carry out a thorough drain-down procedure. This procedure should be detailed in your handbook, but 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 your caravan or motorhome, making sure that any mixer taps are in the central position.
  • Locate the water system drain valve, open this and drain the freshwater 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 from crawling into your tanks.

Look after the leisure battery

If you don’t use the leisure battery for long periods of time, it 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.

Take your motorhome for occasional runs

If you’re putting your motorhome into storage 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.

How to stop damp in a caravan or motorhome over winter

The key to stop damp in a caravan or motorhome over winter 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. Don’t forget our earlier tip to remove all soft furnishings if you can, this includes mattresses and cushions to improve ventilation. 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.

All of these tips should put you and your motorhome or caravan in good stead to make it through the winter months. Come spring your leisure vehicle should be in the perfect condition to hit the road again, however we also have a list of spring checks to carry out on your motorhome or caravan before you kick-off the next season.

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