Watching the amber warnings on the weather reports a slight panic arises within me: ‘ah, the campervan, will it survive winter..?’
What is winterising?
When we got our first campervan, 20 odd years ago, we heard lots about winterising and, in our naivety, had to ask: just what the heck is winterising your van? Turned out to be good question. Winterising is about preserving your motorhome or caravan over the winter, which in the UK can last a good 4-5 months, to ensure you can get going again come the next summer.
If you own a Continental European campervan (Hymer, Niesmann & Bischoff, Burstner, Dethleffs or similar) it’s likely to have a double floor. This means the water tank, waste tank and relevant pipework will be protected, up to a point at least, from the elements. However, even with a European motorhome you’ll need to do some protection.
When do I need to do it? Now! Do it before our dear friend Mr Frost makes his first appearance.
What do I need to do? *Puffs out cheeks* It’s a long list so let’s take it one step at a time:
Start on the outside. A good wash and a couple of coats of wax give the van’s exterior a layer of protection against the elements.
If parking up for the entire winter think about leaving the handbrake off to prevent the brakes from seizing – but chock the wheels.
Check your awnings: the roll out, attached to your campervan ones. Make sure the fabric is dry. Re-roll check the mechanism is oiled for smoothness of action.
Cover the outside vents – most fridge vents have special covers and it’s a simple job of popping them back on. Other vents might benefit from some polythene over them to protect against leaves and debris. However, do NOT cover any vents if you’re using the campervan or caravan as these vents are a safety device.
Tyres really suffer on a campervan – spending a long time in one place, the same piece of tyre rubber takes the strain. Check the tyre pressures and try at least to move the van a little to relieve the pressure points.
Remove the gas canisters if you have space. If not then shut off the supply and disconnect the bottles.For additional protection cover your campervan or caravan with a breathable cover. But it must be breathable otherwise it can cause damp amongst other things.
Consider removing the battery and keeping it charged at home (this prolongs its life). However if you have a security or alarm system fitted then the battery needs to remain in the van and be kept charged up.
Drain down the water system, including the waste water tank and water heater. This is essential. Keep all of the taps wide open (in the on position) over winter.
This is the most important part of winterising. Cracked taps, split pipes and damaged water tanks can occur if you don’t drain the water system down.
Pop the shower head into the shower tray to let any residual water drain out.
Put the sink plugs into sinks.
Whilst we’re on the subject of water and taps, if you have a water filter fitted, either remove it and put a note to yourself to replace it at the beginning of next season or fit a new one next season. Jack Frost loves to cause havoc with water filters.
Empty the toilet cassette and give it a good wash round. Replace it but keep the hatch open. This lets air into the cassette. Keep the hatch open this helps to prevent it from freezing and getting stuck.
Leisure batteries can be fully charged outside of the van, somewhere warm and dry. Check the levels of the batteries and top them up if needed.
Prevent visitors & mould
Keep the fridge door on the vent position. We do this all year round after giving it a thorough wash – prevents mould growth!
Mice beware! Get the food cupboards spotlessly clean. Mice and rats love a warm hole for the winter but you don’t want it to be your motorhome or caravan. They chew through wiring and that can be seriously expensive to put right. Leave the cupboard doors open to allow air to circulate.
Vacuum thoroughly and remove cushions, bedding and soft furnishings. Take these into the house or at least take them off the bases and stand them in the aisles of your motorhome or caravan. This prevents mould forming on the fabrics and again allows air to circulate around the furnishings.
Close your windows and vents fully and cover the external fridge vents.
Check the rubber seals around the doors. It’s a good time of year to replace them if needed.
De-humidify the campervan with a dehumidifier every few days or alternatively leave a bowl of dehumidifying crystals in the van, changing them regularly. One suggestion from UKCampsite.co.uk is to leave bowls of salt around the van. Either way your main aim is to prevent damp collection as once you’ve got damp in your campervan or caravan it can be a costly business to sort out.
Well – there you have it. The 4 Points Leisure guide to winterising your campervan or caravan. It’s by no means exhaustive but we hope it’s pointed you in the right direction. Let us know what other canny ideas you use or have.
Of course, all the above tips are for your guidance only and as a reminder list, specific winterization instructions for your motorhome or caravan can be found in your owners’ handbook, and we are not responsible for your actions or omissions.
Jo & Richard
4 Points Leisure
The Glamping, Camping and Festival Accessories shop, with years of camping experience
Top photo: Martin Thomas