How to Prepare your Caravan for Winter Storage
As summer is coming to an end you may be thinking about preparing your caravan for the winter, so that when you’re ready to get back out on the road again next year its ready to go and in full working order.
Whether you’re going to store your caravan in a secure storage facility or on your driveway, there are a number of things you can do to ready your tourer for hibernation.
Whether you are plan to use a cover, overwintering wax coating or store you unit indoors, a thorough cleaning of your caravan is vital to help protect your van and also give you the opportunity to inspect the bodywork for any damage that may have occurred.
Make sure that you use ‘caravan friendly’ products which have been specially formulated for use on caravans, and whilst power washers are great for getting rid of tough dirt, be careful that their strength doesn’t damage bodywork and seals. Always ensure that any signs of green or black mould are removed, as leaving over the winter period may result in permanent marking.
DON’T OVERREACH ON LADDERS & TAKE CARE WHEN CLEANING THE ROOF – WHICH MAY NOT APPRECIATE YOUR WEIGHT ON IT!
Ideally, tyres shouldn’t be left standing on the same piece of tread for long periods. Think about turning the wheels every two months and make sure tyre pressures are correct at the same time. To shield tyres from sunlight consider using ‘winter wheels’ - clamps that prevent degradation of the rubber, but be aware that these may not meet required criteria for some caravan insurance policies.
Check any car to caravan connectors (12N, 12S, 13pin) for signs of damage or wear, and wipe electrical contacts with petroleum jelly or water dispersant such as WD-40.
Any moving mechanical linkages or parts (corner steadies’, rotating screws, etc) will benefit from an application of grease.
Check and clean any exterior light fittings – remove and wipe the lens and seals before checking any electrical connections and replace if necessary.
- Keep fridge door ajar using latches to prevent mildew build-up.
- Leave spring loaded blinds in the open position – leaving closed for a prolonged length of time may stretch the springs.
- Remove cushions from the caravan and store somewhere dry and well ventilated – or in an upright position, away from caravan walls if leaving in situ. This will help air to circulate and prevent mildew occurring.
- Leave fixed beds in the open position to aid air circulation.
- Wash and vacuum throughout the interior of the caravan. As well as getting everywhere thoroughly clean, you can check to make sure nothing’s been forgotten and left in the back of a cupboard or seat base.
- Use cleaning products designed for caravans as domestic cleaning fluids may cause damage to the materials used in caravans.
- Leave locker and wardrobe doors open, and make sure roof lights and windows are closed.
- Use a water dispersant such as WD-40 or thin oil to coat hinges and protect against rust.
Cassette toilets should be drained and cleaned, and flush as much water as possible through the system and into the cassette waste tank.
Remove the waste tank, empty and clean it out.
The valve blade which seals the toilet from the waste tank should be cleaned with a seal lubricant (not petroleum jelly or vegetable oil), before leaving partially open to prevent it sticking shut.
Fully drain down the water system to protect against frost damage. Even a small amount of water trapped in a tap head can cause expensive damage.
- Open all the taps and remove the shower head
- Open all drain valves and remove drainage plugs (including any external plugs)
- Remove any filters and store in a safe place for sterilising next season
- Run the on-board pump (if you have one) to clear if of water. It is best to check your handbook for more details on this. The external pump can be shaken free of water.
- Drain any portable water containers and allow it to dry out to prevent mould growth.
If you are leaving a battery unit in your caravan make sure that it is isolated from all 12V equipment using its isolation switch or disconnect it. Alternatively, leave all interior electrical items in the ‘off’ position and disconnect any plugs.
Unfortunately, even when a battery has been disconnected, it will still discharge over time. If possible, remove the battery unit and take it home to charge periodically.
If your caravan has a security system or tracker, it will need a source of power which will mean leaving your battery in situ. If this is the case, you will need to charge it onsite or have a replacement to swap over.
Ideally, you should try to periodically power up your heating system – by hooking your caravan up to a 230V electricity source -throughout the winter. This will not only keep your battery in good condition, but may help to prevent mildew build-up and damp.
Valves on top of gas cylinders should be closed, or the regulators disconnected from the cylinders. Caps should be fitted over the ends of any open pipework.
If you are putting your caravan into storage you will need to check their gas cylinder policy, as some prohibit the storage of cylinders with your unit.
Ideally, cylinders should be stored in the open air rather than in a shed or garage, as in the event of fire, the fire service will be unaware of their presence. Whether you store the cylinder in the dedicated gas locker of your unit or in the open air, they should be at least two metres from open drains, away from cellar openings and buildings. They should be kept away from heat and ignitable, corrosive, toxic or oxidant materials.
Covering your Caravan
There are two options when it comes to protecting the exterior of your caravan over the winter; a breathable cover or an exterior protector fluid which creates a defensive coating.
Covers should be breathable and soft enough not to damage your bodywork, but tough enough to provide robust protection. When purchasing, look for reinforcements where sharp ends of roof join strips and awning rails will protrude.
Protective waxy coatings are less expensive and will wash off easily after winter, in part due to natural degradation.
In essence, you will get what you pay for with cover protection. From low cost protector fluids to custom made, premium covers, look at your cover as a sacrificial item – covers are cheaper to replace than caravan bodywork.
Consider getting your caravan serviced prior to hibernation by an industry-recognised service centre, as they are usually less busy during the winter.
Whether you’re storing your caravan at home or at a storage site, it is well worth returning periodically to let some air circulate by opening windows and roof lights.
For additional security, even if only to act as a visual deterrent, you may want to fit hitchlocks or wheelclamps. These may also be required by your insurer.
Prior to any winter preparation work remember to check your caravan handbook for any specific advice, and it may also be worth checking manufacturer advice for any additional equipment you may have had fitted.
It is well worth considering storing your caravan at a secure storage facility. CaSSOA (Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association) represent over 500 accredited storage sites across the UK, all of which are independently assessed for a range of security features including CCTV, perimeter fencing, access control and on-site facilities.
For more information about secure caravan storage please visit www.cassoa.co.uk.