Use your winter downtime to good advantage. Consider what needs to be done now the days are shorter so that when the summertime goes around again you can hit the road well prepared.
January and February are some of the coldest months of the year. It is a time when many of us just want to stay at home. Some have taken their vans to warmer spots and are soaking up some winter sunshine on the Costa Fortune. Brave hearted motor caravanners, us included, are still out on the highways and byways of Great Britain. We are enjoying everything this island nation has to offer. But whether you are hibernating, planning another adventure, or even out travelling in your motorcaravan, you will still need to give your vehicle some TLC in the wintertime.
When your campervan or motorcaravan is parked up and not in use, winter is the perfect time to do some maintenance. Here are ten of our top tips detailing things we always do, or at least, try to!
1. Keep warm, dry, safe and secure:
In the ideal world, your motorcaravan would, when not in use, be stored in a nice dry garage. But not many people have that luxury. The next best thing is to seek out off road parking, away from traffic. But even so, storing it unused in the cold and wet is not ideal. If you are lucky enough to have power, plug your van into electricity. Install a black heater on a timer and set it to come on when the temperature falls below 5 degrees centigrade. We find this is the perfect way to keep out cold and reduce condensation, the biggest source of van interior problems. If electricity is not an option, consider firing up your gas or diesel central heating system regularly.
Go and sit in your van for a couple of hours and read a book, watch a movie, or do some office work. Turning on the vans heating system is good for it, and the heat it generates lets everything warm out. Vans without heating should have their fresh and grey water tanks drained down. Before parking up for the winter, increase tyre pressures by 10psi above the normal, because tyres lose pressure over time. We take the weight off Voyager’s tyres when we are not using her for a long period, by jacking her up on the self-levelling system.
But if you have not got those, try moving your van a little every two to three weeks, to make sure tyres do not develop flat spots. Release the handbrake to prevent it from freezing. If you are parked on a slope, we also suggest you engage a gear or place chocks in front of or behind the wheels. You don’t want your pride and joy to roll downhill, away from you, unintentionally.
2. Go away:
Unless you have put your van off the road legally using SWORN, try and use the van. Even if it is just a day. Love your campervan and it will love you back! During winter, carparks at beauty spots are seldom full, so why not take some soup with you. Pack a crusty loaf and hunk of cheese and sit inside your van with the heating turned up and enjoy the views. Get bundled up for the weather and go for a bracing walk.
Drive to the seaside, park up in a forest or national park. Enjoy the looks of sheer envy that walkers, in their wet overcoats and muddy wellies, give you while you sit inside your motorcaravan snug and warm enjoying your favourite hot soup!
3. Deep clean:
Strip the bedding, remove, and wash it, and the towels, taking off anything that could spoil, if it got damp. Thoroughly clean the vans interior. Check food storage areas for crumbs of food debris and other lockers for anything else that might deteriorate if left over winter. At least once, in winter months, we take off all our crockery and cutlery and subject it to a heavy-duty cycle in our dishwasher at home. We do the same with the cooking utensils and serving spoons. Check the toolbox to see if any tools need de-rusting or oiling.
We tend to leave the exterior, on the basis that it will only get dirty again before we want to use the van, but we always ensure our solar panels are clean so that our habitation batteries never run flat. Because Voyager is never still for very long, we leave our fridge functioning, but if you are not going anywhere, our advice is to take out any food or drink, switch it off, clean it, and leave it with the door slightly ajar.
4. Get a habitation service:
Between October and May is the perfect time to get a habitation check completed. But remember lots of other motorcaravan owners have had the same thought. We suggest you book a habitation service well in advance so that it happens when you want it to and not when it suits the engineer. There are several ways of getting the interior checked. You could take the van to a recognised service centre or, do as we do and, employ a mobile team who come to you and your van.
Some insurance companies insist on habitation checks being completed annually and if yours is one of those, then make sure your engineer completes and official check list and signs a certificate that shows your van is safe.
5. Inspect, repair, replace or renew:
Once you have completed the deep cleaning process, and received your report from the habitation check engineer, you will be in a good position to know what needs to be done when it comes to repairing, replacing, or renewing items. Batteries, vehicle covers, windscreen covers, and soft furnishings should all be inspected. Do this early on in your down season and you will have everything in good order by the time you next want to use your van.
Check tyres, windscreen wipers and make sure the anti-freeze is of the correct strength. Fill the fuel tank at the end of the summer season. If you are not going to use it over winter and do exactly the opposite with the screen wash bottle. Should that freeze in the depths of winter, you will not be a happy camper when it thaws out.
There is a tendency among us all to hoard stuff on our vans just in case……. No, we are not immune to this, but we have a rule, and we try to stick to it. We carefully go through each locker, one by one and working together (this is important). We ask each other, “Have you used this in the last 12 months?” If not used in the last year, we ask ourselves, do we really need it on board? Then we put any discarded items into a pile and gauge how much space we have reclaimed. And, if we are feeling devilish, we even weigh the stuff so we can see how much we have improved our payload by.
7. Make an inventory:
Why bother to make an inventory you ask? We do so for peace of mind. If the very worst where to happen, and we had to claim against our insurance for total loss fire or theft, we would know what was missing. In our case we often buy new kit and swap it out for old or we simply add more stuff. Either way, it is good to have an up-to-date record of what was on board. Why do we do it in winter? Simple really, we never have time in the summer, we are having too much fun then! Besides which, we have read the tip above, and removed stuff! And that means our inventory needs updating!
It does not matter how it is packaged, tins, packets, jars and sachets of food do go bad or loss flavour over time. We love to cook on board our campervan and as a result, we have store cupboards full of herbs, spices and other culinary essentials. We take it all off the van, check the dates on the packet, and inspect it carefully. Sometimes we return it to the store cupboard, other times we stock rotate it putting products into the larder at home. Anything we take off, we add to the shopping list, and the next time we visit the supermarket, we replace the item and store it away. It is a good idea to do same with the first aid kit and any medications you might carry on your motorhome.
9. Plan the next adventure:
For us, planning is second only to doing. We love the pre-trip preparation almost as much as the trip itself. In our experience, the more research you do first, the better the trip ultimately is. And wintertime is a good time to do that research. Book your away-time to fit with your own availability from work and responsibility. Summertime campsites and ferry schedules can get fully booked very quickly. If you are planning a trip across the water, winter months are the best time to book!
Not only to secure the best prices, but also to ensure you get to travel when you want to, and not when space becomes available. The same applies to summer holiday campsites and campsites near shows or events, you want to attend. Book early, because the nearer it gets to showtime, the harder it is to find the space where you most want to go.
We have no idea if you do the same, but we often play the what-if game. Suppose you won the lottery? What-if an unknown, rich relative left you a fortune? What-if you could make changes to your van? Would you make changes? Maybe you had so much money you could go out there and buy a new van? Of course, it is only a game and sitting round a roaring fire, tucked up from winter storms and pelting rain, is the perfect time to play it.
We know what we would do! Four-wheel drive and an extra half metre in overall length just for starters! But other than that, we would not change a great deal. We are very happy with our van and, so long as we maintain it, along the lines we have outlined above she should be very happy with us.
Finally, we hope our list of tips have given you, our fellow campervaners, food for thought. We are by no means experts and have learned most of what we know the hard way! Please, drop us a line and let us know what you do in the way of Winter maintenance.