Caravan Winterization: Preparing your tourer for winter
If you intend on tucking your caravan up for the winter rather than braving a cold-weather tour, there are a few key steps you need to take in order to ensure it’ll be in a good condition when pulled out of hibernation in the spring.
Drain all water from the system
The number one priority is to ensure that all water is removed from the caravan’s fresh and waste water systems, as if left in the pipes this water could freeze and expand when the temperature drops below zero, causing the pipes to burst. Set all of the taps inside the caravan to the open position and open up any exterior water taps as well, to ensure all water has run out of the caravan.
Once this has been done you may also want to pour a little anti-freeze down the kitchen and bathroom plug holes, to ensure any residual water in the U-Bends does not freeze.
Also empty and clean out the cassette toilet with plenty of fresh water before completely draining the system. You may then want to apply some Maintenance Spray (such as the ones made by Thetford) to the cassette seal and blade to avoid corrosion or sticking over the winter months.
Fight the damp
Another issue over winter is the build up of condensation or damp inside the caravan, which in the short term can cause mould on soft furnishings or carpets but if left untreated can cause more serious problems of damp in the caravans woodwork and body shell – something you definitely want to avoid. Make sure that all soft furnishings are removed and stored inside your home for the winter, and that seat cushions are removed and propped up in such a way that air can circulate.
Cupboard doors and draws should be left slightly ajar so that fresh air can get in, and you should also completely empty and clean the fridge and freezer compartment using a little bicarbonate of soda and warm water, again propping the door open to allow air to circulate.
It’s also a good idea to place a few bowls of salt around the caravan as these will absorb the moisture in the air and help to stop damp building up on windows and surfaces over the winter.
Guard from the elements
Whether you are storing your caravan at home or on a storage site it is a good idea to take precautions to protect your caravan from high winds, or the worst of the elements. One way to protect your caravan at home might be to build a caravan porch. These can be built relatively cheaply and will protect your caravan from direct exposure to rain and snow over the winter months.
If you don’t want to splash out on the building of a caravan porch (or if you store your caravan away from home in an outdoor storage location) then a breathable caravan cover is another good way to protect your ‘van from the elements. It’s vitally important that you opt for a breathable, waterproof cover that lets fresh air in but keeps the wind, rain and snow out. Never use a plastic cover that doesn’t allow air to pass through as this will cause a build up of condensation on the inside of the cover (and in the van), undoing all your hardwork to avoid the dreaded damp!
Protect your wheels
Being stood in the same position all winter puts a lot of pressure on one area of a tyre, and can cause it to become cracked, warped or damaged. If your caravan is going to be left pretty much in one place for the duration of the winter, then you need to take some simple steps to ensure the tyres are in good working order come spring.
One simple way to spread the load across the entire tyre is to move the caravan periodically over the winter months, so that a different part of the tyre is in contact with the ground when moved back into its storage location.
It’s also a good idea to ensure tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, so check now and after every two months of storage.
Another option are “winter wheels” which completely replace your caravans existing wheels with square metal holders. These have the added benefit of making your caravan more secure as it cannot be towed away.
Please note: Providing the tourer’s normal wheels are stored securely away from the caravan then a Caravan Guard insurance customer would obviously not need to fit a wheelclamp when “Winter Wheels” are being used.
Clean and empty
If you aren’t going to be using your caravan over the winter then you’ll want to ensure that other little visitors such as mice aren’t making it their home for a few months either. Always remove all food stuffs from the caravan and clean out all the cupboards, ensuring no crumbs or dirt are left behind to attract vermin.
As well as giving the inside of the caravan a thorough clean, it’s also a good idea to clean the outside of the van and apply a protective wax or polish (AutoGlym and Fenwick’s offer a wide range of products suitable for caravans) to keep out the elements over the winter. This is particularly important if you aren’t using a caravan cover as it will give water and dirt nothing to hold on to, and make that first spring clean much easier next season.
Security and final checks
It’s important when your caravan is laid up for the winter that all windows and doors are locked and any security devices are engaged in order to comply with the terms set out on your caravan insurance policy. If you have a tracking device or alarm which uses battery power to operate then you may need to keep an external power source connected to avoid these devices running flat, or at least give your caravan leisure battery a regular charge. Of course some caravan tracking devices will warn you that they are due to run out of power.
If you don’t have such electronic security devices and all power is to be turned off in the caravan then it is a good idea to remove the caravan’s battery and keep it in your house on a trickle charge, to keep it in good condition over the winter.
Gas bottles should be disconnected and removed to avoid accidental leakage of gas through the system over winter, which is obviously a major fire risk. These can be stored safely in the garage until needed, but just be sure to double check that any taps are turned to the closed position whilst in storage.
Details correct at time of publication (15/11/2011) but may be subject to change.