Making your caravan or motorhome winter-proof – our tips for preparing your mobile home for winter storage.
When autumn comes around, it’s also the time when many campers say a temporary goodbye to their mobile home – not every motorhome or caravan is suitable for use in winter months, and winter camping is not everyone’s cup of tea. So what does this mean for numerous caravans and motorhomes? Winter storage. But there’s work to be done before you put your mobile home into hibernation. Here we will give a step-by-step guide including a checklist on how to prepare your caravan or motorhome for winter storage.
Step #1: Empty your vehicle
It would obviously be much easier if you could just leave all your supplies and belongings in your motorhome or caravan over winter so as not to have to put everything back in again in spring. Campers who have had small furry winter visitors in their vehicle know exactly why. And it happens more often than you think. Small rodents are amazingly resourceful when it comes to finding their way into a camper, especially when attracted by the smell of food. The unsightly results are often food that has been nibbled away, droppings and torn upholstery. And if the worst comes to the worst, any cushions or soft furnishings left in your mobile home can even serve as a nest for raising the next generations of rodents.
Therefore, the rule of thumb is: everything that can be removed from a mobile home or caravan should be removed. Make sure you stow all of these things together in airtight and watertight plastic boxes so that you don’t have to start looking for everything again when you put them back in spring. It goes without saying that you should not leave perishable food on board while not using your camper in winter.
However, emptying your vehicle is not just about not providing an open invitation for unwanted visitors. It is also about preventing mould from growing in the cold, wet winter air. Therefore, empty the cabinets to improve air circulation. It is also important to leave the furniture doors and the refrigerator ajar. If you can, remove the upholstery and mattresses from the vehicle as well. If that is not possible, then at least lift it up to increase air circulation.
Step #2: Drain & clean the water pipes
To prevent any frost damage, the tanks or pipes should not have any water in them before winterising your mobile home. Therefore, the fresh water tank and grey water tank must be completely drained – as well as any water that may still be in the hot water system. This works best when the vehicle is tilted in the direction of the drain valves.
When the tanks are empty, disconnect the water pump from the power supply and the water tank. Open all the water taps and place the shower head or shower hose in the shower tray so that any residual water can flow out of the pipes. Leave the taps and all water valves open throughout the winter to prevent the pipes from bursting.
Practical tip: a biofilm forms quickly in water tanks and water pipes in which pathogens can feel very at home. Before draining the tanks, clean them with an appropriate cleaner from a specialist retailer. You will need to clean the water system in your motorhome or caravan before the camping season starts in spring.
Step #3: Clean your camper inside and out
After emptying their vehicle, many campers find the next step not so pleasant: cleaning their mobile home inside and out. When cleaning the interior, pay particular attention to the refrigerator, cupboards and bathroom. Common household cleaners can usually be used. The products should ideally be biodegradable and not damage the surfaces. Cleaning the interior can easily be done on the street in front of your home or wherever it is parked.
Next, all of the road dirt from the previous travel season has to be removed from the outside, which you cannot just wash off on the street or at home. A good idea is to go to a caravan or lorry wash specialist. This is quick and the vehicle will also be given a protective layer of wax. If you do not have a lorry wash nearby, you can go to a self-service car wash and take care of it yourself. You can use a high-pressure washer to get rid of the dirt. Since a lot of dirt usually collects on the roof, we recommend taking a ladder with you so that you can get to those hard-to-reach places.
If you plan on washing your motorhome or caravan with a pressure washer, make sure you do not aim the high-pressure jet directly at the tyres and acrylic glass windows nor at the door seals and window gaps because this could damage them. If you use too much water, the water could also accumulate and cause frost damage. If possible, also check and clean the underbody. Do not forget to clean the awning.
Practical tip: when cleaning your vehicle, minor interior or exterior damage that needs to be repaired will quickly become visible. Make a note of it straightaway so as not to forget it later.
Step #4: Care & protection programme for your vehicle
Once you have cleaned your mobile home thoroughly, maintenance and repairs are next on the to-do list. If you noticed any damage to the paintwork while washing your motorhome or caravan, repair it immediately. Even rust-prone areas on the underbody need to be treated before putting your vehicle in winter storage. Moreover, clean and treat rubber and door seals with talc or another care product, and grease the joints of the brake linkage and the hinges of the crank supports.
Practical tip: to prevent unwanted animals from finding their way into your vehicle, cover all external openings for the refrigerator, heating, waste water, etc. with a wire mesh or similar.
Step #5: Switch off the gas system
You also have to take care of the gas system. First, close and disconnect the gas bottles. Then place the protective cap onto the gas bottle to ensure no gas escapes. We recommend storing the gas bottles in a dry, well-ventilated location outside of the vehicle.
Important: unlike the water taps, all gas taps must be turned off completely for winter storage.
Step #6: Power supply & batteries
The on-board battery should ideally be connected to a charger with the technical option of trickle charging for its entire service life. If this is not possible because e.g. the vehicle is parked outdoors during winter without access to a socket, then remove and store the on-board battery in a frost-free place. The reason: the cabin battery needs to be charged at regular intervals to prevent its service life from diminishing. Moreover, a drained battery will freeze in freezing temperatures, which can lead to its death.
Additional work on your motorhome
You should also disconnect the batteries in your mobile home and check the radiator antifreeze (down to -30 °C). To avoid corrosion damage, make sure that the fuel tank is full. Release the handbrake to prevent it from freezing. To avoid the motorhome from rolling away unintentionally, engage a gear and clamp one or two wheel chocks in front of or behind the wheels.
Step #7: Park your vehicle properly
Before parking your vehicle, increase the tyre pressure by 0.5 bar above the manufacturer’s recommendation as tyres lose air over time. Moreover, caravans and motorhomes should be parked with as little weight as possible placed directly on the tyres. Some tension can be relieved by simply extending the jacks. Protect the tyres by moving your vehicle a little every two to three weeks to ensure there is not a constant strain on the tyres in the same place. This will also prevent flat tyres. The best solution would be to jack up your caravan or motorhome high enough to take the pressure off the wheels.
The perfect place to store your caravan or motorhome over winter is a dry garage or hall to best protect it from the elements. But not every camper has this option. If your vehicle has to spend the winter outdoors, protect it with a suitable cover, but without covering the air vents.
Checklist – Winterise your caravan or motorhome
Empty your vehicle: Food & spices, clothing & textiles, upholstery (if possible), empty cabinets & leave them open
Water & waste water: Clean the water tank & pipes, drain the water tank & waste water tank completely. Disconnect the water pump, open all water taps
Clean the inside: Refrigerator, cupboards, bathroom/toilet incl. the holding tank, make a note of any damage or anything in need of repair
Clean the outside: Remove dirt & foliage, wash the body & underbody incl. added treatment if necessary. Make a note of any damage
Vehicle care & protection: Carry out spot repairs, treat rust damage. Clean & treat seals, grease joints & hinges, cover external openings
Gas system: Turn off the gas bottles, remove the gas bottle from the vehicle & store in a dry location. Turn off the gas taps completely
Power supply & batteries: Connect the on-board battery to the power supply, make sure that the RV fuel tank is full. Disconnect the vehicle’s battery, check the radiator antifreeze
Park your vehicle: Increase the tyre pressure, relieve the tyres with jacks. Store in a dry location or use a protective cover