I’m sure that some of you are itching to get out on the road when you get the chance to, and your caravan or motorhome may need a little more than just a dusting and sweeping away of cobwebs. There are a few things that can deteriorate while you’ve put your campervan or motorhome away for the cooler months. Making sure that everything is in order before you set off on your summer road trip will ensure that your road trip goes smoothly.
Getting ready for the road
It’s possible that your brakes may have seized if you left your handbrake on. Take your handbrake off and check that your wheels are free running. If you have an overrun braking mechanism, push in the hitch to check it has not seized up and returns when released.
Over the winter months the grease on your hitch and tow ball has likely attracted some dirt and grit. Clean and apply fresh grease at the start of every season. If you have a dry tow ball it should be cleaned with brake cleaner and wiped with fine wet-and-dry paper to remove any rust. The fiction pad wear guide on your stabiliser hitch will need to be checked and the pads wiped with fine wet-and-dry paper. If you find that the pads are too contaminated to clean, these will also need to be replaced.
Sometimes water from rain can make its way into light fittings and electrical connections. If you find when checking your lights that one doesn’t work, try removing the bulb, cleaning the contacts and smearing a little vaseline before reassembling. Sometimes that's all you will need to make a light work again.
The connection plug from your caravan to vehicle can also accumulate dirt during storage so inspecting it is worthwhile. You can clean the pins and sockets with a water dispersant to help the process. If you have older plugs, you may benefit instead by using a fine wet-to-dry paper to clean the exposed metal contact areas. For 13-pin plugs, avoid the use of any abrasives so you don’t damage the rust-resistant finish.
Tow ball care
Make sure that you also clean the inside of the tow ball cover before replacing. Detachable tow balls will need to have the receptor cleaned and free of dirt and corrosion. When fitted check for any movement of the tow ball. Detachable tow balls should be removed and stored in a clean bag when not in use. The fixing nuts will also need to be checked to make sure they have not come loose on fixed tow balls. If you’re unsure about the integrity of the tow ball fixing or tow ball bracket, get it checked by a towbar specialist.
Wheels and tyres
A visual check of your tyres can be easily done by looking for any cracks, cuts, bulging or nails over the whole tread and sidewall. Tread depth for a normal vehicle is 1.6mm, however caravan tyres need to be changed more often because of age deterioration rather than road wear. Every five years is a good rule of thumb when considering how often to change your tyres. It is not recommended to leave changing your tyres any longer than seven years.
Another thing to check for on your tyres is flat spots. Flat spots can occur because your caravan or motorhome has been sitting in the same spot for several months without moving. If any tyres have developed flat spots you will need to replace them. One way to prevent this is to have correct tyre pressure. Having a tyre pressure gauge can be a good way to ensure optimal tyre pressure. Refer to your handbook for recommended tyre pressures or contact your local dealer for advice. Remember to also check the tyres on your tow car as they will need increased tyre pressure when towing.
Before taking off, also fix all bolts with a torque wrench. You could also consider marking the bolts or fitting a reusable indicator to monitor any movements if they occur.
Now that you’ve checked all the road worthy stuff, you’re good to go. Checking the liveable area inside your caravan or motorhome is also advisable.
During winter it is also possible for frost damage to occur to the water systems. This can result in bacterial growth within the pipes and water tank. When checking the general functioning of the water system, make sure to also disinfect to eliminate harmful bacteria and neutralize freshwater tanks. Descaling your pipes, especially in the water heater, is advisable to do annually. Not only can limescale affect how efficiently the water heater works, but it can also attract harmful bacteria.
Water filters will also have to be replaced after a period of time. Ensure that you change the water filter after disinfection as disinfecting agents can damage it.
When disinfecting your water system you can use a sterilising solution such as one used for babies feeding bottles. Do not use products that contain other bleach or sodium metabisulphite.
If you have a stovetop or gas heated water for a showers, make sure to check for corrosion or any spiders that may have nested in there over winter. Switch on your gas appliances and check to see if they are working correctly. In the instance of a flame that burns yellow, get it checked by a qualified person.
Hoses will need to be fixed every 5 years from the date of manufacture which is dated on the hose wall. Cracked or deteriorated hoses will also need to be checked by a qualified person.
If you have smoke and CO detector alarms make sure to test those too.
Appliances working on 230V and 12V electrics will need to be checked. When connecting up to a 230V supply make sure to press the RDC test button. This is a critical feature to test as it protects the whole electrical circuit from being overloaded.
12V operation without electrical hook-up requires a decent and well charged battery. Batteries that are left for a long time will become flat and are harder to recover back to normal capacity. This may result in it being needed to be replaced.
It’s ideal to check your motor mover is in good condition. Be sure to check the remote control as well.
You’re almost done! There’s just a few things left that you should be sure to check on your unit.
To examine your trailer tent for any significant damage or deterioration of the fabric, unfold it as if you're pitching up for the night. Look for any holes and mould growth or any other signs of general wear and tear. Kill any mould spores with a sterilising solution. Kits for patching fabric, replacing guy lines, pegging rubbers or poles can be purchased from your local dealer.
Security devices and locks should be checked for stiffness and corrosion. Never use a heavy oil or grease as this will attract dust which can affect the mechanism. Try using a light weight lubricant like CRC that leaves little residue behind. If your lock has white deposits this may be a sign of corrosion.
If you’ve used a cover on your motorhome or caravan, cleaning the outside will be less strenuous. Carefully remove your cover as you inspect for any damage on the body work. Also inspect your cover to make sure that it’s dry and pack it away so it’s ready for next winter.
If your motorhome or caravan was sitting outside, give it a hose down to remove any of that built up dirt. Always wash with a detergent that is designed for motorhomes and caravans as domestic cleaning products can be harsh and cause deterioration of some of the materials.
Washcoat & Shine is a powerful wash and wax that removes dirt buildup and fortifies your acrylic protective coating while increasing the shine. It protects and delays the speed of damage caused by UV.
If you have any stubborn bits of mould and soiling, try removing the bulk of it with general washing. A toothbrush can work very well for removing stubborn bits of mould and moss from edges around locker boxes and other areas. Awnings and rails can be cleared of debris with a special brush. A spreader tool can be used to open any pinched lengths of the rail. Applying silicone lubricant in the channel will ease the passage of the awning beading.
While you’re cleaning, It’s a good idea to inspect the exterior of the unit for any deterioration to any of the GRP or ABS panel or loose grab handles.
Make sure everything inside your caravan and motorhome is in good working order. Remember, when loading ground-level lockers, keep the drop out vents in the floor clear.
Check inside every cupboard to see if it’s vermin free. A sign that you have some unwanted furry creatures is droppings and destruction to items. If you suspect vermin activity, examine your electric wiring as damaged wires can result in short circuiting or even fires.
Water Dispersant can be helpful to restore locker catches and hinges if they show any signs of rusting or stiffness. Make sure to keep the spray off non-metallic surfaces.
Vacuum all your upholstery and check your windows can open smoothly without sticking to the rubbers. You can add a little talcum powder to them when they are dry to help prevent further sticking. If you’ve left your blinds open, you should find they will work just as well as they did last summer.
Kitchens should be cleaned with a mild antiseptic solution while fridges can be cleaned with a soft cloth and mild detergent. Aggressive detergents that are abrasive or soda based should not be used. Leave the door open until you’re ready to turn it on to prevent any mould growing.
Now it’s time to load up everything you’ll need and want for your summer road trip. Create a checklist in order to ensure you have everything you need before setting off.
You can also create a pre-journey checklist of everything you need to do before setting off again next summer.