Caravans in caravan storage facility.
Image from Whilton Caravan Storage

With the end of the season approaching, most of us will be having our last trip in our caravans and motorhomes. There are a few things that you can do to prepare your vehicle for when you store it away for winter.

This includes draining down the water system to prevent any ice damaging and making sure that there is as much ventilation around the van as possible. A few other things to also consider is damp and polluted air.

Where should I store my motorhome or caravan?

The choice is entirely up to you. You can store your campervan or motorhome at your own home or at a storage site.

Even though caravans are designed for use outside it is not ideal for them to be left for long periods outside. Shelter is great but placing your caravan or motorhome underneath trees is not an ideal place. Your caravan or motorhome will be exposed to falling branches, leaves and bird droppings. All of these things could potentially damage your caravan. If you’re thinking about storing your vehicle on a site away from your home, make sure to visit the site and examine the area.

Some plots can be a tight fit, making it difficult to maneuver your tow car. If the surface is gravel or grass, this could also make it even more difficult. Make sure that you’re aware of the written conditions and facilities. You may be able to get your vehicle parked up for you and some sites have charging and cleaning facilities. Ask about vermin control at your site of consideration. Also be sure to advise your insurer when you’ve chosen a site.

Checking body work

Thorough cleaning of your caravan before storage is ideal whether you put a cover over it or intend on using a wax coating to help protect your caravan or motorhome. This also opens up an opportunity to inspect for any body damage as getting these fixed wll be easier in the winter than in summer.

Use propriety caravan cleaning agents which are designed to be used on all of the various materials. Be careful of pressure washers or water blasters as they are very powerful and can spray unter trim which damages seals and body work. Any mould should be removed before winter or it could result in marking.

There are some other things you will need to check as well:

Exterior

  • Tyres - When you caravan or motorhome is left standing on the same piece of tread for a long period, flat spots can occur. It’s a good idea to turn to wheels every 6-8 weeks. Protecting the tyres from sunlight will also help prevent degradation. You can explore the possibility of using winter wheels which are special clamps instead of wheels.
  • Security - Wheelclamps and hitch locks may be required by your insurer. Otherwise they act as a great visual deterrent.
  • Older caravans may benefit from the removal of lenses and a quick clean. Check electrical connections before replacement. 
  • Check your car to caravan connectors for any signs of wear or damage. You can clan the electrical contacts with petroleum jelly or spray with a water dispersant.
  • Ideally you should make sure all corner steadies are down and the hand brake are off to prevent sticking. Use wheel chocks if necessary.
  • Any moving mechanical parts or linkages should be applied with grease.

Interior

  • Clean the inside of your vehicle by vacuuming and washing the interior. This is a great time to check if anything has been left behind in any of the cupboards or seat base.
  • Giving the kitchen a clean should stop any mould from growing. Leaving the fridge door open will also prevent mould from growing by providing adequate air flow. You should have a special catch for his purpose. There are special products for caravan use and these are optimal over domestic cleaning products and they can cause damage.
  • You can either leave the cushions in your caravan upright away from the walls to enable air flow or you can bring them inside if you have room.
  • Fixed beds are better left open for air flow.
  • Blinds should also be left open to reduce stress on the springs.
  • Leave all locker and wardrobes open
  • Make sure all rooflights and windows are securely closed
  • Coat all hinges lightly with thin oil or water dispersant such to protect against rust.

Water Systems

Before putting away your caravan or campervan you will have to drain down. Even small amounts of water trapped in the system can lead to costly damage.

Drain down procedure

  • Open all taps. If you have a mixer tap, put it in central position to allow both hot and cold to drain.
  • Open all drain valves and plugs
  • Remove the shower head and shake free of water
  • Drain the internal water tank
  • Remove any filters and replace them in spring after you’ve sterilized the unit
  • On board pumps can be cleared of water by turning them on for a few moments
  • Drain any portable water containers and allow them to dry thoroughly
  • An effect way to achieve drain down is to drain down on your last stay site and leave drain points open to allow last drops of water to leave.

Cassette toilets

  • This should also be thoroughly drained and cleaned before storage.
  • Drain the flush tank via the drain tube or flush as much water as you can through the system into the waste tank.
  • Clean and remove the waste tank
  • The valve blade that seals the toilet from the waste tank should be cleaned and wiped with a seal lubricant. Do not use petroleum jelly or any other vegetable oil except olive oil. Leaving this valve in the partially-open position prevents it from sticking shut.
  • Clean and remove other rubber seals so they remain supple.

Electricity and Gas

Gas Systems

  • Gas valves on top of cylinders should be closed or the regulators disconnected from the cylinders and caps or cloths are fitted over the ends of any pipework.
  • Make sure to check with your storage provider about gas cylinder policies. You may not be allowed to store cylinders with your unit.
  • Storing your cylinder in the gas locker of your unit is ideal but if you can’t do that it should be stored in a secure open air place.
  • Cylinders should be stored at least two metres from open drains or buildings. Make sure there are no heat sources or readily ignitable materials. Corrosive, toxic or oxidant materials should also be kept away.
  • If removed from the gas locked, plastic caps or plugs should be fitted into the gas cylinder outlet.
  • Ensure that while working with gas cylinders to keep engines and electrical equipment off.

Electrics

If you are able to hook up your caravan or motorhome to a 230V electricity supply through storing your vehicle you will be able to keep the battery and other power supplied items in tip top shape. If this is not an option you can consider the following alternatives.

 

  • Use the master isolation switch to disconnect the battery.
  • Alternatively you can make sure all electrical items are in the off position and disconnect any plugs. Remember that anything left on standby still drains power so it’s best to just turn them off and unplug.
  • Even a disconnected battery will discharge over time and if left like this over time it will never be fully restored.
  • If you can, disconnect the battery and and take home to charge periodically. Batteries should not be left more than 6 weeks without recharging.
  • If your battery is connected to operate a security system you may need to charge it more often.
  • Clean the terminals often and smear with a little petroleum jelly

Cover up

Covering your caravan or motorhome can help preserve the exterior and make cleaning easier for next season. You can also use a protective coating.

The cover needs to be breathable, soft in order to protect from damage and tough enough to last for a long time. Waxy protective coast can be lower cost and is easy enough to wash off because it naturally degrades over the period of storage.

Caravan covers will eventually degrade, therefore you will have to replace them every once in a while. Ultraviolet light is what leads to cover degradation. Look at it this way, it’s better than your cover rather than your GRP panels discolouring.

If your storage place is in direct sunlight you can expect it’s life expectancy to reduce. Lower quality covers will last less than high quality. Just make sure it’s the right size with provisions for bits that protrude and that the doorway is the correct position.

When considering a caravan cover make sure that parts touching sharp ends such as aluminum awning rails are reinforced at these areas. Having robust material at these sites can prevent wear.

Make sure that the surface layer and windows of your caravan or motorhome are clean as any grit or dirt can damage the paintwork and soft acrylic surfaces. Placing cling film over the windows before fitting the cover is not advisable as it could cause cracking to the windows.

Last tips

If you follow all these guidelines your vehicle is sure to be safe and sound while in storage. Here are some last tips:

  • If you have one, check your caravan or motorhome handbook for any extra advice on winter preparation. You can also check with the supplier for any extra advice or equipment that may be helpful for storage.
  • If you store your van away from home remember to return every once in a while to check on everything. Open up some windows to get some fresh air in as well.
  • Now is a good time to get your caravan or motorhome serviced. Workshops are less busy at this time of the year.