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Winterisation: A Handy How-To
HOW TO LOOK AFTER YOUR MOTORHOME THROUGHOUT THE WINTER
- INTERIOR PREPARATION
- EXTERIOR PREPARATION
- LEISURE/VEHICLE BATTERY
- WATER SYSTEM
- VEHICLE FLUIDS
1. INTERIOR PREPARATION
Here are a few points I hope will help you prepare the inside of your van for storage over the winter months. I want to help you come back to your motorhome in the spring to find it fresh and ready to go.
Video: INterior preparation
Start by giving your motorhome a thorough clean.
Modern motorhomes are quite well protected from mice and insects entering but sweet smells of perfumes, air fresheners and food scraps will make them more persistent in the depths of winter. Remove all food from cupboards and refrigerators including crumbs (toasters usually contain a lot of crumbs and should be removed) that could prove tempting for insects or small rodents. It’s also a good idea to take out any canned or bottled items which might freeze and split.
If you have ever opened a fridge/freezer which hasn’t been used for a while and not properly cleaned you’ll understand why you must give your motorhomes’ fridge/freezer a thorough clean before storage. Make sure you leave the doors ajar so it’s nice and fresh when you return to store food in it!
Batteries in clocks, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, remote controls and any other small electrical devices may leak and damage the device, make sure you remove all dry cell batteries before storage.
Protect yourself from theft! Make sure you remove all valuable items. Having your motorhome broken into is really upsetting but there is slight comfort knowing they left empty handed.
Delicate electronic devices such as TVs and radios should be removed if possible. The cold won’t directly harm them but when you warm a cold van up water from the air will condense inside spaces which are still cold. Water may condense on the electronics inside your TV and may damage it if you connect the power or try to switch it on. Allow 24 hours for devices to warm through before connecting the power to them.
The winter sun can be more powerful than you think and can still fade your upholstery and woodwork. Keep all your blinds and curtains shut anytime your motorhome is not in use.
Storing big piles of bedding and pillows on furniture or stuffed in cupboards may trap moisture and cause fusty odours, probably best to remove these for laundering so they are nice and fresh for next season. Try to promote airflow by standing cushions up in free air, try not to stack cushions.
Many motorhome owners keep their van hooked up all year round and have the heating on very low all winter, some others use a dehumidifier for the cold months. If these options aren’t for you a large tub of silica gel or calcium chloride anti-damp crystals on the floor will help remove moisture from the air.
Isolate your gas bottle to protect against gas leaks and related hazards.
Video: GAS ISOLATION
2. Exterior Preparation
The exterior of your motorhome can suffer during the winter and end up looking pretty sorry for itself when you return in the spring. If we take a few steps before putting it into storage we can reduce weather damage and make things easier for you in the spring when you’re keen to get going. Here are a few things I do when putting a motorhome into storage for the winter.
Video: EXTERIOR PREPARATION
Give your motorhome a really good clean, some deposits can become more difficult to remove or even damage your paintwork if they are left on for long periods of time. Clean awnings, wheels, wheel wells, window and door seals carefully. If you intend to use a cover be sure your motorhome is completely dry and free from grit. If possible, your motorhome would appreciate a coat of wax (not forgetting the roof) especially if you don’t have a cover or other dry storage.
I know many of you only have one place you can store your motorhome but if possible do not store your van near or under any trees as bird droppings and tree sap can damage the paint surface. Moss, mould and algae also love the shady, damp conditions under thick tree cover.
If you intend to cover your motorhome, make sure you use a purpose-made full cover for your motorhome as they are breathable, have a soft lining and don’t flap about in the wind rubbing and chafing your paintwork.
Make sure the exterior of the motorhome is completely clean, free from grit and dry before you fit your cover.
Check for any holes in your cover and repair them. Make sure your motorhome is completely dry and free from grit, make sure you cover is completely dry too. If moisture gets in through the cover it will get trapped and find it harder to escape again, this constant moisture could corrode parts of your motorhome.
Please never use a tarpaulin. Tarpaulins are made from rough materials with no soft, breathable lining, are not waterproof and do not fit the contours of your motorhome. The rough material and metal eyelets may cause damage to your motorhome as it flaps in the wind.
When rubber seals are compressed for long periods of time they can stick and deteriorate. A very thin smearing of silicon grease around the rubber window and door seals will help minimise any deterioration and prevent them from sticking. Don't use petroleum-based jells like Vaseline or engine oil as they can corrode rubber.
Some boiler vents and fridge vents have covers which should be fitted when the motorhome is not in use. Any vent which you don’t have covers for should be covered with Kitchen foil, duct tape or cardboard to help deter insects and vermin who are looking for a cosy winter home.
3. Leisure / Vehicle Battery
Leisure batteries are expensive and should last many years if they are looked after properly. Batteries need the most care when they are not in daily use as the most common damage occurs when they are kept in a low state of charge.
Video: BATTERY INTRODUCTION
Batteries are always best stored in a cool dry place protected from frost and most importantly fully charged with no devices draining them. Batteries slowly lose charge during storage so a solar system or trickle charger designed to be constantly connected will reduce the risk of damage in storage. If you choose to store your batteries disconnected periodically check the voltage and charge if necessary, be aware your anti-theft alarm system or tracker may be connected to your leisure battery (this is unlikely and should be connected to your vehicle battery but its worth checking). Storing your batteries at or below 12 volts for long periods will likely cause permanent damage.
Video: BATTERY VOLTAGE
Video: BATTERY ISOLATION
4. WATER SYSTEM
End of season is a good time to clean you water holding tanks and pipework before draining completely and leaving vented ready for any freezing weather. I explain the process in more detail in the video accompanying this article but here are the basics.
Finding your drain down valve can be tricky but is essential for preparing your motorhome for winter storage. Your drain down valve is usually near your water boiler but this isn’t always the case. If you really can’t find it you may need to contact the manufacturer. Here are some pictures of some common drain down valves to help you locate yours.
Video: DRAIN TANKS
Video: CLEAN WATER TANKS
Video: FLUSH PIPES
Video: FLUSH WASTE
Video: DRAIN CLEANING SOLUTION
Video: FROST VENT
With your drain down valve in the open position, open taps in the ‘mid’ position – halfway between hot and cold, this allows both the hot and cold water pipes to drain and vent. The venting is important to allow any water remaining to 'expand' in the cold depths of winter. This should prevent, or at least reduce, the risk of burst pipes. If you have an older motorhome there may be external water pipework which would benefit insulation to protect them.
When draining your shower, you should unscrew the shower head and let the hose lay in the shower tray. Remember to vent the exterior shower point if your motorhome has one fitted.
Put plugs in all the drains in your motorhome to prevent any smells coming from your waste tank and stop any bugs gaining entry through your waste pipes.
Empty your toilet cassette and give this a rinse preferably with a cassette cleaner so there are no nasty smells waiting for you at the beginning of the next season. Don’t forget to drain down the toilet flush fluid too.
If you have a wet heating system in your motorhome ensure it is filled with the correct anti-freeze and inhibitor additives according to the manufacturers instructions.
5. Vehicle Fluids
Check the coolant levels in the engine’s radiator and ensure that it is fully topped up with anti-freeze to the correct mixture. Here in the UK I suggest you mix your anti-freeze to offer protect to at least minus 10 degrees C, if you are in a particularly cold part of the UK consider mixing for minus 15 degrees protection just to be sure. If you’re not sure of the age or strength of the mixture currently in your engine’s coolant system you should test it. You can purchase an inexpensive anti-freeze testing kit from your local car accessory store to help you with this.
Also, check the screen wash liquid is topped up to the correct mixture for the temperature too.
When you store your motorhome, your tyres take quite a punishment if you just park up and forget. Sunlight, Frost and standing pressure cause most of the damage but there are steps you can take to prolong the life of your tyres during storage.
The first important point to check is your tyre pressures. Make sure you know the correct pressure for each tyre as front and rear tyres have different load on them meaning they usually have different tyre pressures.
When you are not using your motorhome, I suggest you cover your wheels. Wheel covers are quite cheap compared to tyres and may extend their life by a considerable amount. Sunlight has a powerful effect on rubber and will cause your tyres to perish and crack prematurely. Tyres should be replaced every 5 – 6 years even if they have plenty of tread left.
The other main problem during long term storage is the weight of your motorhome bearing down on one part of the tyre constantly onto a flat surface. This can cause flat areas on your tyre and basically means your wheel is less round leading to vibration when driving. Tyres are more prone to flat spots through the winter months as the rubber loses its flexibility in cold conditions.
If at all possible, lift the weight of your motorhome off the tyres. You could do this by using a jack to lift the van and then axle stands with wooden blocks to support each corner. Make sure you are confident you can do this process safely without risk of injury or damage.
Some motorhomes are equipped with levelling equipment which lifts weight of the tyres or completely lifts the motorhome off the ground, these levelling systems are great but check the manufacturer’s instructions to check your system is suitable for long term use.
Some other ways to stop flat spots on your tyres is to periodically move your motorhome so that the tyres are rotated 90-120 degrees (once or twice over the winter months) distributing the weight over other portions of the tyre’s surface. If this isn’t possible you could buy some ramps which have a concave section which the wheel sits in meaning the tyre isn’t sitting on a flat surface.