A useful guide on how to get your motorhome or campervan ready for the colder months
Written by Matt Sims from The Motorhome Holiday Company
Founder & Director of several motorhome businesses, Industry spokesman and a passionate motorhome owner
Getting Ready For Winter
Ensuring your motorhome is ready for the colder months really is crucial. This will help to ensure it is free from damage and mould when you come to use it again in the spring. We go through a simple checklist to ensure the motorhomes we look after at MHC are all fully prepared.
I have set out some of our best tips for protecting your motorhome against damage caused by frost or through freezing whilst not being used for any extensive period of time (or in storage) through the winter. You may have other checks and thoughts too. Feel free to add them to the list.
Keep It Looking Good
It may sound daft to do this before you store your vehicle, but it’s a good idea to wash the motorhome, prior to storing it. Start with the roof and work down. Then apply a coat of wax and polish. If you are storing your motorhome outside this is really important as the wax will protect the paint and the plastics. A good idea is to wash, polish and wax and then cover in a Silicon spray. This will give a good coat of protection against tree sap, bird
lime, dirt, grime and dust. It will also make it much easier to clean in the new year when you start using it again.
Check Your Awning
Unroll your awning and give it a really good clean before you park up for the winter. Make sure it is completely dry before you roll it away though.
The water can stain the canopy and also creates a lovely moist environment for bugs and mould to thrive. So it’s worth the effort to prepare it for the winter.
Check Tyre Pressures
Obviously you check them regularly throughout the year don't you (?!) but it’s a good idea to check them before storing the motorhome.
Refer to your motorhome's manufacturer manual for the correct pressure or use the max pressure on the tyre wall as a guide. Do not over inflate. Check them regularly and prior to use after storing and you will know if you have any slow punctures. You may also wish to consider covering the tyres to prevent
damage from UV rays if storing outside. Exposure to the sun can cause tyre wall cracking prematurely so consider covering them. A bespoke tyre cover can be purchased online (eBay or Amazon) but even a piece of wood will do the job.
Completely Drain All The Fresh water
You can do this in a number of ways depending on the model and year of the motorhome. Drain your fresh water tank until empty by rotating the valve
on the top, running the taps until empty or pulling the plug on the outside of the fresh tank. It’s very important too to run the taps until they run dry, then switch the motorhome pump OFF leaving the taps OPEN to allow air expansion in the event of freezing air in the system. Remember to hang the shower head below the taps as well as this will help it drain. You must also drain down the grey water tank and leave the drain tap open. This is the waste
water tank under the motorhome. Your motorhome may also have drain taps for the water system that should be opened to further drain water.
Use A Motorhome Drainage Kit
There are a number of products available that will help drain the fresh water from your system. Products like the Floe Motorhome Drainage Kit which won a
Practical Caravan Award are ideal. Relatively easy to fit and low cost. The kit connects into your fresh water system and you use an air pump or compressor to blow the water out. This is a worthwhile investment of time and money for added protection and peace of mind every year.
Empty Your Hot Water Heater
Always check with your handbook on the best way to do this but it’s important to drain it down. Frozen water in the hot water boiler can cause significant damage to the unit. You may have a Truma frost valve which will click open automatically in low temperatures and cause the hot water tank to drain automatically onto the ground under the motorhome. Or, your motorhome may have a manually operated valve. Either way you should make sure you empty the hot water boiler. Check your owner’s manual or seek professional advice if necessary. Ignoring this part can result in a cracked hot water
boiler which is very expensive to replace!
Inline Water Filters - Remove Them
These can easily freeze in the winter months so remove them from the motorhome completely. Start the new season with a new filter. Their cost is negligible so make the investment. We also suggest removing the water filter from your Whale water pump if you have one. This allows water to escape
from the pump and air to expand if freezing.
Charge Your Batteries
Do this in the usual way by hooking up and charging or going for a good long drive. Better still, disconnect the chassis battery by the earth terminal and the same for the leisure battery(s). Consider removing the leisure battery completely and keep it somewhere warm and connect them to an intelligent charger. In your garage is a safe location. If the batteries are not sealed units check the electrolyte levels and top-up if required. Again, seek professional help if need be.
Turn Off And Remove Gas Bottles
If removing your gas bottles from the motorhome is not possible as you have nowhere safe to store them then turn them off, disconnect them and leave them in the gas cupboard. If you are using Butane (blue bottle) it will freeze at a much higher temperature than Propane (Red bottle). Be aware of this if trying to connect the motorhome back up in the cold. If your motorhome has either Gaslo fitted or a permanent refillable gas tank then simply turn them off. You may wish to isolate all the gas taps in the motorhome but this is not necessary if you disconnect the bottle.
Open Fridge And Freezer doors
If you have a Thetford, Dometic or Waeco made Fridge and Freezer you may find a small grey or blue latch or something similar that enables the doors to stay vented by a few centimetres. This is sufficient to stop mould growth and nasty smells. If not, then a good idea is a length of wooden baton, or
something similar, placed between the door and the fridge frame. You will find that the fridge door rests closed on the wood subject to the angle that the motorhome is parked. The objective is to prop the doors open a few centimetres. If you don't the fridge and freezer may go black inside in a surprisingly short space of time.
Clean Out All Cupboards And Empty Food Stuff Containers
Don't leave any food stuffs in the motorhome that aren’t in a tin or sealed container. Common sense prevails here of course but don't entice the mice with the smell of food and vegetables! We then suggest you leave all cupboard and wardrobe doors open to allow good air flow around the interior.
Drop Your Beds
If your motorhome has a pull down or electric drop down bed then lower it down from the ceiling. It doesn’t need to come all the way down just enough for air flow above the mattress. This will also prevent moisture build-up on the ceiling and mould forming on the mattress.
Raise Your Mattresses
To avoid mould under your mattresses raise them – either lift and stand them on their sides or place something underneath them such as the ladder to get into the bed, a crate or large book on its side. The idea is to get maximum airflow underneath the mattresses. Or consider removing them from the motorhome completely and storing them somewhere warm and dry.
Your Accessory Equipment Batteries
Remove all batteries from the smoke alarm, wall clock and COalarm etc. Recycle them if you can or keep them for the newyear.
Cover Up Your External Vents
Fridge vents can be fitted with winter covers for winter use. Use them when storing and consider covering up the other vents with polythene and tape to prevent entry from leaves, insects and bad weather. Avoid parcel tape. The glue will leave a residue on the surface.
Open Your Dashboard Vents
Consider leaving your dashboard vents open to allow good airflow into and out of the habitation area.
Empty Your Toilet Cassette
Clean and empty completely during winter storage. Slide open your toilet blade to allow airflow into the cassette. Better still, remove the cassette and store in your garage where it is protected from frost damage.
Warm It Up Regularly
If you are able to warm the interior up with the motorhome’s own heating or an oil filled radiator this is a good idea. This will help air flow around the interior. You may need to reconnect your gas bottle to do this. Our advice is warm it up for an hour or so as often as you can (perhaps weekly).
Covering Up Your Windows
Our advice is to NOT close blackout blinds in habitation windows or roof lights. This can stretch the retention springs over time and cause them to not retract properly. If you want to obscure the view into the vehicle or obstruct sun rays, use newspaper or a sheet in the window instead. However you do it, protect your blackout blinds. They are not intended to be closed for extensive periods. If your blackout blinds are not spring loaded then its fine to use them. But a word of warning, if you close the ones in the rooflights, you can cause the heat from the sun to get trapped between the blind and
the rooflight resulting in a warped rooflight which will then not close properly.
And Finally...The Chocolate Test
It’s impossible to guarantee that your motorhome, while stored, won't get inhabited by mice or other rodents but a neat idea is to leave a small lump of chocolate in the middle of the floor. If it's still there in the spring untouched you have most likely not had any visitors. If it’s gone or has teeth marks then it’s time to investigate further. Mice and other rodents can cause lots of damage to seatbelts, wiring, insulation, air filters and more, so be vigilant.
The above list are some suggestions for your consideration. There is lots more advice on the internet that you may wish to research including complete removal of your water pump, raising the tyres off the floor using jacks and axle stands, fitting a motorhome cover, parking it under cover, filling your diesel tank to the brim to prevent condensation and much much more. Have a google and ‘use your gumption’ as my dad would say! Or better still, keep using your motorhome through the winter. And why not? The campsites that are open will be quiet! Either way, wrap up warm and enjoy the colder months.
View the video tutorial here