If your caravan or motorhome was parked up for the winter there are always practical jobs to do before getting back on the road. Here we highlight a few basic tasks that should be at the top of your list.
The green sheen
Caravans and motorhomes can look rather sad after long, immobile periods. If your tourer was parked near trees, it might be tinged with green deposits. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to recapture good looks with a soft bristle brush mounted on a pole. There are also good cleaning products that help shift marks without the need for much physical exertion.
Be aware that a high-pressure hose might damage a caravan’s protective sealants; a more gentle approach is much better.
Re-creating a shine is an encouraging start, but it’s just a cosmetic improvement. More important recommissioning work relates to road-going safety. For instance, caravan and motorhome tyres slowly get damaged when a vehicle stands still for extended spells - that often surprises new owners.
If you don’t periodically move a leisure vehicle, the same part of the tyres bears the brunt of its weight and the sidewalls typically fail first. So check the inside and outside faces with care and look for cracks. Replace tyres as soon as you see cracks – in spite of the fact that the treads look unworn.
When a caravan is stored on level ground and its wheels are well-choked, it is often recommended to leave the brakes OFF. Then, if they do seize-up during months of inactivity, at least the ‘van can be moved to a position where its drum assemblies can be inspected and re-adjusted. The hand brake lever is released and engaged several times to activate its cable and couplings.
Also, check tyre pressures. Take readings when tyres are cold and find out the recommended pressure from your Owner’s Handbook. ‘Dial type’ gauges are known for their reliability and usually achieve the best accuracy when the required reading falls roughly midway in the range. Although gauges with digital readouts are becoming popular, good quality ‘dial-types’ are known for accuracy.
Many owners wisely apply a moisture-repelling lubricant to their plug and socket system. However, make sure that you use a product which doesn’t react with the plastic casings. Then couple-up to your tow car to confirm that the caravan’s road lights are working. An industrial product like Tri-Flow creates clean electrical connections which will stay in good condition for several months.
It makes sense to have a road-going safety service carried out at the start of a season, though most owners logically decide to have a full habitation service completed at the same time. However, you’ll need to book this well in advance because workshops get frantically busy in springtime. A brake overhaul calls for the expertise of a knowledgeable specialist and requires the right tools.
Having checked the integrity of towing components, it’s then time to look at appliances and supply systems. Equally important among the ‘habitation’ tasks is to arrange a professional inspection to confirm that a caravan’s structure is effectively resisting bad weather. Note: Damp checking forms part of a standard caravan service but many dealers also conduct a damp inspection as a ‘stand-alone’ operation
Many leisure battery owners remove their leisure battery and keep it charged up at home during a long storage period. So now it’s time to put the fully-charged battery back in the caravan or motorhome. When re-connecting it, make sure that the clamps coupled to the live and neutral pillars are clean and free of rust. When you’ve tightened a battery’s coupling clamps, add a small smear of grease or Vaseline.
For many years, various types of cartridge taste filters have been fitted to caravan freshwater supply systems. Some are screwed into a filter housing from outside, whereas other types are coupled into the main water service pipe. An old cartridge filter might be a health hazard so fit a new one now and replace it periodically throughout the caravanning season.
Checking the taps
All taps should have been left open to release the pressure build-up that often occurs when residual water freezes. This is because ice expands when it forms in the pipes. Stale water trapped in pipe ‘down-turns’ also needs to be flushed from the system. Once all the drain-down points have been closed, it’s time to confirm that your pump and the hot and cold taps are working.
Closing drain-down points
You will have meticulously drained down your tourer or motor caravan, especially the water heater. If the storage vessel of a water heater is allowed to freeze, there will be irreparable damage that is not covered by a caravan or motorhome warranty. Before coupling up your water supply container, remember to close the release valve that drained your hot water heater.
Re-installing gas cylinders
Some owners remove gas cylinders from a caravan or motorhome prior to a long period of inactivity. It’s a useful safety precaution provided they are stored undercover in a shed which has low-level ventilation outlets. Fitting and re-coupling a gas cylinder (or two) enables you to check the operation of your cooking and heating appliances.
Smoke and gas alarms
Many caravans are equipped with a smoke alarm, and since 1st September 2011, National Caravan Council approved caravans have also been fitted with a carbon monoxide detector. These devices usually run on their own independent batteries as opposed to the caravan’s 12V supply. It is pointless having safety alarms if the batteries are flat. So check your batteries are working!
During a long period of winter storage, harsh weather sometimes leads to rainwater creeping into the structure of a caravan or motorhome. Any incidence of damp needs immediate attention so it’s important to have periodic damp checks carried out. A technician uses an electrically-operated damp meter and takes readings at around 50 points inside a caravan or motorhome.
Be safe and certain before taking your caravan away after it has spent a prolonged time in storage. Failing to check things over carefully and methodically may lead to unwanted surprises. So follow the basic rules when preparing your unit and - above all - enjoy your adventures in the season ahead.
Editor - Alan Rogers Guides
Rob has been involved in the leisure industry since completing a BTEC in Travel & Tourism in 1993. Previous roles have included the promotion of tourism in Yorkshire and running a motorcycle touring company in the Australian Outback.
He is the General Manager at Alan Rogers Travel Group, responsible for the ongoing development of the Alan Rogers website and the publication of the Alan Rogers Guides and 'Destinations' magazine.
He regularly travels with his wife and young daughter in their Dethleffs 'Campy' caravan. A keen cycling fan, Rob can often be found in a field in Belgium during the 'Spring Classics' season or riding his Royal Enfield Himalayan motorcycle.