Handy tips and advice
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Sammy Faircloth outlines a few simple tasks for those wishing to put their leisure vehicles into hibernation
Modern leisure vehicles are designed to keep us comfortable in all but the harshest weather, and, as a result, many of us like to tour all year round. Many Club and Affiliated sites, as well as Certificated Locations, stay open all year – you can check out some great off-season getaway ideas on pages 12-13 of this issue. Some of us, however, would rather put our caravan or motorhome into storage when the temperature drops. If you follow a few simple housekeeping exercises you can ensure it’s in tip-top condition and ready for action as spring approaches! Take a look at my handy guide…
Britain often experiences temperatures below 0°C (32°F) in winter, which means frozen water in the water system can be a problem. When we return from our travels there will usually be water left in the water heater and toilet flush tank, as well as some sloshing around in the pipes. As water freezes it expands and this may result in pipes splitting, rubber seals snapping and damage to taps and tanks.
To avoid this happening, simply drain down the water system. Starting with the water heater, set the drain-down lever (which is usually yellow) to the open position. In the kitchen, open the tap to the middle position (if it is a mixer tap) and turn on the pump. Leave the pump running until water no longer flows from the tap. Repeat this exercise with the washroom tap and shower. When complete, turn the pump off and leave the taps open in the middle position. Finally, place plugs in all the plugholes to prevent nasty smells (or bugs) coming up the pipes and infiltrating the living space.
Some motorhomes and caravans contain an onboard fresh/waste water tank so ensure that the tank drain is in the open position.
Check that there is no waste left in the toilet cassette.
I always give my toilet waste tank a thorough clean before winterising my caravan and that includes spraying the rubber seal with a silicone spray.
Finally, if your caravan has a toilet flush tank, make sure that this is emptied too. You will usually find a hose that drops down with a bung in the end. Release the bung, making sure that you have a bowl ready to catch the contents.
If your outfit is being stored while connected to a 230V mains supply, then ensure that the leisure battery is connected, but be aware that unless you are running appliances in it, the battery doesn’t really need to be on charge continuously – switch it on for a few hours every now and again, or use a time switch. Make sure the internal switch settings are set correctly. Check the handbook for definitive instructions, but generally, turn the isolator switch on the Power Supply Unit (sometimes called a Consumer Unit) to the ‘on’ position; however, the control panel should be switched off. Check that the light is on for the charger, which will maintain your leisure battery.
If the vehicle is not connected to a 230V mains supply, then ensure the isolator switch on the Power Supply Unit is in the ‘off’ position. The leisure battery will eventually drain if trackers or alarms are fitted, so make sure you regularly check its status. A solar panel can provide an alternative power source and can extend the time between leisure battery recharges.
I tested Milenco’s Solar Charge by OptiMate pulse charge system over winter, monitoring my leisure battery’s status throughout, and it successfully maintained the battery without the need for a mains supply. The long charging lead ran from my roof-top solar panel down to the battery box connection.
If you do not have trackers or alarms then it is possible to remove the leisure battery and keep it topped up at home.
If you live near trees, a full cover will prevent leaf mould, green algae and bird droppings from damaging the exterior of your leisure vehicle. Before fitting a full cover, give your leisure vehicle a thorough clean as the minutest of dust particles can scratch the windows. You could fit protective buffers on sharp edges like those on solar panels to prevent the cover from ripping in strong winds.
Tyres can deteriorate during long winter lay-ups and, coupled with premature aging caused by UV rays, cracks may start to appear on the sidewalls. Some people remove the tyres completely and store them in a garage – or you could fit special covers. (‘Flat spots’ can also form during long periods of inactivity – as a precaution, you should move your vehicle regularly.)
Only use caravan covers that are made from a ‘breathable’ fabric and that are tailor-made to your specific model. Too big and the wind will eventually rip the fabric. Avoid using plastic covers – they may help to keep the rainwater out, but condensation can form on the underside.
Give your outfit a thorough wash before storing it
Empty the flush tank using the rubber hose – and make sure you have a bowl at the ready
The Milenco Solar Charge by OptiMate kept my leisure battery topped up
Covering tyres will protect them from UV rays and help prevent deterioration
When a fridge/freezer is not in use, leave the door(s) ajar to allow air to circulate
Fridge vent covers can help to prevent water ingress while your leisure vehicle is in storage
Hopefully, by following these simple tasks, you will retrieve your caravan or motorhome from hibernation in good working order.