Preparing your motorhome for the winter months
It’s that time of year now the summer is a long distance memory and WINTER has arrived. That means it’s time to start preparing for the colder months ahead. Winter is a time for getting cosy, practising self-care and generally looking after ourselves, so we can be in our best shape for the following summer. And the same applies to our motorhomes, campervans and house trailers.
The old adage suggests that prevention is better than a cure. This is especially true when preparing your motorhome for winter to avoid costly damage that is easily preventable (with a few simple precautions). We’ve gathered the top tips for preparing your motorhome so it’s winter-ready for the forthcoming season.
Whether you plan on hitting the road in the UK or abroad, you can be sure there’s always a way to best look after your vehicle, no matter how you plan on using it. So whether your heart’s set on visiting ski fields, exploring vast national parks, meandering through charming villages or simply stowing your motorhome away until Spring, here’s how to best take care of your vehicle.
Of course, having appropriate motorhome insuarnce is one of the first things you should consider so that you’re prepared if your vehicle doesn’t agree with the wintery conditions. Additionally, following the advice below will ensure you take even better care of your motorhome during the winter months.
Weatherproofing your motorhome for winter travel
While some of us may prefer to hibernate in the colder months or make the move in search of sunnier climes, the snow bunnies among us will be itching at the prospect of fresh powder. Even if you aren’t in search of the white stuff, you may enjoy the quieter seasons to explore destinations without throngs of summer tourists. You may also be able to find cheaper travel rates or simply have more time to explore than during the busy summer months.
It’s worth knowing that just as we need extra layers, hot foods and a cosy place to feel at ease as the seasons turn, our recreational homes also need a little extra TLC. This will ensure they survive the chill. If you’re planning to hit the road and explore during wintertime, you’ll need to prepare your motorhome both for your comfort while travelling and to safeguard your vehicle against the elements.
In the UK and much of Europe if you’re travelling further abroad, temperatures can quickly dip below freezing. This means things can go pear-shaped rather quickly if you haven’t primed your mobile home for the occasion. So, what exactly do you need to arrange in order to avoid weather-related mishaps that are entirely preventable?
How to keep water running within your motorhome
When temperatures reach sub-zero, the water in your motorhome can quickly freeze causing more than just a few problems for you while travelling. Enabling a fresh supply of water to pass through the pipes and your tank are essential both for feeding new, clean water into the system and flushing out wastewater.
Depending on the setup of your motorhome, you will need to consider how you will prevent your water supplies freezing and keep everything flowing.
Some coachbuilt motorhomes have a double floor that protects the water tank from freezing. This works by securing heating within a shallow space beneath the main floor. The next best option, particularly when a water tank is onboard your mobile home, is to let it benefit from the warmth available in the living space.
If neither of these is an option for your vehicle, there are a few other options. In the case of retro-fitting a water tank, or where tanks are externally attached to your motorhome, you’ll need to insulate the tank and install a tank heater.
Simply providing insulation for your tank without a heater will still cause it to be affected by frost and freezing temperatures. Albeit, this will happen at a slightly slower rate and thus will take much longer to thaw once temperatures begin to warm again. Additionally, if you have exposed pipes outside your vehicle, these should have 12v pipe heaters along with insulation to keep water running in the cold.
How to keep your motorhome warm for colder months
Since the late 1990s, most motorhomes have been built to comply with a grading system stipulated by European guidelines for insulation. This means that if you are purchasing, or have purchased, a recreational vehicle in the last 20 or so years, it should comply with these standards. If you plan on using your motorhome for camping in winter, you’ll want to have Grade 3 insulation to make it easier to keep warm and maintain a good water supply.
In addition to insulation, which won’t always do the job of keeping your comfort levels cosy, there are a few other things you can do to keep your motorhome feeling warm. Space heaters that blow air will help to maintain comfortable temperatures inside your mobile home and reduce cold spots, which can cause condensation. It’s worthwhile noting, however, that these can be power-hungry and chew through the juice quickly if you are not hooked up to a powered supply.
External window covers also help to prevent heat from escaping through windows, especially those with only single glazing. Additional insulation such as mats or wrap-around options can be useful for preventing the cold from seeping in or escaping around pop-tops and roof lights, too. When travelling in winter, it’s also important to regularly check for damp spots inside. These can quickly develop mould or mildew, which can cause long term damage and affect your health.
Driving your motorhome in winter
In winter you may find yourself facing an array of ever-changing weather (in true British fashion). So, you’ll need to be prepared for whatever may come your way, especially on the road. When driving in the cold, especially in areas where snowfall is prevalent, people commonly think snow chains are the most important factor in keeping them safe on the road. While these certainly are good to have handy, there are several components you need to prepare before setting out in the colder months.
The right tyres and tyre pressures are essential when driving in the winter. Roads can often build up with frost, black ice or snow, so maintaining good tyre health is essential. Adequate tread on your tyres is not only better for safe driving, but is also a legal requirement. Additionally, winter tyres can be useful if you are driving in icy conditions on the road, provided they give enough grip. Having a set of snow chains on hand is useful as well. The added benefit of good condition tyres is that it will save you on fuel costs as it enables your vehicle to run more efficiently.
Under the bonnet
In addition to checking the quality of your tyres, you should check a few things under the bonnet before you embark on any travels. Different levels of coolant are required in the colder months, and it’s advisable to check whether an oil change is required, too.
It’s worth noting that one of the best ways to care for your motorhome in the colder months is to use it. Even a short weekend getaway here and there will mean you aren’t forgetting to maintain essential components, and you’re more aware of the health of your vehicle.
Preparing your motorhome for storage through winter
If you’re not planning on travelling throughout the winter months and intend on storing your motorhome, it’s important to carry out some checks and routine maintenance before you put it into hibernation for the season.
Drain all water supplies
Clearing your vehicle of water from tanks and pipes is important. If damage does strike your water system due to frost, costs can run into the hundreds of pounds and isn’t always covered by insurance policies or warranty. To avoid this, there are a few things you need to do before the cold weather sets in.
- Empty your fresh water tank and pipes by running all taps, and leave them open once you’ve finished draining the tank. Switch off the pump, and if possible, remove taps to clear them of any residual water that may freeze and damage seals.
- Drain wastewater, which you likely do after each trip you take, and once drained leave the tap open.
- Drain the water heater; this one is costly to replace so you definitely want to ensure it has been done correctly. Always leave the tap or valve open once the water has drained.
Clean out the interior
- Remove food to reduce the appeal for mice and rats to nest. They will find crumbs and any food supplies left behind ideal for supporting them in a cosy environment through the winter.
- Clear out the fridge. Wipe it down and leave the door ajar to inhibit the growth of mould. Placing bicarbonate of soda will also absorb odours which could be unpleasant when you next open up your motorhome.
- Remove limescale from the toilet cassette with tank cleaner and use a seal lubricant on the lip. This will prevent it from sticking over winter.
Prime vulnerable components
- Prevent rust by applying silicone oil to lubricate hinges.
- Use a dehumidifier to reduce damp and condensation, cover the upholstery with cotton sheets to protect dust from becoming ingrained with any residual dampness, and if possible move away from walls where damp can build up.
- Apply a thin layer of vaseline to window and door seals to keep them supple in the lower temperatures.
- Ensure adequate ventilation to prevent condensation. This can be managed by opening base lockers where there are drop-out vents.
- Leave flyscreens and blinds rolled up during winter to avoid the tension being lost which can occur when they are extended for long periods.
- Fill your fuel tank to reduce the space for condensation to build up.
- Release the handbrake and use chocks to prevent your vehicle from moving.
Looking after the exterior
- Apply a coating of wax to protect the exterior of your motorhome from the elements.
- Alternatively, using a breathable cover can help reduce the effects of mould, algae and other environmental impacts.
- Increase the tyre pressure by 0.2 and move your vehicle occasionally to avoid flat areas occurring on your tyres.
Even if you’re not using your recreational vehicle during the winter time, it’s important you schedule regular checks on tyre pressure, brake and clutch fluids, engine coolant and vehicle lights. Just as you wouldn’t leave your car to sit in the same place for six months at a time, the same goes for your mobile home. Start the ignition and take it for a drive for at least 30 minutes once every week or so just to keep everything running smoothly. That way, when you’re ready to pick up your adventures once the weather begins to warm up again, there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises.
Must-have items for your motorhome winter fit-out
Here’s a quick checklist of items you’ll need in your motorhome this winter. There’s nothing worse than being caught out by a deep freeze unexpectedly!
- Drain-down system - particularly useful to drain all tanks, both freshwater and wastewater, to prevent damage from frost.
- Breathable protective cover or wax - to prevent mould, algae and environmental damage to your vehicle’s exterior.
- Silicone oil and vaseline - to lubricate hinges and protect window and door seals from cold-induced damage.
- Screen covers - to reduce heat loss and protect windows from the elements.
- Snow chains - for travel in snowy or icy conditions.
- Dehumidifier or absorbing crystals - to avoid damp and condensation build-up.