You’ve enjoyed your campervan all summer, but now the nights are drawing in and it’s time to start thinking about preparing your campervan for winter. Read on, as we take you through our guide to keeping your campervan safe and sound through the colder months of the year.
PREPARING YOUR CAMPERVAN FOR WINTER
Deal with your water systems first:
Water expands when it freezes so one of the first things to do is to empty the water systems in your campervan, or when temperatures start to drop it is very likely to do some damage.
These are jobs you need to do before the first frost:
- Empty your fresh water containers (or tanks) and make sure they are dry before putting your lids back on.
- Do the same for your waste water (grey water) container. With the grey water, it is especially important to thoroughly wash the container out. Any gunk left in there will grow mould and smell pretty bad by the time spring comes around.
- Get rid of any water left over in the pipes from your sink and shower. To do this, first lay your shower head in the shower tray and make sure that the plug is removed. Then take the plugs out of your sinks, turn on your taps and remove the bungs from the ends of your pipes. You can then take your campervan out for a ride to shake any remaining water out of the system.
- Empty the toilet flush tank and ensure any pipework to it is empty too.
- Make sure there is no water left in your water pump. And if you have a boiler tank, make sure that this too is empty.
- It is also advisable to remove your water filter, as it could freeze and crack the housing.
Give the inside of your campervan a good clean:
If you want to avoid mould and damp (and attracting rodents) – then this step is vital.
- Empty your toilet cassette and wash it out with an antibacterial solution as soon as you know you won’t be using it again. Give the outside of the toilet (and seat) a thorough wipe over.
- Clean the toilet/shower compartment. Any dirt here has the chance of growing mould. Make sure sinks are clean and dry before leaving them.
- Wipe all surfaces down, and give the inside of cupboards a good clean – especially your food cupboards, they need to be spotless. Food crumbs attract mice, and mice are not something you need setting up home in your campervan!
- Your fridge and freezer is another place that you should concentrate your efforts. Clean them thoroughly and make sure they are dry (line with kitchen roll to be sure). Prop open the freezer compartment and leave the fridge door open – this will prevent any smells or mould over the winter. If you are not comfortable leaving the fridge open, then you can secure it on the vent position, though from our experience that isn’t as ‘failsafe’ as the option above.
- Clean the cooker (and oven if you have one) paying special attention to the grill area as toast crumbs can lurk in corners! Wipe over anywhere that may have got cooking splashes.
- Vacuum floors and seats, and maybe give the curtains and blinds a going over too. Think how nice it’ll be to come into a clean campervan when you’re ready to use it again.
- Lastly, don’t forget the cab area – that needs to be clean too. Remember to check glove boxes and storage areas for any food crumbs or left over chocolate wrappers.
What to do before storing your campervan:
- Make sure you take all clothes, towels, bedding and cushions, etc. indoors. Also, check your bathroom cabinet. Toothpaste, medications, etc. may need to be taken out too.
- Turn off your water pump, and put the plugs into the sinks. It will stop any creepy crawlies, but will also stop any smells or damp coming up too.
- If you have the room to store them elsewhere, then remove your gas bottles. If not, then turn off your gas valves and disconnect the bottles.
- Let the air circulate. Keep your doors, cupboards, wardrobes and drawers open (and don’t forget to leave the fridge and freezer open too). The more air circulating, the less chance of damp and mould.
- Remove all food items whether they are perishable or not. Even tins can leave a nasty rust stain if you are unlucky enough to get any moisture into your campervan. Toilet rolls and kitchen rolls are best taken indoors too. They are tempting bedding materials for mice and other rodents.
- Take out the batteries in clocks, detectors, smoke alarms, radios and other small appliances. Or you could find them corroded and dead next time you check.
- If you have a fold up or drop down bed make sure it’s been left in a position where air can circulate freely – prop it up if necessary.
- Remove your foam seat cushions from their bases. If you can’t take them indoors, then stand them up on their ends in the middle of your campervan for maximum air circulation.
- Close your curtains to keep the light from fading your upholstery and also to help keep the temperature inside your campervan more stable.
- Make sure all windows are closed and if you have them, put up silver windscreen covers to keep out the sunlight and frost.
How to look after your campervan battery:
- If you are able, then remove your campervan leisure battery and keep it charged indoors. (Preferably somewhere cool and dry as this will extend the life of the battery).
- Be aware that frost can damage your battery – so don’t leave it on a cold concrete garage floor. Check the electrolyte levels and top them up if needed.
- If you cannot remove your battery (for instance if you have an alarm or some other security device fitted) then you need to ensure that your battery is kept charged over winter. Keep it topped up by periodically plugging an electric hook-up lead into the mains and allowing your campervan’s in-built charger to prevent the battery from going flat.
- Another option for keeping your battery charged, is to use a solar powered trickle charger. If you choose to do this, then it is important to pick a good quality solar charger as this will not only charge your battery, it will also prevent your battery from overcharging. A big advantage of using a solar charger is that once it’s attached to your battery it will automatically keep your battery topped up throughout the winter without any input from you. The top quality German made 10W solar trickle charger mentioned in our article about solar panels is recommended – it has a built-in battery protection function and will work even on cloudy days.
- Please note: There are some campervans that require you to ‘power down’ the control panel before you take out your battery. If this is the case with your campervan, then please check your manual before attempting to remove it.
Caring for your campervan’s bodywork:
- Give the outside of your campervan a wash with a suitable shampoo, such as Fenwicks Motorhome Cleaner, making sure to rinse well afterwards.
- Make sure that you clean off any bird droppings. Bird poo contains uric acid and it can cause damage if left for too long, as it is corrosive and will eventually begin to etch your paintwork.
- Once your campervan is clean, then you may want to apply a dedicated overwintering product such as Fenwicks Overwintering Protector. This will give your campervan a protective long-lasting coating which will repel water, algae, dirt and black streaks.
Looking after your campervan’s tyres:
- As you can imagine, standing for a long while in one place is not ideal for your tyres. The area of the tyre that is touching the ground will be taking all the strain. To help minimise this, and to avoid your tyres deteriorating or developing flat spots, move your campervan a little every few weeks to help relieve those pressure points.
- When moving your tyres put a small chalk mark on them where they touch the ground. That way you’ll know that you’re not returning them to the same position.
- Before leaving your campervan, check that the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure.
- If your tyres are going to be sitting in direct sunlight for long periods, then you should probably cover them with some good quality wheel covers. As UV rays can cause deterioration.
Winter storage tips – parking up your campervan:
- When parking your campervan up for winter, we suggest that you leave your campervan in gear and your handbrake off. If handbrakes are left on too long they are liable to seize.
- Do be sure to chock your wheels if there is any chance of your campervan rolling. (Especially if you have your handbrake off.)
- Think about where you are parking. If possible avoid parking under trees where you may suffer from falling leaves (and branches), tree sap and the inevitable bird droppings.
- When considering your parking spot, be aware that long grass will often be moist and could contribute to damp rising up from the ground and into your vehicle.
- It may be worth considering parking on a slight slope to allow rain and snow to run off your roof. If you can’t do this, you could always use levelling ramps to raise the front of your vehicle a little.
- Check the antifreeze/coolant levels in your engine. Top it up if necessary.
- Put anti-freeze washer fluid into your windscreen washer bottle. (Or make sure the bottle is completely empty and dry.)
- Take off any front panels/covers from your CD player or radio (or disconnect them) so they don’t drain the battery. Consider if there is anything else still connected that may drain your battery?
- If you leave any pipework, flues (or vents) open, then it is wise to cover the ends with some fine mesh/old tights/stockings. This will stop creepy crawlies or mice coming inside and setting up home.
Maintenance jobs to be done:
- When you have finished cleaning your toilet and cassette it is wise to keep the hatch in the open position. This allows air into the cassette and stops it from freezing or getting stuck. It is also good to spray the seal with silicone lubricant spray to keep the blade moving easily.
- Use this same silicone spray on any electrical contacts to stop them corroding (your electric hook-up socket for instance).
- You can also spray the silicone oil on rubber seals around your windows, doors, and any skylights to stop them from sticking. (If you notice that any seals need replacing, this is a good time to do it.)
- If you have a wind-out/roll-out awning, then check that the fabric is completely dry. Any moisture will quickly turn to mould. Oil the mechanism so it continues to run smoothly.
Looking after your engine:
Ideally, your engine should be started every three or four weeks to keep it in good condition – and your campervan driven far enough to go through all the gears. If you’ve got air-con, now would be a good time to run and test it. You should also look inside your engine bay for any signs that mice have set up home under your bonnet. You don’t want them chewing on your wiring!
How do I prevent condensation and damp?
Well, the first thing to do is ensure that you have followed our advice for preparing your campervan for winter. If the interior of your campervan is thoroughly clean and dry, you’ll have gone a long way to preventing any damp or mould.
- Your main aim is to stop any damp getting into your campervan in the first place. So have a close look over your vehicle, inspecting seals, windows and skylights to check they are all in good order.
- Now another important consideration is ventilation. You need the air to circulate, so you need your vents to do their work.
- Shut your windscreen demister vents to stop cold air causing condensation – put the controls on recirculate instead.
- Use ‘damp-catcher’ dehumidifying crystals, in your campervan and check them periodically and change them when needed. We left three of them in our vehicle – luckily they didn’t have much work to do and were still relatively empty after the storage period. (Some people use cat litter to do the same job.)
- If you have any exterior lockers, then you need to open them occasionally to let in some fresh air. Due to temperature differences, it has been known for condensation to form on the metalwork of the lockers. Check for this and dry off if necessary. (You can use damp catcher traps inside lockers too.)
- If it is a nice sunny day, open the windows and doors of your campervan and get some fresh air blowing through!
Should I cover my campervan over winter?
Now, this is a subject that divides opinion. So for a balanced view, we are going to put both sides of the argument. That way you can make up your own mind. (You can read about our personal experience at the bottom of this section.)
Before we start though, we must say this: if you are going to cover your campervan, make sure that you use a breathable cover so that air can circulate. If your cover isn’t breathable, it may cause damp.
Reasons to cover your campervan:
- When the cover is removed after winter, your campervan will be nice and clean and ready for you to use.
- A good well fitted breathable cover will help keep out the rain and frost and will help stop algae growth. It will also prevent bird poo from marking your vehicle.
- A cover is ideal if you have to leave your campervan under trees. It will protect against falling leaves, or your bodywork being marked by tree sap or bird poo!
- If you live near a busy road or in an area of high pollution, a cover will definitely help protect your campervan from dirt and grime.
- If you are going to get a cover it may be worth checking out the Pro-Tec website. Their breathable covers seem to be well thought of.
Reasons to leave your campervan uncovered:
- If it is windy, then covers do have a tendency to flap. This can cause rubbing on your campervan’s bodywork especially on corners and edges.
- It is not an easy thing to put a cover on a motorhome (or to take it off). You will need two people and eagle eyes to stop the cover scratching your vehicle or snagging on any sharp bits and damaging the cover.
- If you have a cover fitted then you won’t be able to just take your campervan out for a drive if you feel like it. You also need to consider the fact that you are going need to shift your van occasionally to keep the tyres from resting on one spot.
- If you have anything protruding from your roof – roof bars for instance, then the cover will create pools for water to settle in. The same goes if you have solar panels or an aerial fitted to your roof. There are workarounds though, and covers can be made to accommodate these things.
- If you have left any vents open for ventilation, then these too are going to be covered by your cover. It has also been said that water can collect where the cover tucks under your vehicle which may give rise to damp and corrosion.
- Some say that your campervan (especially if coachbuilt) has been designed to weather all sorts of conditions and is better left in the open air, and that covers, breathable or not, can add to the build-up of damp.
- There are many campervan owners that don’t bother with a cover, they use an overwintering product (like Fenwicks Overwintering Protector) instead.
Covers – our personal experience:
We stored our campervan in our back garden under a tree (and on a regular bird flight path!). So eventually we got a breathable cover and though a bit of a job to put on, it kept the campervan clean.
We were sheltered from the wind, so didn’t have any flapping issues. On the other hand, my father and mother-in-law stored their vehicle in a slightly most exposed spot, and the wind did cause rips in their cover (at the point it attached to the straps). We have also found that water can collect in any folds if the cover isn’t a good fit.
As for the moving your campervan issue – our campervan wasn’t too big, so we could take off the handbrake and push it just enough for the tyres to rest on a different point. So that wasn’t too much of a problem for us either.
That concludes our guide to preparing your campervan for winter:
I hope that with this guide and our winter storage tips, we’ve managed to cover all the things that you need to know. Most of the information is just basic common sense, but bear in mind that not all of it is from our own personal experience. Some of this information has been gathered through our research (and as such, is taken on good faith). So as always, use your own discretion when putting these ideas into practice.
Have fun, and we’ll see you on the road!