The winter comes back around all too soon. You may have enjoyed a packed summer, getting the most out of your campervan but now it’s time to park up and prepare for the winter months.
If you aren’t planning to use your vehicle in the colder part of the year, preparing your van the right way can save on problems and expenses when you want to use it again.
We look at some of the precautions you can take to protect your vehicle from being damaged when not in use.
Draining the system
To minimise the risk of freezing temperatures, you should drain as much water from the campervan as possible. Water begins to expand at about 4° C, taking up 9% more room when it freezes.
If you leave water in your system, you run the risk of the pipes bursting in the cold, which will result in an expensive repair bill. Don’t forget things like the shower hose and pumps, which could still contain water.
There should be a tap on the outside to allow for most of the water to be drained. You will be able to find information about this in the manual if you don’t know where the tap is.
If you do nothing else to prepare your van for winter, do this.
Have a clear-out
This is a great opportunity to clean out your van. Make sure to remove any food as you don’t want to come back to find a fridge and cupboards full of mould or an infestation of rats or mice. Empty the cupboards and give them a clean ready for next year.
Run a vacuum cleaner round, and be sure to remove anything which could become damaged by the cold. Removing soft furnishings could be a good way to avoid mould forming should there be a problem with damp in your campervan.
Wash and wax
Wash your campervan and then use a coat or two of wax to protect the paintwork. If you don’t do this, dirt and contaminates left on the paintwork unattended can mark and corrode the finish.
Mud and other dirt contains moisture which will corrode your van over time. Make sure vulnerable areas, like wheel arches, are clear of dirt.
Ideally, you will want to store your campervan in a secure garage building or barn. If this isn’t possible, somewhere sheltered from the wind and not under trees, would be the next best option.
Parking on concrete is better than grass or dirt to avoid moisture problems. If you do have to park on grass or dirt, plastic sheeting can be used under the van to reduce the risks.
If you are storing your van at a different location to normal, you may need to contact your insurance company with the new address.
To stop insects from taking up residence, cover-up outside vents. If you have specially made covers all the better, but trusty gaffer tape could do the job failing that.
Investing in a specially made cover, for the whole of your campervan, could be a good investment. It will make sure that there is less chance of damage occurring. You also won’t have the problem of birds leaving droppings, which will damage the paintwork over time.
Using a plastic tarpaulin isn’t a great option. The plastic will allow moisture to become trapped in between, and the wind could catch underneath, allowing it to flap around.
With the van sitting for a long time, the tyres may lose some pressure. Inflate them to the recommended pressure when you are ready to use the campervan again in the spring or summer.
If the vehicle is left for a long time without being moved, particularly in the cold, it can lead to damage to the section of the tyre which is taking all the weight. If possible, you should periodically move the campervan slightly to avoid this.
Leaving the handbrake on for extended periods could result in the pads becoming stuck to the discs. The discs will rust when not used and seize the brakes, making moving the campervan difficult. Avoid using the handbrake when you are going to be leaving the van for months.
If you can chock the wheels and leave the van in gear, this should prevent it from rolling away. Use first gear if the campervan might roll backwards, or reverse if the parking spot slopes forwards. Ideally, you don’t want to leave it on much of a slope though.
Saving your engine battery
There are a few options for dealing with the engine battery. Disconnect and store it somewhere where it isn’t going to freeze, use a trickle charger or start it up periodically through the winter, are all possible choices.
On newer campervans disconnecting may not be a good idea, as they could require constant power for security systems or trackers. Check the manual of your van to be certain.
Regularly starting up does come with potential problems, like leaving moisture in the exhaust system. When you do start the engine, run it for 30 minutes or more to give the battery a good charge.
A trickle charger is just a battery charger which refreshes your battery at a low rate. You are better off with a smart trickle charger so that the amperage is reduced when needed.
This sort of charger can run off the mains or solar. The solar versions can plug into the cigarette lighter and are relatively inexpensive. If you are going to use a cover or have a parking space indoors, of course, solar isn’t going to be an option.
Whether you choose a solar or mains charger, it is a good idea to choose one which regulates the amperage. Smart chargers prevent the battery from overheating when there are more amps sent to an already full battery.
Hydrogen gas is produced when charging the battery, which is why overcharging can lead to problems. The battery can potentially explode when the gasses build up.
Ideally, the leisure batteries should be removed to prolong their life. They will need to be charged up a few times when the van isn’t in use to get the best out of them, whether they are removed or not.
Sometimes, leisure batteries are difficult to access and may be even more difficult to get to than the engine battery. If this is the case, disconnect them for the winter if it’s easier.
Safely removing the battery
If you are going to remove the battery for the winter, there are a few precautions you need to take to do it safely. The battery contains acid, though while most will be sealed units, it is still advisable to keep them upright at all times. Eye protection and gloves are a good idea as well.
Disconnect the negative before the positive red connection. Use a socket wrench or adjustable spanner to loosen the nut. WD40 can come in very useful if it doesn’t want to budge. Move the cable out of the way so that it isn’t going to touch the battery connector.
Then remove the positive cable and the brackets holding the battery in place. Don’t let the positive cable touch anything metal, to avoid potentially damaging the electronics. It could be a good idea to tie the cables in place to avoid problems. You can then safely lift out the battery.
Turn off the gas
Disconnect gas bottles and remove them, if you think there is a risk of theft or leakage. Store them safely over the winter. It’s also a good time to check the condition of the gas hoses.
It’s normally recommended that gas hoses are replaced every 5 years but we know you keep them much longer than that. Just make sure they’re in good nick.
Top up the engine fluids
Fill up the fuel tank and consider adding fuel stabiliser additives. This will stop moisture from building up, leading to rust in the fuel tank. Additives should stop the fuel from evaporating or going bad whilst it is unused.
Make sure other fluids are topped up as well to prevent a moisture build-up. Add anti-freeze to the coolant system to get the right mix for the winter.
Changing the oil and filters before a period of storage can be a good idea. You will need to drive the van for a few miles to circulate the new oils around the system before parking up.
Used oil can contain more moisture and other corrosive elements which could lead to problems down the line.
Servicing before you store also means there is less to do when your van comes out of storage again so you’ll be good to go when spring comes and you want to dash off.
Waterproofing and lubricating
Parts like door hinges and electrical connections could benefit from a spray of WD40 or the application of grease. This should keep the moisture away, prolonging the reliability of your campervan and preventing problems.
Keeping a check on your campervan
Wherever you are going to be storing your van for the winter, you should check it regularly. Once per month would be ideal. This can help you avoid minor issues turning into something major and expensive.
You will also be able to make sure nobody has been tampering with your pride and joy, as well as doing a few basic things to keep it in good condition. Check the fluid levels, tyre pressures and perhaps run the engine for a while.
While you might not want to take all the steps we’ve discussed here, taking some precautions for the winter months can lead to a more trouble-free and enjoyable summer in your campervan.