Winter is almost here. If you are one of those who won’t be using your caravan again soon, it’s time to put it into storage, either at home or at a facility.
Storing your caravan has to be done properly to avoid damage, so we have compiled a useful checklist to ensure your caravan is ready to roll when the next holiday comes along.
Whether storing your caravan at home or at a remote storage compound such as a campsite or specialist site, make sure you choose a secure place. You don’t want to find anything broken or stolen.
While it is best to store your caravan inside a garage or depot, it’s not always possible. If it is standing outside, make sure it’s covered to minimise UV damage. In fact, even when storing under a roof or in a garage, it’s advisable to use a cover. While caravans are designed to be used in the sunlight, the fittings and bodywork are easily damaged by longterm sun exposure. Make sure the cover is made of breathable material, otherwise condensation and mould could grow underneath it. Ensure that the fastening straps are holding tightly; if strong winds cause the fabric to flap, both the cover and the caravan could be damaged.
Don’t think that storing your caravan underneath trees means the shade will provide resistance to the sun’s UV rays. The rays will always find a way through, and leaves and gum-like substances as well as bird-droppings can be more damaging than UV
Body panels and windows
Before leaving your caravan in storage for the winter months, clean the exterior bodywork with the correct cleaning products for each part of the van, including the windows and plastic components.
Chat to your local dealer to find the best products on the market. This treatment can protect the surface from the elements, and will reduce the chance of mould and pollutants sticking to the body panels and causing damage.
Check if the rubber window seals need to be replaced. It is best to replace them immediately so that water doesn’t get in from the winter rain. If you are leaving your van in the open, shut all the windows in case of bad weather, and coat the seals with olive oil. This will prevent them from sticking when the time comes to open them again.
Taking the weight of the wheels while the caravan or trailer is stationary for a long period of time will help prolong the life of your tyres. You can do this by placing axle stands underneath the axles, and removing the wheels. Make sure the caravan is on level ground.
Store the wheels and tyres indoors and out of the sunlight, in a place where the temperature is fairly cool and relatively constant. You can choose to cover the tyres, but ensure that you don’t use plastic sheets, but rather a natural fabric that won’t react with the rubber.
If you keep the tyres on the caravan, rotate them every few weeks to avoid flat spots, or use wheel savers.
Brakes and bearings
For peace of mind, ensure that you have your brakes and bearings checked before packing your caravan away. If the bearings are well greased, it can stop moisture from getting in.
Remember to check the brakes and bearings again when bringing your van out of hibernation.
Although it might sound illogical, leave your handbrake disengaged during the storage months. This will prevent the brake drums from corroding and the brakes from sticking.
Make sure the coupling is in good working order before you pack up your caravan. Use a grease gun to lubricate the grease nipples on top of the A-frame and the coupling head shaft. If there is any rust present on the coupling head, you will need to lightly sand it off and treat it with a deruster, then paint with a durable metal paint.
To protect the coupling from the elements you can cover it up. Be mindful of the fact that trapped moisture is the nemesis of any metal, so allowing the coupling to breathe and stay dry is important. Check that corrosion is not taking place.
Awning and tents
Packing away damp awnings or tents could spell disaster for their upkeep. Clean all the tents and allow them to dry out completely before packing them away. It is best to store them somewhere dry, in your house or garage.
Disconnect gas cylinders and place them in a cool and well-ventilated place. Make sure that the cylinder taps are tightly closed.
Unless you are making use of the caravan battery to keep charge for the caravan alarm system, remove the 12V battery and store it in a cool, dry place. Check it regularly, and top up its charge levels when necessary (4-6 weeks). It is also recommended that you remove all other batteries from battery-operated clocks, smoke detectors and the like. Interior plug sockets can be taped over to prevent spiders from nesting inside the holes.
Make sure to clean out your fridge before packing up your caravan; you don’t want to find a nasty surprise at the beginning your next trip. Give it a rub-down using bicarbonate of soda or a similar cleaning agent before leaving the door ajar for air to circulate during the long hibernation.
Check the mechanics
Remember to take time to check thoroughly under the caravan for any signs of damage or wear and tear. Check the springs, hoses (water and gas) and for uneven tyre wear.
Ensuring that the caravan is in good condition is important both before and after your holiday. It is highly recommended that you take your caravan in for a service at your local dealer before and after the lay-up period.
Open all the taps in the caravan, including the shower control. Open the caravan’s drain taps and flush that last drop of water out of the pipes by using the on-board pump. Ensure that you put the plugs into the kitchen sink, bathroom basin and shower tray.
Empty and flush the toilet waste tank, then leave it open.
Remove all valuables such as TVs, radios and other items that would be attractive to potential thieves. If you have an alarm system on your caravan, make sure it is working and check on the van every couple of weeks to ensure that nothing has been broken or stolen.
Remove any soft furnishings such as the dinette seat cushions, bedding or throw cushions, and store them in a dry place in your home or storage garage. It is recommended that you wash the items and dry them before putting them into storage. If you wash the curtains, put them back when they are dry and draw them closed. This will stop any prying eyes from looking into your van, as well as help prevent UV damage to the interior of the caravan. You can also use old boxes or cardboard to board up the windows to stop the UV damage.
Ventilation and mildew
Ensure that you leave your vents uncovered so that air can circulate inside the caravan. Some caravan owners find it useful to leave small bowls of salt in the caravan to help absorb condensation. Stored caravans are often prone to mildew during the wet winter months. Mildew is very difficult to remove once it has infiltrated, so in order to avoid it, use a product containing hygroscopic crystals to absorb moisture – for instance, Humi-Go.
To help you remember what has to be done before your next trip and what has been removed from your caravan for storage, it is wise to create a checklist and leave it in the caravan. That way refitting the gas bottles and packing all your removed furnishings, first aid kits, etc, won’t slip your mind.