Caravan winter storage tips
However modern and well-appointed your caravan is, there will be a part of the year that you probably don’t want to go away in it.
Sure – some die-hards will be staying in it even when it’s snowing but for the majority of us, we tuck our caravan up for the winter and come back when spring appears on the horizon, ready for another season of touring and exploring.
However, getting your tourer ready for winter – whether it’s on your drive or in storage – is crucial to making sure that once hibernation is over, it’s just a case of recommissioning it and it’s ready to go.
This is far better than a potentially extensive – and expensive – repair job that could see you miss some of the summer fun while it’s fixed.
Where to store your caravan during the winter
Some of us will be lucky enough to have the space to keep the caravan at home; on the drive, in the corner of the garden or some other bit of land. If this is the case, great – you can keep an eye on it, check on it periodically throughout winter and jump on it to get those essential pre-season jobs done whenever you get the time.
If you don’t have the space, then you’ll need to find a storage solution. While there may be a friendly farmer nearby who will tuck it in the corner of one of his fields for a few quid a week, many will prefer organised storage alongside numerous other caravans.
If you’re looking for a secure storage site, then the Caravan Storage Site Owners Association (CaSSOA) sets out standards for storage facilities, including levels of physical and electronic security and you may well find that you get a discount on your insurance for using one that is a member of the organisation.
Caravan chassis care in the winter
There are several things to consider on the chassis when getting ready to lay your caravan up over winter.
Firstly, don’t leave the handbrake on when you park it up. This is because it is not uncommon for brakes to seize on in the colder months and the last thing you want is this to happen and you can’t move the caravan come spring and have to have the brakes apart before you can do anything (you should have them checked as part of the annual service).
Ideally, you should take the weight off the wheels and tyres to prevent the tyres from deforming and developing flat spots. One scenario is to remove the wheels and tyres and store them stacked up on their side in the dark at their normal inflation pressure, as the ultraviolet rays in sunlight tends to cause more damage than mileage to caravan tyres.
You can support the caravan on wheel plates or axle stands under the chassis but before you decide, check on your insurance policy, as it may state you need to store the caravan with a wheel lock fitted.
If you can’t remove the wheels for any reason, then a pair of tyre savers could help. These are shaped plastic stands that the tyres sit on and the curved shape helps to even out pressure across a greater area of the tyre, helping to minimise flat spots.
You can get your wheel lock on as well. If you are leaving the wheels and tyres on the caravan, then think about covering them somehow – it doesn’t have to be a full, fitted plastic cover but something to keep the sunlight off them will help to prevent degradation.
Leave the corner steadies down but give them a good dose of grease before you leave the caravan, so they don’t rust in the colder and wetter months and if you have an underslung spare wheel, whip that out and keep it in the garage or shed if you can.
Finally, a quick squirt of light oil into the electrical connectors on the multiplugs will help to keep water out and corrosion away.
●Our dream scenario – wheels off (insurance permitting), axle jacks under the chassis to take the weight off the ground, wheels and tyres stacked in the garage.
Caravan bodywork care in the winter
Before you tuck the caravan up, you should give it a good clean to get rid of any debris it has accumulated over the summer that could potentially damage the skin over winter.
While you’re at it, give it a good coat of polish or wax, so that whatever winter throws at it, it will be easier to remove come the spring. And anything that helps water to run off can only be a good thing.
Some people also swear by covers while others shy away from them completely. They can definitely help protect your bodywork and caravan in general from the worst of the winter weather but conversely, if the wind gets to them, they can, depending on the interior lining material and the fit, scratch the bodywork and windows.
They can also potentially hold moisture against the caravan’s body and prevent it from drying once the weather improves.
Our dream scenario – a clean caravan in an open-sided barn, protected from the worst of the elements but with plenty of air circulation to keep dry.
Care for caravan domestic systems in the winter
Very little needs attending to on the gas system – we would normally disconnect the gas cylinder and remove it from the caravan to store in the garage, for safety and security.
The water system will need completely draining down, to make sure that there is nothing in any of the pipework that could freeze and potentially damage or split a pipe or fitting.
That means the hot and cold water tanks (which should be drained before you move the caravan anyway) as well as the inlet piping.
To be on the safe side, you could also leave the taps open to give any leftover water room to expand if it freezes. Remember to make sure external pumps are dry, too, and close grey water vents to prevent insects getting in.
The toilet shouldn’t need too much attention – like the water system, make sure the flush tank, pump and pipework are empty and you may want to add a little lubricant to the cassette seal to prevent it from drying out and getting brittle.
Electrically, you may want to take the leisure battery out and keep it inside, as the cold will certainly slow the reaction that generates electricity and if it’s not 100%, could kill it over winter.
However, if you’re leaving it in the caravan, then some charging will help keep it match fit.
A battery conditioner/charger will modulate the charge to keep it healthy while a solar charger will do the same if you’re away from a 240V supply.
You could leave it connected to the electric hook-up and let the on-board charger look after the battery but on older caravans, this might just supply a constant charge, which can actually have a detrimental effect.
Our dream scenario – we’d whip the battery out and leave a conditioner/charger connected in the garage over winter
Caravan security during the winter
We looked in depth at security last month but it should go without saying that whenever and wherever you store your caravan over winter, it should be protected.
At the very least, a hitch lock and wheel clamp should be fitted and you could consider corner steady locks and perhaps a standalone tracker for peace of mind.
Our dream scenario – Hitch lock, wheel-clamp and stored at a CaSSOA-member site
Caravan interior care during the winter
Leaving cupboard doors and drawers open can help improve ventilation inside of the carvan and opening the doors to the fridge and freezer and oven and grill can let smells dissipate.
Similarly, chocking overhead locker doors open can allow any moisture that builds up to escape but be careful – flimsy wooden doors or supports can deform and not close properly again if they are left too long.
If you’re worried about soft furnishings, take them into the house somewhere to prevent them getting damp and a standalone moisture trap or two could also help to remove any water from the atmosphere. Alternatively, stand them up to allow air movement around them.
Some people like to fire up their heating from time to time but realistically, this has very little effect unless it’s on all the time and that uses a huge amount of energy.
Final tips on caravan winter storage
Wherever you’re storing your caravan, it’s worth checking that any vents open to the outdoors are sealed with mesh – the last thing you want is to come back to your caravan and find a family of mice have taken up residence.
The trouble they can cause can be huge despite their size...
● Our dream scenario – it’s almost spring and we’re recommissioning the caravan. See you in a few months!