With the coldest days of the year soon to be upon us, you might be preparing for your last caravan trip of the year, or considering closing your caravan down for the winter months. To ensure you keep your caravan in the best possible condition ready for another year of fun-filled getaways, we've put together a comprehensive winter care guide to cover both static and touring caravans.
Spending winter in your caravan can be an exciting experience, from waking up surrounded by beautiful, frost-touched nature to bundling up to sit on your porch and gaze up at the winter sky. Whether you have a static caravan or a touring caravan, here are some essentials to pack before heading out on the road this winter.
Raincoats and thick jumpers are an essential part of being British and any prepared traveller keeps a spare or two in their boot should they get caught in a spot of cold weather. Additionally, you will want to pack extra layers including thermals, extra t-shirts, thick socks, gloves, a scarf and a cosy hat. Don't forget some comfortable walking boots - if the worst happens and you experience a breakdown, you don't want to be walking through snow and slush in a flimsy pair of trainers!
Layers are essential for keeping warm and can ensure you stay cosy when out and about. A couple of extra bits we also recommend keeping handy for a quick warm-up include a hot water bottle and reusable hand warmers.
If the worst happens and you find yourself pulled up at the side of the road waiting for recovery, you will want the peace of mind that everything you might need is in the car waiting for you. It's recommended to keep an all-season breakdown kit available in your boot, so you don't get caught out. Essentials include:
Before you get yourself all cosy for the winter in your caravan, there are a few recommended checks and maintenance jobs to carry out to ensure you experience no hardship during your stay. These are normal maintenance jobs and should be carried out a couple of times a year so if you haven't already ticked these off your list, it's even more important to do so with winter on the way.
Inspect the Exterior of Your Caravan
While you aren't likely to miss a large amount of damage to your caravan's exterior, it's easy to miss cracks and loose joints without a thorough inspection. Find a day when you've got plenty of natural light and inspect every corner of your exterior, taking note of any potential problem areas that you may need to keep an eye on. If you find any cracks, holes or loose joints on your touring caravan, it's best to get these patched up before heading out on the road. While there is more time for repairs on a static caravan, it's important to get all issues fixed, especially before the weather turns wet and miserable.
Change Over from Butane to Propane
This might require some preparation, especially if you have an older model caravan, but it's advised to use propane gas instead of butane during the winter months, as butane gas freezes below 4°C.
Maintain Your Heating System
Every boiler needs maintenance and if you have a gas boiler, this should have an annual check-up from a qualified gas engineer. While you won't be able to maintain the boiler yourself (unless you are qualified) you can check and if necessary, bleed your radiators to remove naturally occurring trapped air and return your radiators to full efficiency. You should also check all pipes (internal and external) are sufficiently insulated with pipe lagging as this prevents liquids from freezing in the pipes and causing a problem.
In the colder months you are more likely to be using gas fires or turning the heating on in your caravan and if you have an older model, you are likely using a free-standing heater. In addition to using these heating appliances responsibly, you need to ensure that any heaters are safe for use and install carbon monoxide and fire alarms throughout your caravan - just in case. Ideally, you want one in each bedroom and one in the main living area or kitchen.
To save using up all your gas overnight, consider loading up on some high-tog duvets, extra pillows and blankets to load the beds up with. You'll stay nice and cosy (especially if pre-warmed with a hot water bottle!) and reduce the need to buy extra gas bottles for the colder nights. Double down with some cosy, fleecy pyjamas and your caravan will become the ultimate winter retreat.
Beat the Condensation
While staying warm is a priority, with the cold exterior and warm air indoors, your caravan is likely to suffer from some condensation, which is noticeable by the moisture that collects on windows and cold surfaces. Several ways to reduce condensation include opening windows and doors in the day to allow air to flow through, clearing out all air vents to provide extra ventilation, or purchasing some dehumidifiers which will collect moisture in the air. If you don't notice a reduction in the level of condensation, consider turning on (or installing) extractor fans, setting salt-pots in each of the rooms and reducing the use of gas-heaters, which can create extra moisture in the air.
Clear Out Gutters and Drains
To prevent gutters from leaking down the side of your caravan and drains backing up, make sure to clear out all gutters and drains of any organic material or leaf litter which could have built up after the autumn season. Make sure you also replace any guttering or drain pipes that have cracks or holes in and repair or replace old or broken guttering clips, too.
If you've enjoyed your last caravan stay of the year, you will want to prepare your caravan for winter storage. While both static and touring caravans have similar winter requirements, there are a few differences which we will include below in greater detail. In addition to cleaning out your drains and gutters, maintaining your heating system and inspecting the exterior of your caravan, general winterisation includes:
Emptying All Water Systems
To prevent freezing pipes or water storage tanks during the colder months, it's recommended to drain all water systems completely. First, turn off the water supply at the stopcock, and open any drain down taps beneath the caravan, then run all the taps through the caravan and in the shower until no more water comes through.
When all the water has drained away, put the plugs in to prevent any wildlife creeping in over the cold months. Similarly, don't forget to remove and safely store the shower hose, shower head and any water filters as these can freeze and become damaged if any moisture is left.
Remove All Soft Furnishings
As temperatures fluctuate during the colder months, soft furnishings are the first to absorb moisture and can become a breeding ground for mould and damp. Remove all cushions and soft furnishings, including curtains and window nets, and ideally store these away from your caravan over the winter. If you have blinds in your caravan, it's advisable to take these down as leaving blinds down for a period of time can damage the mechanism and make them unusable when you return in the spring.
Disconnect the Gas
If you've got gas bottles, make sure to turn off and disconnect them and store them safely in a dedicated gas storage space. Some caravan owners recommend lighting one of the gas rings so you can burn off any remaining gas in the pipeline.
There's nothing worse than returning to your caravan and being greeted with a stale, musty smell. In order to encourage proper airflow through your caravan in the winter months, double check that all vents are clean and before leaving, open all cupboards and wardrobes and leave all doors slightly ajar, especially in the bedrooms. Not only does this allow air to flow freely through the caravan but as you will also have taken all window coverings, it's extra security that nothing has been left behind that might encourage theft.
While you are clearing your caravan for the winter months, it's recommended to leave all windows and doors open while you work. This way, you let plenty of fresh air through your caravan and as a bonus, remove the smell of any cleaning products you are using.
While it's tempting to leave electronics like TVs, DVD players and games consoles in the caravan over the winter ready for your return in the spring, it's good practice to remove anything of value from your caravan, regardless of whether it's going to sit on your driveway or on a secure caravan park.
Prep the Kitchen
Any food left in the caravan will be a great attractor for pests like mice and rats and even if left untouched, aren't going to be nice to return to in the New Year. Remove all perishables from cupboards and the fridge and then give everything a wipe down. You can use a weak bicarbonate of soda solution in the fridge to remove any lingering smell, before turning it off and leaving the door open before you leave. If you leave any tins in the caravan, make sure to place them on a bit of kitchen roll to prevent rust rings from forming in cupboards.
To reduce the risk of damp, leave salt bowls, silica gel packets or dehumidifiers in each of the rooms and the backs of cupboards as this will absorb any extra moisture.
Check All Seals and Hinges
Seals around doors and windows need checking before you close your caravan for the winter; check that these do not need replacing and apply a thin layer of lubricant to stop them sticking in the spring. It's also worth greasing or applying WD40 to internal and external hinges to stop them freezing or sticking.
Disconnect the Mains/Remove the Battery
Depending on how power is supplied to your caravan, once you've sorted all the cleaning bits (including a thorough vacuum), disconnect the mains or remove the battery and store this somewhere dry and safe over the winter. To keep your battery charged and in good condition, invest in a battery charger that you can use monthly at home to top up your battery level.
With everything on the above list checked off, your winter preparations are well underway and if you have been preparing your static caravan for winter, it's time to lock everything up and head home for the winter. For touring caravan owners, however, there is still a bit of winter prep to carry out to keep your caravan fresh and ready for the year ahead.
Maintain and Replace Wheels
Before leaving your caravan for the winter, check over your wheels for any signs of damage or wear. If you are not able to put winter wheels on your caravan, make sure you regularly turn your caravan wheels over the winter to prevent flat spots, especially if it is being stored for a long time on a hard surface. If you do take your wheels off, make sure to store them securely under breathable covering.
Chock the Wheels and Release the Handbrake
Handbrakes can freeze in position if they are left on over the winter, so lower and lock your corner steadies, chock the wheels (unless you are fitting fixed winter wheels) and release the handbrake. It's also recommended to spray a light covering of insect repellent around wheel blocks and corner steadies and top this up regularly while your caravan is in winter storage.
Scrub the Exterior and Cover
Once everything has been removed from your caravan and you have cleaned every corner, it's time to clean down the exterior before covering your caravan in a breathable protective cover. If you don't have a weatherproof, breathable caravan cover, use a coat of wintering fluid to protect your caravan against mildew and mould build up. Don't use a plastic sheet or tarpaulin as these do not allow air flow and can trap moisture which may lead to problems when you come to use your caravan again in the spring.
With the above guide, you can ensure your static or touring caravan is prepared for the winter and ready for storage over the coldest months of the year.