Precautions for vans which are laid up

Water Systems etc.

  • Draining down the water system should be done with all taps open.  If you have single lever mixer taps it is important to ensure that the lever is not only fully lifted but also in the central position.   Draining is normally accomplished by removing the drain plug from the water heater (Carver heaters) or by opening the red drain valve by the side of the heater (Truma heaters). 1996 and later Carver heaters also have a pressure valve/quick drain screw  (see pic) that can be opened half a turn to allow air in and speed draining. Beware that  earlier models can take up to an hour to drain completely. Additionally some Swift caravans also have an under-floor drain on the cold pipe to drain any residual water. Use this too, if fitted. Alternatively you can disconnect a low level pipe - but be ready to mop any spills!

  • The ideal time to drain is just as you leave site on your last outing of the year. The motion of the van on the journey home should help ensure that all parts are well drained. Also any residual heat in the system will help dry it out.
  • Alternatively remove the shower head and blow into the end of the hose to expel water from the system. Open the hot and cold taps alternately to ensure both systems are clear of water.

  • Once drained replace the bung to keep insects out but leave the taps open to prevent pressure build-ups. These can cause the non-return valve on the heater inlet to become displaced such that it will no longer admit water.
  • Drain onboard/inboard water tanks. Most have an inbuilt drain point, some have to be pumped out. On completion run the pump for a second or two to expel any trapped water.

  • If your van has a water filter fitted remove it or at least leave yourself a note to fit a new one before next season. You can fit one now if you like but there is a small chance it could gets damp inside and then be damaged by frost.

  • Don't forget the loo. Where your loo has a separate flush tank it must be completely drained.

  • Operate the flush pump briefly to check that it too has drained.

  • Flush and drain the cassette.

  • Coat the cassette seal and blade lightly with olive oil or Thetford's own maintenance spray (available from many caravan accessory shops). The use of alternative lubricants or chemicals may cause irreparable damage to the seals. Leave the loo blade open to prevent sticking and prevent pressure distortion of the waste cassette. Leaving the blade open also prevents the cassette from being nicked!

  • Plug water inlets with foam to keep out insects.

  • Plug the sink basin and shower trays to keep out smells.

  • Close the flaps on waste outlets to keep insects out.

  • Remove gas cylinders to a safe storage place with adequate low level ventilation.

  • Cover gas regulator inlets to keep ouat insects and debris.
Electrical Components
  • Remove the battery for winter storage and charging. (If your van is fitted with an alarm system this will normally have its own battery and should not be affected).

  • Trickle charge the battery every few weeks to maintain in peak performance.

  • Protect the multi-pin plug/socket pins with Vaseline or Tri-Flow spray. (Note: some moisture repellent sprays such as WD 40 can damage plastics) The plugs should be protected from the weather but not fully sealed as this can encourage condensation.

  • Remove radio if fitted.

  • Remove the clock.

Damp Precautions

  • Check that all vents are unobstructed and secure against spiders, mice etc.

  • Remove all items susceptible to damp and leave cupboard doors open to allow air circulation.

  • Carry out periodic inspections during the winter to check for damp ingress.

  • Lift upholstery and stand on end to allow good air circulation. Do not leave upholstery in contact with hinges as the winter damp may cause rust marks. If necessary cover the hinges with tape for the winter.

Suspension and Running Gear

  • AL-KO advise that the life of their caravan suspension systems can be greatly extended by taking the weight off them for a few weeks each year. Tyre life will also be increased by avoiding excessive periods with the tyres compressed in one position. Support the axle on axle stands and, if your insurance allows, remove the wheels and bolts for storage. (Some insurance policies insist that a wheel clamp be fitted at all times the van is left unattended). Cover the hubs to protect them from the weather.

  • If you do remove the wheels store them in a cool dry place. Protect the tyres from direct sunlight and fuel/oil spillages. Cover with natural material such as hessian. Do not use plastic

  • If you have an under-slung spare wheel carrier now is the time to pull it out and grease the slides.

  • If your van is fitted with shock absorbers protect any exposed rods with a thin smear of Vaseline. Clean it off before returning to use.

  • Ensure the handbrake is off to avoid it seizing to the drums. If not using axle stands ensure the wheels are chocked first!

  • Protect the coupling head with a loose-fitting plastic cover that allows air to circulate.

General Points

  • Clean the fridge with bicarbonate of soda or anti-bacterial liquid, leave the door ajar.

  • Check your awning is clean and bone dry before storage.

  • Clean and polish the van to help it repel the worst the winter has to throw at it. Doing this now will make it easier to clean in the spring.

  • If you wish to cover the caravan ensure that the material the cover is made of is breathable. If it isn't the cover will do more harm than good.

  • Coat window seals with olive oil to help prevent subsequent sticking (especially those made of grey rubber).

Precautions for vans still in use for winter outings :

  • Drain the water and loo after each outing. Don't be tempted to leave it because the weather seems mild. A temperature of just -1ºC for an hour or two is all that's required to freeze a small quantity of water, such as that in a tap spout.

  • Remove the water filter (if fitted) after each outing. Even though drained the filter will still be very damp inside and frost can cause damage to the membranes. The result is that when you next use the filter it may release carbon particles into your water system.

  • In frosty weather protect your water container. Suitable covers can often be obtained from local dealers. Alternatively use an old cut down hot water cylinder jacket or an old anorak. Exposed piping can be covered with plumber's lagging.

  • Keep some water inside the van so that if all else fails you can still wash your hands and make a drink.

  • Where waste containers are made entirely of plastic then salt may be used to prevent freezing. Toilet cassettes are best protected using commercial anti-freeze as this will not cause the valves to stick.

  • Use propane gas (normally red cylinders) instead of butane (normally blue cylinders) which is ineffective below 0º Celsius.

  • Fit fridge vent covers if using your fridge on electricity.

  • If using mains electricity lift the cable occasionally in frosty weather to prevent it becoming frozen to the ground.

  • Keep the battery charged.

  • Remember low temps may mean low tyre pressures.

  • Keep all moving parts, eg steadies, jockey wheel and handbrake, well oiled and greased to prevent seizing.

  • If possible site your van so that your fridge vents are away from the prevailing wind. This will reduce draughts in your van and help prevent over-cooling of the fridge.