You’re probably thinking that summer 2020 was over before it even got started. Sad to say, with the winter nights inevitably drawing in, that’s already the case.
It’s that time of the year once again, therefore, to consider how – and where – you’ll be overwintering your caravan in a way that keeps it in as peak a condition as possible for the eve of what must surely be a longer and more satisfying season next year.
If we do get a break in the weather these wintry days, however, you’ll no doubt be tempted to give your caravan an outing too. So, we’ll also round off with a few winter driving tips.
Let’s start with our tips and suggestions about preparing your caravan for the coming winter:
- if you remember how critical it was when choosing the home in which you live, finding where to store your caravan during the winter months could turn almost as important;
- your choice is likely to fall into one of two broad categories – your own driveway at home, or a purpose-designed storage site;
- your own drive may have the apparent advantages of being conveniently close to home and cheap – but it might remain a winter eyesore as far as your neighbours are concerned and may be difficult to secure against vandals and other intruders;
- this leaves the option of choosing a purpose-designed, secure storage site – such as one of the network of more than 500 such sites around the country which are registered with the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA);
- these sites are regularly inspected and graded according to the level of security offered – being especially welcome as far as caravan insurance providers are concerned;
- so welcome, in fact, that here at Cover4Caravans, we offer an attractive discount on your policy (up to 15%) if you intend storing your caravan on a CaSSOA-approved site;
- when selecting a storage site, security is likely to be one of your principal concerns, so it is helpful that CaSSOA grades its accredited sites according to security standards and provisions;
- although you may prefer that your caravan is stored under cover, the Camping and Caravanning Club points out that storage sites providing such shelter are few and far between.
- in the absence of such shelter, you might be tempted to cover your caravan with a tarpaulin or polythene sheets to protect it from the elements;
- longstanding advice from the Caravan Club, however, is to avoid such covers, which may end up preventing your caravan from “breathing” and therefore encouraging the growth of mould from condensation – in addition, the restraining ropes and cords may also scratch or damage the windows and skin or your caravan;
- besides, your caravan is going to breathe more easily if as many of the air vents as possible are left open to freely-circulating air;
Preparing the bodywork
- whether you have found a secure site that offers protected undercover storage, or somewhere out in the open, the bodywork of your caravan is likely to benefit from a thorough washing down to remove the summer’s grime and dirt before you apply any protective wax or put the trailer under cover;
- the work also provides an excellent opportunity for checking for external damage generally – just be careful when reaching from steps or ladders across the roof, which is not designed to take your weight;
- the underside of the chassis may also benefit from the same kind of attention, especially if you have been out and about when roads have been salted to deal with ice in the winter.
- at the same time, make sure that the tyres are sound are inflated to the correct pressure – and, preferably, turn the wheels every month or so to avoid their being left resting on the same tread of rubber throughout the winter;
- the ideal solution may be to use axle jacks and supports so that the whole caravan is off the ground – but secured still with steadies on each corner and with the handbrake off (to prevent it sticking into the applied position);
- unless your caravan had been jacked up on axle supports, you might also want the added security of wheel clamps;
Lubricate and protect
- if it moves, grease it – this is a way not only of ensuring adequate lubrication of all moving parts but also an element of protection against the corroding effects of wind, rain, ice, and snow;
- check the electrical connection between your caravan and the car that is going to be towing it;
- the caravan needs to be stored with the corner steadies lowered and with the handbrake off, so that it does not stick shut;
- there is plenty of work to do on the inside of your caravan too;
- it might seem obvious, but it is no less important to stress that the gas cylinders must be disconnected – and the supply taps left open so that no gas is trapped within the pipes;
- cylinders then need to be stored away from the caravan in a separate, secure storage compound – a security measure upon which most storage sites are likely to insist;
- when reconnecting the service come spring, remember to check – or have professionally checked – the integrity, safety, and good working order of the gas appliances;
- be sure to leave air vents open in order to allow air to circulate and help prevent condensation – and the mould it may cause;
- you might consider removing cushions and other light furnishings in order to prevent them from absorbing the moisture in the air;
- a further aid to dehumidifying the air is to create a “water-trap” in an open space in the caravan using a bowl of salt and rice or bags of silica gel;
- drain down the water system and empty it thoroughly, taking special care to dry fittings and fixtures which are vulnerable to freezing when it gets really cold;
- in addition to the heating and drinking water systems, also remember to clean and drain down the toilet – again to prevent it from freezing and to keep bugs and germs at bay too of course;
- a guide to overwintering published by the Camping and Caravanning Club, warns that batteries continue to discharge when not in use, so recommends that you take the caravan’s battery home with you, where you can recharge it from time to time.
So, you’ve worked your way through our suggested list of tips – it’s neither unduly long nor onerous, after all – and everything is now prepared for your caravan’s winter “hibernation”, pending its reappearance in tiptop condition come the spring.
That is all but for one exception, of course – the glorious unpredictability of the British weather. Just as you’ve finished tucking up your caravan for a warm and cosy lockdown against the worst that winter can throw at it, the skies brighten, the sun comes out, and you’re raring to get back out on the road for some mid-winter outings.
Winter driving tips
Caravans these days tend to be made for all weathers and towing your tourer in the wintertime is likely to prove perfectly safe and hassle-free. Road conditions are likely to be different, of course, so here are a few winter driving tips that just might come in handy one day.
At the heart of those tips, is a recognition that a little bit of common sense and advance preparation can make all the difference when it comes to safer winter motoring:
- think about fitting tyres that are specially designed for winter conditions and which might offer you a lot more road-holding when it’s a little icy and snowy out there;
- remember the antifreeze – yes, it’s incredibly old advice but every year lots of people forget it and end up with potentially disastrous results for the engines of their cars;
- if you are in any doubt about the seriousness of road conditions, however “borderline” they may be, don’t take the chance of venturing out with your caravan in tow – listen to government, police and motoring organisation advice from the Met Office and if they say to stay at home, then make sure you do;
- check your windscreen wiper blades – it’s dangerous if they are not efficiently clearing the rain off your windscreen and much more so in slushy and muddy conditions when your glass may get plastered very quickly if your blades aren’t doing their job. Keep your washer liquid topped up for the same reason;
- when not garaged, try to keep your car covered if possible. Today it’s comparatively rare to see the tarpaulin or plastic sheeting covering cars which were commonplace yesteryear. That’s a pity because it can be sensible. When parked overnight, it might help keep some of the damp and cold out of your engine making it easier to start and it’s less of a challenge to clear the windows of ice and snow;
- stick to main roads. Much as we might all love our favourite short cuts via small side roads and country lanes, in wintry conditions they can become quickly impassable – so give them a miss even if you think they just might be clear;
- be cautious about fords and floods. Remember that the depth of a ford might be much higher in winter than in summer. Floodwaters on the road might also be much deeper than may appear at first glance. So even if you have a big 4×4, exercise extreme caution and try to avoid going through the water if you can;
- check your battery – this advice is almost as old as remembering your antifreeze and it’s also just as likely to be overlooked until it’s too late.
Even when driving on short urban journeys, when there is snow around make sure you keep extra warm waterproof clothing somewhere in the boot of your car in case of emergencies. Likewise, keep a good sturdy pair of waterproof boots in the car at all times.
If you are driving in isolated areas, some experts recommend keeping some non-perishable food in the car plus some matches and a couple of candles – the heat from one or two candles might keep you alive in an emergency, though remember to make sure the inside of your car is well ventilated and watch out for flammable materials if you need to use such a solution if you are marooned in a snowdrift.