Exploring in a motorhome or caravan during the winter months is something that is reserved for only the hardiest of Kiwis. The rest of us prefer to take a break and enjoy a glass of pinot by the fire until things warm up.
Here are our top tips for getting your vehicle ready for winter storage to make sure it's in tip-top condition when spring arrives.
Start by giving your motorhome a thorough clean. Modern vehicles are pretty well protected against mice and insects. However, sweet smells of perfume and food scraps will make them more persistent in winter. Remove all food from the cupboards and refrigerators, including crumbs. Vaccum and vacuum again! This will discourage your local ant colony from taking up residence over the colder months.
Give the fridge/freezer a thorough wipe down with an antibacterial surface cleaner. Make sure you leave the door ajar, so it's nice and fresh when you return to store food in it.
Batteries in clocks, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, remote controls and any other small electrical devices can leak and cause damage, so it's a good idea to remove them.
Delicate devices such as TVs and radios should also be removed if possible. The cold won't directly harm them, but water can condense on the electronics inside them and damage them if you connect the power or try to switch it on. Allow 24 hours for devices to warm through before turning them on to prevent this.
Upholstery & Bedding
The New Zealand sun is strong even in winter and can fade your upholstery and woodwork. So, keep all blinds and curtains closed when your motorhome or caravan is not in use.
It's best to remove bedding and pillows for laundering, to ensure they are fresh and completely dry when you come to use them again. Prevent damp and musty smells by propping up upholstery cushions so that air can circulate around them.
Some motorhome owners keep their van hooked up all year round and have the heating on very low all winter, or use a humidifier during the colder months. If these options aren't for you, a large tub of silica gel or calcium chloride anti-damp crystals will help remove moisture from the air.
Isolate your gas bottle to prevent leaks and associated hazards.
Taking these steps before putting your motorhome or caravan into storage will help to prevent weather damage.
Cleaning & Protection
Give the exterior a really good clean. Some deposits become more difficult to remove and can even damage your paintwork if they are left on the surface for long periods of time. Clean awnings, wheels, wheels wells and doors seals carefully. Treat bare metal surfaces such as the chassis, wheel hubs, hinges and locks with a corrosion resistant spray.
If you intend to use a cover, make sure your motorhome is completely dry and free from grit. Choose a purpose-made full cover as they are breathable, have a soft lining and won't flap in the wind, rubbing against your paintwork. Check for any holes in the cover and repair them to prevent moisture getting between it and your van.
Never use a tarpaulin! These are made from rough material with no lining and do not fit the contours of your motorhome. The material and metal eyelets can cause damage to the surface of your vehicle.
Seals & Vents
When rubber seals are compressed for long periods of time they can stick and deterioriate. A very thin coating of silicon grease around the rubber window and door seals will help minimise any deterioration and prevent them from sticking. Don't use petroleum-based gels such as Vaseline or engine oil as these can corrode rubber.
Some boiler and fridge vents have covers which should be fitted when the motorhome or caravan is not in use. Any vent that you don't have a cover for should be blocked with duct tape and card to deter insects and vermin.
Deep cycle batteries should last a number of years if they are looked after properly. They need the most care when they are not in daily use, as the most common damage occurs when they are kept in a state of low charge.
Batteries should be stored in a cool, dry place, protected from frost and, most importantly, fully charged with no devices draining them. Batteries slowly lose charge during storage, so a solar system or trickle charger will reduce the risk of damage. Keeping your batteries at or below 12 volts for long periods will likely cause permanent damage.
This is good time to clean your water holding tanks and pipework before draining everything completely and leaving the system vented.
Put plugs in all the drains to prevent any smells coming from your waste tank and stop any bugs gaining entry through the waste pipes.
Empty your toilet cassette and give it a rinse with a cassette cleaner so there are no nasty smells waiting for you next season. Don't forget to drain down the toilet flush fluid too.
Sunlight, frost and standing pressure can cause deterioration of your tyres. However, there are steps you can take to prolong their life during storage.
Check your tyre pressure, remembering that the correct pressure for front and back will be different. The weight of your motorhome or caravan is sitting on one part of the tyre when it's in storage. This can cause flat areas which can lead to vibration when on the move. Tyres are more prone to flat spots during the winter months as the rubber is less flexible in cold conditions. You can prevent this by moving your vehicle periodically, so that the tyres are rotated 90 - 120 degrees (once or twice over the winter period). Another option is to use concave ramps (such as Froli Level Ramps), so that the tyres aren't sitting on a flat surface.
Once your motorhome is safely locked up for winter, put your keys somewhere safe and start planning your adventures for spring!