Sammy FairclothSee other Advice articles filed in ‘General motorhome advice’ written by Sammy Faircloth
Spring is a wonderful time of year: the days are getting longer, the flowers are blooming and there is a renewed energy following the cold winter months.
However, there are some important jobs to complete on the ’van before hitting the road. Read on!
Whether your motorhome is stored at home on your driveway or at a storage facility for a long period of time, if it hasn’t been covered, it might look in a sorry state.
Algae, leaf mould, water stains and dirt, to name but a few, can be very unsightly.
This can easily be resolved, of course, with a good wash down using a bucket and sponge.
Spring is usually the time when most people book their motorhome in for a service.
Hopefully, you’ll have booked this in plenty of time, because it tends to be one of the busiest times of year for mobile service engineers and workshops.
Check the tread on your tyres – it should be no less than 1.6mm in depth.
If you haven’t put in the miles, the tyres shouldn’t have worn too quickly.
In addition, check the side walls of the tyre. If there are any cracks or bulges appearing, or marks where they have come into contact with a pavement, replace the tyre before setting off on your journey.
You should also check the tyre pressure (not forgetting the spare wheel) using a tyre pressure gauge, but remember to do this when the tyres are cold.
Run a test to see that all the road lights are working correctly, and that none of the bulbs has blown.
If a bulb isn’t working, the bulb and lamp unit contacts might only need cleaning up.
Carry out a visual check to ensure that there has been no water ingress into the light assembly.
During a winter lay-up, it is important to ensure that the leisure battery is always coupled to a trickle charger, because it mustn’t be left in a discharged condition.
Some owners remove the leisure battery from their motorhome while it’s in storage.
Others leave it in situ and trickle charge using devices such as solar panels.
The leisure battery should have a reading of 12.7V. Anything below 12V could mean that it has fully discharged and entails you needing to buy a new one.
It’s good practice to remove gas cylinders from a motorhome during winter storage and keep them in a shed.
Check how much gas you have left in the cylinder. How?
Well, with a Calor cylinder, the empty weight should be marked on the collar in lb/oz.
Divide this by 2.2 (remembering there are 16oz in 1lb) to convert to kilograms – the gas weight (when full) is painted on the cylinder wall in kg.
Weigh them on bathroom scales to calculate the amount of gas remaining.
Alternatively, there are some new gadgets on the market – such as the Truma LevelControl – that use ultrasound to detect the levels of gas in a cylinder.
If you are heading off to a cold climate in spring, it’s advisable to take propane (red cylinders).
Propane gas will not freeze and can be used in temperatures down to -43°C.
In contrast, butane gas (blue cylinders) will begin to freeze at 3°C and this can affect the operation of your onboard equipment.
Hopefully, you will have left your taps in the ‘open’ position and drained down the water heater and toilet before storing your motorhome for the winter.
This prevents frost damage to the pipes and the water heater.
The taps now need to be turned to the ‘off’ position.
The water heater drain-down switch can be closed – and don’t forget the shower tap!
Now is a good time to give the pipes and tanks a good clean and sterilise them.
Use a product such as TankKleen from C.A.K. Tanks – it leaves no aftertaste, as some other products can do.
Avoid chlorine-based cleaners, because this will leave an unpleasant taste in the water and isn’t good for the pipes.
During winter storage, the toilet valve flap should have been left open to prevent it sticking.
Now is the time to carry out some maintenance, including spraying the rubber seal with a Thetford seal lubricant.
It is not advisable to use petroleum jelly or vegetable oil.
Check the status of the toilet cassette, which may benefit from cleaning with a cassette tank cleaner.
The toilet valve flap can be closed and the flush filled.
If you made the mistake of closing the fridge door at the end of the previous year, you may find it marked inside with mildew.
Don’t use normal household products to clean the inside of your motorhome fridge, because they can react with the plastic liner in leisure refrigerators, which might then crack.
Some manufacturers advise using a solution of a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in a litre of warm water.
I remove my seat cushions over winter and store them in the house.
This is purely because they are expensive and are prone to theft and mould.
A note for next year.
I have learnt, through bitter experience, the importance of winter preparation.
In my first year of motorhome ownership, I prepared the ’van for a spring adventure, only to find it had got very damp inside and mould was growing on all my wooden kitchen utensils and on the walls and skylights.
Since then, I have become meticulous when storing my motorhome for the winter.
The more detailed your preparation for winter, the easier it will be to get ready for going away in spring.