Get your motorhome ready for winter

If you're mothballing your motorhome for the winter, there might be more to safe storage than you think. Find out how to get your mobile home ready for the close season.

If you own a motorhome, you'll know it's not called a home from home for nothing.

Whether yours is a van conversion, an American RV, a classic campervan or an overcab, chances are you have enough comforts on board to see you through the most wintry weather.

Some motorhome owners like to keep on travelling throughout the winter months, relishing the chance to park up, turn on the heating and make a nice warm drink on the stove. Motorhome

Some owners, on the other hand, prefer to pack up their van once the nights start to draw in and stay at home until spring.

If this sounds like you, there are some dos and don'ts to make sure your home on wheels stays in tip-top condition until you want to use it again.

Keeping up appearances

Before the cold weather sets in, wash the exterior of your van thoroughly and give it a couple of coats of wax.

Don't forget to clean the roof, too, but take care when using ladders and soapy water at the same time!

Cover up vents to prevent insects and even small rodents getting inside and making themselves a cosy winter home in your van.

Rub a little lubricant on any electrical components exposed to the weather to prevent them from rusting.

Patchy problems

One of the surest ways to ruin your van if you don't use it for a long time is to let mould or mildew take hold.

You'll know if you have mould in your motorhome due to its musty, damp smell - not to mention ugly dark patches around sinks and showers, in cupboards or on cushions.

Motorhome mildew can be avoided if you follow a few simple tips before storing your van:

  • Check all cupboards to make sure no food or toiletries get left inside over winter
  • Give the carpets a thorough vacuum (this should be done regularly throughout the camping season, too)
  • Make sure the fridge is completely dry inside, and leave the door ajar
  • When using your motorhome, open windows whilst cooking and after showering. Over winter, open up now and again if possible and give the interior an airing
  • Leave moisture-absorbing crystals on board to soak up condensation and keep your unit smelling fresh

The interior of your motorhome isn't the only part at risk from mould. If you have an awning or use pup tents, make sure they have dried out and are rolled up properly before being packed away - otherwise you could be sleeping under musty canvas next spring.

Water way to go

Drain any remaining water, including the waste tank and the toilet cassette, and if your motorhome is an older model it's a good idea to drain the pump completely. 

To make sure you get rid of every last drop of water, empty each container, turn the taps on and off and take your van for a short drive to dislodge any leftover drops.

Invest in a set of motorhome tyre covers to protect your wheels from the sun

Don't forget to make sure the water heater is empty, too. There should be instructions on how to do this in the owner's manual, including leaving the taps set to 'on' before storing.

Water filters can freeze if left with water inside over the winter and are best replaced every season - again, instructions should be in your manual.

Safety first

It's essential to make your motorhome safe and sound before it goes into storage, whether it's kept at home or in a motorhome compound.

After charging batteries, store them somewhere dry. This goes not only for main batteries but for smaller batteries in items such as clocks and remote controls.

Take gas bottles out of your unit, turning off all gas control valves, and store them in a cool, dry place.

Tyre-d and tested

Tyres on stationary vehicles are at greater risk of deterioration than those on vehicles used regularly, and this is particularly the case with caravans and motorhomes due to their weight.

Think about jacking up the vehicle slightly over winter to alleviate the pressure on tyres, and invest in a set of motorhome tyre covers to protect your wheels from the sun.

If your motorhome is parked up for months at a stretch it's vital to examine tyres carefully before you drive off again in the spring, looking out for cracks and problem spots.

If you're planning a winter or early spring trip abroad in your motorhome, note that some European countries require drivers to use winter tyres on all vehicles between certain months.

Depending on the country, 'winter' can last from November until as late as April, and not following the law could land you an on-the-spot fine as well as potentially proving dangerous.

Fully covered

It's often thought that if a vehicle is not being used for a long period then it doesn't need to be insured, but this is not the case unless you have declared it off-road.

Under Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE), it's an offence to keep an uninsured vehicle unless you have told the DVLA that it is not in use and you have a Statutory Off-Road Notice (SORN).

If you don't have a SORN and your motorhome is not insured, you could face a fixed penalty notice and a court prosecution and fine. Your unit could also be clamped and towed away.

However, even if you have a SORN, leaving your motorhome uninsured could cost you dear if it's stolen or if an electrical fire breaks out.

Read the wording on your insurance policy carefully or speak to your provider if you plan to SORN your motorhome over winter.

This also applies if your motorhome is being kept in storage, as the insurers will want to know of a change of address or circumstances and might need to add clauses to your policy.

Mind out

Hopefully your motorhome will never be stolen but, if it is, you'll stand a better chance of getting it back if it's been registered on a computerised system such as Minder.

This is the motorhome equivalent of caravan registers such as Theftcheck and matches the van's unique identification number to details logged on a database.

Research courses such as advanced driving or motorhome manoeuvring to help you be a better driver next season

So long as you keep your registered details updated, the police will be able to get in touch if your van is recovered.

The Caravan Cluboffers lots of advice for motorhome owners as well as caravanners, so have a look at their security tips to reduce the chances of your unit being stolen.

Good security could also bring down your motorhome insurance premium.

All aboard

Even if you plan not to drive your motorhome far throughout the winter, try to take it for a short trip every month or so to keep things ticking over.

It's a good idea to turn appliances on to make sure they are in working order, so why not brew yourself a cup of tea, sit down with your laptop and plan next year's trips!

Alternatively, you could research courses such as advanced driving or motorhome manoeuvring to help you be a better driver next season.

Lots of courses are advertised online and completing certain ones could help reduce the cost of your motorhome insurance.

By Rebecca Lees