Due to our fully serviced hard standing pitches here at Horton Common, we do get a fair number of beginner caravanners each year. Quite often I’ll be asked various questions about proper caravan maintenance. Now, I’m not proclaiming to be a caravanning ‘expect’. But I do get to speak to hundreds of caravanners each year. I get to hear about various issues they have run into, and the various maintenance tips they share with me. So with this post I wanted to summaries some of the most important maintenance aspects a beginner caravanner should be aware of. However, obviously all caravanners should be aware of these aspects of caravan maintenance. If you are an experienced caravanner some of the information below may be ‘old hat’. However, its never a bad idea to refresh the memory.
Quite a few of the caravan maintenance topics below I’ve already written posts on. So I’m not going to repeat my self too much. I’ll quickly summarise the main key talking points of each caravan maintenance aspect and then link to my associated posts. As always, please feel free to use the links in my Table of Contents below. You can then jump to any particular aspect of caravan maintenance you are interested in.
Introduction to Caravan Maintenance
If you have read any of my previous posts you will be aware that where possible I like to start a post with a video or two. A good video can provide a lot of information quickly in an easy to absorb fashion. It also provides me with a reference point to elaborate on the topic a bit more. So below is a brief video by John from Practical Caravan on maintenance tips. It’s only a short video (under 5 mins) but it provides a good introduction on the topic of caravan maintenance. After you have watched the video below I will discuss the various caravan maintenance jobs in the video.
There are certain aspects of caravan maintenance that should be done before each trip out. Other aspects will be done once annual during caravan servicing. With this post, I’m not going to focus on the jobs that should be carried out during the annual service (brake inspections etc). There is a little bit of cross over with regards to inspecting the caravan tyres etc. However, generally, this post is about the jobs every caravanner should get familiar with and be carrying out themselves.
Cleaning a Caravan of Moss and Algae
Besides general dirt what you will find with caravans and motorhomes is if they are not washed and cleaned frequently a build-up of moss and algae is quite common. The reason being, caravans have a large flat roof with lots of edges and corners around roof lights etc. Moss and algae find it very easy to attach themselves and grow around these surfaces. You will also find the same happening around the windows and doors of the caravan.
Another issue which is a common problem for caravanners is the dreaded ‘black streaks’. You will often notice black streaks around and under the window and door seals of the caravan. Now, there is a range of cleaning products which can remove the black streaks. However, many of them are really too abrasive for the paintwork on caravans. But there are various caravan cleaning products which specifically target the removal of algae and black streaks.
Cleaning black streaks and algae off a caravan require the right product which is not too abrasive for the caravans paintwork: Image – Amazon
When I get around to it I’m going to write a series of posts on the most effective techniques and products for cleaning a caravan. Importantly, there are definitely ways not to clean your caravan. The topic of caravan cleaning is a large part of DIY caravan maintenance and its literally a massive topic with many dos and don’t. There are jobs cleaning the outside of the caravan and the inside. For instance, I’ve recently written a post on how to choose a caravan vacuum cleaner. Once I’ve written the other posts I’ll link to them below.
Caravan Cover Maintenance
Yes, caravan covers as John discusses in the video may need attention and maintenance if you use one on your caravan while its in storage. Covers are quite a controversial topic amongst many caravanners. Quite a few of our guest over the years have expressed their opinions on covers and I have some of my own thoughts and experiences. We did have a cover on my fathers Bailey Pegasus for the first few years of ownership. The idea is pretty obvious. Putting on a caravan cover will mean the caravan stays cleaner. So when it comes time to use the caravan again a quick clean and you’re done!
Caravan covers do require maintenance and get a very mixed reception from our guests: Image – Amazon
Well, that’s the theory anyway. However, as John references in the video, in windy locations caravan covers can require more maintenance. They can get tears and require frequent adjustment. With our elevated location, we do get brilliant views over the Staffordshire Moorland and Peak District National Park. However, we do also have higher than average wind speeds over winter. Its why even though we have hardstanding fully serviced pitches I still close Horton Common over winter. The simple reason being I don’t want to see a guests caravan on its side! Anyway, back to the topic in hand. We would frequently retention the caravan cover to no avail, it would still move around too much. Over time it did scuff the paintwork and created abrasion marks on the front windows.
Now, you get general caravan covers, but you also have covers specifically fitted for the caravan in question. Ours was a custom fit cover and it still moved around and created a bit of damage. With regards to keeping the caravan clean, it wasn’t really great at doing that either. You see the covers are still breathable and they do still let water through, and hence dirt. I’ll write a more detailed post on caravan covers at some point in the future. There is also the topic (again controversial) of caravanning towing covers. If you do choose to go with a caravan cover, maintaining the straps so they are tight is important.
Caravan Tyre Maintenance
Now, I have already written a couple of posts on caravan tyre maintenance and inspection. It was one of the main topics I wanted to discuss on this blog. The reason being after discussing caravan tyre maintenance with several our of guests over the years there generally appears to be lack of awareness over best practice. For instance, what your caravan tyre pressures should be and how long do caravan tyres last. The most recent associated post I completed was the best tyre pressure gauges available currently. If you are a caravanning beginner or even an experienced caravanner, if there is just one thing you take away from reading this post, I hope its that proper caravan tyre maintenance is vitally important.
I believe every caravanner should have a portable pressure gauge (up to 100Psi) and check the pressure of their tyres before each trip: Image – Amazon
When it comes to putting your caravan away for winter, you really don’t want all that weight sat on the tyres on the same spot for several months at a time. Many experienced caravans will use a caravan jack and lift the wheels off the ground with axle stands. If jacking up the caravan and leaving it on axle stands isn’t something you want to do, the alternative is the use of tyre savers.
Security Device Maintenance
I’ve written quite a few posts now on the various security devices you could consider for your caravan from hitch locks to wheel clamps and leg locks. Soon, I’ll also write posts on the various other security options such as alarms an trackers. However, when it comes to the maintenance of these security devices for your caravan (specifically anything with a key) you will want to do a little bit of maintenance.
If you want to avoid the panic of getting a key stuck in your hitch lock a quick bit of maintenance can avoid that stress: Image – Amazon
Any key mechanism which is exposed to the elements (particulary rain) over time can be more difficult to operate. Now, corrosion is unlike to be the issue at the internal components will probably be made from a none corrosive metal, probably stainless. However, rain entering the key mechanism can wash away grease and other lubrication. Hence, you will generally want to have a can of WD40 to hand and every couple of months just give a quick spray into the key mechanism. If you don’t, when you come to use your caravan and you want to release that security device you may get a nasty surprise. I’ve got a key stuck before, and you want to avoid the panic that can create. Therefore, this quick bit of maintenance can save you a lot of stress.
Caravan Leisure Battery Maintenance
Quite a few caravanners think of their caravan leisure battery as ‘set and forget’ and they don’t require maintenance. In other words, once its installed you don’t need to worry about. The reality could not be further from the truth. For instance, with the most common lead-acid caravan leisure batteries discharging below 50% can cause damage. In the video above John states that if its not probably charged it ‘will be ruined’. Well, that can be the case sometimes. However, with a decent leisure battery charger, it is also sometimes possible to salvage the leisure battery.
If you have a good quality leisure battery charger with frequent use as part of a maintenance schedule it can help to keep your leisure battery in good health: Image – Amazon
Checking for Damp in your Caravan
As john references in the video above if you step into your caravan and you have a musty smell that may be a sign of damp. If water is able to penetrate into through the caravans outer shell over time this could lead to some significant structural damage. Hence, if your caravan does smell musky you want to thoroughly check for damp with a moisture meter. However, even if you don’t have that musky smell going around your caravan with a moisture meter once or twice a year is generally best practice and part of a good caravan maintenance schedule.
Even a cheap moisture meter can be a valuable piece of kit for caravan maintenance: Image – Amazon
You do have to be careful when using a moisture meter around your caravan. They typically have two sharp probes. You need to be careful when testing very surfaces not to scratch them. On some paper make a quick diagram of the layout of our caravan. Then note the results from the various areas around your caravan. If you find a result over 20% I would advise you get the caravan booked into your local caravan service centre for a proper damp test. The consumer-grade moisture meters are good to have as early detection devices. However, they are not as accurate as the ones used by service centres. Hence, the service centre will be able to tell if there is actually a damp issue/leak or not.
Caravan Taps and Filter Maintenance
When your caravan is not in use its best practice to leave the tap open. The reason being air can then pass through the tap. Otherwise, even small amounts of water may be trapped, and during freezing conditions that water can freeze, expand and damage the tap. I’ve previously written a post about the various scenarios which may lead to your caravan tap not working which you may wish to read. Some caravans have a water filter built into the water system. Water filters do require maintenance and replacement, the manufacturers generally state after 30 days of use.
Replacing the water filter when necessary is an easy part of caravan maintenance anyone can compete: Image – Amazon
As I discuss in my post on caravan water filters, the 30 days of use before replacement needs to be read in context. It means if you were using the caravan water system constantly for 30 days. The water filters fitted to caravans are generally rated to process 3000 litres. Therefore always keep that in mind when you are deciding how frequently you want to maintain and replace your caravans water filters.
Fixing Caravan Window Scratches
New caravan beginners (and even experienced caravanners) can from time to time get scratches on the caravan windows. It may be the case that your Sat Nav sent you down som narrow country lane with bramble which scratched the windows. Light scratches may easily polish out with a bit of elbow grease and a suitable product:
Even a caravan beginner can fix caravan window scratches themselves with suitable products: Image – Amazon
However, if you have deep scratches in your caravan windows it will take a bit more work than polish and a cloth. However, I believe fixing scratches on caravan windows is a bit of maintenance even a caravan beginner can handle. I’ve written a separate post on how to remove window scratches if you’re interested.
Alde Wet Heating System Maintenance
If your caravan is fitted with Alde wet heating there are two bits of maintenance you need to be aware or. Either every 2 or 5 years you are going to need to change the glycol antifreeze in the heating system. Now, depending on the age of the system in your caravan (3010 or 3020) there will be a different antifreeze used. There is a range of antifreeze products and using the wrong one can potentially cause issues. Therefore, if you are unsure about what you should use, I would just recommend using G13:
Alde G13 Antifreeze is backwards compatible and can be used on all Alde wet heating systems: Image – Amazon
The second bit of maintenance you will need to do on your Alde heating system after changing the antifreeze is to bleed the system of air. Doing this straight after changing the antifreeze is not normally going to work. After the pump has run to move the heating fluid around the system any air should have migrated to the highest point. Find the air value at the highest point in the system and release that air. If you don’t, that trapped air can cause poor performance. It may even stop the heating system working at all.
Conclusions on Caravan Maintenance
There are various other little maintenance jobs pretty much any caravanner can carry out themselves, and I’ll update this post with more details over time. For instance, if you own a second caravan you may want to replace upholstery foam to provide better support and comfort. You may also want to read my post on caravan winter storage tips. As stated above, if there is one thing that you take away from reading this post I hope its to keep an eye on the condition and pressure of your caravan tyres.
I hope you found some of the information if this post if not all of it useful. I also hope at some point in the future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common. 🙂