Every caravan should be regularly serviced. Not only for the safety implications (gas leaks/brakes etc) but also so you can enjoy your holiday. If you are not annually having your caravan serviced, sooner or later something is going to go wrong. Your holiday is intended as a time to relax, not going through the process of fault-finding. Now, an annual caravan service does not obviously guarantee you won’t have issues. However, it will undoubtedly reduce the odds of unexpected issues occurring. Some of our guests choose to service their caravans themselves, others take them to a service centre each year. With this post, I wanted to cover the caravan service process as thoroughly as I could. Some of these servicing steps you may choose to complete yourself. However, there are certain steps where I believe you should leave it to the professionals.
This is probably going to be the longest post I’ve ever written. Therefore, you are probably going to want to use the Table of Content below. You can use it to look for a particular aspect of servicing a caravan you’re interested in. However, if you have the time I would encourage you to read the whole post. Each of these caravan servicing steps is important, but some are more important than others. This post is not so much a ‘how to service a caravan’, its more about the process. How you choose to interpret the information below is a personal preference. It will obviously depend on your DIY skills. However, there are also other factors to consider. Such as if you want to maintain the manufacturer’s warranty on your caravan.
Caravan Servicing Quick Guide and Tips
Based on the content available for me to reference with this post and depending on how much time you have to read it, I thought separating this post under quick guides and comprehensive guides was not a bad idea. If you have seen any of my other posts on caravans and motorhomes, you will know I like to reference videos. I then provide my own comments based on what’s discussed in the video. This post on caravan servicing is going to be no different. So the first video for this ‘quick guide’ to caravan servicing is from Practical Caravan.
The above is only a quick 3-minute video on caravan servicing. I’ll now break down the topics discussed into the video into the individual checks with links to my other relevant posts.
Caravan Stabiliser Hitch Head Servicing
There are various types of caravan stabilisers available. The most common hitch head that I see fitted to our guest’s caravans is the AL-KO stabiliser hitch head seen in the video. In terms of servicing the caravan its important to check the friction pads are clean for them to work effectively. Grease and grime can get stuck to the surface of the pads. If the friction pad still has sufficient depth they can be cleaned and reused opposed to being replaced. However, expect a service centre to simply change the pads if they are concerned by their condition.
Caravan Gas System Servicing for Leaks and Efficiency
When it comes to the gas system on your caravan this is an area where you want to get the professionals involved. This could either by a qualified technician at a service centre or a mobile caravan service company who are GasSafe registered. There are various steps to servicing the gas system on a caravan. First, an air pressure test will take place to see if the caravans gas system can hold pressure. If the pressure drops then that obviously indicates there is a leak somewhere in the caravans gas system. For instance, the pigtail which is the flexible pipe between your LPG bottle and caravan may need replacing. An old pigtail can also lead to issues with your caravan gas regulator.
The caravan service centre or mobile technician will also use a probe inserted into the flue. This will check the gas system for combustion efficiency. The test will indicate the levels of carbon monoxide produced. It’s very similar to when you take your car in for its MOT. This again is not considered a DIY aspect of caravan servicing.
Caravan Damp Test with a Moisture Meter
Now, damp testing is a part of caravan servicing which you can carry DIY with a caravan damp tester. However, there are factors to consider. The professional-grade (expensive) damp testers used by either a mobile caravan technician or service centre are going to be more accurate than the type your average caravanner is going to purchase. Furthermore, if you want to maintain your caravans warranty, that damp test will need to be conducted by an approved service centre. However, I still think doing your own damp testing prior to taking you caravan for its annual service is a good idea. If you spot any particular areas of concern. You can make the service centre aware to thorough check that particular area for damp.
Caravan Leisure Battery Test
The performance of your caravan leisure battery is an important consideration when it comes to an annual caravan service. Many of our guests use a caravan motor mover. You need your leisure battery to be in good health for the mover to work. A caravan service centre will check your leisure batteries state of charge and capacity. If your leisure battery has frequently been discharged below 50% this could have damaged the battery.
The service centre will be able to advise if the leisure battery is damaged and needs to be replaced. However, before you do replace your leisure battery it could be worth investing in a quality leisure battery charger. Some have various features to recover a leisure battery to its full (or close to) capacity. While the service centre is working on the leisure battery it may get disconnected. This may result in you getting a call from your caravan tracker service provider.
Caravan Handbrake and Drum Servicing
One of the most important aspects of a caravan service is the servicing of the braking system. The tension of the caravan handbrake will be tested and brake drums removed to inspect the pads etc. The caravan brakeaway cable should also be inspected for its condition. I do know some of our guests carry out their own servicing on their caravan brakes. However, before you decide to service the breaks on your caravan you need to consider a few things. First, do you own a suitable caravan jack? Jacking up a caravan incorrectly could damage the caravan along with being very dangerous. Furthermore, within the brake drum of a caravan, there are multiple springs and clips. If you lose any of these components your caravan cannot be safely towed. Therefore, it will be stranded until its fixed. Generally, DIY servicing of the caravan’s brakes is not recommended.
When to Schedule a Caravan Servicing Appointment?
A very important point made in the video is the time of year to book a caravan service. If you try and book your caravan in just before your summer break, its highly likely you’ll be disappointed. I’ve had guests who have had to cancel their booking to visit us here at Horton Common. The reason was they needed to use that time to get the in a caravan service. Getting your caravan booked into the service centre over the winter months can be easier.
However, that does come along with the potential issue of towing the caravan in snowing and icy conditions. That’s something many caravanners have no interest in doing. Therefore, its important to have a good relationship with your caravan service centre or mobile technician. You want to book well in advance and even potentially pay a deposit to book that service. Therefore, you may be able to take your caravan in for a spring, autumn or maybe even a summertime service. You could then avoid the need to tow your caravan to the service centre during the winter months in potentially dangerous conditions.
Caravan Servicing Comprehensive Guide and Tips
So the above video from John at Practical Caravan was only a brief guide to caravan servicing. However, the full process of a caravan service is extensive and much more comprehensive. Hence, this section of the post will cover the caravan servicing process in more detail. However, this section is not an exhaustive list of every job the service centre or mobile caravan technician will compete. But it will give you more insight is the jobs that are carried out as part of a caravan service. I will also discuss how you as the owner of the caravan should prepare for service.
As you may have guessed, here comes another video. This time its Dan (Meet the Trudgians) who recorded his trip to his caravan service centre. Its in two parts, the first part focusing on the actual servicing of the caravan itself. The second video is an interview Dan conducted with the service centre owner. If you have the time I would encourage you to view both videos. They really do ‘shine a light’ on the full caravan servicing process.
Caravan Service Center Visual Check
In many instances, you won’t sit and wait for your caravan to be serviced like you would for your cars MOT. Typically, you’re going to leave the caravan with the service centre for a week or more. Therefore, in a similar fashion to hiring a car, a visual inspection is going to take place. The caravan service centre will mark down any imperfections on the outside of the caravan. The owner is then asked to co-sign that inspection report. They will also want the keys and codes to any security devices you have. Such as a caravan wheel lock or caravan hitch lock.
Now, I’m not aware of any service centres who carry out an internal inspection of the caravan. This does surprise me, as the damp check for instance as part of the caravan service will often use a damp meter with sharp metal probs. You would think they would want to avoid a customer accusing the service centre of scratching their walls etc. An internal caravan inspection prior to service may take place at some service centres. But I’m not aware of the practice.
Caravan Servicing Lift
Something which I did briefly want to touch on is the caravan lift a service centre has access to. If you are thinking of carrying out the annual service of the caravan yourself its going to take you a lot longer to properly inspect under the caravan. Furthermore, never climb under you caravan to inspect the brake cables etc if its just help up by the jack. You will need a firm-level service and caravan supported on axle stands. Furthermore, all the corner steadies should be lowered against the ground.
Caravan Tyre Condition Inspection
When the wheels of the caravan are removed the service centre will thoroughly inspect the tyres. The tread level of the caravan tyres will be checked. However, this is commonly not the reason caravan tyres need to be changed. As I’ve previously discussed in my post on how long do caravan tyres last. The rubber of tyres ages and becomes less malleable/flexible, eventually, cracks will develop in the sidewall. A caravan places quite a lot of weight on just a couple of wheels. This typically leads to tyre flat spots and tyre wall cracking amongst other issues.
The service centre will also check if the wheels are inflated to the correct tyre pressure. There is no standard ‘one fits all’ tyre pressure for caravans. It depends on the weight of the caravan, how many axles it has etc. The spare wheel will get the same inspection routine. The spare wheel carriage will also be inspected and greased to enable easy access.
Caravan Corner Steady Servicing
A job which you may not think about when servicing a caravan is the corner steadies. Over time the grease on the threads can wear away. Many a time I’ve seen one of our guests struggling to lower a corner steady. We have then discussed the need to use a suitable grease to make them easier to lower and raise. I discuss this in my post on servicing caravan corner steadies.
Jockey Wheel Servicing and Greasing
I’ve recently written a post on caravan jockey wheels, and how different types perform over soft and hard ground etc. They play a pivotal role in how easy it is to manoeuvre your caravan by hand or with a motor mover. You need the jockey wheel to turn freely. The type of black plastic jockey wheel seen in the video above is the most common type I see fitted to caravans that visit us here at Horton Common. It does need to have a liberal coating of grease inside the mechanism to operate freely.
Caravan Road Light Testing
As seen in the video, the service centre checks all the external lights on the caravan. However, this should not be a once a year check that you leave to the service centre. With any trailer or caravan, before you go onto the road you should do a full lights check. That includes brake lights, indicators, side lights etc. You can do this on your own, though the brake light test is obviously a little more difficult. Just place something heavy enough against the brake pedal. You can then get out to check the back of the caravan to see if everything is working.
Lock Inspection and a Quick Spray of WD40
The locks on caravan can be a bit fiddly at times. In the past, I have got a key stuck in a front locker that took quite a bit of jiggling to remove. Therefore a service centre may carry out an inspection on all the external locks of the caravan. However, you can obviously also do this yourself. Its useful to have a small spray can of WD40 in the front or side locker of your caravan. It can be useful for a range of issues, but particularly if you feel the locks are acting up.
Caravan 230V Electrical Test
As discussed, the leisure battery on the caravan and 12V system will be tested as part of the service. However, the 230V mains electrical system will also be checked. In the video above the service centre first goes to each socket within the caravan with a socket tester. A caravans journey along UK road can obviously encounter potholes, which may have caused a loose connection. The socket tester can test whether there is a good positive, neutral and earth connection for each socket. I have one at home, and they are a useful little bit of kit to have to hand:
The second part of the 230V caravan electrical test the service centre completes is the onboard RCDs. This is not a DIY job, they use a special piece of equipment to check the sensitivity of the switches. Something which is worth noting, the more an RCD trips the more sensitive it becomes to tripping. Therefore, an RCD may need replacing because its either too sensitive and trips very frequently or its not sensitive enough and is a safety hazard. Either way, you will need an electrician to swap out an RCD.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Your caravan service centre will check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. However, just like the road lights, this is another DIY check to get into. You should try them before each trip out in your caravan. Its also good practice to have some additional batteries (typically 9V) in the caravan.
Empty Your Caravan Before a Service Centre Visit
Before you take your caravan to the service centre ideally you want to make it as empty as possible. Take out all the contents from under the seats/bed and lockers so a damp test can be thoroughly carried out. There is obviously no need to leave your aqua roll or wastemaster in the caravan, they should also be removed. Finally, leave your caravan awning at home.
Caravan Servicing Q&A
In Part 2 of Dan’s videos on caravan servicing his poses several questions to the service centre manager. They discuss what is and what is not included in a caravan service. The answers are worth taking note of which I’ll further discuss below:
What’s Not Included in a Caravan Service?
In reference to the Q&A video above, I wanted to talk about what is not included in a caravan service. Therefore what that means before you can use your caravan.
Motor Mover Servicing is Not Standard Practice
Its unlikely your caravan service centre or mobile caravan technician will include any inspection or maintenance of your caravan motor mover. From time to time depending on the make or model a motor mover may require attention. On the Powrtouch classic, for instance, this may mean adjustment of the spring tension engagement system. It could even mean replacing the brushes on the motor. If you are experiencing issues with your motor mover, first check the terms of your warranty. Your caravan service centre then may be able to correct certain issues under warranty. Otherwise, you will have to pay an additional fee to have the fault corrected.
Mobile Service Engineers and Warranty Work
You may live a considerable distance away from your closest caravan service centre. Therefore instead of taking your caravan to the service centre, going away and coming back a week later the appeal of mobile caravan service engineer is pretty obvious. However, if you do wish to go down this route you want to make sure they are registered with the NCC. The NCC is the National Caravan Council, and they are the UK trade body. You can use the ‘Find a Member‘ page to check the details of any mobile caravan service engineer you are considering to work on your caravan.
However, as stated in the video, most mobile caravan service engineers cannot carry out warranty work on your caravan. Therefore, there are circumstances where to get certain work completed, you will have to take the caravan to a service centre. Unless they offer a collection and drop off service.
The Caravan Water Systems and Sterilisation
The water system within your caravan is typically not going to be serviced. Therefore, ideally before each trip in your caravan, you’re going to want to sterilise the water system. Sometimes, you may experience issues with the tap not working, that issue will not be investigated on a standard caravan service. Furthermore, typically any issues with your Thetford toilet cassette will not be checked.
Conclusions on Caravan Servicing
There are several aspects of servicing a caravan you may wish to carry out yourself. However, when it comes to the gas system, breaking and 230V electrical system you really need a professional to properly service these features on your caravan. Whether you use a dedicated caravan service centre or a mobile service engineer, make sure they are approved to carry out work on your caravan under the warranty conditions.
You also need to check what systems on your caravan will and will not be inspected as part of the service. And there are certain features on your caravan you will need to service and maintain your self, such as the water system. However, you choose to proceed with an annual caravan service its important its carried out not only for safety implications but also for a pleasant user experience while caravanning.
I hope you learnt something new today about caravan servicing. I also hope you consider at some point coming to visit us here at Horton Common. 🙂