Its getting towards the end of the season and that’s when many caravanners start to prepare to put their caravan away for storage during winter. As well as being site owners we are also caravanners. Hence the information below on winter storage tips is a collection of advice based on our own experiences. However, it also contains feedback from our guests on the process they go through. If you don’t properly prepare your caravan for winter come next spring when you want to use the caravan you may get a nasty surprise. Your tyres may be damaged, the battery doesn’t work or the taps don’t work. There’s is a range of issues which can be caused by not properly preparing your caravan for winter.
The methods and process we go through to prepare our caravan for winter each year have changed over time. Due to our elevated location during winter we have higher than average wind speeds, hence why I close Horton Common over the winter months. We originally used a protective winter cover on the caravan but no longer do so, more on that below. We drain down the water system over winter, that’s standard best practice. However, during one particularly cold winter in 2014, we found out that standard best practice may not solve all of the potential problems. Hopefully, you have the time to read all of this post. If not you can use the Table of Contents below to jump to a particular section. Enjoy 🙂
Introduction to Caravan Winter Storage Tips
For those of you who have read any of my previous posts, you will be aware I like to include relevant videos where possible. This post on caravan winter storage tips is no different. If I find a video which I think can convey the points I want to make with good visual prompts I like to include it. It also provides me with a ‘jumping off’ point. To add in my own comments and experiences based on what’s discussed in the video. Below is a brief video from Practical Caravan on caravan winter care tips.
Leave the Caravan Handbrake Off Over Winter – But Why?
I write quite a lot in my posts about caravan safety and various caravanning ‘experts’ also discuss safety a lot. Therefore, some caravanning beginners may be very curious why best practice would be to leave the caravan handbrake off over winter. The reason is, if you leave the caravan handbrake on over winter you may struggle to get it off come spring. Obviously, over the winter period its generally wet and humid. Therefore corrosion builds up on unprotected metal surfaces. If you leave the caravan handbrake on under tension corrosion may effectively lock the brake system in place. Therefore when spring rolls around when you try and use the caravan again you may find it very difficult to release the hand brake.
Now, obviously, if the caravan handbrake is left off you have to carry out other precautions to make sure its safe. So the caravan should only be left with the hand brake off over winter on a flat level surface. Furthermore, all of the corner steadies should be lowered to the ground. Finally, you need to make sure you have wheel chocks in place.
Caravan Toilet Cassette Winter Care
When it comes to the caravan toilet cassette another bit of winter care caravan maintenance is giving the seal a bit of attention. I’ve previously written a post on how to repair the Thetford toilet cassette which included how to replace the seal. However, to get the most life out of the seal, particularly over winter you want to use Thetfords toilet seal lubricant as seen in the image below. Or olive oil is a suitable alternative.
This is the official toilet seal lubricant from Thetford. However, a suitable alternative is olive oil for toilet seal winter care: Image – Amazon
The reason being, over winter, to state the obvious, it can get very cold. All rubber-based seals denature over time and become rigid and brittle. However, being exposed to cold temperatures can accelerate this degradation. What the seal lubricant (or olive oil) will do is keep the seal supple and malleable even when exposed to freezing temperatures. Its an easy bit of winter care which can make a big difference to the lifespan of the seal. And let’s be honest, no one wants to open up the toilet cassette to replace the seal unless they really have to.
Draining Down the Caravans Water System
One of if not the most important part of preparing your caravan for winter is to properly drain down the water system. You need to get all of the water out of the cold and hot water system and leave the taps open over winter. The reason for leaving the taps open is in case there was any residual water trapped in the caravans water pipes. With the taps open in freezing conditions its less likely to expand and cause problems. Those problems could include breaking pipe clips or even splitting and cracking the pipes themselves.
Some of our guest’s each time they leave site open all of the taps and the external drain covers. As the caravan is happily bouncing along on their way back home much of the water will have left the pipes. However, its not guaranteed to get all of the water out of the pipes. Therefore I am aware of some of our guests using a drain down kit.
Is a Caravan Drain Down Kit Worth It?
When I’ve been in discussions with our guests in the past on caravan drain down kits for over winter care I’ve tended to get comments either in massive support or complete disregard for them. For those who disregard caravan drain down kits its not from the perspective of using the kit and thinking it doesn’t work. Its typically from the perspective of, I’ve not used such a kit before and my caravan has been fine. For those who have used them is generally appears to shock them how much water ends up coming out of the caravan pipework. Case in point below is the video from Dan of Meet the Trudgians. Dan previously never saw the point in a drain down kit as part of his winter prep. However, the results surprised him:
So as you can see in the video above. Dan managed to get nearly a 1 litre out of his caravan water system. This is after he had gone through his normal drain down procedure in preparation for the winter storage. The process involves building up air pressure within the water system with the taps closed (maxium 15 psi), then opening each tap. To get out all of the water out you have to do this process up to around 3 times per tap for both the cold and hot water system. Hence, to do it properly your going have to give it some time.
This Floe drain down kit for Truma water systems will fit most caravans. However, you do need to check if your caravan has a Truma water connection: Image – Amazon
As Dan states in the video, the Floe caravan drain down kit does seem expensive for what it is. Its essentially just a couple of pipes and plastic fittings. If you are suitably DIY minded you could probably replicate this kit yourself. But you do have to consider if the time and effort to source the parts is worth the cost-benefit. Whether you use the Floe kit above or make your own drain down kit I would encourage its use to get your caravan ready for winter.
Don’t Forget the Toilet Flush Pump
Now this one is from experience. Granted, the issue I’m going to describe below would not likely happen every winter, but it has happened to us. So as you are probably aware, you have a flush tank above the toilet. A small 12V pump is linked to this tank. This pump is completely separate from the rest of the water system. So the Floe drain down kit is not applicable.
Every year we pull out the hose and drain down the toilet flush tank. However, in the winter of 2014, it was particularly cold. When it came to spring 2015 we got out the caravan to test all the facilities. We noticed that when we put water in the toilet flush tank there was water in the toilet cassette locker. Furthermore, the pump didn’t work. Once we removed the pump we discovered the issue. Just using the hose to drain down the flush tank had not removed all the water from inside the pump. Therefore during that cold winter, the water in the pump froze, expanded and split the pump housing. We end up having to replace the pump. Therefore, we now take out the toilet flush pump before each winter. I would encourage you to do the same on your caravan.
If you want to avoid the cost of a new toilet flush pump, I would encourage you to remove it from your caravan before each winter: Image – Amazon
Cleaning Your Caravan Ready for Winter Storage
You will generally want to clean your caravan inside and out before you put it away for the winter. The simple reason being it will give you less work to do come spring when you want to use the caravan again. In one of my previous posts, I described how not to clean your caravan. I essentially reference why you should not use overly abrasive chemical cleaners and polishes such as T-Cut which can take the paint off a caravan body. When it comes to cleaning your caravan in preparation for the harsh winter months you can also use ‘overwintering’ protector products such as that below.
I know quite a few of our guests use the Fenwicks Overwinter Protector. They are generally happy with the results: Image – Amazon
But don’t expect it to work miracles, your caravan is still going to get dirty over the winter months. The point of the product though is in springtime that dirt is easier to get off. And generally from the feedback I’ve heard that appears to be the case. You’ll also want to grab your caravan vacuum cleaner and give it a good go around. Again, it just gives you less work to do next spring when you want to use the caravan again.
Caravan Winter Covers – Pros and Cons
Going back the Practical Caravan video at the top of my post. John discusses avoiding leading your caravan over winter under a tree. The simple reason being, you will get more green and black build up on the caravan from algae and moss. John then references caravan winter storage covers. We have owned a caravan cover before, and it was a bespoke cover from Specialised Covers. The video below gives a brief summary of why you may want to consider a caravan cover, and why we chose one.
However, you may have noticed above how I used to the past tense to describe our caravan cover. We no longer put it on our caravan for winter storage for a couple of reasons. First, as previously stated, due to our elevated located over winter we do get higher than average wind speeds. Well instead of protecting our caravan from wind damage we actually found the cover was the cause of some damage.
Caravan Winter Covers and Window Scuffs
While a caravan cover may protect your caravan from twigs and branches etc carried in the wind, it does still move. Please note our cover was bespoke to our caravan, and we frequently made sure it was under tension. However, small movements in the cover were abrasive to the windows. When we had particularly windy winters we would take the cover off in the spring to find scuffs on the windows where the cover had been rubbing. Granted this can quite easily be removed by using the same products and method to remove window scratches. But the point of the cover is to avoid damage, not create it.
If you do use a caravan winter cover in an exposed location, be prepared to use some window scratch remover to get rid of window scuffs in the spring: Image – Amazon
If you don’t live in an exposed location with high winds like us a caravan cover is something you may still want to consider to keep the van cleaner. The use of the word ‘cleaner’ is deliberate. As the caravan will likely still be a bit green when you take the cover off. The fabrics used are breathable and not waterproof, hence rain and moss/algae spores do penetrate the cover. You can get cheaper generic caravan winter storage covers as seen in the image below. But please note as this covers are not specifically designed to fit your caravan. Hence, they will likely move more and potentially cause window scuffs as described above.
These caravan winter covers offered by Maypole do come in various sizes. However, they are not going to follow the contours of your caravan in the same way a bespoke cover would. Hence, I wouldn’t recommend one if you store your caravan in an exposed windy location: Image – Amazon
Protecting Caravan Tyres During Winter Storage
As John states in the video above. “There is more damage done to caravan tyre when its parked than when its towed on the road”. At first, this would appear a strange set of circumstances. However, you have to consider the specific context of how a caravan is typically used. Where most people use their car every day and tread wear is the key concern, your caravan isn’t typically used every day. Furthermore, your tow car has four wheels. Many caravans are single axle and most of the weight is placed on just two tyres.
I’ve written a couple of posts now on caravan tyres. In my post on how long do caravan tyre last, I discuss flat spots. You see, over winter your caravan will typically remain stationary for several months. The majority of the weight of the caravan is placed on just one spot on the tyre. Therefore, as John states in the video, best practice is every month or so is either move the caravan slightly or rotate the wheels.
To rotate the wheels you are going to have to know how to jack up a caravan safely. I’m sure your aware you should never use the corner steadies to try and lift the caravan. If you have a wheel lock you will have to carefully position the wheel and lock into position before lowering the caravan again. Alternatively, you could also use tyre savers to help to displace the load of the caravan more evenly over the surface of the tyre.
Tyre savers can help to displace the weight of the caravan more evenly over the winter months while in storage: Image – Amazon
However, I do feel monthly tyre rotations is the best way to reduce the chances of caravan tyre flat spots forming over winter. A combination of using tyre savers and rotating the caravan wheels once a month over winter would be the best solution.
Maintaining the Caravan Leisure Battery Over Winter
I’ve had many discussions with our guests over the years about leisure batteries. For instance, sometimes they turn up on-site and try and use their motor mover but all they hear is a ‘beep’ and no movement. Leisure batteries need to be kept in good health above 12V to maintain their functionality. When it comes to preparing your caravan for over winter storage the leisure battery does need special attention. If possible as John shows in the video at the start of this post hook your caravan up to your house. The caravans onboard charger will keep the leisure battery charged up over the winter months. You simply need a suitable extension cable.
If your caravan is stored next to your house over winter you simply need a suitable mains cable and 3 pin plug adapter. But obviously make sure the cable is long enough: Image – Amazon
What if your Caravan is in Winter Storage Away from Your Home?
Many caravanners don’t have sufficient space on their drive to store their caravan over the winter months. Therefore, many caravanners have to use a storage yard where mains power is not available. Well, how do you keep your leisure battery charged over winter on a storage yard? There are two options really, and the first is simply to own a second leisure battery.
Alternating With a Second Leisure Battery
Now, if you don’t have an alarm fitted to your caravan a second leisure battery would be redundant. Without an alarm/tracker just take the leisure battery out of the caravan over the winter months and keep it charged at home. However, many caravans have alarms and trackers fitted. In fact, in many cases, the use and proper operation of a caravan alarm or tracker is an insurance requirement. Therefore, that’s where the second leisure battery comes in.
Depending on the amp power draw of the alarm you may only have to swap the alternative leisure battery every month or so. Then take the second battery home. Once at home keeping it in the garage should be fine. But you don’t really want the leisure battery to get exposed to freezing temperatures, that will damage the battery. You then need to own a good quality leisure battery charger to keep the battery at a healthy state of charge.
When charging your leisure battery at home its important to use a good leisure battery charger that will not overcharge the battery: Image – Amazon
Battery Charging Over Winter with a Solar Panel
The second leisure battery route if your caravan is in storage over winter is not ideal. As you obviously have to remember to go and change the battery over every month or so. The second option is to use a solar panel to charge your caravans leisure battery over winter. I’ve written quite a long post on caravan solar panels. So if you are interested in that option I would recommend giving that a read. Basically your two options are to have a permanently roof-mounted solar panel or a portable solar panel. During winter storage you could place this portable solar panel in the front window of your caravan to keep the leisure battery charged.
A portable solar panel kit such as this could be placed in the front window of your caravan over winter to keep the leisure battery charged: Image – Amazon
Over the winter months, small caravan solar panels are not going to be generating a lot of power. However, it should be sufficient to keep the leisure battery topped up. I would say in most cases a solar panel is the best option to keep your leisure battery topped up while your caravan is in storage over winter.
However, there is a scenario where solar panels are not going to work. For instance, we have some caravan storage yards local to us that use old farm sheds to store the caravans. Storing the caravans within the barns helps with security and protecting the caravans from UV damage. However, that’s obviously a problem if you’re trying to use the sun to charge your leisure battery. Under those circumstances, your going to have to go down the second leisure battery swapping route.
Don’t Forget your Caravan Security Devices
Finally, once all the other jobs are done to get your caravan ready for winter you don’t want to forget to fit all your security devices. That includes your hitch lock, wheel clamp and potentially even leg locks. Not only because you don’t want your caravan to be stolen while its in winter storage. But also to meet the terms of your caravan insurance.
There is a huge range of caravan hitch locks to choose from and a must-have item for caravans in winter storage. However, you do have to be careful to choose a lock that suits your particular caravan stabiliser hitch type: Image – Amazon
Conclusions on Winter Storage Tips
There are a couple of other small jobs you might want to do to prepare your caravan for winter. However, I think I’ve covered most of the main jobs above. Properly draining down your water system, keeping the tyres in a good condition along with the leisure battery are the best tips I can give. If you don’t its likely come springtime you are going to regret that decision.
I hope you found the above information useful. There are lots of links to my other relevant posts above. So please also check those out if you want to learn more. Finally, I hope you consider coming to pay us a visit here at Horton Common. Though please remember, we are closed over the winter months between the end of October and the start of March. Cheers 🙂