Caravan services and seasonal maintenance: How to keep your caravan in great condition
Whether you’ve just bought your first caravan or have owned one for a while now, you need to know the importance of carrying out regular maintenance and services. Not only will keeping your caravan in the best possible condition make it more reliable, but it will also help to preserve its resale value. Additionally, if you have a touring caravan that you travel with, you have a legal obligation to ensure it’s fit to be on the road.
In this guide, we'll outline everything you need to know about caravan services and seasonal maintenance. We will cover what should be carried out by a professional during your annual service, and what you should do in preparation for summer and winter to keep everything in working order. Here you’ll find information about:
If, like many owners, you don't use your caravan much in autumn and winter, you'll have some work to do when summer finally rolls around. To ensure your caravan is safe, comfortable, and ready to be used, you'll need to carry out some very important checks, and give everything a thorough clean. Here, you'll find all of the information you'll need to get your caravan summer-ready.
Air it out
Caravans are often left to stand unused in the colder months and, in this time, odours can begin to build up. To ensure you don’t have to deal with this when you stay in your caravan, you need to air it out.
Start your summer preparations by leaving all of your caravan's windows and doors open for an hour or so to let fresh air circulate. You should try to do this whenever your caravan has been left standing for a while as, not only does it help to eliminate odours, but it can prevent damp, too.
Check for damp
Condensation and damp provide ideal conditions for mould and mildew to form, which can cause serious damage if left to fester. So, when you’re preparing to use your caravan in the summer months, it's vital that you check for damp. If you’re particularly worried about moisture wreaking havoc on your caravan, you might even want to invest in a specialised damp meter that will give you an accurate idea of its condition.
Of course, prevention is always better than cure, so you should put effort into stopping damp, mildew, and mould from setting in whenever your caravan is left unused. The easiest and most effective way to prevent damp is by allowing air to circulate, so you should always ensure that your air vents aren’t sealed or covered. Additionally, you should open bathroom and kitchen windows regularly — especially when you’re showering or cooking — to let steam escape.
If you find that any areas of your caravan are particularly prone to damp, you can use the likes of dehumidifying crystals to absorb as much moisture as possible.
Have a spring clean
Even if you gave your caravan a thorough clean when you locked up for winter, it will have collected dust over the colder months. So, when the weather is improving and you’re preparing to use it again, you’ll need to give it a spring clean.
You should vacuum clean the floor and furniture of each room. Then you’ll need to wash down surfaces, such as your kitchen worktops and dining table, with an antibacterial solution.
If your caravan was left outside all winter, it will have spent a lot time of time exposed to the elements. To make sure it's looking its best, you’ll also want to wash your windows and doors, as well as polish the external panels.
Check your safety supplies
To ensure you’re abiding by caravan parks’ safety regulations, and that you’re prepared for any eventuality, your caravan should be equipped with a fire extinguisher, fire blanket, fire bucket, and first aid kit. Whenever you’re preparing to use your caravan after a lengthy period of it standing unused, you should check all of these supplies to ensure they’re in good condition and close to hand. If anything is missing or past its expiration date, you should look to replace it as soon as possible.
Having the appropriate safety equipment on hand will help to keep you and your family safe if you do encounter a problem.
Inspect your hitching gear
You don’t want to plan a lovely holiday with your family, only to find that your caravan hitching gear is worse for wear. So, before you even think about coupling your caravan with your towing vehicle, you need to ensure everything is in working order.
Your hitching gear will be particularly susceptible to rust and corrosion over the winter months — especially if your caravan is left outdoors and unused. So, when spring rolls around, it’s important that you check its condition, and arrange for any repairs to be made if necessary. Even the smallest issue can cause serious problems down the line, so you should deal with any damage, no matter how minor, as soon as you can.
Check your tyres
If you’re planning to take your caravan on the road, you have a legal obligation to ensure its tyres are roadworthy. Before you set out on any journey, you need to check all of your caravan’s tyres for any signs of heavy wear, such as cuts, tears, and bulges. If you do find any, you will need to replace the tyre(s) in question before you take your caravan anywhere.
You will also need to check the pressure of your caravan’s tyres. You should be able to find the optimal pressure in your caravan’s handbook but, if you don’t have this information, Tyre Safe has a caravan pressure calculator that will help you out. If you test the pressure of your tyres with a gauge and find that any of them are low, you can inflate them until their pressure is right.
Finally, you need to ensure that the tread of your caravan's tyres is accurate, so they can grip the road properly when you’re travelling. In the UK, your tyres’ tread depth must be at least 1.6mm — if you don’t abide by this, you could face a fine of £2,500 and three penalty points on your licence for each illegal tyre. This is because allowing your tyres to go bald can put you and other drivers at risk.
You can check the tread of your tyres quite easily with the 20p test. To do so, simply insert a 20p piece between the grips on your tyres to see if its outer band is visible or not. If it is, your tread isn’t deep enough and your tyres will need to be changed.
Ensure you’re using the right number plate
If you changed your car during the winter, you need to remember to attach a new, corresponding number plate to the back of your caravan before taking it on the road. If you fail to do this, you will be breaking the law whenever you take to the road with your caravan.
Test your road lights
We all know how important it is for our cars to have working road lights when we’re out driving, and the same applies to your caravan if you’re planning to tow it. There are two things you need to find out when checking your road lights: whether any of them are broken, and if the connection between your car and caravan is working correctly. If you hook everything up and find that none of your caravan’s lights are responding, it’s likely that the connection is to blame. However, if all but one or two of your lights are working, their bulbs probably need to be replaced. You should arrange for this to be done before you make any journeys.
Check your electrics
Caravans typically have three electrical systems. There is one that will allow your caravan to replicate what your car’s road lights are doing, another that powers 12-volt lights and accessories inside, and one that powers your caravan’s plug sockets. To reduce the risk of encountering any problems during your journey or holiday, these should all be checked before you use your caravan.
You can check your car-caravan electrical connection by testing your road lights as outlined above. And, you can test the other two systems quite easily by turning your interior lights on and plugging something into a socket.
Tampering with electrics when you don’t have the necessary qualifications is dangerous and could void your caravan’s warranty or insurance. So, if you do find that any of your electrics are on the blink, it’s wise to enlist the help of a professional to fix them.
Connect the gas
Your caravan's gas system should be checked by a professional during an annual service. But, whenever you're planning to use your caravan, you need to hook everything up and test it out to make sure everything is in working order.
Additionally, before you travel with your caravan, it’s important that you turn the gas off at the cylinder. If you’re planning to leave it unattended for a while, you should disconnect the system completely and leave your taps open to ensure there isn’t any gas hanging around in your caravan’s pipes.
Get your water system up and running
When you’re preparing to use your caravan for the first time in a while, you should flush your water system through with sterilising fluid. Then, the next step is to fill your water system and check whether there are any leaks that need to be fixed.
If everything seems fine, you should then fill the water heater and check that it’s working by running hot water through your taps and shower. If you don't encounter any problems, you’re good to go. Otherwise, it’s best to enlist the help of a plumber who should be able to fix any issues you’ve found.
To limit the risk of your caravan being damaged when it's left unused for a long period of time, you need to carry out some very important pieces of maintenance. In this section, we will outline everything you need to think about when you're preparing your caravan for winter.
Give it a thorough clean
To limit the amount of work you’ll have to do when you come to use your caravan next summer, you should give it a thorough clean before you lock up for the colder months.
You should wash down all of the surfaces inside, as well as hoover the floor and furniture of each room.
Additionally, it is important that you clean and wax the exterior of your caravan, as this will help to protect it during the colder months, and also gives you a chance to check its bodywork for damage. If you spot any issues, you should look at getting these fixed before your caravan is stored for winter. Otherwise, the problem could grow worse and you might return in the summer to find that it has become incredibly expensive — if not impossible — to fix.
Take precautions to prevent damp
Condensation and damp can take their toll on your caravan during the winter months. This can ruin your furniture and even damage the actual structure of your caravan if left to wreak havoc. Therefore, it’s vital that you take some damp-preventing precautions.
You can help to prevent damp from setting in by leaving bowls of salt or dehumidifying crystals around your caravan. These will absorb a lot of the moisture from the air.
To prevent your soft furnishings from getting damaged, prop any cushions up in the middle of your caravan’s living room. You should also ensure that mattresses aren’t covered, so air can circulate around them.
Remove valuables and electrics
To reduce the risk of your belongings being stolen, you should remove all valuables from your caravan. Unfortunately, caravans can be quite vulnerable during the winter months when they aren’t being used, so it’s wise to take the likes of your television, DVD player, computers, tablets, and jewellery home with you when you leave.
If possible, we would recommend clearing your caravan out completely if you aren't planning to use it for a while. That way, you won’t have to worry about the safety of your belongings.
Empty and clean the fridge
When leaving your caravan, it’s important that you empty your fridge of all food. Then, you’ll need to disconnect your fridge and defrost your freezer.
Once you’ve done this, you should clean your fridge with a soft cloth, warm water, and bicarbonate of soda. Finally, wipe everything with water and dry with a cloth. This will help to stop mould from forming over the winter months, and should keep bad odours at bay.
Deploy the corner steadies and take the handbrake off
If you have a touring caravan, you need to ensure that it’s standing sturdy when you store it for the winter. You should site it on level ground, then lower the corner steadies to keep everything secure. You should then take the handbrake off to prevent any unnecessary strain being put on your caravan.
Fit the hitch lock and wheel clamps
To keep a touring caravan safe and secure while it’s unattended, you should fit a hitch lock and wheel clamps.
A hitch lock is a basic but essential piece of caravan security, which fits over a caravan’s coupling head to provide a simple but effective method of preventing thieves from hitching up your caravan and driving off. Attaching wheel clamps to your caravan will also provide both a visual and practical deterrent for thieves. So, if your caravan is going to be left unattended for a lengthy period of time, it's worth investing in and using a set of those, too.
Check and remove the battery
When you’re preparing your caravan for the winter, you should always check that its battery is in full working order. If it isn’t working correctly or seems to be damaged in any way, you should arrange for it to be replaced.
If you check your battery and there aren’t any issues with it, you should remove it from your caravan and store it in a cool, dry place. It’s also important to periodically check the voltage of your battery over the colder months, and charge it up if necessary.
Disconnect the gas
Whenever you’re planning to leave your caravan unused for a lengthy period of time, it’s vital that you disconnect its gas bottles, make sure their valves are securely fastened, and store them away — preferably in a shed or garage. When you do this, make sure you leave your caravan’s gas taps open to let any leftover gas escape.
Drain down your caravan
Draining down your caravan is, perhaps, the biggest and most important job you’ll have when locking up for the winter. You need to ensure that all water is removed from both the fresh water and waste systems. Otherwise, it could freeze and expand, causing your pipes to burst.
To drain down your caravan, you should open all interior and exterior taps to allow any water to escape. Once you’ve done this, you might want to pour a small amount of anti-freeze into your kitchen and bathroom plugholes to prevent any water left in the U-bends from freezing.
It’s also vital that you drain and clean your caravan’s cassette toilet. Use lots of clean water to flush out the pipes before completely draining it.
While most caravans are designed to withstand all kinds of weather, severe damage can be caused if they’re left out in harsh conditions for months on end. Therefore, if you can, it’s a good idea to store your caravan indoors when you aren’t using it. However, there are other options if you can’t do this. For example, you can use a breathable cover or exterior protector fluid to give your caravan an extra layer of defence.
If you’re unable to store your caravan close to your home, look for a site that offers security protection such as 24-hour access control, CCTV, and security guards. That way, you won’t have to worry about how secure it is.
You should arrange for your caravan to be serviced at least once a year by a trained professional. Sticking to this servicing schedule will ensure that serious issues are dealt with in a timely manner, and any smaller problems aren’t left to fester. It will also help to ensure you’re abiding by all of the relevant safety standards.
Can you carry out a service yourself?
While it might be possible to carry out certain parts of a service yourself, some aspects will require a particular level of training. Plus, tinkering with the technical side of things without the necessary qualifications could void your warranty or insurance. Therefore, for the most thorough and reliable service, it’s best to call on a professional.
Who should carry out your caravan service?
When you’re choosing a company to service your caravan, you should ensure that they’re part of the Approved Workshop Scheme. This is a joint enterprise between the National Caravan Council, The Caravan Club, and The Camping and Caravanning Club, which sets the benchmark for touring caravan and motorhome servicing.
To be accepted onto the scheme, all workshops must pass an annual inspection carried out by a team of independent assessors. They are also required to comply with the scheme’s strict standards. So, if you ensure that your caravan’s service is carried out by an organisation that’s endorsed by the Approved Workshop Scheme, you’ll know that it’s in safe hands.
What does a caravan service include?
Caravan services are designed to check all of the aspects of your caravan that keep it running safely and smoothly. These are some of the things that typically takes place as part of a caravan service:
- Damp test is carried out
- Water pipes and tanks are checked for leaks
- Gas leak check is conducted, and operation of gas appliances is checked
- Both interior and exterior lights are tested
- Battery is checked and replaced if necessary
- Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, and fire blanket are inspected
- Carbon monoxide health check is carried out
- Chassis and coupling head are checked for damage
- Wheels and tyres are inspected and replaced if necessary
- Corner steadies and spare wheel carrier are checked and lubricated
Certain aspects of your caravan’s mechanics, such as the suspension, jockey wheel, and handbrake mechanism will also be checked and tended to if required.
It's worth noting that, even if you carry out all of the necessary maintenance and have your caravan serviced once a year, things can still be broken by accident or through unavoidable wear and tear. Over the years, paying outright for repairs can become costly, so it's wise to ensure you're covered. We offer lifetime warranty for caravans that can help you prepare for some of the most common faults you're likely to encounter. If this is something you're interested in, call us on 0191 258 8199 to discuss our service today.
And there you have it: everything you’ll need to know about caravan services and maintenance. As long as you prepare well for summer and winter each year, and have your caravan checked by a professional every 12 months, you'll be able to keep it in the best condition possible.