Preparing your caravan and motorhome for the winter

The cold time of year is slowly making its comeback. Anyone who isn’t planning any winter camping should slowly start to get their camping vehicle ready for hibernation. We’ve put together a few top tips to help caravans and motorhomes survive those frosty periods.

Thoroughly cleaning the outside of your camper van is the name of the game

First of all, you should thoroughly clean the outside of your camper van. In order to protect the environment, this may only be done at official washing stations. Truck washing bays, for example, are well suited for this purpose, and ladders and other useful equipment are often available there.

The outer shell should be hosed down and carefully scrubbed with a brush and detergent - ideally, the lower base should also be washed to get rid of any dirt and salt residues from the chassis. Please don’t leave the wheel arches out, but windows and roof hoods are usually made of acrylic and, therefore, shouldn’t be cleaned this way. There are special cleaners and cloths available for this so as to prevent scratches. 

Whilst you’re out and about, you should visit a petrol station to increase the tyre pressure slightly - up to 0.5 bar above the usual value is recommended here. You should fill your motorhome up at the same time, ideally with special winter diesel if available.

Close gas canisters & grease joints

Once you’ve reached the site where you’ll store your camper van over the winter, you should close the valves on your gas canisters, unscrew hoses and briefly turn your cooker on so that any remaining gas can escape from the pipes. 

Any antennas, satellite systems, awnings and sunblinds should also be cleaned one last time before putting your vehicle into storage, and it is recommended to grease the joints of any built-in sunblinds.

Getting the interior ready for winter

Inside your camper van, you should clear out any food and empty, defrost, clean out and dry your refrigerator. To prevent any mould from forming over the winter, put cloths in between the doors of your refrigerator and freezer.

Then it's time to deal with your kitchenette and bathroom. Any stubborn dirt can be gently removed with a baking soda and lemon juice solution, while washing-up liquid and water are usually sufficient for normal cleaning tasks. The toilet cassette can be rinsed normally, replaced and the valve opened.

The front of your furniture and any shelves can be wiped over with slightly soapy water, and upholstery should then be upended so that air is able to circulate well and no moisture forms underneath. Fixed beds can simply be left unfolded,

any materials which attract moisture, such as clothing, carpets, towels and toilet paper, are best removed. It is also advisable to remove any electronic devices, such as televisions or laptops, over the winter and store them in a dry location. The same applies for the secondary battery. If it cannot be removed, it should be fully charged before the break and recharged every now and then in between.

To ensure that locks and hinges continue to work into the next season, they should be greased, and there are also suitable products for taking care of gaskets available at specialist camping shops. For caravans, your handbrake and jockey wheel should also get a little "grease treatment",

and don’t forget to give the water system some attention: tanks are easy to clean with special fluids. Open the outlet valve on your boiler until the water has completely run out. To remove any remaining water, pipes should be carefully "blown out" - an inflated balloon, for example, will do just the trick. Water taps should be left open over the winter just in case there is still a little water left in the pipes.

If you leave your gas canister connected during this “forced” time-off over winter, the stopcocks inside should also be turned off.

Getting your vehicle balanced

When everything inside is ready, you should make sure your vehicle is balanced and any unevenness - if you don’t have any special electric or hydraulic support systems installed - should be levelled out with ramps or shims.

If you have a caravan, the supports should then be cranked down to give the vehicle the necessary stability when parked. But pay attention: you should never level your caravan out using the supports - this can cause lasting damage to the structure!

If you want to be very precise, you can also use trestles or jacks to support your caravan. Please relieve the axle only slightly - wheels should keep in firm contact with the ground. As a side note, special accessories, such as AL-KO manoeuvring systems, the ATC or stabiliser couplings, do not require any special maintenance for winter storage.

No maintenance for AL-KO spring and support systems required before the winter break

Any AL-KO spring and support systems on your motorhome or van can also be sent into the winter break without any maintenance. If you have air suspension installed, however, it would be advisable to set it to driving level or, in the case of manual air springs, to normal driving pressure so that bellows do not become depressurised. For a combination with HY4 supports, air suspension should simply be switched off whilst in running order, or automatic air suspension should be purposefully deactivated. This allows the support system to stabilise the vehicle without the air spring uncoiling.

Then all that remains is to top up the antifreeze for the engine and windscreen washer system and fold the windscreen wipers forwards so that the rubber seals do not freeze to the windscreen. 

Tarpaulins & anti-theft devices

If you want to use a tarpaulin or cover, you should make sure that it is not placed directly on the vehicle - there would be insufficient air circulation if this were the case, and it could result in unpleasant odours or even mould. For caravans, there are also special covers for the drawbar and front locker to provide protection from weather conditions.

Last but not least, it is advisable to secure your motorhome or caravan to prevent thieves from gaining quick access. High-quality drawbar locks, support locks or wheel clamps are suitable for this purpose, for example.