Properly winterizing your motorhome or caravan is a crucial step in protecting your camping vehicle from the influences of the winter months.
Read the tips from the TCS camping experts on how you can avoid expensive damage or unpleasant surprises in spring with proper winterization.
General preparation work on caravans and mobile homes for the winter break
Fill the vehicle completely with winter diesel before storing it for the winter. This prevents condensation and rust from forming on the inside of the tank.
Then add antifreeze to the windshield washer system and, if possible, also check the antifreeze of the coolant or have it checked at the tank when refueling the vehicle.
Then increase the air pressure by half a bar to compensate for the gradual loss of air and to prevent flat spots.
Now all water and toilet tanks need to be emptied and cleaned if necessary. It is important to make sure that the boiler is completely drained and that all taps are open so that the water can flow out of the pipes. The shower hose is often forgotten in the shower - put it on the floor so that it drains completely. Pressure water pumps often have a small, transparent pre-filter installed. Open this too and remove the water in it and clean the filter in the process. Then briefly start the water pump to pump out the last drops of water in the pipes. Finally, press the flush button on the toilet so that the water flows out of the solenoid valve there and then turn off the water pump.
Winterize the outside of the camper
Thorough exterior wash, including wheel arch. A high-pressure cleaner is recommended.
Check the vehicle for damage or rust and treat if necessary.
Clean the windows: Use appropriate products for plastic windows. Using glass cleaner can make plastic windows cloudy under certain circumstances.
Don't forget to wash the underbody and check the floor.
Clean the awning and let it dry thoroughly. If necessary, grease the joints.
Clean antennas and satellite system.
Gas: Turn off the gas valve and allow the residual gas to escape from the lines. It is best to remove the gas bottles and store them in a dry place over the winter.
Park the vehicle in the garage on level ground and use supports to compensate for any unevenness.
It is recommended to increase the tire pressure up to 0.5 bar.
Raise the vehicle slightly using a jack to relieve some of the load on the wheels.
Exterior and roof cleaning
Careful exterior cleaning is the next important step. The roof must also be carefully cleaned. This is accessible in most cases. For simpler vehicles, it is better to just stay at the edges so that the roof does not lower in the middle.
When walking on the roof, make sure that you do not scratch it with stones in the shoe profile or press small dents into the roof by kneeling down. A simple hard foam board from the hardware store can be of good use here, as it distributes the forces more evenly when walked on.
clean the windows
Great care must be taken when cleaning acrylic glass windows. Under no circumstances should you use cleaning agents that contain alcohol, as these attack the acrylic and small cracks appear after a very short time. Either only use clear water or special acrylic glass cleaner. There is an acrylic glass polish to remove small scratches.
A subsequent treatment with wax ensures that the paint retains its shine for many years. There are special products for plastic or GRP surfaces that can also refresh dull areas.
Don't forget to inspect the underbody, especially if it is made of wood, as is the case with most caravans and simpler mobile homes. It must be carefully checked whether the underbody protection, which protects the wood from moisture penetration, is still present in all areas or whether it is already peeling off in places. Then you have to act quickly, otherwise the wood will start to rot in a very short time and this will result in expensive repairs. Particularly vulnerable areas are where the side walls meet the floor. You can get suitable products for this from your caravan/mobile home dealer or have it repaired there.
Finally, the rubber seals on doors, windows and flaps must be cleaned. Then treat with door rubber care sprays or sticks. Care should be taken with products containing silicone, as these are not always approved for care.
Winterize the interior of the camper
Clear out food and drinks.
Refrigerator, defrost and clean thoroughly. Make sure that the freezer compartment and the refrigerator door remain slightly open.
Thoroughly clean the stove and oven.
Clean the surface of the furniture with gentle furniture polish.
To prevent mold, put up cushions and mattresses.
Empty all cupboards and leave the doors ajar.
Remove carpets, cloths, paper, etc. from the vehicle over the winter as they could retain moisture.
Clean the wet room and toilet.
The bathroom and kitchen siphons (if any) should be unscrewed and emptied. It is best to leave it dismantled so that the pipes can dry.
Do not turn off the taps, leave them open.
Disconnect the on-board battery, always loosen the “negative pole” first. Many motorhomes have a central main switch that can be used to disconnect the battery from the camper. For little money, there are chargers that can be connected to the battery and switch on automatically when power is needed, ensuring that the battery is always charged.
Check all seals for cracks and leaks, treat with silicone spray or replace if necessary.
Treat door locks and hinges with a suitable spray.
Thoroughly rinse the water system and accessories such as shower heads, pumps, etc. with disinfectant and make sure that all residual water drains away. It is best to place the vehicle on a slightly sloping side. The tank should be completely dry over the winter.
Don't forget. Drain the boiler – open the frost protection valve.
Close all gas shut-off valves.
Clean heater/heater box.
If necessary, place a room dehumidifier.
What you should pay particular attention to when it comes to caravans
If you overwinter your caravan outside, make sure that it is tilted slightly so that water, snow, etc. can drain away.
Grease all hinges, the jockey wheel and also the handbrake.
Place a protective cover over the drawbar.
If you cover your trailer with a tarp, leave some space for air to circulate.
We recommend carrying out any necessary repairs before winterization.
It is recommended that you move the caravan every few weeks if possible to avoid tire or tire damage.
What you should pay particular attention to when it comes to a motorhome
Fully charge the vehicle battery.
Fill the motorhome with gas so that no condensation can form. Do not overfill the tank, as diesel expands depending on the temperature and flows out through the nozzle.
Apply the brakes well so that the pads are dry.
Raise the motorhome slightly using supports or a jack so that the entire weight does not press on the tires.
Move the windshield wipers outwards.
Charge the battery every few weeks, ventilate everything and replace the dry granules.
On the wintering site
If the vehicle is in its winter storage area for the winter, you put it in first gear and release the handbrake. If there is a corresponding gradient, you may need to secure the wheels with wheel chocks.
Lock everything up
Finally, it is advisable to pay attention to a few things in the interior. We hear again and again that mice have made themselves at home indoors over the winter and have sometimes caused considerable damage to mattresses, upholstery and fabrics.
Close all openings through which mice can get into the vehicle interior. Make sure you remove all food supplies from the vehicle as these attract mice.
Be careful of the moisture
Moisture in the interior can become a big problem over the winter. Therefore, if possible, remove all upholstery/mattresses from the vehicle and store them in a dry basement at home. If this is not possible, set up the cushions and mattresses in the vehicle so that they are well ventilated from all sides and do not have direct contact with the outside walls.
Open all flaps and doors so that everything is well ventilated. You can also place a large, flat box on the floor and fill it with cat litter, which removes moisture from the air inside.
If your motorhome is parked outside over the winter, it is an advantage to park the motorhome at a slight angle so that the rainwater can drain off the roof, otherwise it will freeze in low temperatures.
Cover with a tarpaulin if the camping vehicle cannot overwinter under a roof
If you cannot overwinter your vehicle under a roof, it is recommended to protect the body from the winter weather with a special tarpaulin. A special tarpaulin because the tarpaulin must be breathable. We strongly advise against a cheap fabric tarpaulin made of polyethylene from the hardware store. These are cheap and completely waterproof, but therefore not breathable.
The humidity under the tarpaulin and in the vehicle, which cannot evaporate and drain away throughout the winter, accelerates the formation of rust or even aluminum corrosion. But what's even worse is that mold can form in the caravan, which you must avoid for health reasons.
However, special RV protective covers made of textile fabric (non-woven fabric) are ideal. With prices starting at around 300 francs, these serve their purpose and are water-repellent and breathable. Rain and snow are prevented from penetrating the fabric for a very long time and if they do, the moisture immediately escapes through the fabric again in somewhat dry weather.
These covers are available in a variety of sizes and special shapes, so that you can even perfectly cover an alcove vehicle with its large cab superstructure. It is important that the protective cover is tensioned in a storm-proof manner, that the tension straps do not wear away the paint on the body over time and that no water pockets can form that would lead to moisture. It is best to put on the protective cover with two people and a large step ladder is an advantage.
Camper cover for the winter break
The cover is water-repellent, breathable and UV-resistant. It is particularly strong and efficiently protects the paintwork from: sun, snow, dust, dirt, tree sap, mildew and other harmful elements.
More TCS expert tips:
Check all seals regularly, but at least every two years!
Taking time to winterize is worth it: If you take half a day to carefully winterize, you won't have any problems with moisture or frost damage in the spring and can wake your vehicle from hibernation with the first warm rays of sunshine and go on your first trip start without unexpected problems.
Interim check during the winter break: You should visit your camping vehicle every 4 weeks and check whether everything is OK and, above all, whether there are any visible traces of moisture or whether water has even penetrated.
The topic of fresh water: a topic that has repeatedly led to discussion and different views for several years. Some are of the opinion that it is best to drain all the water completely and leave the taps open so that the pipes can dry out. Others advocate filling everything with fresh water and using antifreeze and additional chemicals to prevent the water from freezing and tipping over. On this side, Michael Sterk, with over 30 years of camper experience and working as operations manager in the camping trade, clearly represents the opinion: get all the water out and make sure that the pipes are well ventilated. There have never been any problems with this in 30 years and in the spring you can clean the fresh water system using simple means.