How to winterise your motorhome
Though BirchSorb is a powerful moisture absorber which you’ll benefit from all year round, it can be particularly effective through the coldest season, when your caravan or motorhome is off the road. Preparing to store, garage or park up is, as you will probably already be aware, a process known as ‘winterisation’. In this edition of our blog we’re going to look at the things you need to do to keep your caravan or motorhome in good shape during those months – effectively, how to winterise your motorhome.
BirchSorb will act as your front line of defence against the effects of moisture present in stale air during that period, of course, but there are several other steps you can take too.
First of all, though, it might be handy to remind ourselves of what the effects of the problem can be. Whatever the season, your motorhome or caravan is vulnerable to damage, but particularly so during the winter. Damp and mould can spoil the fixtures and fittings – and, if the worst case scenario is allowed to develop, they may eventually compromise the structural integrity of your vehicle. The quality of motorhome builds is constantly improving, but damp is a naturally occurring phenomenon which needs to be considered.
1. Winterising the exterior of your motorhome or caravan
- Cleaning: Deposits which are on the exterior of your vehicle may ‘set in’ and harden or stain and damage paintwork over the winter, becoming much more difficult to deal with when you’re getting it ready to hit the road again. So an essential part of winterisation is to give the exterior a good clean – including awnings, wheels, wheel wells, windows and window and door seals. In fact, all parts of the motorhome or caravan will benefit greatly from being washed during this first part of winterisation. If it’s possible, and if the vehicle is not going to be under a cover of some kind, you could even give it a wax polish once it’s dry after cleaning. This will help shield the exterior from UV rays, dirt and grime.
- Storage: Thinking about where you store the vehicle is an important part of winterisation as it means you can consider alternative options which may provide better protection. If you’ve parked up close next to a tree, for instance, you are likely to have the problem of bird poo and tree sap to deal with. Moss and mould also thrive in shaded and damp conditions. If you are covering the motorhome, make sure to think about using the specific cover available for your model (if there is one) as this will be ‘fitted’ and offer the best protection. Standard tarpaulins are not suitable as they are made from materials which can scratch and damage your motorhome exterior.
- Seals and Vents: A light finger-smear of silicon grease will reduce the chances of any deterioration in window, door and fittings seals. It is not advisable to use petroleum-based products (such as Vaseline) or engine oil. These can corrode rubber, which will cause you problems further down the line. This process can be repeated on interior seals and fittings.
- Tyres: The weight of your motorhome on one particular spot of each tyre can sometimes cause them to become slightly less round. The effect of this is that when you drive the vehicle again there may be some noticeable vibration. A solution is to use levelling equipment, if you have it, as it lifts weight off the tyres and in some cases even completely lifts the motorhome off the ground. If it’s not possible to do this (and for most people it won’t be) then another good idea is to move your vehicle a few feet forwards or backwards, periodically.
The rubber of your tyres will lose some flexibility during the cold of winter, which you should protect against. Similarly, sunlight can also be a problem for tyres, causing the rubber to crack or perish. A smart solution to tyre problems caused by the conditions is wheel covers, which can extend their life – and they’re less expensive than new tyres!
2. Winterising the interior of your motorhome or caravan
- Water System: Bearing in mind that winter is the coldest season and that water freezes, it makes very good sense to drain your motorhome’s water systems to avoid burst pipes and other types of damage (such as that caused by leaks etc). Clean your water holding tanks and pipework before draining everything completely, and then leave them vented over the winter. Venting will allow any small amounts of water remaining in the system to ‘expand’ in the cold. You should refer to the manual for your specific model to locate the drain down valve. Remember to drain the shower, empty the toilet cassette and plug in all drains. A wet heating system should be filled with the appropriate anti-freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Gas Bottle: Any gas bottles should be isolated, to protect against gas leaks and related hazards over the winter.
- Cleaning and Tidying: This is essential in the interior of a motorhome or caravan which is going to be off the road for a significant period of time. Wipe down the walls and surfaces of your motorhome and make sure they’re as dry as possible, including the kitchen area and shower / bathroom. This will also give you the opportunity to detect any small trouble-spots. Empty all food from the fridge and kitchen storage cupboards, and clean out thoroughly, making sure to vacuum up all crumbs from the whole vehicle (this will deter insects or small rodents). Remove canned or bottled drinks (and other items) which could freeze and split. Leave the door of your motorhome fridge ajar, for airflow. Open all other cupboards, lockers and doors between areas, and adjust all cushions and mattresses to maximise airflow.
- Remove non-fixed items: This means everything from the bedding to the TV and kettle. Anything which can either be damaged by damp or stolen should be taken out of the vehicle and stored elsewhere.
Piles of bedding left in cupboards will trap moisture – and in a few months’ time there will be a fusty smell in your vehicle as a result. Take them out and run them through the washing machine and then store them in your house, instead.
Leaving items with electronic components in your motorhome or caravan is not advisable. Some items will be fixed and not able to be removed, but things like the TV should be removed as and condensation on its interior may damage circuitry and cause malfunctions. Similarly, at the end of the winterisation period when you’re about to head out on the road, you should put the TV (for example) back in 24 hours before setting off, so that it has the chance to acclimatise before power is connected and it’s switched on. Speaking of power, any batteries (clocks, alarms, remote controls etc) may leak over the winter so should be removed.
In addition to taking all of the motorhome winterisation steps we’ve mentioned above, it’s a good idea to buy a decent quality moisture meter. Although it is an additional expense, it’s something you can use throughout the year and which you’ll find particularly useful during the winter period when you’re off the road. It’s designed to give you an indication of the moisture or damp in your vehicle, and monitoring this throughout winter means you can work out when to take further steps, if necessary.
3. The ultimate winterisation product
From the moment you put your motorhome or caravan into winterised mode, you should be thinking about continuing to use BirchSorb. It’s been a great moisture control companion for you while you’ve been out on the road during the spring and summer, and even the autumn, and it can be a great trusted friend during the winter! BirchSorb cartons are very easy to install in your motorhome or caravan, and two to three will seriously improve moisture conditions within the vehicle.
4. But what is BirchSorb?
It’s a hyperdesiccant – which is our fancy way of saying that it’s an absorber with ten times the effectiveness of silica gel alternatives, and much more than ‘old wives tale’ desiccants such as washing powder, rice or cat litter. BirchSorb is a multi-component dry formula which chemically ‘binds in’ moisture, turning it into a solid form with no leaks and no re-evaporation. It’s highly effective at protecting against mould, mildew, wood rot and metal rusting, and can take on at least double its own weight in moisture. It lasts for a minimum of eight weeks, so you’ll only need to change up the cartons once during your winterised period - so it’s a great immediate answer to your likely question “How do I take care of my motorhome in winter?”
Taking care of your motorhome or caravan is absolutely essential all year round. You should do what you can to protect it from any sort of damage or degrading. Not only will they spoil the experience, but they’ll also affect your resale value. During the winter period, not using BirchSorb could mean that the van parked on your drive is dripping your money away…