As we have been home this year for the winter our vehicle like many others doesn’t get used as much and it just sits on the drive. The problem is though even if we leave it for a couple of days or even a few months before it gets used again there are a couple of things we need to do to help stop the winter time from damaging our vehicles. I thought I’d share some of the thing we do whether for short or long term storage of our vehicle. Many of the following points should be done even for a short lay off depending on the weather, particularly freezing conditions. Water freezes at zero degrees and expands and our weather can be much colder than that. It doesn’t take that long to prepare our vehicles for storage but it could save your pipes, batteries, tyres and wallet.
Good scrub down:
It sounds silly but a good wash from head to toe is a good idea and especially remove all the dirt and dead leaves off the roof and on and underneath any solar panels, any muck up top will just break down over winter and with the rain it ends up all down the sides of the vehicle making it harder to get those dreaded run marks off in the spring time. If you can, then apply a good coat of wax to the paintwork too, it will help protect it from the elements. Jet wash the underside of the vehicle too especially if you have used the vehicle on salty roads. After washing the vehicle go for a quick drive to remove any debris/water/brake dust from the brakes helping them not stick quite as easily after a lay up. (This happened to me on a car once after just two weeks) Another one to watch for is hidden mould in not so obvious places, A good example on our van is we keep a boogie board in our garage next to the back wall of the van, as the garage is heated when the vehicle is in use condensation forms on it and after removing it after not being used the wall had some mould on it (pic on the right), A quick wipe down with some cheap bleach and all is like new again but still if left unchecked it could have been a messy problem.
Clean the drains:
Use a suitable drain cleaner to remove any dirt, grease, grime and even hair from your sinks and shower pipes. It will be a lot easier to remove now than in a couple of months time once it all set like concrete inside. After using any chemicals flush out the pipes with hot water first then use a hosepipe to remove any chemicals and loose particles, just point the hose directly into the sink/shower drain and give it a good blast of water for a few mins. (Link to our post on how we clean out our grey tank) It’s also a good idea to clean the fresh water and waste water tanks out too and remove any build up inside them, If possible get your arm in and give them a good scrub, we put some diluted bleach in the waste tank after a clean to kill any bacteria inside, you could also use something like Milton liquid or sterilising tablets in the fresh tank too, leave it in for a couple of hours and flush out thoroughly afterwards with the hose. Even your fresh water tank will have all sorts of debris in it after a few uses. After our last trip I discovered a load of fine sand had coated most of the inside even though we are always careful filling up.
Empty the fridge/freezer:
Remove everything from the fridge/freezer and turn them off. Wash out the inside and dry thoroughly plus leave the doors slightly open to the allow fresh air inside. The last thing you want when you next open them is lots of mould growing inside the fridge.
Empty the cupboards and waste bin:
You don’t have to take everything out of the cupboards, but definitely make sure that nothing perishable like food stuffs is accidentally left inside. Sticky sweets and rotten foods are not a pleasant thing to come back too. Make sure there are no other liquids in the van too as they may also freeze. Glass jars & bottles easily break when their contents freeze, those same contents could make quite a mess of your interior.
Turn off the gas:
Sounds an obvious one but this could easily be over looked, some people also prefer to disconnect the bottles too.
Charge the batteries:
That goes for both the engine and leisure batteries as it helps keep them healthy whilst they are not in use. Charge all your batteries completely for at least 24-48 hours and possibly more if you have more than one leisure battery. If you have a solar system on your vehicle then this will keep your batteries topped up for you even though the days are short and dark. If you don’t have a solar system you could leave the vehicle on EHU (electric hook up) or use a maintenance charger like this CTEK one from Amazon. You can leave them attached to the battery and they are not that expensive. Turn off all the electrical systems to preserve the batteries too, this is usually on the main electric panel inside the van. If you just leave the batteries alone though it’s worth checking them periodically as even your alarm system might eventually flatten your battery if it’s not topped up.
Drain the vehicle:
It doesn’t matter if your vehicle has a single floor, double floor, thin walls or even the most insulated walls when the temperature falls outside so does it inside, the rain might not get in but the cold certainly does. Many heating systems will empty the boilers contents on there own if the temperature falls below about four degrees but they will all have a manual method of emptying them. This is not enough though, you should empty all of the water from the hot and cold water systems throughout the habitation side of the vehicle and leave all the taps open. Drain both the fresh and grey water from the system too and leave there taps open, empty the toilet flush system if applicable. Many vehicles will have a couple of taps located on the boiler system and water pipes to aid draining your system completely so check your manuals for there location, If the vehicle has a shower then place the shower head on the floor to empty the hose. Leave any sink/shower taps open but make sure to turn the power off so as not to damage the water pump. Even a small amount of water in any of the systems will freeze and then expand and potentially damage some pipework which could be a nightmare and very costly to repair.
Empty and clean the loo:
Another obvious one but easily overlooked, Empty your toilet cassette appropriately and rinse it out thoroughly. We put some limescale remover in ours overnight to clean the insides and the “trap door” mechanism. Not only does this clean it so it looks like new but it also helps drastically reduces the odours when the cassette is in use. Lastly flush out with a diluted bleach solution to disinfect everything and finally flush out with fresh water again and leave the cassette open to allow it to dry. (We use the limescale trick once a month when we are away and it really works)
Lube any seals:
Get some silicone spray like this specialist WD40 or similar product, its not expensive and a tin lasts for years and can be used for loads of other stuff too. Put a thin coating on all your window and door seals to stop them from sticking shut. If you have a shower door in the van you can also use it on the sliders to make them move like new again, the same goes for any drawer runners and squeaky doors. It’s also worth spraying some on the o’ring seals on your fresh and grey water tank caps to stop them from sticking.
If you have some repairs then get them sorted sooner rather than later. If you leave a simple repair you might forget about it and when you come to use the vehicle next time it may well spoil a trip. Get it repaired early and not like everyone else who leaves it until the last minute, the workshops will be very busy just before summer just when you probably want to use the vehicle.
If possible park on a flat, level surface and leave the vehicle in gear or in park if it’s an automatic, leave the handbrake off and chock the wheels up too. This will help stop the brakes stop sticking on when you next come to use it. If the vehicle will be left for a very long time then see if you can move it occasionally so that the tyres are not left in the same spot thus damaging the tyre walls and make sure they are kept at the recommended tyres pressures too.
Lastly make sure that all the windows, skylights and doors are properly closed before finally closing the door, an open skylight will turn your vehicle from a mobile home into a mobile pool very easily and it’s so easily done. The damage could be horrendous from such a simple oversight.
If you have a manual for your vehicle then have a quick read, we’ve had two campers, both Hymers but the procedures for things like draining the water were different so it is worth looking in the manual. There may be some other procedures to do for either long or sort term storage specific to your vehicle and the manual should point out were things like access panels to drains, taps and other such things are that may not be obvious.
If you have any good ideas or tips to share regarding vehicle storage then please let us know.