When spring begins, many campers unpack their caravans. We give tips on how to wake the caravan from hibernation, how to winter it out and what you need to consider.
Even if the start of the camping season is postponed due to this year’s Corona pandemic, the warmer temperatures and the time can be used to prepare the caravan for the hopefully upcoming camping trip 2020. By the way: Although only the most important infrastructure has opened due to the Corona virus in many places, most workshops are still open, for example. This means that nothing stands in the way of the caravan inspection.
A question that many campers ask at first glance at the caravan to be wintered: Was the caravan really so dirty when we put it away for the winter? Or was the long hibernation to blame? Its possible. Because even in the most beautiful barn, dust spreads and spreads in the caravan. Whether hibernation or winter vacation: dirt is the smallest evil. Patchy underbody protection and porous seals the far larger.
Even in the carousel of the main inspection, leak test and inspection, you can get dizzy. What happens during which check, what do the exams cost? Answers to the topics of spring cleaning, winter damage, all tips for correct maintenance and a detailed checklist can be found in this article.
At a glance:
Quick tips for wintering out the caravan
Thoroughly clean vehicles inside and outside. Especially on vehicles that have hibernated outdoors, clean the roof especially and pay attention to possible moisture damage in the body.
Check whether a gas or moisture test is due.
Connect the battery (if present), check the voltage and charge if necessary.
Check electrical systems inside and out, especially check the lighting systems such as indicators, brake lights, parking lights.
Test the clearance of the overrun brake and the cables.
Measure tire air pressure and correct if necessary.
Fill the water system, rinse and check for leaks and function. If necessary, treat with detergents from the camping trade.
Reconnect the gas system to the gas bottle and check the function of all gas consumers such as the stove, heating and hot water boiler.
7 steps to winter out the caravan
The quick tips were too vague? Then read on, here you will find detailed explanations on the subject of wintering your own caravan.
1. The exterior cleaning of the caravan
If you want to enjoy furniture and on-board technology in the caravan for a long time, you can do it systematically. Always work from top to bottom. This oldest of all cleaning tips also applies to the rolling home. And a few other rules should be observed in advance:
Petrol stations, car depots and car parks often operate automatic truck wash systems. Simply having the dirty caravan scrubbed there is a must. But be careful: sharp cleaning agents and hard brushes are often used in truck systems, which are particularly hard on the caravan windows.
Everyone who has a hand-controlled caravan and motorhome car wash with brushes that are gentle on the window is happy. Here a thorough outside wash with prewash can quickly cost $ 60.
Of course, buckets, rags, sponges and pressure washers do the same. The latter chases away dirt and dried mud in a hurry. Pressurized water and a brush also get the dirt out of the depressions in the hammer plate. However, the water jet is often too hard for the underbody, decor, seals and refrigerator grille. Work on these sensitive areas with a large distance or reduced pressure. Public clean parks and high pressure devices for home use have settings for all eventualities.
2. The interior cleaning of the caravan
If the caravan is sparkling clean on the outside, it’s time to get down to business. Equipped with microfiber cloth and water-diluted all-purpose cleaner in the bucket, caravanners tackle the dirt in cupboards, the sanitary room and on furniture surfaces. Use water sparingly during fine work to protect the structure and furnishings from moisture. This includes opening windows and doors when cleaning. On this occasion, also take upholstery and mattresses from your documents for ventilation.
3. Cleaning the awning or awning
The awning should also be cleaned and prepared for the next travel season. It is best to spread it out on a dry surface and remove coarse dirt with a dry hand brush. Then wash off with soap suds. After the fabric is dry again, waterproof seams and other areas exposed to rain.
4. Check the caravan technology
All that remains is the functional test of the on-board technology: Are the refrigerator, stove and heating ready to start? And does the on-board or mover battery still (or already) have enough juice? Is the cassette toilet seal still intact or should it be replaced? Is the fresh water tank clean and germ-free? Then the interior and technology are fit for spring.
5. Underbody, tires and hitch
It continues with the search for damage that the caravan gets when standing for a long time or during winter use. The underbody protection may need to be repaired. There is a risk of decay, especially with wooden floors. If the caravan is sent into the winter break or season after a hard season without a scrutiny, there may be nasty surprises in spring.
Experts recommend treating the sub-floor early with special hot wax so that the sub-floor does not get damp. A look out of the pit (or from below the lift) of the caravan workshop provides information about the condition of the wooden floor. The trip there is worth it anyway: The leak test is part of the compulsory program, because of the guarantee involved. Is it too late for prevention? Then experts have to repair wood rot or rust damage immediately.
To ensure that everything rolls easily and safely when you start your journey, a look at the wheels is recommended. The caravan tires are often subjected to extreme stress during the season. These include, for example, the marginal utilization of the tire’s load-bearing capacity and the extreme temperatures during heat and frost. But even when not used for a long time, damage to the stand can occur, which can only be recognized by taking a closer look. If the trailer was parked with too little air pressure or on edges, stand plates or cracks form in the flank. Worn treads on the tire can be recognized before it becomes dangerous. And how long was the last tire purchase? Regardless of the recommended tread depth of at least three to four millimeters, a new set of tires should be made after six years at the latest.
6. Check the trailer technology on the towing vehicle
Without a flawless train carriage, even the fittest caravan is only worth half as much. Are the electrical and mechanical components of the towbar correct? The socket on the towing vehicle and the plug on the caravan are protected against corrosion with contact spray. The ball head of the trailer coupling, whether detachable or fixed, is freed from rust or paint residues at the express rate with a clamped ball head grinder. Longer, but cheaper, with normal sandpaper and industrial cleaner.
Only a bare, grease-free ball head guarantees the perfect function of every anti-skid clutch. Otherwise their friction bellows clog with dirt and paint particles, which significantly reduces the stabilizing effect. After the body, chassis and towing vehicle have been checked, there is only the way to the main inspection and inspection so that everything is technically in a dry cloth.
7. Caravan inspection and general inspection
Legislators have prescribed vehicle testing for over 50 years. During the main inspection, the caravan is considered a motor vehicle trailer with a gross vehicle weight of less than 3.5 tonnes and has its own brake and must therefore undergo the main inspection every 24 months. If it fits in time, the whole team can go together for testing. Be especially careful with seasonal drivers: missed appointments can be expensive. Until recently, every caravan was also tested for a gas system every two years (suspended until 2023).
Even if the gas test does not have to be made mandatory, it is considered an important, if not the most important factor for safety on board. It is best carried out in combination with a leak test and main inspection – seals, hoses and the condition of the gas box are the focus of the gas test in addition to the leak test of the overall system. After passing the examination, the specialist company issues a certificate, which is also to be presented to the HU. A missing test certificate is considered a defect and therefore the reason for a follow-up examination.
If you have any doubts about the technical fitness of your caravan, you should definitely go to the workshop for inspection, before the main inspection is due.
Caravan inspection is particularly useful after the winter break
It is worth taking a closer look at the dealer’s maintenance booklet, which specifies in detail what needs to be serviced and at what intervals. Especially after the winter break, the mechanical parts can get stuck and have to be checked by a professional and, if necessary, greased and thus made operable – without intact brake rods and floor cables, it quickly becomes dangerous.
The situation is similar with possible damage to the bellows, tear-off rope and handbrake, which must not fail in an emergency. The safety clutch with the friction linings is also not immune to wear and aging, maybe it’s time for a replacement? All components of the brake system, axles and shock absorbers should be serviced during the inspection so that they meet the critical eye of the inspector during the upcoming general inspection.
Checklist for wintering out the caravan
Step 1: the cleaning plan
Caravan laundry only at the washing area
Pressure washer for coarse dirt
Clean wheel arches and rims extra
Soapy water and special cleaner for surfaces
Clean with little water and open windows
Clean the refrigerator, heating and gas box
Clean & disinfect water tanks
Step 2: the test plan
Check tire pressure & tread depth, wheel nuts
Check spare wheel
Check underbody protection
Handbrake test Check the movability of moving parts
Checking the overrun damper
State of charge on-board battery (if available)
Care hinges, locks, doors
Functional test of blinds, flaps, switches
Step 3: main inspection & inspection
Cost: varies by state $ 40-60
Interval: Caravan as a car trailer with its own braking system and permissible total weight of 3.5 tons: every 24 months, follow-up inspection within four weeks
Contents: Brake system including wheel brakes and brake pads, clutch, axles, light gas test can be done afterwards, costs around $ 35 additional
Cost: varies by workshop, model, condition and hours of work from $ 50-120 leak test often manufacturer’s instructions, ask for combined prices
Interval: every 12 months, every 10,000 km or according to the manufacturer’s specifications (see operating instructions) important for the receipt of warranty claims from dealers and manufacturers
Contents: Maintenance and repair work: e.g. B. Check the play on the overrun device, support wheel for the receipt of warranty claims in the maintenance booklet.
Interview with camping expert:
That is why caravan inspections are important
At Christian Ertl, operations manager at the motorhome specialist Goldschmitt, we checked out the issue of wintering. In an interview, the specialist explains which injuries can occur after a long winter – and what is important in terms of tightness, drawbar and structure.
What damage can the caravan suffer during a winter break or vacation?
Ertl: On the one hand, frost damage to the electricity, heating and water system can occur, on the other hand, you have to expect unwanted intruders such as mice or vermin. After the winter vacation, however, there may be corrosion on the axle or the oxidation of locks and other metal parts.
What should I pay attention to in any case with the drawbar and trailer coupling?
Ertl: The overrun brake should be well lubricated and the trailer coupling free of dust and grease. In addition, the brake pads of the anti-roll clutch as well as the overrun damper, tear-off cable and handbrake must be checked.
Moisture in the caravan: How do I recognize and treat leaks?
Ertl: There are many signs of moisture in the structure: musty smell, soft spots in the furniture decor, in the worst case dark mold. In all cases, a specialist workshop should be consulted quickly.
And what to do if door seals and rubber lips with glycerin or silicone can no longer be cemented?
Ertl: Basically, every defective seal on doors and windows should be replaced if damaged to prevent water from entering.
Which parts of the caravan have to deal with rust and aluminum pitting, and what can be done about it?
Ertl: Axle tube and screw connections are primarily susceptible to rust. Aluminum pitting is more of a problem with aluminum doors, flaps and cladding. You can prevent this with regular visual inspection and good underbody protection.
Which defects should I stay away from and ask an expert?
Ertl: Clearly: water damage, frost damage, installation of electricity and gas systems as well as repairs on the outside wall or the floor of the vehicle should be carried out by a specialist company.
What tip do you give our readers when it comes to guarantee, warranty and goodwill?
Ertl: It is advisable to document everything – in writing and with pictures. For warranty work shortly before the end of the warranty period, an extension to the work concerned can also be requested.