In spring, many campers unpack their caravans again. We give tips on how to wake the caravan out of hibernation and what you need to consider for the start of the season.
What does the caravan look like after winter?
A question that many campers ask the first time they look at the caravan to be wintered: Was the caravan really that 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 on and in the caravan.
Whether it’s hibernating or winter vacation: dirt is the smallest evil. Gaps in underbody protection and porous seals are far bigger.
Even in the carousel of general inspection, leak test and inspection one 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 proper maintenance and a detailed checklist can be found in this article.
At a glance:
Quick tips to get your caravan out of hibernation
- Make clean: Thoroughly clean the vehicle inside and out. Particularly in the case of vehicles that have overwintered outdoors, specially clean the roof and watch out for any moisture damage in the body.
- Check papers: see if any inspections are pending.
- Connect the battery (if present), check the voltage and charge if necessary.
- Check electrical systems inside and outside, especially the lighting systems such as indicators, brake lights and parking lights.
- Safety check: test the freedom of movement of the overrun brake and the cables.
- Measure tire pressure and correct if necessary.
- Fill and rinse the water system and check for leaks and function. If necessary, treat with cleaning agents from a camping specialist.
- Reconnect the gas system to the gas bottle and check the function of all gas consumers such as cooker, heating and hot water boiler.
- The exterior cleaning
Anyone who wants to enjoy the furniture and on-board technology of the caravan for a long time has a systematic approach to work. Always work from top to bottom. This oldest of all cleaning tips also applies to the home on wheels. And a few other rules should be observed in advance: Petrol stations, truck stops and car wash parks often operate automatic truck wash systems. Simply having the dirty caravan scrubbed there is an obvious choice. But be careful: In truck systems, harsh cleaning agents and hard brushes are often used, which particularly clog the caravan windows. Everyone who has a hand-operated caravan and motorhome washing system with window-friendly brushes is happy. A thorough exterior wash with a pre-wash can quickly cost $ 60.
Of course, buckets, rags, sponges and high-pressure cleaners will do the same. The latter drives away dirt and dried-up mud in an express process. Pressurized water and a brush can also get the dirt out of the recesses in the hammer plate. However, the water jet is often too hard for the sub-floor, decor, seals and refrigerator grilles. Work at these sensitive areas with a large distance or with reduced pressure. Public clean parks and high pressure devices for home use have settings for all eventualities.
- The interior cleaning
Once the caravan is sparkling clean on the outside, it’s time to get down to business. Equipped with a microfiber cloth and an all-purpose cleaner diluted with water in the bucket, caravanners tackle the dirt in cupboards, the sanitary room and on furniture surfaces. Use water sparingly when doing fine work in order 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 to air.
- Clean the 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 it off with soapy water. After the fabric is dry again, waterproof seams and other areas exposed to rain.
- Check caravan technology
All that remains is the functional test of the on-board technology: Are the refrigerator, stove and heater 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 sterile? Then the interior and the technology are ready for spring.
- Underbody, tires and hitch
The next step is the search for damage that the caravan sustains when standing for a long time or during winter use. The underbody protection may need to be touched up. There is a risk of decay, especially with wooden floors. If the caravan is sent to the winter break or season after a tough season without a careful look, there may be nasty surprises in spring.
Experts advise treating the subfloor with special hot wax early on so that there is no stick moisture on the subfloor in the first place. A look out of the pit (or from below the lifting platform) of the caravan workshop provides information about the condition of the wooden floor. The trip there is worth it anyway: the leak test is a must because of the guarantee that comes with it. Is It Too Late To Prevent It? Then experts have to repair wood rot or rust damage immediately.
We recommend taking a look at the wheels so that everything rolls easily and safely when you set off. The caravan tires are often used to the extreme during the season. This includes, for example, the marginal utilization of the tire load capacity and the extreme temperatures in heat and frost. But even if it is not used for a long time, damage to the stand can occur, which can only be seen on closer inspection. If the trailer was parked with insufficient air pressure or on edges, standing plates or cracks form in the flank. Worn treads on the tire can be recognized before it becomes dangerous. And: how long has it been since you last bought a tire? Regardless of the recommended tread depth of at least three to four millimeters, a new set of tires should be found after six years at the latest.
- Check the trailer technology on the towing vehicle
Without a flawless towing vehicle, even the fittest caravan is only worth half as much. Are the electrics and mechanics of the towing device in perfect working order? The socket on the towing vehicle and the plug on the caravan are protected from corrosion with contact spray. A cordless screwdriver with a clamped ball-head grinder removes rust or paint residues from the ball head of the trailer coupling, whether detachable or fixed. You can take longer, but cheaper, with normal sandpaper and industrial cleaners.
Only a bare, grease-free ball head guarantees the perfect function of every anti-snaking coupling. Otherwise, their friction bellows will become clogged with dirt and paint particles, which significantly reduces the stabilizing effect. After the body, chassis and towing vehicle have been checked, the only thing left is the general inspection and inspection, so that everything is technically in a dry condition.
- Caravan inspection and general inspection
Have the caravan checked regularly by a professional and all safety devices checked. It is very important that your caravan or RV is in perfect condition before the start of the season.
Have the gas system checked. It is best to do it in combination with a leak test and a general 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 entire system. After the examination has been passed, the specialist company issues a certificate.
Anyone who has doubts about the technical fitness of the caravan or RV should definitely go to the workshop for an inspection before the main inspection is due.
The 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 to make them workable – without intact brake rods and floor pulls, things can quickly become dangerous.
The situation is similar with possible damage to the bellows, tear-off cable and handbrake, which must not fail in an emergency. The safety clutch with the friction linings is also not immune to wear and tear and old age. Perhaps it is time for a renewal? 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
- High pressure cleaner for coarse dirt
- Clean wheel arches and rims separately
- Soapy water and special cleaners for surfaces
- Clean with little water and open windows
- Clean the refrigerator, heater and gas locker
- Clean & disinfect water tanks
Step 2: the test plan
- Check tire pressure and tread depth, wheel nuts
- Check spare wheel
- Check underbody protection
- Handbrake check Check the operability of moving parts
- Check overrun damper
- State of charge on-board battery (if present)
- Care hinges, locks, doors
- Functional test of roller blinds, flaps, switches
Step 3: general inspection & inspection
- Contents: Brake system including wheel brakes and brake pads, clutch, axles, light Gas test can be made afterwards, costs around 35 dollars in addition.
- Costs: varies from 50-120 dollars depending on workshop, model, condition and working hours, leak test often manufacturer’s instructions, ask for combination prices
- Interval: every 12 months or according to the manufacturer’s specifications (see operating instructions) important for the receipt of warranty claims from dealers and manufacturers
- Content: Maintenance and repair work: z. B. Check the game on the overrun device, support wheel for the receipt of warranty claims in the maintenance booklet
That is why caravan inspections are important
What damage can the caravan suffer during a winter break or vacation?
On the one hand, frost damage to the electricity, heating and water system can appear, on the other hand you have to expect unwanted intruders such as mice or vermin. After the winter vacation, on the other hand, there may be corrosion on the axle or oxidation of locks and other metal parts.
What do I have to pay attention to in any case with the drawbar and trailer coupling?
The overrun brake should be well lubricated and the trailer coupling free of dust and grease. In addition, the brake linings of the anti-roll clutch as well as the overrun damper, breakaway cable and handbrake must be checked.
Moisture in the caravan: how do I recognize and treat leaks?
There are many signs of moisture in the structure: a musty smell, soft spots in the furniture decor, in the worst case dark mold. In all cases, a specialist workshop should be visited quickly.
And what to do when door seals and rubber lips can no longer be cemented with glycerine or silicone?
In principle, every defective seal on doors and windows should be replaced if damaged in order to prevent water from entering.
Which parts of the caravan have to struggle with rust and aluminum corrosion, and what can be done about it?
Axle tube and screw connections are primarily susceptible to rust. Aluminum fretting is more of a problem for doors, flaps and panels made of aluminum. You can prevent this with regular visual inspections and good underbody protection.
Which shortcomings should I keep my hands off and ask an expert?
Quite clear: water damage, frost damage, installation of electricity and gas systems as well as repairs to the outer wall or the floor of the vehicle should be carried out by a specialist company.
What advice would you give our readers in terms of guarantee, warranty and goodwill?
It is advisable to document everything – in writing and with pictures. In the case of guarantee work shortly before the end of the guarantee period, an extension to the work concerned can also be requested.