How to look after your campervan
The state of your campervan could mean the difference between having a memorable holiday and one you want to forget, so keeping your vehicle in top condition is vital...
A motorhome or campervan is comprised of two main sections. One covers the bits that get you to where you want to go, while the other covers the bits that make life great once you get there. However, they’re equally important to the enjoyment of your holiday, so it pays to look after them.
In this feature, we'll cover how you can keep both in tip-top condition, ensuring that you can both get where you're going, and enjoy your time to the fullest once you get there.
Maintaining your campervan's mechanical parts
For a start, remember that a campervan is a motor vehicle just like any other, so you’ll need to maintain it as you would your car or motorcycle. So, it pays to make some basic checks every few weeks – and certainly before any big journey.
Most checks of a vehicle are really easy, and can be done inside half an hour. Take the lights, for example. All you need to do is turn them all on and make sure everything lights up as it should. And don’t forget your numberplate lights too.
To check the reversing lights, just turn on the ignition without actually starting the motorhome, then put it in reverse. And as for the brake lights, just reverse up to a wall or window and check using your door mirrors when you press the brake.
Next, give all of the tyres a check. Inspect each one carefully, making sure that there’s plenty of tread (any tyre needs to have a minimum of 1.6mm of tread across 75% of its width), and also looking to see that the tyre sidewalls are free from cuts and splits.
After that, go round and make sure that all of the tyres have the correct pressure in them. It’s worth investing in a tyre safety kit, which will contain both a pressure gauge and a tread-depth gauge, for around £15. Finally, if your motorhome has a tyre pressure-monitoring system, reset this.
Under the bonnet
Now it’s time to pop the bonnet open. First, top up the windscreen washer fluid. It’s much easier if you use a funnel to direct the fluid into the reservoir, to avoid most of it ending up on your driveway.
Then, just go around and check all the other fluid levels. The various reservoirs should either all have a 'Min' and 'Max' marking on them, so it’s easy to see, or they’ll have a dipstick that needs to be removed, wiped and reinserted so you can get an accurate level. In this way you can check the coolant level, the brake fluid level and the power steering fluid level.
Finally, you’ll want to check the oil level, so start the campervan and run it for 10 minutes to warm up fully, then switch off and leave it for another 10 minutes for the warmed oil to settle. This way you’ll get a much more accurate oil-level reading.
Now, remove the dipstick, wipe it clean and reinsert it. Now remove it and check the oil level, which should sit at or just below the 'Max' level on the dipstick.
Maintaining your campervan's interior
Once you’ve had the enjoyment of a break in your campervan, it makes sense to give it a careful once-over before you put it away while you plan the next excursion.
So, once you’ve parked up and taken out all your luggage, you need to go through the interior and make sure that all the cupboards are empty, to avoid any food going off or anything else developing damp. And after you’ve been through each cupboard, give it a vacuum or a sweep out, because crumbs are a magnet for uninvited guests of the insect or rodent variety.
The same applies to the refrigerator, which should be emptied, washed and dried out, then left with the door ajar, to allow fresh air to circulate. It’ll be switched off anyway, so you don’t need to worry about it trying to cool down the entire interior of the motorhome.
Next you need to drain all of your campervan’s water systems, because stagnant water will be a haven for bacteria. In addition, if you’re packing your van up for winter, the water in the pipes can freeze and burst the pipes.
So, open all the drainpipes and turn on all taps (and the shower if you have one). This will allow all water to wend its way out of the pipes, and removes any worries about frozen pipes.
This process also applies to your waste-water system. It should be emptied, washed with an antibacterial solution and flushed through before you close everything up.
After this, you need to give the van a good clean, including washing and wiping down all surfaces and even the window frames, then drying them properly to ensure that mould cannot form.
At the same time, it’s a good idea to wash down the exterior of the campervan, including any awnings, and then the awnings must be dried properly and treated with a proofer before being furled.
Give the interior a thorough vacuum, including the driving area, because this is bound to be a storage area for wrappers and crumbs. Giving the dashboard and driving controls a wipe down makes sense, too.
Anything powered by batteries should have them removed, and gas bottles should be disconnected and, if possible, removed.
Finally, if you plan to leave your campervan closed up for a while, it can be a good idea to leave a tub of silica gel on the worktop, to prevent damp and mould forming. An alternative is to run a dehumidifier inside every so often.
If you have a cover, it’s a good idea to fit it if your campervan will be standing for a while, because it will prevent damp getting in. If you don’t, cover the windows to stop sunlight and frost.
All this preparation may seem labour-intensive, but it needn’t take more than a couple of hours, and it will vastly increase the ease with which you get your motorhome prepared ahead of the next holiday extravaganza. Time spent now will be more than paid back come time to set off again.
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