Daylight saving (yes there is no S on the end) begins next weekend and for a lot of people, that’s time to think about the warmer weather starting, brushing the cobwebs off the BBQ and maybe even thinking about heading away in the motorhome. If however, like a lot of people you have left your motorhome unused over the winter period ask yourself. Is my motorhome ready for summer? What do I need to do to lessen the chances of something going wrong?
There are some simple steps that you can take to make sure your first trip away this summer is one that you enjoy and not one full of frustration with things going wrong or cursing about what you have forgotten to pack. Motorhoming is meant to be a joy not a millstone around your neck so let’s get you ready.
If like a lot of people motorhoming is an exercise for Summer and maybe Autumn when the weather is mild, the water is warm and the fish are biting. Then there is a good chance your motorhome or caravan has turned into the jolly green giant over the winter. Making a really good wash is an essential starting point. Get a high-quality car wash and make sure you use a soft broom you don’t want to be scratching your baby.
I have read a lot about the use of water blasters to remove the moss and mould but subjecting the nooks, crevices and joins to a high-pressure stream of water is something best avoided unless you want to encourage future leaks. Water has a way of finding a weak spot and making the most of it, using the water blaster will only encourage this. Sadly this might mean a bit more elbow grease on your part but at least it will remain drier inside.
Of course, the roof is going to be the worst and the hardest to clean, Only stand on the roof of your caravan or motorhome if you have been assured by the dealer that this will be OK otherwise…….. So a decent ladder with someone holding it whilst you use a long-handled broom is the only answer.
Pay special attention to your solar panels and give them a double wash. If they have mould or slime growing on them how are they going to charge your batteries? Even dust from the road can affect the performance of your solar system so keep them as clean as possible at all times.
Have a look at your roof vents whilst you are up on the roof do the seals around them look to be in good condition or are they beginning to age due to weathering. Resealing the vents may not be a job you feel comfortable doing but at least if you know you have a problem you can organise to have them resealed.
Remember that a water leak from your vents may not drip from the vent but may travel through the roof and appear elsewhere in your van causing untold damage before you become aware of the problem.
Talking about leaks now after you have washed the vehicle is a great time to get inside the van and start lifting all the seat cushions opening the cupboards (use a torch to check inside) and look for any unwanted or unexplained wet patches. If you do find one can you trace it back to its source? If so plug it immediately with a waterproof sealer. The quicker you can stop any damage the easier it will be to repair.
If you are like most motorhomers and keep a store of stuff in the van now is probably a really good time to check for date expired products. You can also take the time to check the packets for visits by unwelcome hitchhikers. You will be amazed at the small spaces that these fellows can squeeze through to stay warm dry and fed!
Did you know that tank water goes stale! how long has the water in your tanks been sitting there? If it has been there all winter it’s probably gone stale and needs to be replaced. Some motorhomes have a tap at the bottom that will allow you to drain the tank easily others will require you to run it dry with your water pump.
You do need to be careful if you are using your water pump as you don’t want to burn it out emptying the tank so I would only run it till the first shudder and then turn it off before refilling the tank. If you have one of the older hot water tanks you should also replace or at least inspect the anode rod yearly. These are designed to prevent corrosion inside your hot water tank and if you are unsure about where to find it or if you have one in your motorhome check with the franchise dealer.
What condition is the inside of your wastewater tank and interior plumbing? Think about giving these a treatment so that the residue from last summer can be stripped out of those pipes reducing the risk of blockage. Make sure that if you are doing this that you empty the tank at an approved dump station.
Of course, if you do want to head away it’s important to know that your engine won’t give you trouble or heaven forbid expire on your first trip back on the road. Even if you had the van serviced before winter a simple check of the oil, water, brake fluid, can go a long way to ensuring trouble-free motoring. Don’t forget to top up your washer bottle to help keep your windscreen clean.
Keep an eye out for those pesky warning lights, strangely enough, they do appear for a reason and if you have one lighting up on your dash, get it checked or leave at your peril.
If it’s a while since you had the motorhome serviced or perhaps you cannot even read the service sticker then do you yourself a favour and book it into a garage for at least a basic service. A few hundred dollars spent now could be saving you thousands if you have to have it towed in somewhere after you have broken down on the side of the road.
Think about the four or six bits of rubber that are keeping you attached to the road. Have a wander around your van taking a look at the condition of the tyres. It’s much more than the minimum tread depth of 1.5cm although this is important. If your van has been sitting for a while your tyres might have started perishing and cracking due to sunlight or just the pressure of being in the same position. This cracking if bad enough cannot be repaired and a new tyre/s are required.
If you are satisfied with the condition of your tyres you should still check their pressure before embarking on your travel’s. If you are unsure what pressure your tyres should be running a visit to a specialist tyre shop should be on your timetable. You might have to pay a few bucks for them to do this but it will be money well spent as your van will drive better, be safer on the road and you will save fuel.
It’s not just tyres that breakdown due to sunlight your windscreen wipers may also have perished over the winter and these should be replaced with a new set. This is an easy thing to do but if you have any problems in this area your local motor parts retailer will probably do the job for you at no cost.
One of the things that always seemed to be a problem for me, when my motorhome was mostly in storage, were the batteries, both house and engine. I remember driving 4 hours north only to arrive at my destination with a red light glowing at me telling me my house batteries were flat.
Batteries are expensive so looking after them is an important part of motorhoming it might be too late now if they are flat but you could try taking them out and charging them. If you don’t have a decent battery charger visit an Auto electrician and see if they can do it for you. You would need to pay for this but it would be a lot cheaper than buying new ones. If you do have to buy new ones think about how you will look after them next winter. Can you get a trickle charger running to them in winter or do you need to increase the solar capacity so that they charge over winter?
Check that your fridge is running correctly. If it’s a gas fridge then obviously turn the gas on first and don’t forget to turn it off again once you have tested it.
One thing that very rarely gets talked about is diesel bug, this is a bacterial growth that lives on diesel and grows more often in fuel tanks that have been left almost empty. If you do have the bug in your system it will clog your fuel filter as you drive starving the engine of fuel and causing a severe loss of power. There are treatments available from Repco/Supercheap etc. If in doubt a quick squirt of treatment could be a great idea.
The best thing to prevent the bug is to keep your fuel tank full whilst in winter storage, so although that won’t help you now you can keep that fact in the back of your brain for next year.
Check each item off the list, make sure you are happy and before you know it you will be out enjoying scenes like these. When it comes to things to take remember the old adage that less is more. In other words, do you need all the stuff you are putting into the van all you are doing is adding weight that may make you exceed the safe or legal loading limit for your motorhome?
The maximum legal loaded weight for your motorhome or caravan is the GVM shown on the loading certificate on the front window. Do you know what your van weighs? if you are overweight you risk a hefty fine if stopped and a problem with your insurance in the event of an accident. You can usually have your van weighed for around $10 at the local weigh station, refuse station etc. Or if you ask really kindly one of the roadside inspection teams from NZ Police (just joking)
If you are a fisherman maybe it’s also time to give the rods and reels a clean before summer. This will also give you a chance to check the tackle box looking to see if you have sufficient hooks and sinkers for your next trip. Of course the same applies to making sure your bike, hiking boots or whatever hobby you might have is ready to go.
One final check I would do before heading away would be to check the LPG situation in the van. If you only have the one cylinder you can weigh it to see how much gas you have if you have two then it’s a lot easier. I would recommend that you own your bottle and refill it when empty as there are often problems with people using Swappa bottle outlets.
Of course, before you hit the road are your COF/WOF, REGO, RUC, EWOF, CSC all current if not best get those done well beforehand as the queues lengthen at the testing stations the nearer we get to Christmas. Wow does this list never end!
I hope this article helped and that you don’t end up like this over summer. If you have any questions about this blog please feel free to email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org or make a comment below if you think I have left anything off this checklist.
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2 thoughts on “Is your motorhome ready for summer?”
Great post about camper maintenance. Can I add another item for the next repeat feel free to use these words or thoughts.
Everyone has a eye on their oil and battery, well hopefully they do, however not to many people consider all the other system fluids throughout their van. I think it wise that a van owner have a conversation with a local friendly mechanic and come up with multi year service plan. Become a regularly and get to know them on first name terms. Start by asking when should I replace engine oil, transmission oil, brake fluid, differential fluid, steering fluid, cooling liquid, universal joint grease. These professionals can keep everything in great order.
Thanks Ralph (….engineer and doing all my own maintenance)