When we’re not out on the road enjoying our camping adventures, our campers and caravans spend much of their life in storage of some sort. And when we return from holidays it is tempting to just pack the camper away and forget about it till next time. However, with a little bit of thought and effort you can go a long way to protecting your asset in the long term. There are five main things that threaten your camper – time, sun, water, contaminants, and living things.
Ignoring your battery in storage is not a good idea. If you let your battery get too flat it will no longer be able to hold charge and will need to be replaced. There are a few options for protecting your battery. You can disconnect the terminals, so power does not discharge from the battery. Alternatively, the battery can be regularly charged. You can do this by plugging into your 240V input and setting a timer to run for a few hours once a week or so. Alternatively, a trickle charger can be connected to the battery terminals to provide a small continuous charge. Turn off appliances such as the hot water service and fridge that draw significant power.
There is conflicting advice as to whether it is best to keep freshwater tanks full or empty. The argument to keep tanks full is it does not allow air in the system which prevents the growth of bugs.
While the argument for emptying, is that keeping water in the tanks for extended periods will taint the water with any residual compound that leaches from the tank. Inversely, impure water picked up on your travels could leave a long-term residual taste in your water supply.
Grey water tanks definitely need to be emptied when the van goes into storage. Once emptied, flush it out with fresh water to clear residual organic matter.
It’s obvious your toilet needs to be cleaned prior to storage. Dump the contents at a suitable disposal point and rinse the tank with clean water. Then either allow the tank to fully dry or put some fresh water in the tank again along with a chemical specifically intended for storage.
Various moving parts will tend to dry and seize up over time through lack of use. Application of suitable lubricants on your stabilisers, coupling, handbrake mechanism and jockey wheel will help keep your van in good working order while in storage.
Seals in your gas lines could perish over time allowing a gas leak in your system somewhere. Ensuring gas bottles are turned off will safeguard against this.
Caravans and campers can withstand the elements. However, in the long term they last a lot longer if they are sheltered from the elements. The sun’s UV light deteriorates plastic, rubber and paint over time. This will make the camper look aged, cause parts to break prematurely and seals to fail. Being out in the weather also causes greater extremes in temperatures leading to greater expansion and contraction increasing the chance of parts failing sooner. Continuous exposure to rain and condensation will inevitably accelerate corrosion. Finally, if you do experience a leak, continuous exposure to rain will mean a lot more water will get in than if your camper is only in the weather occasionally.
The best option for covering your van or camper is to put it in a shed where it will be fully sheltered from the weather. A carport is the next best option providing overhead cover. It’s a big help if you can rig up some form of side protection on the carport such as shade cloth.
Failing a shed or carport, a caravan cover is a lot better than leaving your van or camper completely exposed. A good cover will be waterproof and also provide some form of ventilation to assist with condensation build up. It will also have multiple straps to enable it to be tied down snugly so that it does not flap in the wind. A flappy cover may cause damage to your van/camper surfaces due to small but persistent abrasion.
If your van or camper will be stored in the elements, consider the following. More regular checks and washing is a good idea to see if anything is starting to go wrong. Polishing after washing can provide a degree of UV protection. Closing curtains, blinds and hatches will help protect your interior from the sun’s harmful rays. Winding the jockey wheel up to create a slight slope on the roof will prevent water from pooling up there minimizing the chance of leaks. Storing under a tree may not be a great idea as it may expose your van to sap or bird droppings or even a branch breaking off and doing damage.
It is good practice to clean the exterior surfaces thoroughly to remove traces of salt or other contaminants such as bird droppings or tree sap that could contribute to corrosion, staining or paint damage. Don’t forget the roof or the underside of the van. The process of washing and removing dirt gives you a good chance to inspect for any corrosion or other abnormalities that you can address before storing the van.
Mice and rats pose a threat to your van because they fit into small spaces and can chew through materials such as plastic, wood and fabric in search of food or water. This can cause expensive damage to electrical, plumbing and furniture. Rodents can also foul your van or camper with their droppings. Remove all food from your van (cans, bottles and jars are OK) and thoroughly clean all surfaces so there are no remnants of food. This will also assist with ants.
Other ant remedies include creating a barrier or removing ‘bridges’ to allow entry. Many owners are fans of putting talcum powder, bicarb soda or ant sand anywhere parts of the caravan touch the ground such as stabilisers and jockey wheels.
Mould can pose a threat to many parts of your van where moisture is present, such as a fridge. The simple solution is to remove the contents, defrost the freezer and dry inside as fully as possible. Owners often keep the fridge and freezer doors ajar because any residual moisture will be enough to get that mould going. Washing machines are another appliance where moisture can lurk encouraging mould, so the same thinking applies about keeping the lid open unless you are sure it is fully dry.
Mould can also develop on various surfaces if you trap moist air in your van prior to closing it up for storage. This can happen if you pack up in a humid environment then put the van into storage with limited ventilation. The moisture in the air will condense onto surfaces throughout the van when there is a temperature drop. The solution is to ‘dry’ the air in the van. This may be as simple as opening the van up to air out in an environment with low humidity. In more humid environments, running a heater can help. Moisture can also be trapped in items such as linen or towels, so it is best to remove these.
Mould can also form on the outside of your van, particularly on the awning. Fully unwind the awning and make sure it is completely dry before putting the van into storage.
So, before you get too comfortable on the return of your holiday or adventure, make sure you take the time to pack your camper or caravan away properly so that it is protected and ready to go next time!
At Mars Campers we work hard to develop the best value for money camper trailers with a view of helping you create memorable experiences with your loved ones.
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