Using Your Motorhome In Cold Weather

Using Your Motorhome In Cold Weather

Posted on September 2, 2013 by

Autumn leaves covered in frost

Considering the amount of money that you spent on your motorhome (and all the extra you have, no doubt, spent on gadgets, gizmos and creature comforts) it comes as no surprise that many motorhome owners like to use theirs all year round. Motorhomes are not just for summer holidays; they are perfect for impromptu getaways, winter weekends wherever you fancy and, if you are really lucky, winter sun in Europe and beyond. As nice as it would be, we are assuming that most people can’t manage an extended overseas holiday every winter and are instead opting to holiday here in the UK. Here’s how to have a fantastic break in your motorhome despite the less than ideal British weather conditions.

Our top tips for winter motorhome holidays

  • Check before you leave home to make sure your pipes have not already got frozen water sitting in them. If they do, start to thaw them immediately. Bring a large water bottle with a tap in case you come across a frozen water supply on your travels!
  • Make sure you have suitable winter tyres on your motorhome before you go. The Michelin website has a handy guide for picking the right set. They won’t come cheap but they will make a massive difference to both your comfort and safety. Don’t forget they will last longer too, as you will only need to use them in certain months.
  • Closing up the ventilation grilles in the cab can stop most of the chilly draughts from circulating. Remember never to close the low level, fixed vent grilles as these have been designed to protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Where possible, park on a slight incline to prevent water from sitting and freezing in the pipes.
  • Never travel in winter without plenty of antifreeze and salt to thaw frozen pipes as and when you need to. If it gets cold enough, chances are you’ll need to do this no matter how careful you are!
  • Don’t forget the electric heaters…
  • If your motorhome has an external waste tank, try leaving the drain open with a bucket underneath it while you’re parked up. It may not be the most pleasant idea, but it is definitely better than dealing with frozen waste.
  • Leaving internal locker doors open at night will allow the heat to circulate more effectively.
  • Fit external and internal covers or silver screens onto your windscreen and side windows. This will keep a significant amount of the heat inside, rather than letting it escape through the glass.
  • Consider fitting a curtain around the cab area, choosing one that is a little too long on purpose to keep the heat in the living area. It’s also well worth fitting a curtain to the external door, which is another particularly draughty area.
  • Close the blinds as soon as the sun starts setting – you may be surprised by how quickly the temperature drops.
  • If you don’t have a carpet in your motorhome, remember to pack a few rugs for extra warmth.
  • Always make sure you have snow shovels, something for your wheels to grip when driving out of deeper snow (carpet remnants can be useful) and plenty of practice using all of your winter equipment. One particularly important top tip is learning how to use your snow equipment at home while it’s warm and dry – you don’t want to be out in the snow longer than you need to be!
  • Use hard standings to reduce the likelihood of having to dig your motorhome out of snowy or muddy ground.
  • Consider installing an on-board water tank if you are concerned about the temperature dropping low enough to freeze your outside container. Alternatively, a number of products are available to make your outside tank compatible with the winter weather, such as winter conversion kits and gentle pipe heaters. Research the best option well before you are due to travel so everything is in place in plenty of time.
  • It is advisable to add anti-freeze to your waste water system (NEVER to your drinking water).  Most plumbing suppliers and builders merchants will have a variety of options available. Remember never to use salt in toilets or similar systems, as it can be corrosive.
  • Make sure that your heating system is in good repair and safe to use. If you normally use a heater which is not suitable for all-night or unsupervised operation, it is advisable to consider installing a replacement. Standalone heaters and radiators will also be worth their weight in gold – never underestimate how miserable a freezing cold motorcaravan can be! If you use a water-based heater, remember to drain it fully after your holiday; we’re sure you don’t want to start next season with damaged pipes.
  • While most new motorhomes are insulated far better than older models were, you may still find that you need extra protection from the elements. If your windows aren’t double-glazed, you can buy plastic sheeting from any DIY store, which can be used to create an extra layer. This sheeting, which is designed for use in houses, can be attached to the inside of your windows with Velcro for a temporary fix, or in a proper frame as a permanent solution. Rubber strips can be fitted to block any droughts.
  • If it snows during your holiday, remember to regularly clear the snow from the mains cable and any other external fittings.  You should also clear the snow from around air vents and flues, remember NEVER to block any against the elements. It may be tempting, but it is also incredibly dangerous.
  • When you arrive at the site, try to position your motorhome so that vents, ducts and similar fixtures are protected from the prevailing winds and, therefore, much of the snow and rain.
  • Small containers of moisture-absorbing crystals can be great for clearing any condensation which may form due to the differing temperatures on the inside and outside of your van.
  • Pack as many high-quality duvets and sleeping bags as you can – we can guarantee you won’t regret it!
  • Make sure your battery is well-charged and able for the harsher conditions. It is a good idea to keep a spare on-board too.
  • While parked up, leave your motorhome in gear, with the handbrake off wherever it is safe to do so. This will help to stop the rear drums from freezing.
  • Fish tank heaters can be very useful for your fresh and waste tanks when it gets very cold.
  • Check all door and window seals before you travel and replace as required.
  • Always use propane rather than butane, due its much lower freezing temperature and never travel without extra gas.
  • Make sure your fridge is properly sealed, both inside and outside your motorhome, using the correct winter covers for the external vents. Never cover these vents completely.
  • Consider investing in some thermal blinds and levelling blocks to make your winter pitch more comfortable.
  • If you can, go somewhere warmer for your winter holiday! As far south as you possibly can…
  • If you intend to be away for a lengthy period of time, remember to check if your home insurance covers it. You may need to purchase unoccupied house insurance and it is definitely better to be safe rather than sorry!
  • Last, but by no means least, make sure that your motorhome insurance is up to date and will fully cover you for the season. Call the team on 01480 402460 for a no obligation quote.

Do you have any additional tips for going away in your motorhome in the autumn and winter? If so we’d love to hear them so please leave us a comment below.

Comments

Peter 17th October 2017

No tips but I would like some info on what you can put in your toilet with the blue odour liquid to help stop freezing, Thanks

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D.Willis 3rd November 2017

A good list. One mostly overlooked item is the spare wheel .
1. Check to see if it is still there – many are stolen.
If it is, is it accessible in inclement weather, You might need a torch, groundsheet, an old coat and gloves to crawl underneath to access the spare wheel carrier.
2. Get the vehicle jack out and make sure all equipment is there to loosen the road wheel nuts or bolts
3. Check where the jacking points are. Is all equipment present and working to raise the vehicle.

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D.Willis 2nd December 2017

I’ve since promised my motorhome dealership that, personally, I would call out breakdown cover: changing a wheel on a 3.5kg van can be dangerous eg the supplied jacks are for the “base” vehicle. …. But you still need to ensure that the spare wheel carrier mechanism is not seized ( from lack of use!).

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