Laying Up Your Campervan for Winter

Preparing your campervan for winter storage (laying up) ….

It is important to prepare your campervan for storage if you are laying up over the winter months.  This is especially true if you live in an area where you receive wether extremes, notably prolonged frost and/or snow, as damage can quickly happen to an unprepared vehicle.  This blog guide covers preparing the vehicle externally, internally and mechanically for storage.

This section deals with the outside environment and how to protect your campervan from its effects.

Ideally find a covered building in which to store your vehicle.  Many farmers offer barns in which you can park your vehicle for the winter period.  Also contact caravan clubs and campsites who often offer similar services.

Always give the outside of the campervan a thoroughly good clean with warm water and use a proprietary was/wax product. Use a power washer if you have one to clean any road salt and mud from the wheel arches and from around the brakes and any crevices.

Most importantly, make sure that the vehicle is dry before you put it into any covered storage.

  • DON’Tbuy a big tarpaulin and cover your vehicle with it.  This will actually stop the air circulating around, and cause mould to develop inside the vehicle.  If you want to use a tarpaulin to cover your van, then build a frame that stands away from the vehicle, and cover the frame with the tarpaulin.
  • Ideally find a covered building in which to store your vehicle.  Many farmers offer barns in which you can park your vehicle for the winter period.

First instinct is to close all windows to keep the campervan warm and dry. Thus will encourage damp. Always leave a window or two cracked open to encourage air circulation and prevent the air becoming stale and your furnishings becoming damp.

If you have an installed auxiliary heater fitted (Eberspacher, webasto,Mito), use it!

Once every week or so fire it up for 15 minutes. Thus will keep warmth in the internal fabric and fittings of the van which will help keep damp away. Just remember that over time this will run your leisure battery down and use your fuel tanks diesel. See the guidance on auxiliary heaters in the mechanical & electrical section of this blog guide.

Before you lay up your campervan, make sure the diesel tank is at least two thirds full (especially if you have an auxiliary diesel heater)

Make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressures as a bare minimum. Ideally over inflate them slightly – this will prevent the tyres sidewalls from ‘settling’ if the campervan is not moved for an extended period from the one contact patch. If you can move it forward or backward a small amount this will help.

When the sidewalls develop a ‘set’ they will vibrate when you start to use the van again. They should reshape after a few heat cycles but if your tyres are older they lose their elasticity and may not correct themselves. You may need to rebalance all of the wheels if this is the case.

If the camper is being laid up for 6 months or more, I recommend putting the vehicle on axle stands (i.e. taking weight of the wheels and tyres)

Dont leave the handbrake on if the campervan is on level ground, particularly if you have laid up the vehicle when wet. The pads will seize onto the disc after a time and it may be problematic when you come to move the van later on.

Leave the van in gear and chock the wheels.

This section deals with the internal living space and the fixed equipment and services inside your campervan.

The outside of your VW campervan is designed by Volkswagen to withstand the elements. The converted interior however is bespoke  and will need special attention.

Ensure all perishables and non-stabilised liquids are removed and the interior thoroughly cleaned, particularly from food crumbs.

Remove all bedding and soft furnishings.

Turn off the fridge.

Empty the contents, wipe the internal surfaces with a disinfectant wipe.

Leave the fridge door propped open.

Ensure lpg gas lines are purged – see gas advice under the mechanical/electrical section below.

Thoroughly clean any cooking residual like grease with a proprietary cleaner.

As part of the water tank cleaning and sterilisation process, flush the tap with the sterilising solution from the water tank. You can use this method to drain the water tank after sterilisation and flushing with clean cold water to ensure the tank and water lines/tap are drained completely.

This process will also flush and cleanse the drain/waste lines to prevent grey water waste smells. Fitting the sink plug will also ensure that any odours will not enter the living area.

Leave the tap in the open position having turned off the power supply to the pump to prevent any residual water from freezing during storage and possibly damaging the tap valve.

This section deals with the mechanical and electrical systems of your campervan.

Special provision for mechanical and electrical services and equipment is necessary if putting your campervan into storage.

Drain the water from ALL water storage tanks, AND pipes.  This is vital as any water will become stale and if it freezes it will expand and split the tank/and or pipes.

Ideally store removable tanks indoors and clean them with a proprietary sterilising agent and be sure to blow all the pipes empty.

If the water storage tank is permanent, clean with a proprietary sterilising agent and flush through the pumped sink tap and out through the waste. Thus will ensure all parts of the water system are cleaned. Ensure all pipework is drained i.e. run the pump until the tank is empty. Do not let the pump run dry for any length of time.

Disconnect and remove any lpg cylinders having first purged the gas lines. To do this, with the gas bottle connected and the regulator valve open, light the hob burners. Then close the regulator valve. The burners will extinguish to indicate that the gas line is depressurised and empty of gas. Turn off the burner control valve. Then disocnnect the regulator and remove the gas bottle (s).

Consideration should be given to both the leisure battery and the main vehicle battery.

There are a number of main/leisure battery configuration scenarios :-

If you have a main battery connected to the leisure battery by a split charge relay. A permanently connected mains hook-up (MHU) will allow the on board battery charger to maintain both batteries. This will enable the vehicle to be started monthly and an auxiliary heater to operate from the leisure battery.

If you have no MHU but have access to a 240v domestic supply you can connect a battery optimiser or trickle charger to keep the batteries topped up. an optimiser will keep the batteries in a healthier state than a simple trickle charger.

If there is no MHU or convenient mains electricity supply for a trickle charger/battery optimiser and you have a solar panel exposed to sunlight. This will act as a trickle charger and, depending on the features of your solar controller, will also optimise your batteries.

Once stored do not regularly start the engine of your vehicle.  This  can actually deposit moisture in the exhaust system and in the crankcase, which can form acids and sludge. However, if your vehicle struggles to start after long periods of idle, start the engine once per month.  Ensure it runs for 30 minutes on a fast idle.  Rev the engine for 1 minute once warm.

Change the oil just before storage and ideally pour a fuel-storage stabiliser additive into the tank.