Preparing your motorhome properly for the summer season can save you time, money and a load of hassle later on. Just imagine missing an epic road trip due to an oversight!
The thing is that a motorhome left in winter storage has sat stationary in the wet and cold. (They sulk you know!) Even if you have used your RV during winter, the cold weather will still have affected vulnerable points.
If you just get in and drive off into the warm spring sunshine, you could suffer breakdowns or equipment failures that a little work could have prevented.
So, on this page we’re going to look at what you can do to get your motorhome ready for the summer season – and get her sparkling like new.
- Your motorhome needs your attention before the summer season!
- Checking the inside of your motorhome
- A motorhome needs fresh air
- Checking the motorhome leisure battery
- Preventing pests in a motorhome
- When to clean a motorhome water tank
- What to clean a motorhome fresh water tank with
- What to clean a motorhome waste tank with
- Checking the motorhome gas system
- Inspect under the motorhome bonnet
- Cleaning the outside of your motorhome
Your motorhome needs your attention before the summer season!
Treat your van to a bit of TLC and all will be well; you can confidently head out for the summer season in a reliable motorhome.
But before you do, these are the checks you must make…
Have a good look around the vehicle before you do anything else. Look for rust and dents on the metalwork and cracks in fibreglass bodywork and on the bumpers. Check underneath – are there any unexplained pools of water or drops of oil?
Are the tyres inflated? Do any have cracks? Have they bulged from being stationary? Is there enough tread? Make sure the wheel nuts are tight.
TOP TIP: Tyres can suffer from a flat spot if the weight of the vehicle has been on one place all winter. If you have any concerns, then replace them.
Have the headlights got any condensation or water in them? Are the mirrors bright and reflecting well? Is the windscreen free of chips? And how are the wipers?
Look at the seals around windows and fittings. Are they supple or are there gaps? Note any obvious issues and get them fixed before water damages what the seal was supposed to be protecting!
If you have a ladder, look up on the roof. Does anything stand out as damaged or just “wrong”?
Checking the inside of your motorhome
Get inside the van and shut the door. Open the curtains and blinds but don’t open windows just yet.
Does the interior smell fresh or is something “off”? Identifying and locating the whiff is essential – if it is bacteria build up in a tank, you could become unwell. If it is vermin, you will need to evict them, clean and repair any damage they have caused. Consider that they will potentially have urinated all over your surfaces. Disinfect!
Is there a smell of damp? Seek that one out!
Even if your van smells clean, check around skylights and windows and look on the floor beneath. Is there evidence of water ingress? Feel for soft spots or clamminess. Look for misshapen bulges in the walls. Make sure that all your door seals are keeping water out.
If you had the pull-down blinds shut over winter, you’ll need to be gentle in raising them. It may take a while before the spring wants to work. Check the curtains for mould and damp.
Use a damp meter if you can, which will help identify potential water ingress.
A motorhome needs fresh air
Open the doors and windows now – let the fresh, springtime air blow through. Allow the curtains to flap in the breeze and remove any outside vent covers.
Get all the cupboard doors open, looking for damp or rodent/insect invasion as you go.
If you left soft furnishings, towels, bedding, etc. in the van over the winter, get them into the sunshine to air. Again, as you lift each item out, look for evidence of little critters. Everyone likes a dry, cosy place to sleep over winter and as the summer season approaches, they’ll be using your motorhome bedding as a nursery!
Bear in mind that many insurance companies do not cover mould and mildew damage – nor vermin infestation.
As you go through the interior, it is a good time to remove any items which are not needed for the summer season. Motorhomes weigh enough without three sets of saucepans and the broken awning!
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Use this time inside the van to ensure that you have all you will need for your summer travels: chocks, chemicals, EHU lead et al. Also put back anything you removed for the winter such as torches, spare batteries, packets of food etc.
Also check the use-by dates on your first aid kit and fire extinguisher. And how about replacing the batteries in the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector?
Checking the motorhome leisure battery
Turn on an internal light or two: do they work? If you’ve had your leisure battery connected to a solar panel over winter then it should be charged, but look anyway. If it has been left – and you don’t have a solar panel – then chances are, it has got very low. A completely discharged battery could be beyond help.
But getting it out and onto a trickle charger is a must, checking the acid levels as you go. This battery has to last your motorhome adventures right over the summer season!
If your battery is up to it, test the internal lighting and replace any spent bulbs.
Preventing pests in a motorhome
Give every surface and utensil a thorough clean, inside cupboards, fridge, wash-room etc. Assume that there has been some sort of pest onboard and clean accordingly. Every nook and cranny! You must be able to use your campervan safely and hygienically!
If you have had little visitors, prevent mice re-infesting the vehicle by finding any small holes which could give them access. You cannot block every hole as some are vital vents. However, stuff the ones you can with wire wool. Mice don’t chew through that but it will allow air exchange!
And ants really hate lavender and tea tree essential oils; we used tissues dotted with lavender oil to discourage ants when we were parked in storage on an ants’ nest last summer. It worked a treat!
When to clean a motorhome water tank
Water tanks simply must be properly cleaned after winter before you use them (and mid-season if you can) but certainly empty the fresh water tank and refill for each trip. Legionella and their bacteria allies love stagnant water and cling to pipes and sides of tanks, waiting to drip out and greet you with a bout of sickness.
Boiling the water usually renders it safe to drink but, for example, showering or rinsing fruit could invite infection so keep that motorhome tank clean throughout the warmer summer season months. Use motorhome appropriate sterilising products according to the manufacturer’s instructions. We like to give the fresh tank a good soak in Puriclean then drain it all via every tap into the waste tank to sit for a while.
Whilst the tank is being cleaned and subsequently drained, look underneath for dripping water. Do this again as you drain the waste tank.
Always ensure that you use a dedicated and regularly sterilised food-safe hose or watering can to fill your tank with. Little point in cleaning the tank only to fill it with contaminated water!
Our method is to use the onboard tank for filling the kettle, washing up and washing. However, we have a portable 6 litre cannister for drinking water. This gets a thorough clean each time we fill it. We fill that directly from the outlet, negating any worries about contaminants in between.
What to clean a motorhome fresh water tank with
Over the last couple of years we’ve had a problem with a leaking water heater tank. There were no worn seals or split pipes so it was a real mystery. Again and again we were faced with water seepage – the last thing anyone wants in a wooden-framed vehicle!
Our engineer took the whole heater out and looked inside and reported that he had never before seen damage like it before. Seems that a previous custodian had used Milton or bleach to clean the water system – brilliant products – but not on metal!
We cannot emphasise enough the need to only use products which are intended for use on motorhomes and caravans. Domestic pipework and drainage is vastly more robust than what you’ll get on an RV.
What to clean a motorhome waste tank with
We were aghast when a recent refit of the shower tray and basin in our VW Cree showed hair and debris from years ago! We rarely use the van for hair washing so this was not ours! And we had had her for almost five years!
Our waste drainage had never been great, but we had no idea that it was chronically obstructed. Having removed some gunk and hair a while ago, we assumed it had cleared. But….ewwww….no!
The trouble is, the heavy-duty domestic drain cleaners are not recommended for motorhome use.
Apologies for repetition, but always, always, always check the labelling. Mr Muscle, Milton, bleach et al all have their place but NOT in your motorhome. We are aware that many people use them but particularly bleach and Milton will eat stainless steel (as we found out).
Truma recommend neither. They may work wonderfully for a while but the damage will mount up. Damaged motorhome pipework and seals are difficult to get to and expensive to fix.
So, we are going to use suitable ones. Occasionally for the waste tank, the best cleaner is cheap full-sugar cola which is brilliant for an interim freshen up.
Give the toilet cassette a good soak with an appropriate cleaning chemical. Bleach will likely perish the seals.
Consider it this way – you probably paid a lot of money for this vehicle. Why risk having to shell out for repairs just for the sake of a few extra pounds on proper cleaning products?
As an aside, if you use ecologically sound washing products, you will not only benefit the environment and campsite facilities, but you will also find fewer blockages and scummy residue in your waste tank and pipes.
Checking the motorhome gas system
Before you test the gas, look at the pipework and connections. Can you see perishing or splits? Are the connectors tightly fastened? If all appears well, reconnect the gas and hang on a minute or so to sniff and listen. If you smell a leak, it is like rotten cabbage!
We notice a brief whiff when we have totally disconnected the bottle – it soon goes but it is from the pipework which obviously has gas in.
If you’re happy that nothing is amiss, light a cooker ring. Importantly, this is a flame you can easily see. Give the gas a few seconds to get to the appliance you are testing.
Does the gas light and stay lit? Do you have a steady blue flame? If you have totally disconnected the gas pipes over winter, there will be air bubbles in the pipework. The ring may light but could then fail. If, like our old motorhome, you do not have a fail safe on your hob, then gas will continue to spew out. Turn the ring off and disperse the gas. Then try again – it should remain lit this time.
If the gas still refuses to remain alight despite having some left in the bottle, or you have yellow flames, you should get a registered Gas Safe engineer to look at it. This is not a DIY job.
Have you enough gas in the bottle to last over your next planned trip? We have a spare camping stove onboard as we have yet to buy a measuring gadget.
Inspect under the motorhome bonnet
Now – the engine! Pop the bonnet and check the fluid levels – brake, coolant, oil, windscreen washer bottle. Look for nests or chewed pipes as you go. Are there any splits or drips?
Before you start the engine, turn the key and look at the dashboard. Are there any warning lights?
Turn the engine over – does she fire quickly? Is the engine note steady? Roll the van back or forwards to give those tyres a change of position. Hopefully you’re not looking at a plume of black smoke in the rear-view mirror!
Check all the driving lights and indicators. List any failed ones and replace the bulbs before driving. Whilst doing that, look again at the dashboard warning lights. Have any come on? Is there anything which SHOULD be lit up that is not?
Cleaning the outside of your motorhome
Give the outside of the motorhome a thorough clean, looking for rust, dents and scratches as you go. We use Dirt Busters Wash and Wax. Yes it’s a bit pricey but we’ve found nothing to match it when it comes to getting muck off our van.
Once washed outside, have another look round the inside of the van. Has any washing water seeped inside the windows or doors, including the cab doors? What about the skylights if you’ve cleaned the roof?
We are aware that the jury is out on using pressure washers on motorhomes. Ours has had a re-seal along the roof edges and we would not risk dislodging any of our seals with a forceful water jet. She is able to allow water ingress on her own, without our encouragement!
Lastly, before you hit the road for your first major trip of the year, book a service. It is better to discover any issues now than just before boarding the ferry! And if you can, get the MOT planned for spring too.
With freedom returning, we hope that you can get back on the road with no problems.
Enjoy preparing your van. Even enjoy the cleaning. And certainly enjoy your summer!
Once the longer nights and colder weather are on their way again, make sure to check our page on winterising your motorhome.
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