Winterising your RV
Author: Malcolm Street Date Posted: 1 June 2018
It’s that time of year when many a motorhomer if they haven’t already done so considers winterising their motorhome. Unlike places like Canada, the northern parts of the USA and Europe which have to go to the extremes of draining all water tanks and shutting off water lines it’s a bit easier in Australia. Indeed I reckon it takes three slightly different forms.
Heading north for winter
The first is for those who head north for the winter. That essentially means getting a thorough maintenance check, including engine and tyres, stocking up on essentials, making sure that the pre-paid phone account is loaded up and since many are going to be away from the grandkids for a while, making sure that all the niggling lap top issues, including the Skype account have been sorted….. After that it’s a matter of reading up on the map book (or the digital equivalent) before joining the grey wave.
Storing for winter
The second is for those who park up their motorhome during winter time and don’t travel much at all. That mostly involves given your motorhome something of a clear out and at least removing all perishable foods and sealing up anything that might be attractive to rodents of all types, who seem to be able to find their way in no matter what. It’s also a good opportunity to give items like the fridge and microwave oven something of a clean. In addition to that, if planning an extended layup, then it’s not a bad idea to do an inspection of both the interior and exterior, making a list of any little maintenance jobs that might require attention at some point.
That particularly includes the not always easy too spot water leak issues. Also for an extended period, it’s good to pay attention to the battery, first by switching off anything that might drain it and secondly if possible by arranging some method of charging the battery from time to time. Of course if solar panels are fitted that is fairly easy. There’s a bit of debate about this but I favour topping up the diesel tanks rather than leaving empty, to avoid any moisture issues.
Heading to colder places
How about those contemplating a bit of winter travel in the southern areas of Australia. Well my first piece of advice here is do it! The second is that where frosty conditions are anticipated, then a few simple preparations are essential. From a mechanical point of view, the essentials remain the same but the one exception to this is batteries, both starter and house. Cold conditions can affect battery condition, so make sure yours are in tip top order.
From a personal point of view, a heater is clearly an item to be considered. Reverse cycle air conditioners will work down to certain temperatures. However, once outside temperatures get into lower single digits, then they cease to do anything other than blow cold air. Space heaters, both diesel and LP gas fired have been something of a growth industry in recent years and I can testify from personal experience in New Zealand alpine country that they work very well. I did read somewhere on a forum recently that gas fired heaters are not to be used inside any RV. That is not strictly correct. Certainly open flame heaters of any sort should not be used but the space heater variety where all noxious gases are exhausted externally are perfectly legal.
There is a something of a debate over whether diesel or LPG heaters are better but I don’t reckon there’s not much difference. Indeed it usually comes down to the readily available fuel supply. For instance in a Diesel engine motorhome, the fuel for the heater can be tapped straight off the main tank. However, in a caravan where a diesel tank would have to be added, LPG might be the better choice. Both Webasto and Eberspacher make diesel fired heaters, whilst manufacturers like Truma and Alde have combo water and space heater LPG units. It’s depends very much on an RV’s layout but a retro heater installation can sometimes be done without too much difficulty.
Anyone who has looked closely at European built RVs might have seen that where seat cushions and mattresses butt up against exterior walls, there is often a thin sheet of ply timber mounted slightly off the wall. It is used to create an air buffer between the wall and cushion and maybe has holes drilled in the seat base as well. All that is designed to reduce condensation by creating a small air flow behind the cushion and reduce the risk of damp conditions. Now I understand that whilst it’s not always going to be totally practical, it might be a little project for the handy person who travels regularly in cold conditions.
Unlike New Zealand, unless planning on travelling in alpine areas, snow chains are not really necessary, neither is diesel that has wax additives. Just a footnote here on travelling in New Zealand. As an old hand at travelling in winter time there, it’s not a bad time to visit. However, if renting a motorhome make sure it has snow chains, particularly in the South Island, they may be needed occasionally in some areas.
Apart from the normal maintenance type matters and ditching the summer clothing in favour of something more appropriate for cooler weather, there really isn’t much more that has to be done for winter Recreational Vehicle travel in Australia, except to enjoy it!