Here’s a question I asked myself when I converted my first campervan:
Should I carry out the maintenance myself??
I did build the van myself, so why stop there?
In short, the simple answer is yes!
There are many things that can and will go wrong with your camper from a leaky tap to complete engine failure.
So it is really in your best interest to keep on top of maintaining and servicing the parts which are subjected to wear and tear.
It is common for a Campervan sit idle for the most part of the year, be that indoors in dry storage or outside in the elements.
So it is good practice to have a checklist to run through before you even attempt to turn the key for the first time, especially after it has been sitting for a few months.
Here are my 14 essential checks to be carried out before any journey.
1- Do a visual inspection:
Take a walk around your van and keep your eyes open.
Check for any obvious faults.
Tailgate lights that aren’t working or have cracked covers.
Headlights with water ingress form a long winter hiatus.
Check for weather damage that may have occurred over the winter period.
2- How to Check your campervan tires for wear:
Blowouts are a common cause of accidents, so it is essential to stop this before it even begins!
check for signs of bulging, cracking, low tread depth,
or any object stuck in the tire before setting out.
Check the tire sidewalls too for signs of UV degradation and hairline cracks.
3- Check the wiper blades are in good working order.
When the heavens open and you are on the road, it would help to be able to see where you are going when the wipers are turned on!
So make sure the wiper blades have a good clean edge and that the blade rubbers are not cracked.
Take a cloth and spray some wd40 on it,
Then use the cloth to wipe down the blades.
This should clean the blades a help the life of the wiper blades.
4- Check oil and water levels.
The severe cold weather over the winter months could be the cause of burst pipes which will leak out all the engine coolant and could cause a catastrophic failure of your motor.
Reach into the engine bay and squeeze the pipes from the radiator.
You should notice the any leaks immediately.
If you have a leak, then replace that pipe before you leave on your trip!
5- Start your engine and let it come up to running temperature.
Keep an eye on oil pressure and temperature gauges.
After 5 minutes of idling, your engine should be up to normal running temperature.
All the gauges should be in the normal range.
If you have a problem, you must get it checked immediately.
It is possible that a thermostat can seize after a long period left idle.
That can cause the engine to overheat.
6- Check all batteries leisure and main for signs of corrosion.
If your motorhome isn’t being used for a while, consider charging the battery every six weeks to keep the battery high in it’s cycle.
Check for loose connections at the battery poles.
If they are corroded, clean off the corrosion with sandpaper and reconnect the
7- Check all electrical appliances are in good working order
Make sure your appliances are working before you hit the road.
It’s a pain in the ass, to find out your oven doesn’t work when you want to cook dinner on the first night of the holidays!
Prevention is better than cure!
Switch on all appliances and check to see there is power, and gas etc.
8- How to check that your Gas system is working in your camper.
First have a good look around the tank and pipes to see if all is well.
Check the pipes for cracks or fraying and replace if need be.
A spray bottle with a soapy water solution can be used to check all gas connections.
just turn on the gas and spray around the connections and look out for bubbling.
Check LPG appliances for any insects that may have accessed the system over the winter.
Insects can cause problems by blocking up ports and pipes.
9- How to check your camper van Water system.
First make sure the system is clean.
Flush out the water system thoroughly before use to get rid of any winter build up of sludge dust or insects.
Give any internal tanks a thorough clean with a cleaner / sterilizer.
A bread soda and water solution is a good option to flush out campervan water systems as it is non toxic.
10-. Check for signs of damp in your campervan body.
Watermarks, mold or a strange musty smell can all be indicators of damp.
You will usually find mold build up in places of low air ventilation.
- So check under tables,
- behind the curtains,
- in the toilet room,
- and in the boot.
These are all places of very little air flow, so they are a perfect place to start looking for mold.
Use a good anti-bacterial spray and wipe down the surfaces completely.
Open all doors, windows and skylights, and give your motorhome a good airing out.
If you have a small dehumidifier you should leave it running for a few days in the van to dry out that winter damp.
I learned this the hard way after leaving the camper idle for its first winter.
The damp set in, and mold built up in the nooks and corners.
I now use a small RV dehumidifier like this one from Amazon to keep a check on the damp.
Also a dehumidifier will prevent you catching any coughs or colds from the damp environment.
After these steps are complete, you are ready to rock and roll in comfort!
11- Check for leaks in your campervan seals and roof.
Check window and door seals for damage after the winter.
Sometimes the frost can burst and damage rubber seals.
Consider soaking the vehicle with water from a garden hose and ask someone to sit inside to tell you if they spot any leaking around the openings.
If you find a leaking seal, you should be able to repair it with a sealer like UPOL Tiger Seal Adhesive.
This stuff will cure most rubber seal cracks and rips.
I had to fix cracked seals in the past and they are still going strong, its definitely worth having a tube on hand.
Check the roof of you motorhome for leaks if it’s a coach built vehicle.
Sometimes a falling branch can puncture the rubber top layer.
Also, excessive heat can crack some types of coach built motorhome roof’s.
12- Spring clean
Give your motorhome a thorough clean inside and out to remove any residual dirt and grime that, over time, can cause damage and deterioration.
13- Check that you have the essentials.
Ensure that all cords, hoses, etc, are disconnected and put away ready for use.
also check that you have your adapters for the power cords which you will need eventually!
14- Make sure your Paperwork is up to date.
Check that you have a valid MOT, your driving licence is current and that your insurance is up to date.
This may sound silly but it in the hassle and bustle of holiday preparations it is often these simple but essential things which go unchecked.
It is too late when you have been pulled over by the police or worse if you are involved in an accident
Pack an Emergency DIY tool kit for your motorhome.
Even if you consider yourself hopeless when it comes to DIY or basic mechanics you should carry a tool-kit.
If you found yourself stuck on the side of the road due to some relatively minor problem,
i.e. flat a tire or a loose bicycle rack,
if you can not fix it there is a high probability some kind passerby could if they had the tools to hand.
So a tool-kit is a must have!
How much should you spend on a motoring tool-kit?
I am not suggesting you go and spend $1,000 on an advanced tool-kit far from it.
A fairly basic socket and spanner set some screwdrivers and pliers.
Here’s a simple but effective motorhome tool kit by VonHaus from Ebay, it’s got pretty much all you could need for a good starter tool setup.
Also, it’s a good idea to pack a Breakdown Kit which would include a set of jump leads.
Here’s a very well packed roadside safety kit to get you out of a hole when you get that inevitable flat tire or more serious snafu!
I always carry the essential tools just in case you have one of those dreaded moments on the highway where the van just coasts to a halt.
I experienced it once and hopefully never again!
As for general maintenance on your Campervan / Motorhome, if you are capable of carrying these out yourself, in my opinion, you should do it.
Servicing fluids, filters and breaks are all relatively easy and in performing these tasks you will get to know how things work, this will be an advantage to you if find yourself stuck on the side of the road.
So the moral of this story is………….
Be prepared, carry a Breakdown Kit and Tool Kit.
Even if you don’t know how to fix your problem some Knight in shining armour might if you have the tools!