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Latest News Guide to motorhome and campervan maintenance

Guide to motorhome and campervan maintenance

Motorhome and campervan maintenance

As a campervan or motorhome owner you’ll want to make sure you get the most out of your vehicle; having a regular maintenance plan in place will provide you with the foundation for stress-free ownership. To help steer you in the right direction we’ve compiled this easy-to-use guide, covering everything from general maintenance tips to what you should consider as you set off on a trip, as well as when you get there.

Before you buy a vehicle

If you haven’t already purchased your vehicle there are some things you can do to make sure you’re getting the best value for money and are aware of any issues which may cause you problems in the long term.

Additionally, before making your purchase check that you have the right kind of driving licence as in some cases you might find that you need to make an upgrade before you can drive your vehicle.

Get an HPI check done

HPI stands for ‘Hire Purchase Investigation’ and acts as a basic check of a vehicle’s history. If you’re looking to buy a used vehicle you’ll often see ‘fully HPI checked’ or ‘HPI clear’ in the description.

An HPI check will cover the following factors –

  • That the vehicle doesn’t have outstanding finance on it
  • That it hasn’t been written off from an insurance claim or been badly damaged
  • That it has the correct mileage displayed
  • That it hasn’t been reported stolen

If a vehicle isn’t listed as “HPI clear” and you buy it, in the worst-case scenario the vehicle could be reclaimed from you and you may lose any money you’ve paid out. We recommend that you only buy a used vehicle which is confirmed as HPI clear. It’s relatively inexpensive to request a HPI check yourself, they usually cost around £20 and could save you a lot of money in the long-run.

Vehicle inspections

It’s also recommended to get an inspection done on a vehicle you are considering purchasing. As with the HPI check it’s all about making sure you aren’t setting yourself up with problems from the start.

Several companies offer this service including RAC and AA and most will offer a range of service levels that go into differing amounts of detail, but the main thing they’ll do is make sure that the campervan or motorhome you’re looking to buy is mechanically and structurally sound before you part with any cash.

As a result, you’ll be able to identify any hidden problems you may not be aware of which could lead to costly repairs and ensure that the vehicle you’re looking at is roadworthy, safe to drive, and worth the price you’re paying for it.

Vehicle maintenance tips

There are several things to think about when you’re considering the annual upkeep of your campervan or motorhome.

The essentials

The MOT

As with any other vehicle, it’s a legal requirement to have a valid MOT certificate. If you’ve purchased a brand new vehicle you’ll need to get an MOT done when it turns three years old.

If you’re not familiar with the process or would like more information you can find it on the Government website.

Servicing your vehicle

Something most people will be familiar with, but not everyone gets done, is a motor vehicle service. We’d recommend this for any vehicle you own, not just your campervan or motorhome, as it’s a great way of keeping on top of your maintenance and fixing little problems before they become costly.

Service intervals are specified by the vehicle manufacturer with many modern vehicles displaying reminders on the dashboard, but an annual service is generally sufficient if you do average mileage, although interim services, which are less thorough, may be suitable for low mileage vehicles.

Road tax

Not a maintenance issue, but certainly something to bear in mind when you’re considering your annual expenses, is ensuring that your road tax is up-to-date. Rates for motorhomes can vary so it’s worth checking how much you’ll need to pay if you aren’t already aware.

Insurance

It goes without saying that having valid insurance for your vehicle is a legal requirement. Knowing that you have reliable and comprehensive cover can significantly reduce stress if you need to make a claim and needless to say, at Alan Boswell Group we offer a range of options for your pride and joy. Contact our expert advisers on 01603 649744 to find a policy tailored to your needs.

Breakdown cover

Regardless of the age of your vehicle it could have a breakdown. This is particularly important if you regularly travel long distances, as the more mileage you do, the more wear you’ll see. The cost of recovering vehicles from a motorway can be around £150 just to be towed, let alone being taken to a garage for repairs and the cost of the repairs themselves.

In addition to the financial considerations, without breakdown cover you could find yourself stranded without help on the side of the road, so knowing you have cover will help give you peace of mind that assistance is there if you need it. At Alan Boswell Group we offer our customers cover from RAC, one of the UK’s leading providers of motor breakdown cover.

20 top tips for vehicle maintenance

Keeping on top of your maintenance will save you money, time, and effort in the long run.

    1. Read the manufacturers manual that comes with your vehicle – this may sound obvious but it will contain a wealth of information and so many people don’t get around to doing it until they have a problem.
    2. Book an annual habitation check – many motorhome dealerships and larger garages offer this service which is essentially the equivalent of an MOT, but for the living (habitation) areas of your motorhome rather than the mechanics. It’s a series of in-depth checks which test the gas, electrical, and water systems in your vehicle to make sure they’re working as they should and are safe to use.
    3. Maintaining your tyres – do this in the same way as you would for your car so check the treads and pressure when the tyres are cold.
    4. Maintaining the chassis and engine – the first place to check for advice on this topic is your owner’s manual, which will provide details on how to do things like changing the air filter and oil, all of which may need doing between services.
    5. Maintaining your vehicles brakes – although these will be checked as part of your MOT and service they can fail at any time, so carry out some additional maintenance including checking the brake pads are within the legal minimums required and the brake fluid reservoir is filled to the correct level. If in doubt, we would always recommend using a qualified mechanic.
    6. Battery maintenance – if you store your motorhome for the winter, you should take the battery(ies) out and store it correctly in a place where there’s no possibility of it freezing. The battery should be checked before any trip though, and you should aim to keep it fully charged if possible as there’s nothing worse than a dead battery if you’re on the road. For more information on this subject check out our full guide to leisure batteries for campervans and motorhomes. Battery issues are often found to be one of the most likely causes of a breakdown, so it’s well worth keeping on top of your battery maintenance.
    7. Generator maintenance (if you have one fitted)guide – this is another important job and you should check your manufacturer’s instructions for advice on how often your generator should be serviced. Also, if you don’t use your motorhome for several months make sure you run your generator on a regular basis to keep it ticking over and reduce the need for repairs.
    8. Motorhome tanks – you’ll generally find you have three types of holding tank which require different attention.
    • Freshwater tank – this only requires a flush twice a year, preferably when you bring it out of storage and once during the middle of the summer to flush out bacteria which thrives in damp conditions.
    • Black tank – only use approved chemicals for cleaning your black tank as these are most effective at breaking down solids. Once it’s empty, use the flush system if you have one, as this will keep the sensors clean and ensure that they read accurately.
    • Grey water tank – this requires very little maintenance but it’s not uncommon for them to smell. If you notice this then an odour blocker should sort the problem.

There are several things you can do to keep your wastewater system in good working order such as using biodegradable paper, emptying the holding tank regularly to prevent backup, using the correct sewer connections, and regular flushing to prevent any build-up that can lead to clogging, a system failure, or seized valves.

    1. Maintaining the roof – not something you’ll look at often but essential for keeping the weather at bay. Areas to pay particular attention to are the seams and seals and we’d recommend checking these every three to four months as your vehicle can develop leaks in the seams, including units for the air conditioning, skylights, vents, and the edges of the roof. Water damage can be very costly to fix, so seal any leaks as soon as you spot them with a quality sealant that’s compatible with your motorhome’s roof material. While you’re checking the seals it’s also worth giving your roof a clean to remove any surface grime as this will help prevent corrosion. Rubber roofs will also need treating annually to protect them from sun damage.
    2. Water heater maintenance – occasionally check this for any build-up of debris in the chamber or burner tube. If there is any, remove it using compressed air. Also, check that the heater’s anode rods don’t need replacing and rinse out any sediment.
    3. Maintaining slide outs – the seals are the most important part of the slide outs so make sure they don’t stick when you retract the slide and clean out any debris. Also make sure they’re lubricated along with the window seals as this keeps the rubber pliable and ensures a good seal, as well as allowing the windows to move freely. Slide out toppers and awnings are prone to developing mildew and mould, which can cause damage if not dealt with and isn’t good for your health.
    4. Check your appliances – check that everything is in good working order and if you haven’t used an appliance recently check that it still works when you’re preparing for a trip.
    5. Gas safety certificates – if you’re hiring out your vehicle it’s a legal requirement to have a Gas Safety Certificate for all your appliances. Even if you’re only planning to use the vehicle yourself, we’d still recommend getting one.

Getting checks carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer on a regular basis, usually annually, will cover things such as the gas pressure, any signs of leaks or wear and tear, as well as ensuring there are no carbon monoxide leaks. You should always ask them if they can provide you with a certificate for the work they’ve done, which is known as a Gas Safety Record, although most engineers will provide this as standard.

    1. Check the lighting – check your interior and exterior lighting regularly and refer to your owner’s manual for details about how your lighting works. Always make sure you’ve got a selection of spare bulbs in case you need them.
    2. Check the windscreen – make sure your windscreen is free from cracks and chips. If you spot any, repair them as soon as possible to save yourself the cost of having to replace the whole windscreen if they deteriorate. Make sure your windscreen wipers are clean and in working order as well and ensure that you top up your washer fluid regularly.
    3. Maintaining your vehicle’s electrical connection – if you use your motorhome to tow another vehicle, you need to ensure the electrical connection is working properly for the safety of yourself and others. This will ensure the vehicle you’re towing is transmitting the right signals, such as when you brake or use your indicator.
    4. Check for damp – damp is avoidable, but you may encounter it and catching it early will help stop it from getting worse.
    5. Look out for warning lights – your vehicle will have a range of warning lights so keep an eye out for them and refer to your owner’s manual if you notice any.
    6. Close your blinds – keep non-recoil window blinds closed for storage to protect the interior from fading and to shield it from prying eyes.
    7. Gas bottle storage – ensure gas bottle valves are firmly shut if the bottles are not removed when your vehicle is in storage.

Before you set off on a trip

You’ve taken good care of your vehicle throughout the year, so the next step is to hit the road and go on an adventure. Before you head off though there are a few things to consider to ensure your journey is trouble free –

Tyres

  • Visually check for cuts, bulges, or evidence of perishing which could lead to punctures.
  • Check the tyre pressures are correct.
  • Ensure that tread depth is at least 1.6mm. This is the minimum requirement for the UK, but if you are planning on traveling abroad check the requirements for the relevant country.
  • Check your wheel nut torque.
  • Check that your motorhome has a pump and tyre sealant and that it is within the use-by date.

Spare wheel and toolkit

  • Ensure you have a spare wheel, repair kit, and any necessary tools.
  • Your toolkit should include tools to help you fix basic issues, such as loose fittings and minor electrical problems.

Engine

  • If your vehicle has been stationary for some time, start the engine and let it run for a while. Listen for signs of any knocking noises, screeches or noises which are outside the norm.
  • Before starting the engine, make sure to check the dipstick for the current oil level and top up as required.
  • If the oil consumption is higher than normal there may be an underlying problem. If you’re unsure, take the vehicle to a garage for a professional check-up.

Liquids

  • The expansion tank shouldn’t need to be refilled often so if you feel you’re regularly topping it up there may be an underlying issue. In this case you’re best to get it checked by an expert.
  • Check the antifreeze concentration as this will help you to spot signs of leaks.
  • Also top up your screen wash if needed.

Electrics

  • Isolate your mains electrics and disconnect and stow any cables.
  • Check the heaters, lights, and wipers. Any issues may be a sign of a blown fuse.
  • Be on the lookout for loose wires and carry spare fuses in your toolkit.

Battery

  • Check your engine battery and the leisure battery. These may be low if your vehicle has been off the road for a while.
  • If your motorhome is not in regular use, a decent battery trickle charger is a good investment to guarantee safe and regular charging and prevent plate damage and deterioration arising from under/overcharging.

Flush the water

  • If you haven’t used your motorhome for a couple of months, replace the water in your tank. Give it a flush out and clean/sterilise the tank so you have fresh, clean water.

Emergency kit

  • Confirm your emergency equipment is present. Don’t forget your mobile phone charger, spare keys, and relevant documentation including details of your insurance provider and breakdown cover (if applicable).

Gas cylinder

  • Make sure your taps are closed at the cylinder and check everything is secure.

Windows

  • Check that they are closed and locked and raise your blinds.

Fridge

  • Set it to 12v mode and check that the travel catch is in place.

TV aerial and/or satellite dish

  • Make sure this is lowered before you set off.

Awning

  • Clean and lubricate the awning as necessary to save time when you reach your destination.

Safety

  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguisher, and fire blanket.
  • Ensure internal items are secure.
  • Ensure your step is stowed.
  • Ensure cab seats are locked and facing forwards.
  • Check any external lockers are secure.

Security

  • If storing your vehicle check what security measures are in place and consider using a CaSSOA site
  • Fit a tracker to your vehicle
  • Consider additional devices, such as clutch claws, steering locks, wheel clamps, catalytic converter theft prevention devices, and CCTV

What to consider when you’re setting up

After you arrive at your destination having a plan in place for setting up will save time and effort in the long run, leaving you free to relax and enjoy the rest of your holiday.

  • When you arrive, ask if there’s a motorhome service point. If so, you can fill up with water before you reach your pitch.
  • Once on your pitch, use ramps under the wheels to level your vehicle, if necessary.
  • Consider chocking the wheels, especially with vehicles that require the handbrake to be taken off so the driver’s seat can be turned to make a bed.
  • Wind down the corner steadies if you have them.
  • Connect the mains power cable to the motorhome and on to the hook-up point and check that the residual current device (RCD) is working correctly.
  • Turn on the fridge.
  • Position the waste-water collector.
  • Add toilet fluids.
  • Turn on the gas and check that your appliances work.
  • Turn on the water heater when you’re sure it’s full of water.

For further information you can consult our motorhome and campervan advice and guidance hub, or you can often find a wealth of information in online forums.

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