A caravan needs TLC, too
One of the burning questions among new, and even some old, caravanners is about how you’re supposed to store your caravan when the holiday’s over.
Your caravan requires more than just cold water and soap
Around the campfire and on internet forums, caravanners have all sorts of opinions on the right way to do it. Many say the only place you should consider is under a roof, between four walls and behind a closed door. Some even go so far as building a tiled caravan garage outside their homes. Others say under a shaded carport is just fine.
Then there are various opinions on the pop-up roof – one group of campers say it has to be open while you’re not using the caravan, while others are adamant that it should be closed.
Another point of debate is whether the caravan can be stored on its own wheels or if they should be removed. Louis Oosthuizen would like to know the “ultimate answer” on go Drive & Camp’s Facebook page. But Johannes Knipe from J.K. Caravans in Cape Town says there isn’t really a single answer or method. He says it depends on how often you use your caravan and for how long it’s stored at a time.
And you shouldn’t only consider how you store your caravan – how you maintain and look after it is equally important. Think of it as the three pillars of caravan care: Store, Seal and Service.
While it’s an advantage to have a garage for your caravan, it’s definitely not essential. An extra garage can be an expensive exercise and if you don’t have that kind of money to throw around, there are other options. A carport made of shade cloth that can block out 90% sunlight is sufficient, says Johannes, who’s been working in the caravan repair industry for over 30 years. “My own Exclusive stands under a shadecloth carport. I like it, because it gets some air while it’s being stored instead of standing there sweating, like they do under some caravan blankets. With all that sweating, a caravan can easily fall prey to wood rot. Don’t worry about the dust, it’ll look good as new after a wash.” If you’re only storing your caravan for a month or two before your next trip, it’s not necessary to remove the wheels or let it stand in the air with the wheels off the ground. “Everything depends on how long you plan to store it,” says Johannes. “There’s a difference between parking and storing. If the caravan will stand in one place for six months or longer, store it with blocks under the axle with the wheels removed, or in the air. And it’s best to lower the jockey wheel if you’re storing your caravan for an extended period, since it takes some weight off the front corner steadies.”
Pump it up “My caravan never gets stored for more than a month and a half at a time, and I’ve never kept it with the axle and wheels off the ground,” says Johannes. “But you have to make sure the tyre pressure is correct. Store it at the same tyre pressure you use on the road. I pump my caravan’s 14-inch tyres to 3.2 bar, but you can keep 13-inch tyres
at 2.8 bar.
“Tyres often burst because they weren’t inflated enough. People will tell you that a tyre that’s been inflated too much, wears quicker in the middle. But a tyres that wasn’t inflated enough and wears more quickly at the sides has a bigger chance of bursting because of friction. I’d rather wear them down in the middle than burst one.
“People often engage the handbrake when they store their caravan. That’s a mistake. Once the corner steadies are down, that caravan isn’t going anywhere. You can also add some blocks in front of and behind the wheels.
Engaging the handbrake just puts unnecessary strain on the cables, and any moisture between the brake pads and the drum is in effect trapped in there, which could cause rust. The brake pad can even rust onto the drum.”
The waterproofing and servicing of your caravan is vital to keeping it in good condition. Resealing a caravan is a job for the pro’s, however, says Johannes.
“Some guys will tell you they can waterproof it, but the job is done in a day. All they’re really doing is some decoration. It takes an experienced tradesman a week to waterproof a caravan – if there are no serious problems or things like wood rot.
“It’s really hard work! You have to remove and clean all the aluminium strips, rubber seals, windows and everything that can come loose. Then you have to replace the old stainless or mild steel screws with new ones. Screws can rust, causing the holes around them to rot, leading to wood rot.”
You can’t always see the small aluminium rust holes right through the outer panels of a caravan with the naked eye, but they can also cause wood rot. You can fix the rusty parts by fitting a plate at the back over of the holes. “We use Butylene-x for sealing and Tectane for touching up around the aluminium strips, windows and sides.” (Both these products are made by the Dutch sealant manufacturer Den Braven.)
It makes no sense keeping the battery on a charger while a caravan is parked or in storage. If you have a second car that stays at home while you go camping, it’s a good idea to use its battery in your caravan. Swop the batteries before you go camping and just swop them again when you return. DISCONNECT IT. If your caravan is going to be parked for a while, it’s best to give the battery a rest, too.
Depending on the size of your caravan and the amount of windows, it costs between R2 500 and R4 500 to waterproof it properly.