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Get Ready for Winter

Posted by Sharon Eason on 30 October 2012 | 0 Comments

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The clocks have gone back, nights are getting longer and colder, but still there are places to go and people to meet.  More and more of us now use the caravan literally all year through, with Christmas and New Year parties being top favourites - after all you just fall into the caravan and sleep, no need for a taxi home!!

There are a few things that need to be considered at this time of year to ensure that we all sleep safely in our beds and wake up ready for another bright caravanning day.  Let's start with the obvious.

If you are using your caravan more often, it stands to reason that it is going to need more servicing, after all cars are serviced on the miles they cover not their age.  Get your gas system checked at the very least, and do it now before it gets too cold.  Don't forget that you will need to be using Propane (red cylinder) for winter caravanning.  The caravan will take either, but if you are in any doubt at all, talk to your local service engineer who will be able to advise you.  Calor Gas offer advice on their website for the safe use of Propane in the caravan.

Cold nights mean you want to keep the heating running overnight - right?  So  Is your smoke alarm working? Do you have a Carbon Monoxide alarm?  Check both and ensure that you have new batteries available.  Don't be tempted to remove the batteries from either alarm at night.  The blinking red light may be a nuisance, but it could save your life, especially if you have to use the heater on gas.

Whatever you do - do not use the cooker, especially the rings, to heat the caravan, and don't even think about bringing in a BBQ.

Our caravan is fitted with a Gaslow changeover unit so that if the gas in one cylinder runs out overnight, the system will switch automatically to the full cylinder without having to go out into the wind and rain to swap gas cylinders.  Its worth its weight in gold - not just in the winter, it also makes sure the fridge works all night in the summer too.

If you are using electricity, just remember that the heater is a real voltage gobbler.  Once the caravan is warm, turn the heating down to the lowest setting (usually 500W).  Not only will this keep the van comfortable for a good night's sleep, but it will not trip the power supply, and you will not have to go and apologise in the freezing early hours and ask for the trip to be reset.  For really cold nights - especially if you arrive in the late afternoon - use the heater on gas first to get the caravan warm, then turn to electricity on a low setting.

This one seems so obvious that I hesitate to mention it. Whichever fuel you use, make sure that your bedclothes can't touch the heater whilst you sleep.  There have been instances of loose or over-large bedclothes draping over the heater and singeing.  Think - do you really need a king sized duvet in the caravan or would a normal double do just as well without the danger of fouling the heater? A higher tog-rated duvet or sleeping bag might mean you don't need the fire on overnight at all - and think how much that would save in the cost of gas!  Try some really sexy bedsocks and thicker nighties/pyjamas too.

Don't be tempted to drape wet clothes around the heater to dry - hang them in the shower.  Any water dripping off them will go straight down the drain, without damage to the interior of the caravan or creating a potential fire hazard.

After a snuggly night's sleep, its time for a wash - or is it?  Even a full Aquaroll can freeze in the winter, and the pipe from the container to the caravan is very vulnerable.  The solution is fairly simple - lagging!  Some of the manufacturers of bags also make a bag for winter use complete with a sleeve for the pump pipe.  Look out for both Sew'n'Sews and Bags for Everything at shows and events - they both offer this type of Aquaroll bag.  The alternative is a bit of improvisation.  Many is the Aquaroll I've seen on winter rallies sporting the owner's sweatshirt or fleece jacket!  Wrap it up and keep it warm is the simple philosophy.

Don't forget that the waste can, and often will, freeze too.  Probably the first you will know about it is that the shower or the kitchen sink refuses to empty.  It is most likely that only the removeable, external pipes are frozen.  Place a bowl or bucket under the outlet, remove the pipe and see what happens.  It is usually enough.  If nothing happens, your pipes within or under the caravan are frozen and this is could result in pipes splitting - keep an eye on them and call a mobile mechanic, or your dealer, if necessary, for specialist advice.

Fill the kettle before you go to bed at night.  At least you will have a hot drink and probably enough water for a 'lick and a promise' whilst things thaw out.  The 5 litre mineral water (or squash) bottles make a useful emergency water container for use inside the caravan.  Just remember to fill it before you go to bed, and keep it inside the caravan.

If you have an onboard water tank you are laughing - provided you have not by-passed it, of course.  All Bailey caravans with the Alu-Tech body have a wheeled water tank which sits inside, under the front bunk and can be used from this position, just remember to switch the valve to the correct position.

When it comes to time to leave take a few extra precautions, before hitching up.  Firstly, make sure your water system is drained.  Disconnect the Aquaroll, set the taps to the central position and turn them on, and leave them open. Finally drain the hot water tank.  In caravans from about 2000 onwards this is simply a matter of lifting a little yellow lever under a bunk near the tank itself.  On older caravans it involves removing a bung outside the tank.  It takes practice to remove the bung without getting your legs wet - just watch where you stand when you unscrew the bung.  This procedure will reduce the problem of airlocks in the system when next you come to use it. 

Check your electrical connections to the car, and remove any frost build-up before plugging into the car. Make sure the caravan brakes are not affected by the cold. Finally, if you have a BPW or Alko stabiliser/hitch all in one affair, give it a quick wipe inside to remove any frost or damp that could impair its operation.

Drive carefully and keep an eye out for any icy patches on the road.  Drive a little more slowly and give yourself plenty of space to brake gently.  You really don't want the unit to slip or snake.

Above all, enjoy the opportunities that winter caravanning has to offer, think safety and take care on the roads and on site.

 

 

 

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