A Guide To Servicing Your Caravan
Caravan servicing is essential for safe touring, for preventing expensive repair jobs and, ultimately, for extending your caravan’s lifespan. We would always recommend that you get your unit serviced regularly at a dealership or by a mobile engineer, but with caravanning off-limits for now, the cost of a full service might feel like an unnecessary and expensive hassle.
Certain parts of caravan servicing – especially anything to do with heating, gas and electricals – should always be left to the professionals, especially if you want to be completely road-ready. However, the good news is that with a little know-how, you can handle much of the rest yourself.
So, where do you start? To keep lockdown maintenance costs to a minimum, here are our tips on how to do your own home caravan servicing.
Can I service a caravan myself?
To know exactly what you can and can’t do at home, have a read of the caravan care section of your owner’s manual. This should set out maintenance procedures for all of the unit’s systems, fixtures and fittings, including what to do and how often. Also, if you’ve retro-fitted any additional features, read those manuals, too.
The manual should also stipulate those areas that you shouldn’t deal with yourself. Gas system and boiler checks, the mains electrical system, the braking system, and anything that involves the dismantling of electrical appliances are all the areas that should only ever be handled by professionals. If in doubt, leave it to the experts.
How to service a caravan yourself
Here are the areas where it is possible to keep your caravan in good working order without the need for professional input:
If it hasn’t been cleaned for a while or if the exterior is looking a little tired, then wash your unit using a non-abrasive caravan cleaning product. You should also visually inspect and run your hand over all parts of the external bodywork. If you find any areas of obvious discolouration, white powder deposits or pinprick holes, these are signs of corrosion – the longer you leave it, the more expensive it can be to fix, so the problem should be addressed by a professional with a specialist rust treatment.
Although, you might be tempted to sand and paint over minor dents and scratches yourself, just remember that even over a small area, an amateur caravan paint job can be obvious. The safer option is to book it in for professional attention.
Caravan tyres older than five years should be replaced. To check this, look at the DOT code on the tyre. The last four digits of this code tell you the week and year of manufacture: e.g. 2515 means the 25th week in the year 2015.
For tyres younger than this, you should also check for wear and damage as part of your home service. A tyre depth below 3mm, bulges or cracking are all signs you need a replacement.
Make sure all moving parts of your stabiliser are lightly lubricated, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Likewise, clean the friction pads by rubbing them with a 200-400 grain sandpaper and applying an aerosol brake cleaner. If they are extremely gunked up or appear worn, then get replacements from the manufacturer.
Check for bulbs that need replacing by connecting the caravan to your car and asking someone to help you see that each light is working. If you notice flickering when two lights are on at the same time, it’s probably an earthing problem with the plug – replacing the 12N plug should fix it.
A damp metre is an essential tool for caravan servicing and maintenance – a few good metre manufacturers include Brennenstuhl and Stanley. You should test the surfaces in all parts of the unit, including the galley, lounge and sleeping areas, and the ceiling. The result gives you a percentage of moisture within that area of material or surface.
Readings of 0-15% indicate that the surface is dry with no damp present. If it’s at 15-20%, there might be a problem in that area, so check again a week or so later. Readings above 25% suggest that there is some water ingress into the caravan and you need to take action (see below). If it’s above 30%, get it checked over by a professional.
Checking and fixing seals
If you have identified damp, it could be a sign that a weakened seal has provided an entry point for water. Check all seams carefully for signs of cracking, wearing or loosening. You can repair minor seal damage yourself with a caravan all-purpose adhesive such as Sikaflex 512.
When the caravan is unused for long periods, most manufacturers recommend the removal of the battery to a cool and dry place. Also, once you hit very cold conditions for long periods, this can increase wear and tear and you should remove the battery from an unheated garage.
Make sure you are following the manufacturer’s guidance on top-up charging when it’s unused for long periods. The easiest way to do this is with a charger that has a maintenance phase charging feature.
After your last outing before lockdown, you should have done a standard water system disconnect; i.e. draining the system, disconnecting the pipes and leaving the taps open to prevent cracking. For your home caravan servicing, you should connect everything again shortly before your next trip to check everything is in order.
Reconnect the pipes, refill the tank and run it through. Turn on each tap to ensure the water flows smoothly under the correct pressure. If you find any leaks, drain the system, replace any leaky pipes or cracked joints. Then, refill and check again.
Take out the old filter and replace with a new one (this should last you the season).
How much does it cost to service a caravan?
A full professional service at a workshop typically costs between £150 and £200 plus VAT. Always remember, although elements of servicing can be handled at home, the specialist aspects such as brake checks, heating, gas and electrics should always be handled under an approved workshop service. Failing to keep your caravan in a good state of repair could put you in breach of your insurance conditions and may invalidate your warranty.
Looking forward to getting back on the road again? From towing with an electric car through to our guide to insurance costs, head on over to our blog for lots more hints and tips on all aspects of caravan ownership.