Just 9 months ago we were lucky enough to buy our first ever caravan. We hitched up and headed off on the adventure of a lifetime, living in our caravan full-time whilst travelling around Australia. Like any home, there’s regular maintenance to be done on a caravan.
In this article, we thought we would share the regular, occasional and sporadic maintenance items and checks that we do to both protect our investment and keep us all safe.
We’ve taken our caravan to some pretty remote but amazing places already. Keeping it all in shape and operating correctly is very important for some happy campers.
A caravan moves around. Sometimes quite often, sometimes over some pretty bumpy and corrugated roads. Especially where we have been taking it! As a result, things come loose, maybe they get knocked or simply wear out. Knowing what to look for and what to service or maintain becomes very important.
Bringing the caravan home was an exciting day. It’s a big investment for anyone and you need to protect it.
We’ve broken up this article into three sections – regular, occasional and sporadic maintenance. Why so vague? Well, it really depends on what you do with your caravan, where you take it, how often and how long you live in or use it.
For us, full-time on the road, exploring our country in some very remote and off the main track places, there’s always lots to keep an eye on.
There’s plenty of challenging roads out there, not just for your car. The Outback Way, or Australia’s Longest Short Cut, kept us on our toes with plenty of caravan and car remains all around!
Things to keep an eye on, regularly:
These are your umbilical cord connections to the caravan, and it’s important to know they are in good condition and working each time you set off from home or camp. Test your lights, test your brakes, test the electronic stability control, video and any other technology or connections you may have in place. It’s boring, but it’s important!
Checking tyre conditions and pressures regularly is a must.
2. Air pressures, wheel nuts and tyre condition
The pressures of your tyres and their overall condition is very important with regards to safety. Tyres are made from rubber, designed to heat up and cool down to preserve them. If they have been sitting for some time, you really should be checking out the air pressure and overall condition. It’s also good to do this once a week or so if on the road, or more if you change pressures often or move through different weather extremes.
Also, check your wheel nuts! Lots of people lose their wheels to nuts coming off, check they are tight and secure! We’ve seen it twice this trip already with wheel nuts the likely cause.
We have 3 x 100AH Batteries and a 3000W Pure Sine Inverter powering most of our caravan. We need to ensure everything is working and in good health.
3. Energy sources
Your caravan will have a combination of gas, solar and batteries. You need to make sure that the gas connections to your gas bottles are intact and without leaks. Use a spray bottle with water and detergent as you would on the BBQ at home to check. For more details on how to check gas appliances for leaks, head here. Make sure your solar panels are clean and the wire connections in place.
For your batteries, check out their health with a multimeter to ensure charging is working, and if in doubt take it into a professional to test the overall health of your batteries. Make sure you give them a good, regular charge to maintain them too!
Although off-grid is our preference, plugging into power every now and then keeps our batteries in good condition.
Things to check or maintain, occasionally:
Your caravan will likely have one or more water tanks, a water pump to send the water around the caravan and likely a hot water service. It will have a network of pipes between water outlets and the pump, and then some more to your grey water waste point. Check for any leaks, clean the pump pre-filter of any debris and wash out your water tanks if you have filled up with any hard or poor water to stop the bad build up in the tanks. Kids are great to send underneath to get to those hard to reach spots!
Children are good at getting in and under the caravan to identify leaks, cracks or other early problems.
2. The undercarriage of the caravan
In addition to the plumbing, you could also check your wheel bearings to ensure they are packed and intact, check your suspension, as well as any other cables or connections that are situated under the van. Identifying problems early helps reduce bigger issues and costs in the future.
3. Appliances and smoke detector
Remember to defrost the fridge and check it is working to the correct temperatures. Check your smoke detector weekly, changing the battery annually, and ensure any other appliances in the van are secure and functioning correctly.
All of our appliances get a good workout. We also ensure we test everything and inspect the cables for damage. We lost the microwave out of this spot on the Nullabor!
4. Doors, latches, handles and locks & stabilisers
When a caravan moves, a lot of it shakes, bends or has pressure applied. Dirt and dust get in, and sometimes even rocks too. Check all of your doors, latches, handles, any locks and your stabilisers. Make sure function is correct and free, and clean and lubricate as required.
Those sporadic things you should check now and then:
1. Hot water anode and water filter
Your hot water system may have an anode in it, many do. It’s a sacrificial piece of metal that’s designed to corrode faster than your hot water service itself. Every 12 months this should be changed to help protect an expensive piece of equipment! The water filters play an important role too. We have a separate water filter outside of the van when we fill up or connect to water, as well as one on the kitchen sink for filtering drinking water. These filters fill up fast, especially when you travel remotely or to places with harder water, like in Western Australia.
Check out the difference in the water filters! What a difference 6 months in WA makes. Very hard water over there, and very distinct colour differences.
Weights might be an odd one, but the payload of your caravan is there for a reason. There’s also some rules and heavy fines in place for a serious safety subject. Things add up. One thing picked up here, another added, all can translate to real weights. Before we set off, we weighed our van, and now regularly check in to make sure we are within our legal limits and specifications.
We regularly get our car and caravan checked to ensure that our weights aren’t over. A lot of accidents and damage are caused by being overweight or off-balanced in terms of loads.
3. Rust, mould, ventilation & seals
Give your caravan a good, deep clean and wash. Look out for any rust or mould that might be showing early signs, and treat or remove it. Likewise, check your van’s ventilation to ensure any filters or vents are clear, and that the seals on windows, doors and other openings are clean.
You’ll be amazed at how and where dust gets into every nook and cranny. Just when you think you might have cleaned it all out, more appears!
By getting on top of your maintenance items with a regular plan, you can greatly increase the life of a caravan, as well as its value. It’s like any investment, look after it, and it will look after you. There are some amazing places to see out there, and what we have quickly learned is that caravans can do anything and go anywhere!
Nothing but us and the outback! Look after your caravan and it will look after you.
Did we miss a key maintenance item you like to keep on top of? Please share it in the comments below!
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