With winter’s chill upon us, it’s important to ensure your motorhome is well prepared for the challenges the cooler weather can bring. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your winter travels and ensure your motorhome is winter-safe.
Before heading off, it’s a good idea to check all fluid levels and top-up if needed. You might also like to add a washer fluid additive to your windscreen wash to prevent it from freezing. You can test your coolant mix with a glycol meter (or ask a trusted workshop to do this for you). The glycol/water concentration should be about 50/50 but check your vehicle manual to be sure.
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your tyre tread, but over the winter this is even more important. For winter driving it is best to stay above a 4mm limit. While you are at it, ensure your tyres are suitable for winter conditions (indicated by the snowflake or the M&S (mud and snow) writing on the side wall.
The efficiency of batteries reduces in colder temperatures so it’s extra important to ensure your batteries are in good shape. Check their condition and fluid levels and make sure they are charged. If you’re not using your RV for a number of months, make sure to use a battery charger as deep discharge shortens the battery life considerably.
In the winter it is best to keep all tanks empty unless you are using your vehicle. Water freezing in tanks and boilers can become very expensive as it can cause severe damage - frozen water will expand and break pipes, tanks or boilers. Give all tanks a proper flush through, especially the waste tank and toilet cassette so they are nice and fresh when you want to use your motorhome again.
Good heating is a must in winter. But if you haven’t had to crank up the heat for a few months, it’s worth checking that everything is working as it should before you head off.
There are a few things that can become life savers over the winter period that you should have on board with you.
If you’re planning to travel through snowy areas, it’s wise to keep snow chains on board as you might be denied access to certain roads without them (or end up stuck!).
An ice scraper is handy to clear those frozen windows in the morning.
Lock de-icer in case your locks freeze shut and you can’t get your key in to lock or unlock your doors (it happens surprisingly often).
Additional food supplies, a tow rope and a spare can of petrol/diesel are also great to add to the winter kit.
If you’re not an experienced motorhome driver, winter isn’t a good time to start. Icy roads, fog, and rain demand experience and skill, so it’s wise to be well-versed with RV driving before heading out onto the roads over winter.
Black ice is a significant problem in New Zealand over winter. Because it is transparent, it can be hard to spot, although sometimes the ice’s shiny surface can be seen. It forms at night or in the early morning when temperatures are lowest, especially on parts of the road where there isn’t a lot of sunshine such as in tunnels and shady areas, and on bridges. Try to avoid black ice by planning your travels later in the day, once the sun has warmed things up a bit. If you do hit black ice, take your foot off the accelerator, avoid hitting the brakes, and try to keep the steering wheel straight. Avoid steering in the opposite direction as this can cause you to skid or spin.
Be aware that the road conditions can change in an instant. Take extra care when braking and accelerating and keep plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front.
Where possible, pull over safely to let queues of traffic pass. Beware though of soggy grass verges; wait until a safe layby or slow lane is available before moving over and allowing traffic past.
Make sure your windscreen is clean and free from greasy smears that might suddenly impair your vision in sunstrike. Keep a good pair of sunglasses on hand also.
In fog, rain, or dull light, keep your lights on low, so you are visible to others on the road.