Travelling by RV over winter can be a wonderfully rewarding experience. Make sure you’re prepared for the colder months on the road.
With winter’s chill upon us, it’s important to check that your RV is geared up for the challenges the cooler weather can bring.
Before heading off, it’s a good idea to check all fluid levels, and top up if needed. You might also like to put a washer fluid additive in 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 winter this is even more important. For winter driving it’s best to stay above a 4mm limit. While you’re 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 keep your batteries 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, use a battery charger, as deep discharge shortens the battery life considerably.
In winter it’s 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 to have on board that could become life-savers.
Snow chains – if you’re planning to travel through snowy areas, without chains you might be denied access to certain roads (or you could end up stuck!).
An ice scraper is handy to clear 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 important for 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 in RV driving before heading out on the roads.
Black ice is a significant problem in New Zealand. Because it’s transparent, it can be hard to spot, although sometimes you can see the shiny surface. 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 for later in the day, once the sun has warmed things up a bit. If you do hit the 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. Be wary 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 too.
In fog, rain or dull light, keep your lights on low, so you are visible to others on the road.