Taking on a motorhome restoration project can be like opening up a can of worms. At the outset, all might seem well – or at least manageable – but once you dig a bit deeper, it can quickly feel like you’re in over your head.
We’re here to help ensure you don’t become yet another wide-eyed motorhome enthusiast with a half-finished restoration project sat on the drive forever (before taking it to the scrapheap).
Or perhaps you’ve already reached that point and you need to be inspired to get your tools out again?
Whatever position you find yourself in with your motorhome project, we’ve got some tips to help you get it back on the road. Our practical advice has been tailored towards beginners, but even if you’ve already got your hands dirty a bit, these tips won’t be completely useless to you.
Taking out motorhome insurance with Motorhome Protect, you’ll be better protected out on the road while driving your restored pride and joy.
Size up the challenge
The first thing you need to do, before you put down any money on a motorhome, is assess the extent of the renovation work that will be required, against your DIY capabilities.
For example, will you be able to do all the repairs or will you need to defer to a professional for certain issues, like removing rust? If you think you’re going to need to call on some help a fair bit, there are clearly cost implications with doing this.
Go away and run some calculations on how much you’ll need to spend on the vehicle to bring it up to the desired standard – including parts and labour – then add the asking price to this figure.
Once you have a ballpark spend figure, compare this with what the motorhome would be worth in restored condition.
This will give you a good idea of whether it’s worth your while – monetarily speaking – having the work done.
If you’re looking to renovate a motorhome you already own with a view to selling it, the same calculations apply.
If you’re motorhome is going to cost £4,000 to overhaul, but will only be worth £3,500 in restored condition, it might be worth just calling it a day for your motorhome.
We understand that it’s easy to get attached to a vehicle that you’ve owned for years and created many happy memories in.
But it might make more financial sense to buy new rather than going down the renovation route. A tough decision, but a sensible one.
Sometimes it can be difficult to judge what jobs you’re capable of carrying out yourself and which ones you’ll need to ‘outsource’.
Certain tasks are so specialist – like paint spraying – you should never even attempt them. However, to keep your costs down, you should attempt to do as much as you can with your own fair hands.
A good way to assess your capabilities is to watch some YouTube tutorials. There’s no harm in giving something a go if you feel confident having watched someone else tackle the job in similar circumstances.
You might surprise yourself – and the sense of pride it can give you to say you’ve done most of the work without any help (bar the odd video) is priceless.
So, roll those sleeves up and give it a go. Don’t forget that motorhomes are largely restored by people like you!
Invest in some decent tools
They say that a good craftsman never blames his tools, but if you’re trying to complete a restoration project with a handless screwdriver, you’re not going to get very far.
So, go out and buy yourself a good quality tool kit. If you buy cheap, it’s something of a false economy – they’ll be getting a good workout and the last thing you need is for them to break on you.
Depending on the scale of your project, you might have to get some electric tools. A good-quality angle grinder should be one of the first things on your list.
A good power drill and maybe even a decent capacity MIG welder would also be welcome.
Celebrate the small victories
Be under no illusions, unless you can spend all day, every day of the week working on restoring your motorhome, it’s not going to be a quick fix.
You’ve got to take on a long-term mentality and accept that you’re going to have to keep plugging away, putting in the hard graft over a prolonged period.
To help embed that long-term mindset, you should celebrate the small victories, i.e. whenever you complete a task, be proud of your handwork. You could always start a photo diary to track your progress.
Reminding yourself of all the work you’ve carried out to date is a good way of keeping the motivation up when the restoration project starts to drag.
Don’t be shy about sharing your pictures on social media, if you want to. You never know who will take an interest in your project – there might be a bit of advice forthcoming if you are connected with fellow motorhome enthusiasts. Any practical tips are always welcomed.
Keep up the momentum
Long-term projects can start to take their toll. As soon as momentum is lost, it can be hard to regain it again so try to do little jobs often.
Whenever you get a spare hour or two, go and get your hands dirty and make a bit of progress.
We understand that life can sometimes get in the way of working on your motorhome – but getting your tools out can act as a nice break from the everyday stresses of life, don’t forget.
Inevitably, you’ll have to dismantle your motorhome in order to restore it. As you go about taking it apart, ensure you label all the different components.
Better still, take photographs of each component as you go, so that you can see how everything goes together.
Failing to keep track of the jigsaw that is your motorhome can see you waste a lot of time – not ideal with momentum in mind.
Freezer bags make excellent storage solutions for fiddly small parts like bolts and screws, and can easily be labelled with a sticky note telling you exactly what’s inside and where it’s come from.
Use your nose
A damp meter is the best instrument for assessing the interior condition, but a decent device will set you back a few hundred pounds at least, eating into your budget. The next-best thing to work out where you might have a problem with damp is your nose.
Anything that smells musty or damp (or “wet dog”) should raise suspicions of a water ingress problem.
Even relatively new vehicles can suffer from damp issues, so don’t take it for granted that your motorhome is damp-free because you’ve not noticed any physical signs before.
Coachbuilt and A-class motorhomes, in particular, are prone to water ingress issues. Other signs of moisture are bulging wall panels and discoloured wall boards near seams.
Be aware that you could have a tough time trying to fix bad water ingress on a coachbuilt panel – sometimes you might have to resort to replacing the entire exterior panel, which is not a job that should be tackled by amateur restorers.
But the bad news is that a professional repair could return a four-figure bill.
On the upside, interior trim, carpeting and soft furnishings are all fairly DIY friendly. But if your budget does stretch to a professional job, it could be worth your while getting some of the soft furnishings done by an expert.
Meanwhile, interior items that readily break due to overuse such as door handles, locker hinges, washroom and kitchen taps, are easy to get your hands on and are quick and simple to change.
Practice safety first
When it comes to dealing with the electrical and gas elements of your motorhome, it’s crucial that you put your safety above everything else.
In terms of your motorhome’s electrics, that might mean leaving it to the professionals. That’s because motorhomes have both a 12V DC circuit and a 240V AC electrical circuit. In short, this makes things a bit more complicated.
As per most advice, if you’re not familiar with 240V electrics, you shouldn’t attempt to make any alterations. However, if you have fitted the odd extra socket in your house and know the basics, you shouldn’t have too many problems with your motorhome’s 240V circuit.
Safety note: before commencing any electrical work, ensure the mains hook-up is disconnected and the battery leads are removed.
It’s important to be safety conscious when dealing with your motorhome’s gas supply, too. In fact, the general advice is that any work that needs doing involving gas plumbing or fitting an appliance are best left to an NCC-approved plumber with up to date gas certificate.
All gas services must be checked annually as part of habitation servicing and any flame that burns with anything other than an even blue hue, needs investigating. Flickering flames on the hob, orange or yellow flames or smoking all requires immediate investigation.
Take no risks with your smoke and buy a new smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors – replace as a matter of course. They should be mounted as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Ask for a second opinion
All the hard work is done, but now it’s time to get a second opinion and make sure your new wheels are ready for the road. Take your motorhome for a fresh MOT. More than anything else, having a second pair of eyes check-over your handiwork will provide you with some peace of mind.
In certain cases, particularly if you’ve made significant alterations for the original specification – for example, you’ve converted a van into a motorhome – you will need to supply your insurer with an engineer’s report.
Ask the MOT centre about whether they can supply one – it’s essentially just a more detailed safety check, backed up by a written report. There will obviously be a charge incurred for this.
Pack your toolkit
Finally, as you begin to take your motorhome back out on the open road following restoration, you should ensure you have your toolkit packed somewhere in the back – just in case you think anything needs a tightening mid-journey.
There’s inevitably going to be the odd rattle here and there - it might be nothing, but it’s best to be prepared. So, make sure you turn down the radio and listen out for any strange noises which indicate that something might have come loose.
Congratulations, you’ve done it!
Why not take your newly restored motorhome out and about around the country and show off your handiwork?
There are plenty of motorhome events happening up and down the UK, full of home restorers willing to impart their advice and experience.
Sharing tips and tricks is all part and parcel of being part of this wonderful motorhome community.
What does motorhome insurance cover?
Once you’ve completed the restoration work and are looking to get your motorhome back on the ground, you should take the time to seek out the best motorhome insurance available.
Motorhome insurance can come with many different benefits to help you enjoy your travels to the fullest. These can include:
- Unlimited cover across all the countries that are part of the European Union.
- Cover for camping personal effects for up to £3,000.
- Up to six months to complete a self-restoration.
- Cover for motorhomes with a value up to £150,000.
- Unlimited mileage cover.
- Introductory NCB allowed.
- Discounts for club members.
- Consideration of all claims and convictions.
Note that these features and benefits are subject to eligibility and underwriting criteria. Get in touch with us to see which features apply to your motorhome.