When you’re planning an epic road trip in your motorhome, you don’t envisage yourself stuck on the side of the road having broken down. And understandably so – who’d want to picture that? However, it can become a very real possibility if you don’t do your pre-departure checks.
Having a trip de-railed by a faulty motorhome is enough to ruin an otherwise great holiday, especially if the cost of repair – including having it towed to a garage – is steep.
While you can’t foresee everything that might go wrong with your motorhome, there are certain checks that you can make which will minimise your chances of breaking down or having to make an emergency stop at a garage, when you should be having fun.
Before we get into our list of things to check before you set off, a timely reminder that you should ensure you have your motorhome insurance sorted with all the cover that you need for your trip.
Right, let’s go down to those checks. After all, you’re probably keen to get on your merry way. As you can imagine, there’s more to check on a motorhome than your average vehicle…
Check the wheels
Your motorhome’s wheels are a good place to start; after all, those tyres are your only connection to the road.
It’s crucial that they’re in a condition that’s suitable for all the terrains and weather conditions that you might experience while you’re out on the road.
Without wanting to point out the obvious, motorhome owners tend to do more miles than your average driver, so regular checks of your tyres, in particular, are essential.
On the upside, as the Classic Motorhome Owner website points out, motorhome tyres tend not to wear as much as a car tyre so you should be able to a fair few years out of them, as long as you look after them well.
Ultimately, however, all tyres become weak and reliable as they age. And a motorhome tyre is under a lot of pressure, carrying a lot of weight including some very precious cargo – you and your family. So it’s important that they’re road safe at all times.
Things to check:
- Tyre inflation pressure. Not sure what pressure you need? These can usually be found in the manufacturer’s documentation or on a sticker on the van or you can call the manufacturer directly. In the absence of this information, this calculator from TyreSafe can be used for guidance on tyre inflation pressures.
- Tyre tread. Motorhome tyres, like all tyres, are legally required to have a minimum 1.6mm tread depth cross the central three-quarters of the tyre and it must meet this measurement all the way around the circumference. If your vehicle is found to have tyres that fall below this mark, the punishment for this is £2,500 per tyre and three penalty points on your driving licence. A quick and easy way to see if your tyre tread exceeds the minimum legal tread depth is to take the 20p test outlined here.
- Signs of ageing. While your tyres might meet the legal limit and have the correct inflation pressures, they can still be deemed unsafe if they are damaged. Look for cracks in the tyre’s sidewall and any areas where the rubber is becoming perished. If you spot any signs of aging, it’s best to get the tyre changed as quickly as possible or risk a blowout – and no one wants that on a busy motorway!
- Wheel nuts. Take a look at the tightness of the wheel nuts. The last thing you want is a loose wheel, which could come off at any point. Use a torque wrench to do this rather than the wheel brace, as this will allow you to make the nut extra tight. You'll find the correct torque for your vehicle in your motorhome handbook.
Top-up/empty your fluids
Another thing that can grind a journey to a halt is a lack of fluids.
If you’re a car owner, you’ll already know the sort of fluids we’re talking about – but there are an extra few things to check on a motorhome…
- Windscreen wash. It might seem fairly unimportant to ensure your windscreen washer fluid if kept topped up, but it’s a big part of ensuring you’ve got the visibility you need to drive your motorhome safely. Of course, you can always make an emergency stop at a fuel station if you run out, but a windscreen can quickly get dirty, especially during the winter months.
- Oil. There is really no excuse for forgetting to check your oil and letting it run dry will cause severe damage to your engine. So, before any long trip – while filling up your washer fluid – check your dipstick. If the level is halfway between the minimum and maximum levels on the dipstick you don’t need to add any oil. If it’s below halfway, you may want to add some more. If it’s below minimum, you definitely need to top it up.
- Waste and water tanks. Waste and water tanks should be drained properly before any road trip; this will help to reduce unnecessary weight when travelling. If you need to carry any water, perhaps take it in a small plastic container inside your motorhome’s cab.
Strap everything down
In the eagerness to get on the road, it’s easy to forget to strap everything down in your motorhome’s living area.
The last thing you want to hear as you go around the first tight bend on your road trip is the sound of all your chinaware falling out of the cupboard and smashing into a hundred pieces.
It’s not a good way to start any break away. If somebody is sitting in the back of your motorhome, falling objects could seriously injure them, too.
Talking of people in the back… did you know that motorhomes registered on or after 20th October 2007 must have seat belts for forward and rearward-facing travel seats? These seats must be badged to indicate they are designated travel seats. Just like in a car, passengers sitting in the rear of the motorhome will be required to use these seats and seatbelts. Sideways seats can’t be used as travelling seats.
Here’s a checklist of the things to secure before you leave:
- Gas. Switch off your motorhome’s LPG gas cylinder and make sure it’s strapped securely in an upright position.
- Cupboard doors. If you secure your cupboard doors, it will go a long way to ensuring their contents remain safe and intact. Pay special attention to the items in the washroom – one common claim is something falling in the washroom and cracking the shower tray.
- Breakable items. While securing the cupboards will go some way to keeping things and passengers safe, you should also box up any breakable or loose items that could be damaged, or cause some damage, during travel.
- Fridge. Fasten the travel catch of the fridge. Even if you haven’t got much in there, nobody wants to arrive at their destination with a fridge-full of broken eggs…
- Exterior doors. Ensure that the exterior locks are both latched and locked.
If it’s not possible to strap absolutely everything down, cover any exposed worktops and hobs with a tea towel or similar covering to protect surfaces from falling objects and also prevent any unnecessary rattling.
You’ll be pleased to hear that you can get on your way very shortly, there are just a few final – but important – checks to make on your motorhome.
Although it’s important to note that this checklist is not exhaustive; it depends on what type of motorhome you have and what you’re taking with you.
For example, if you’re planning to tow a car behind your motorhome, to make it easier to get around at each stop-off, you’ll need to ensure that it’s correctly secured to the tow bar.
Did you know? The weight of a car you can tow using an A-frame is the same as your entitlement to tow a trailer, but includes the combined weight of the car and A-frame itself. In January 1997, the regulations for towing changed significantly for new drivers, becoming much more restrictive, with specific qualifications put in place for those wanting to drive heavier vehicles and tow heavier loads. Drivers who passed their test after 1997 can extend their entitlements to include BE, C1 and C1E by undertaking training and passing the relevant tests.
So, the final checks to make are:
- Lights. With your travel companion’s help – or a willing neighbour if you’re travelling solo – check that your motorhome’s lights are working as they are meant to, including headlights, indicators and brake lights.
- Mirrors. Check that your mirrors and rear vision camera, if you have one, are in the correct position to make manoeuvring that bit easier and safer. It only takes a couple of minutes to line up your mirrors, but it’s time well spent. It might save you from reversing into a solid object.
- Windows. Close all windows and skylights.
- Electrical hook up. Ensure that you’ve packed your electrical hook-up cable. If you plan on living out of your motorhome, it’s an item you can’t afford to forget. Before you leave a pitch, double check that you’ve unplugged from the hook-up – we’ve seen a motorhome drive off with its cable still attached before…
Go for a weigh-in
This doesn’t really fall nicely into a pre-departure checklist but is important all the same. In fact, it’s necessary to stay on the right side of the law.
Every motorhome has a legal maximum weight when it’s fully loaded with all your gear.
This is known as the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) or Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM – used by the DVLA).
You should be able to find it on a data plate on the door surround or somewhere in the engine compartment.
To make sure you don't exceed the MTPLM, you could take your van to a local weighbridge with a full tank of fuel and have it weighed accurately. The passenger's weight can be added to this figure separately.
Check the axles are not overloaded by driving the front wheels onto the weighbridge to weigh the front axles and vice versa. They must not exceed the Maximum Axle Weight.
Depending on the amount of weight you’re carrying at the start of your road trip, be careful not to add too much more weight over the course of your holiday with any purchases that you might make.
Even a week’s worth of food shopping can be enough to send your motorhome over the legal limit… seriously!
What does motorhome insurance cover?
Feeling like you’re finally ready to hit the road? By performing all your checks you’re less likely to experience incidents such as a tyre blow out – the cost of that particular occurrence can easily go into the thousands if it causes damage to the bodywork around the wheel or forces you to swerve and hit some road furniture.
It’s all about protecting your investment and the safety of you and your family.
While you’re in the business of protecting your motorhome, it’s a good time to check you’re getting 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.
- 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.
Speak to Motorhome Protect today to get a motorhome insurance policy that’s right for you.