Caravanning in Bad Weather Tips
There’s a lot to be said for using your caravan off-season. Your favourite sites are usually cheaper and being in the great outdoors in the changing seasons can be a real joy. And taking your caravan on a skiing holiday can be a great way to enjoy the slopes at a more affordable cost.
However, inclement weather can bring new risks to your holiday, so make sure that you are ready for all the conditions you could encounter.
Rain, sleet, snow, black ice, strong winds and flash floods have all been experienced on UK roads in recent years, and severe weather warnings seem to be more common than ever.
You can still enjoy your caravan in most weathers as long as you are prepared. Here are some of the most dangerous conditions you could encounter and how to navigate them safely.
Caravanning in strong Winds
Strong winds can be very dangerous when towing a caravan, setting up on a pitch or even in storage.
In a recent survey by Club Care Insurance, approximately 4% of claims are attributed to high winds, ranging from minor damage to a write-off. Snaking is behind 10% of insurance claims, and this can become an even bigger problem in high winds.
Strong winds can make your caravan unstable, even if you’re towing at a steady speed on a level road, and a strong gust could cause your caravan to snake or overturn.
If you’re already pitched on site, make sure that your awning is securely fastened and tied down. If you have time, try to take down the fabric before the strong winds arrive and store it safely. Don’t try this if it’s already windy, however – you could injure yourself.
For peace of mind, Club Care’s caravan insurance covers awning damage.
Caravanning in rain and floods
Rain is so common in the UK, that we should all be experts at driving in it. However, it pays to remain vigilant. Remember that braking distances and cornering speeds are affected on damp or wet surfaces.
Aquaplaning: In severe rain, the roads can quickly flood, leading to new danger. The volume of water causes wheels to lose contact with the road, resulting in almost complete loss of traction.
- Try to avoid roads with visible standing water.
- If you have to drive through them, reduce your speed and acceleration, ensuring you brake and steer gently (accounting for the increased braking distances).
- Make sure your tyre treads are adequate and pressures are set to the manufacturers’ recommendations.
Hard rain can also have a massive impact on visibility. If you’re finding it hard to see the road and other vehicles, or can no longer clearly distinguish the edges of the caravan in your mirrors, you should try to find the nearest service or rest station and wait out the worst of it.
Towing in snow and ice
Towing in snowy conditions is not recommended but, if you’re caught up in an unexpected snowfall, it’s always best to stay calm and take it slowly.
Obviously, loss of traction is one of the biggest dangers. This is amplified when you’re towing, as you are pulling a much greater weight. So, to reduce the chances of anything going wrong:
- Lower your speed
- Increase your braking time
- Make all your movements slow, steady and deliberate to reduce the chances of anything going wrong.
- Plan ahead and try to stick to major roads, as these are more likely to be properly gritted and will have more traffic to melt the snow, which should improve the available grip on the road surface.
- Try and avoid steep hills and sharp bends as much as possible; these are usually the most treacherous areas.
- The extra traction offered by 4x4s will increase your chances of a safe drive, but won’t completely remove the risk. You should still take the same precautions as anyone else.
As well as traction loss, visibility to other drivers is another big issue in snowy conditions. White caravans (and they are virtually all white) are almost perfectly camouflaged by snow, with their outline difficult for other drivers to determine. Increase visibility if you can, perhaps by adding some fluorescent stickers to the corners of the caravan.
Taking one of the Club’s manoeuvring courses will help improve your towing skills and save you up to 10% on Club Care’s Caravan Insurance.
Taking to the slopes? Caravanning in ski season
From Aviemore to Zermatt, a caravanning ski holiday can be a smart way of taking to the slopes while avoiding eye-watering chalet or hotel bills. Here’s how to make sure you can enjoy the very best of the European ski season in your motorhome or caravan.
Be aware of local equipment rules
European countries are prepared for dealing with wintry conditions and they require drivers to be similarly equipped. Once you’ve chosen your destination, map out your route to determine the countries you’ll be driving through. Then check the RAC’s Driving Abroad in Winter guide for information on the equipment you will need to take.
A note when buying snow chains: make sure you are comfortable with how to fit them. So ‘try before you buy’ and have a couple of further ‘dry-runs’ at fitting them shortly before you set off as a reminder.
Preparing your caravan
Ahead of your ski holiday there's a number of checks you should make to safeguard against problems while away:
- Check carefully for frost damage, burst pipes, and interior mould.
- Tyres on a stationary vehicle can deteriorate quicker than on vehicles that are used regularly, so look out for any bald patches and signs of wall cracking.
- Make sure the running gear is in good working order.
- Consider replacing your battery: You will probably use extra heating and lighting on a winter motorhome trip, which can take its toll. So do check for signs of wear and tear.
- Your vehicle’s handbook will set out how often the antifreeze ought to be replaced, so ensure you are not behind on the service schedule to avoid any unnecessary problems during the trip.
- Remember to check your light bulbs at the beginning of each day on the road and take a set of spare bulbs with you for the journey.
- Stock up on screen wash and remember that windscreen cracks and scratches can magnify the sun’s glare — something that’s especially noticeable in winter when the sun is low in the sky. Get any windscreen repairs done before the trip.
Doing your research, making sure your caravan or motorhome is in good working order, and having the right insurance cover will help ensure your caravan ski holiday is one to remember.
• Winter care: how to make sure your caravan survives winter storage
• Safe for the road: stay safe when towing