If you can get the time off, and you’re happy to brave the cold, winter is one of the best times of the year for a motorhome trip. The car parks are quiet, camping is usually very cheap and some parts of the UK and Europe are at their most spectacular in the heart of winter: the raging surf off the coast of North Cornwall, the foggy Yorkshire Moors and the snow-capped Nevis range are excellent examples!
However, winter driving can be treacherous, and the one thing that motorhome drivers can’t bank on is consistent weather at any time in the UK. Even if the forecast is bright and the sun is shining, you can never be sure you won’t encounter a bad patch of weather. So, if you’re travelling around the UK this winter, here are our top tips for avoiding the worst of the weather…
Sadly, the UK has been plagued with floods over the last few years, and while we’ve seen the worst damage on riverside residential areas and farm land there have been numerous campsites that have been affected too. The UK’s met office issues flood warnings on a regular basis, and areas like Norfolk, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire are frequently affected. Check before you travel, and if your campsite is in an affected area the only advice we can give is don’t go.
Ice and Snowfall
The temperatures have just started dipping below freezing, and throughout February it’s quite common to find ice and snow on the road. If you’re well equipped with snow tyres driving on snow and ice is possible, but still dangerous. If you don’t need to travel urgently it’s much safer to wait a few hours, but if you do travel make sure you knock your speed right down: your tyres become much more grippy at low speeds.
There are a lot of different theories about the effects of thunder and lightning in the UK, and it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe. However, you should generally be safe in your motorhome: your tyres act as an insulator and even if you’re on a hook-up there is a quick way for the lightning to ‘earth’ and lose charge. If a storm brews up you’re safest in your motorhome, but ideally in a sheltered area away from trees which may fall. A concrete car-park is your best bet!
One of the most severe dangers for motorhome drivers, and the cause of many a motorhome insurance claim, is high wind. The top-heavy design of most motorhomes means they are prone to tumbling over easily in gales. You need to adapt your driving technique, slow down and beware of lorries and tractors which can cause drag. The best advice in a real gale-force storm is just to stop: usually the weather will pass.
Why is it that motorhomes just seem to break down more in the winter? Whether it’s the cold, the dark or just bad luck, a winter breakdown is usually much more serious than a summer one, but your approach shouldn’t change. Don’t remain in your vehicle if it’s on the roadside, and it’s good practice to have a few extra blankets, a spare mobile and a hot thermos flask just in case.
Damp, Mould and Freeze-Thawing
If you’re camping in cold temperatures there’s an extra danger of damp or mould setting in your motorhome, and thawed ice can also present structural problems. Even though motorhomes are designed for the cold, make sure you keep your motorhome warm but also aired. It’s best to avoid drying clothes on the inside of your cabin if you can, and if you get a chance to open the windows then do so: it’s the easiest and cheapest way to ensure your cabin keeps fresh. Equally, don’t overfill your water-tank, use plenty of antifreeze in the mechanics and run the engine every so often, even if you’re camped for the week.
Fortunately, most motorhomes these days are designed to withstand the barrage of cold and wet weather we’re now used to experiencing here in the UK, but don’t presume that winter driving isn’t different. Take precautions as necessary, and never risk your safety in ice, lightning or at the side of the road.