Planning a motorhome trip? Want to make sure you don't forget anything? Follow our motorhome departure checklist for all the pre-trip checks you need to make to a motorhome, campervan or RV to be sure you set off on the right… foot.
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Motorhome Departure Checklist- why you need one!
Once upon a time, I left my passport facedown on a printer… and then started a motorhome trip. We got about 5 hours down the road before discovering my mistake.
You can imagine my husband's absolute joy (!) and the happy atmosphere in the camper when we had to turn around to get it… and then drive back again. Yep, 10+ hours wasted. Not my finest moment. *doh*
Having a motorhome departure checklist would have helped with this enormously. Which is why we then created one. Don't forget to grab your copy below.
Motorhome trip- what checks to do
There are two types of checks you need to do on your motorhome or campervan before leaving for a trip:
- the pre-trip checks to make sure your vehicle is safe and road-worthy and you have everything you need (a yearly motorhome habitation check is also a good idea)
- the departure checks which need to happen on the day of departure, to make sure everything is away, no lockers are going to fly open as you drive and you haven't left a vent open to catch on a low-hanging tree.
Motorhome Trip- Pre Trip Checks
Preparing your vehicle for your trip is important- whether you’re going for a night down the road or a motorhome tour of Europe. If you’ve ever spent time broken down on the side of the road, you’ll appreciate how a little time now can save you a lot of time later. (Sadly, I’m not guaranteeing you will NEVER break down, but doing these checks can certainly help!)
It doesn't matter whether you're a complete motorhome beginner or had one for years- if it's been stood for a while, it's important to work through these checks before you go. Don't do it on the morning of departure- allow at least a day or two, just in case you find something which needs fixing.
- Is your vehicle road legal? Do you have a valid MOT?
- Is your motorhome insurance in date and are you covered for where you’re going (especially if going to Europe)
- Is your driving licence/ passport in date?
- If you’ve SORN’d your vehicle over winter or a period of disuse, remember to un-SORN it.
- Check your breakdown cover is current if you have it- and keep the details to hand in the cab.
- If travelling overseas with a pet, make sure you have the appropriate paperwork.
Remember to take all the essential paperwork with you, along with your passports if going overseas.
It doesn’t make any difference whether you start with the inside or the outside, or in what order you do these, so work through them however you see fit.
- Oil levels
- brake fluid levels
- screen wash
- Ad Blue levels if needed
- check visual condition of engine bay- any obviously loose or damaged hoses?
- remove debris and leaves from drainage holes
- Turn ignition on- are there any warning lights?
- Check all vehicle indicators, reverse and brake lights are working, inc tow bar if towing
Tyre & Wheel Checks:
- Pressure (consult your manual. Could be anywhere between 40-80 psi)
- Condition (any sign of bulging, cracks or flat spots?)
- Brake pads, discs and wear. If in doubt, get them checked and changed by a professional.
- Make sure your tyres have ‘CP', which means they're suitable for campers. ‘Normal' car tyres aren't strong enough.
- Check the levels of the gas bottle(s). Refill if you have a refillable gas system, replace if you have exchangeable
- Turn on the system (you might need to prime it (using surge button) and/ or press the anti-crash button if it’s reset)
- Listen and smell for any sign of leaks- come back in a few minutes to recheck. Remember LPG sinks, so get low to the ground
- Check hoses for any obvious signs of damage or loosening
- If you have a spare wheel, get it out and inspect its visual condition.
- If stored in a cage under the van, lubricate the cage so it doesn’t seize.
- If you have a tyre repair kit, check it’s in date and good condition.
Garage/ Outside lockers:
- If you have a garage/ outside lockers, visually inspect them for signs or damp or leaks.
- This is also a good time to have a clear out and remove anything you THOUGHT you’d use, but haven’t.
Other Outdoor jobs:
- Remove fridge vents or other vents you've put on for winter
- Check the condition on windscreen wipers- replace if necessary
- Apply a coat of Rainex to the windscreen
- Wash and wax the motorhome and clear off roof debris
- Fill your fresh water tank if possible (remember to close any drain points you opened to drain the system for winter!) Then check for leaks under the van.
- If you carry a motorhome generator, you'll need to service it and check it starts up.
- If you have an external motorhome storage box, make sure it is closed and locked.
Again, there’s no particular order to these. We like to do the tank cleaning/ overnight jobs first, then move on to electrical stuff, but it’s completely up to you.
- Rinse out your water tanks and sanitise overnight (Use something like Puriclean, which you use by filling your tank at least halfway, adding the powder (or tab) and leaving to sit for a few hours, ideally overnight. Then rinse THOROUGHLY (we rinse at least twice)
- Grey Waste tank. Exactly the same- fill and rinse. You can fill either via a dedicated access hatch or pour water with the cleaning solution in down a sink (or both sinks, so it gets into the pipes.) Fenwicks waste tank cleaner is well recommended and easy to use.
- Clean toilet cassette. Fill with water, add solution and leave to soak overnight. Thetford Cassette cleaner is a good option.
- Check and wipe down all lockers and cupboards. You’re looking for rodents and insects, but also signs of damp, cracks, damage or anything else ‘not right’.
- You will probably want to do a full clean of sofas, seats and carpets. I recommend doing this last, after everything else, but if you’re washing down seats allow plenty of time to try.
- Check your motorhome leisure battery– unplug your van from mains power and use some appliances to make sure the battery(s) is holding charge.
- Turn on 12v internal lights (and check the one for outside the hab door)
- Switch on fridge on both mains and gas if possible- does it get cold? Wipe down fridge too
- Turn on heating- does it get warm (you can do this even without water in your system)
- Turn on gas and light all burners, grill and oven. If you have an electric hob or microwave, check that too once you reconnect power
- If you have water available, fill tank and turn on hot water system and check it gets hot.
- If you have a solar panel fitted, ensure it’s working and the battery is charging (even if it’s just a tiny amount on a cloudy day)
- Check your fuse box for any signs of damage or blown fuses or any other sign which might cause a motorhome fire.
- Check safety appliances- fire blanket and extinguisher- are they in date?
- Test and change batteries in smoke alarm and CO2 detectors
- Check your motorhome TV is working if you have one
- Check your emergency kit- spare bulbs, fuses, torch, batteries, spare glasses and the contents of your first aid kit.
- If you have internet in your motorhome, check it's still working. Sometimes, SIM cards have an expiration date, especially if you've not used it for month.
Pre-trip checks (day of departure)
Now, your vehicle is prepped, everything is packed (and hopefully rattle free!) and you're ready to go! If you’re anything like me, you’re in an excited rush to leave and just get out on the road.
This is probably the point where I remind you that I left my passport in the printer… Learn from our (my!) mistakes. Take the time to work through your pre-departure checks for the van, yourself and your house before you leave.
These are the same departure checks to do whether you're leaving a house or leaving a campsite. (Some might not make sense, but I've included them all anyway, just in case!)
- Are all exteriors lockers/ garage closed and locked
- Gas bottles full, turned off (if not needed for heating**) and locked
- Have you put your awning and outdoor furniture away (including retractable steps!)
- Is the dog/ kids/ spouse on board? (If not, leave quickly. They won’t notice… 😉)
- Have you unhooked your electric cable/ water/ waste?
- Is your motorhome generator shut down and stored away?
- Is your TV/ satellite aerial down?
- Is your windscreen clean and thermal screen away?
- Is your bike rack/ rear storage secure?
- If in Europe, have you fitted the red/ white board properly?
- If you’re towing with your motorhome, is your trailer attached and locks/ clamps removed?
- Are you on chocks/ electric legs?
** In many modern motorhomes, it is possible to use the gas whilst driving in order to provide heating to passengers sitting behind the cab. We’ve done this for our daughter on several trips and it uses a LOT of gas, but at least she was warm.
However, you can only do this if you have the appropriate hoses and anti-crash safety cutoff fitted. Many vans have it as standard- if not, you can get a professional to fit it for you. If you don’t have this, make sure your gas is off when you’re driving.
- Make a hot drink for the road- then leave the hob to cool
- Are your vents/ hatches/ sunroof closed? Including in the bathroom??
- Are your motorhome windows locked?
- Is the habitation door closed and locked?
- Is everything in the kitchen put away and rattle-proof?
- How about the oven shelf/ hob/ microwave plate?
- Is the fridge door closed and secure?
- Check the bathroom for anything loose- including if the toilet is closed
- Double-check the bedroom, wardrobe or anywhere the kids have been (and potentially left drinks!)
- Are the kids/ dog belted into their seats and secure?
- Put away the TV
- Are all cupboards and lockers closed and locked?
- Check your dashcam/ rearview camera and mirrors
- Put your route into your motorhome sat-nav and get details to hand of your first stop
- Remember to put your hot drink somewhere safe in the front, along with easy to eat snacks
- Put anything on charge on the inverter which needs charging as you drive (laptops, camera/drone batteries etc)
- Put phones/ iPads/ headphones on charge
- Double-check the dog/ kids again…
- DO YOU HAVE ALL YOUR PAPERWORK? Including your passport…
- Then relax- you’re ready to set off.
Motorhome Pre-Trip checks video
Watch the video of the motorhome pre-trip checks:
Want more tips for motorhome life?
Here are some more ideas you might find useful:
- Essential Motorhome accessories every van should have
- Best Sat-nav for motorhomes or campervans
- Motorhome Security– tips for at home and on the road
- How to get Internet & wifi in a motorhome
- Europe- essential gear for travelling to Europe
- Best gift ideas for motorhome and campervan owners
Want FREE checklists, eBooks and additional tips to help? Visit our resource page