My rubber hammer is getting a lot of use this year. It lives in the van, under my seat, and gets used to give the rear brake drums a quick knock if I haven't driven it for a few days. After a little while sitting idly on the drive during damp weather with the handbrake on, the drums can seize up quite easily. Sometimes they will free themselves when I drive off but, from time to time, a little extra help from the hammer is what they need.
On those kind of days, when the rust is creeping in, it's an agony to look out of the window and see the van sitting on the drive. It's not unloved or unused by any stretch but it is outside and is beginning to show its age. It's only a matter of time before we'll need to start saving for some renovation work. It hurts already.
Last year we put the van into a barn for a few months until the weather improved. When it came out I treated it to resprayed bumpers and slider covers as they were getting tatty, so when we hit the road in the spring it was looking lovely.
And that brings me to 2013. Or more precisely, spring 2013, which begins, officially, with the vernal equinox on 20th March 2013. So it's not that far away. Interestingly, for those who didn't know, the vernal equinox is the day of the year when there are exactly 12 hours of day and night and when the sun rises dead on east and sets dead on west. That means that, on the 21st of March - in just 70 day's time - there will be more daylight than darkness.
If your van is under cover, off the road or just underused, now might be good time to start thinking about coming out of hibernation with a few checks over the coming weeks. That way you won't be doing it the day before you head off on your first trip of the year.
- Check the handbrake hasn't seized. See above for liberal use of the rubber hammer.
- Check the cables on your heating, clutch and handbrake haven't seized.
- Check your battery and leisure battery and, if necessary, give them a charge.
- Check your tyre pressure, lights and windscreen washer.
- Check oil and brake fluid levels.
- Oil and test the elevating roof (if you have one).
- Check all your documentation is up to date.
- If you are going to take the awning on your first trip away, check how that goes up with a test run in the garden too. You don't want to be in a dark and windy field trying to remember how to put it up do you? Believe me it isn't much fun.
- Get out your copy of The Camper Van Coast (blatant plug) as it's got lots of tips for starting your camping year, keeping your van nice over winter and even camping in cold weather. And it will see you all the way through the year until next Christmas.
- Download MMM magazine's brilliant guide to motorhome friendly parking in the UK.
I know there could be some nasty weather between now and then but it's never too early to start dreaming of trips away. The picture above is of a Camping and Caravanning Club certificated site at Robin Hood's Bay. I went there last spring. It was my first trip of last year and it was just lovely.
So, hang in there. It's almost here.