High And Dry: Checking For Damp And Water Ingress When Buying A Used Caravan

Posted on: 8 July 2016

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Choosing a used caravan over a new model can be a very wise choice for the holidaymaker on a budget, providing all the mobile comfort and convenience of a caravan at a much lower price. However, inspecting a used caravan before laying down your hard-earned cash is vital -- even the most honest caravan seller may not be aware of hidden problems inside their van.

One of the most common problems encountered in used caravans is damp, and dealing with a damp caravan can be just as unpleasant as dealing with a damp house. Water ingress and leaks can cause serious damage to furnishings and fittings, as well as promoting the growth of nasty mould deposits. In more serious cases of damp, moisture can even damage the electrical components of a caravan, an expensive and potentially hazardous problem to deal with. As such, when buying a used caravan, you should come fully armed with the knowledge and tools you need to check for problems with damp.

What equipment do I need to check for damp?

Severe damp problems in a caravan can be pretty obvious, with unpleasant, musty smells and visible mould spores being key signs of water ingress. However, some damp problems are more well hidden, lurking behind wall coverings or underneath immovable fittings. As such, you should bring a damp detector with you when you inspect a used caravan prior to purchase -- these devices are inexpensive and available from more DIY shops, but they can accurately detect hidden problems with damp. Most good used caravan dealers will carry professional damp detection equipment as a matter of course, so consider asking them to scan the caravan themselves in your presence.

Where is damp most likely to cause problems in a van?

When looking for damp in a used caravan, you should be as thorough as time permits. However, the following locations are common areas for damp to occur and should always be checked first:

  • Windows, doors and skylights (pay particular attention to rubber seals, as they can perish and become porous with age)
  • Awning rails
  • Body frame corners
  • Wheel arches
  • Driving lights
  • External lockers, including gas and electrical hookups 
  • TV aerials (pay particular attention to aftermarket aerial fittings, as these are often fitted improperly and leave gaps through which water can enter the interior)

What about internal leaks?

Even if a used caravan is completely watertight, problems with internal plumbing can cause severe damp problems, so you should also make sure to check the integrity of all pipes and pumps prior to purchase. Pay particular attention to piping that runs underneath carpeting and bedding, and ask the caravan seller to run water through the system so you can check for leaks in real time. You should also pay close attention to the toilet setup of a van -- many caravan owners use unsuitably harsh cleaning chemicals to sterilise their toilets and waste disposal outlets, which can damage rubber seals and gaskets and cause leakage of dangerously contaminated water.