An RV is a small home on wheels. To enjoy home amenities such as electricity, you will no doubt need a leisure battery. That means that the last thing you want to happen when out on the road is a flat battery.
Like anything, a battery that is looked after and regularly maintained will perform better and last longer. This article will outline and explore 10 practical tips on how to extend the life of your RV battery. Let’s get into it!
Tip 1: Assessing your current battery
The obvious place to start is to assess the current condition of your battery. A new battery would be expected to perform to its maximum capacity; however, its capacity will worsen the older the battery gets. They degrade over time as they wear and get used again and again.
Each battery has a maximum discharge number. For example, it may be 1000 times. Depleting the battery to zero charge too often can also damage its condition.
To assess your battery, you will need a multimeter to put on the battery terminals. This will give you a voltage reading and a current reading. For example, the battery may be 12 volt and 2 amps. You can compare your reading with the one stated on the battery. The closer it reads to what is specified, the better the battery’s condition. The following video gives a complete overview of how to do this and what to look out for.
Tip 2: Visual Assessment
Using the first tip, you will get an idea of how well your battery is performing. What is often overlooked is a visual assessment of the condition of the battery. Batteries are heavy, so be careful doing this when you turn it on its side to inspect the bottom.
You need to look out for signs of damage such as worn terminals. The terminals are where you connect the battery to the RV system and, if damaged, they could affect the charging and discharge of the battery. Furthermore, the battery can leak. Although this is unlikely for a leisure battery, it’s still a possibility to be aware of. If you find your battery is slightly wet suggesting a leak, it would be wise not to use it and take it to be recycled.
Any unfixable issues mean you should dispose of the battery responsibly. A battery can be expected to last around 5 years or so, so they are durable, but if you never inspect them, their damage could be missed.
Tip 3: Don’t overcharge your battery.
If you have a smartphone such as an iPhone, do you leave it charging all night to wake up to a 100% charged phone? Many of us do, but iPhones now have smart charging technology that protects the battery.
Leisure batteries don’t have this function. If you leave it charging when it’s already fully charged, this can cause battery damage. When overcharging, pressure can build in the battery and cause it to heat up. This can cause the battery to be damaged or even completely break.
Using a smart battery charger is recommended. These clever chargers will tell you when your battery is fully charged and then stop charging – saving you the guesswork. This tip on how to extend the life of your RV battery is so simple yet effective!
Tip 4: Don’t discharge the battery fully.
Contrary to overcharging, this tip is all about making sure you don’t do the opposite of this. A battery cycle is when the battery is charged, discharges, and then is recharged again.
To get more of these out of your battery, never discharge your battery below 50% of its capacity before recharging it. Even worse to let it run flat. This is the single worse thing you can do to damage your battery. When this happens, the battery loses its ability to charge and discharge effectively. Its capacity is damaged irreversibly.
If you are going to store your RV away for the winter, you don’t want to leave your battery by itself as you are likely to find a flat, damaged battery on return.
Tip 5: Remove your battery when you aren’t using your RV.
Removing the engine battery is awkward and often unnecessary. Unlike the leisure battery you use, the RV battery will recharge when the engine is running. So to avoid this running flat, you need to turn your RV on for a couple of hours or so once a month. Worst case scenario, it may need a jump start.
In regards to the RV leisure battery, you should be able to remove this with ease. See where it is on the vehicle information. If you purchased a motorhome or did your own conversion, you will know where it is.
Remove it and bring it into your house or a garage, somewhere where you can regularly charge and monitor the battery. This will provide effective monitoring and you can maintain the battery’s health. By not letting it discharge below 50%, you can charge it up fully and then discharge it over time. More than likely, just checking once a month should be enough as the battery is not powering any appliances.
Tip 6: Keep the battery at room temperature.
Another benefit of removing the battery is that it can be stored in a warmer environment. The likes of a home will never see freezing temperatures. Whereas, for example, if you place your RV on your drive during a freezing Colorado Winter, you can expect the battery to face sub-zero temperatures. It’s this freezing weather that can damage the battery so by having the battery in your house, you can avoid this.
If the battery is left in the RV and is well insulated, it may survive a winter in the storage on your drive or at a facility. However, for the sake of spending 10 minutes removing the battery, you can avoid this potential issue completely.
Tip 7: Clean the battery.
Like with most things, if you keep your battery clean it will help to maintain it. It’s good practice to wipe the entire battery so dust doesn’t collect. Most importantly, you want the terminals to be clean so they have a good connection in the electrical system. The below video covers how to do this safely and effectively.
Tip 8: Have multiple batteries.
A great way to boost the longevity of a battery is to put it alongside other batteries in a battery bank. This way, instead of one battery doing all the work, the load will be shared.
This also means each battery will discharge slower than if the battery was working alone. This reduces the risk of discharging to damaging levels and can act as a back up if one battery were to fail.
Tip 9: Harness the sun
Solar energy is a great addition to the RV world. Chances are you are a summer camper, and the sun will be plenty, even with cloud cover, for you to get energy. This potentially unlimited power source can be a great way to recharge your battery.
Of course, you will need to find out how much solar energy you need then create a set up to deliver this. Make sure your solar battery set up has at least 10% more power than you require. This way, the converter can use the power without the risk of breaking or tripping the circuit breaker.
Solar energy can save you from getting flat batteries when hooked up smartly. Furthermore, it can take away the worry of how to recharge your battery in the first place.
Tip 10: Choose a suitable battery.
Not all batteries are built equal. It would help if you chose the battery that best suits your needs. Regardless of what type of battery you have, the previous tips outline how to extend the life of your RV battery. However, some batteries will last longer than others. Generally speaking, there are 3 types of battery on the market. Each will come as a 6 volt or 12 Volt producing a range of currents and power.
1. Lead-acid Deep Cycle Batteries
These are a common addition to campervans. An acid electrolyte solution consisting of water and sulphuric acid surrounds lead plates within the casing. They are known for being able to discharge a large number of times. You can expect to get up to 8 years out of one of these batteries if they are well maintained. Compared to other batteries, they can discharge a higher percentage of their capacity without getting damaged.
2. Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries
Modelled on lead-acid batteries, except glass fibres replace the lead ones inside. These fibres allow a superior discharge to lead batteries. Furthermore, they don’t require maintenance like lead-acid batteries. For these benefits, they cost more to purchase. But of course, this makes them far easier to maintain.
3. Lithium-Ion Batteries
You will have most likely already heard of these batteries as they are used in many smart-phone and laptop devices. An advancement on lead batteries, they weigh less and have more charge. Unlike some batteries which get damaged when they are discharged, with lithium-ion batteries you can practically use all the charge and recharge again (thought this is not recommended).
These are by far the market-leading batteries and will outperform anything else on the market. You get what you pay for when purchasing a lithium-ion battery.
How To Extend The Life Of Your RV Battery Conclusion
This article has outlined how to extend the life of your RV battery. With the 10 tips outlined, you have the information you need to stay charged up on the road enjoying a battery that can provide you with the power you need when you need it. If you look after your battery, it will look after enjoying the perks of having electricity wherever you go!