12 Ways To Extend The Life Of Your Camper Battery
A camper battery is one of the most powerful and overlooked pieces of equipment you have. Batteries make life in an RV possible! They power your tow vehicle, heat and cool the interior temperature, and provide electricity for all your appliances and electronics.
On average, well-maintained camper batteries will last between 4-5 years. However, if you don’t take care of them, batteries can fail within just one year of use. This cost can build up, and the last thing you want is to be stranded with a dead battery.
Battery maintenance is important for every type of camper, from the smallest teardrop trailer to the largest fifth wheel. Below are 12 tips to help you take care of your battery and enjoy RV camping for years to come!
1. Buy a good camper battery to start with
The first step to creating a long and healthy life for your battery is to give it the best possible start! There are lots of different RV batteries on the market and it’s important that you choose a high-quality model for your camper. After all, the battery is what starts the engine and provides all the electricity.
You’ll want to choose a camper battery that is durable, compact, and has the voltage output that you need. Most batteries are 12 volt models, which will work just fine for the majority of RVers. Some of the top models might be a bit pricey up front, but the payoff is a reliable source of energy and a long battery lifetime.
Below are 3 of the best RV batteries on the market.
- Battle Born LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery
- Universal Power Group 12V Solar Wind DEEP Cycle Battery
- Renogy Lithium-Iron Phosphate Battery
2. Choose the right battery for your camping style
When you’re choosing the right power source for your RV, you also need to consider what type of battery you need. There are two main types of batteries that campers use.
The first type is the vehicle starter. These are similar to car batteries and they’re used to power up your vehicle (assuming you’re using a motorhome where the camper and tow vehicle are attached). Vehicle starter batteries generate a powerful surge of electricity for a short period. They basically just need to kickstart the engine.
The second type of battery is the deep-cycle (AKA the house battery). These provide a low, steady charge of power that is used to power everyday life in an RV. The two main types of deep-cycle batteries are flooded lead acid and regulated valve acid. Flooded batteries are the most common and they’re easier to maintain.
3. Use a digital meter to read the charge
It’s hard to properly charge and take care of your battery if you don’t know what it needs. Digital meters can help you monitor the charge level of your unit and will help you avoid charging it for too long once it’s full. This is a very useful piece of equipment that can attach directly to your battery.
A small screen will display the current voltage and charge of your battery, so check up on this often when it’s reloading. Some models come with meters and monitors already attached, but in other cases you might have to buy your own.
This Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor is a great option if you’re looking for a reliable meter.
4. Don’t undercharge or overcharge your camper battery
Obviously, batteries need to be charged in order for them to function. It’s possible to overdo it though, so be sure that you’re giving them the appropriate amount of electricity every time.
Batteries can be charged while the RV is being driven, which is a good way to top them off during trips. When you’re at a campsite with electricity hookups or charging them at home though, it’s important that you don’t overcharge them.
Overcharged batteries can overheat and wear out faster, which shortens their lifespan. Undercharged batteries can run out of energy before you’re ready, and it’s not good for them to completely run out of power.
Most models only need to be charged for a few hours at a time, but make sure to read up on the specific instructions for your camper battery.
5. Try not to let the charge drop below 80%
Speaking of recharging, did you know there’s an ideal percent to shoot for? It’s best to top off your battery’s charge before it dips below 50%, but 80% charge is the golden range to recharge.
Batteries that are drained to less than 50% will take longer to fully recharge and they can suffer damage from overuse, heat, and moisture loss. This type of damage is called sulfation and it can quickly shorten the life of any battery.
Keep an eye on your charge levels and top off frequently so you stay in the 80% range.
6. Create a battery bank
Batteries last longer when they have backup! And there’s no better backup than a second or third battery.
Many RVs can sustain more than one battery, which will give a higher voltage output, last longer before recharging, and have a longer lifespan. You can combine multiple batteries together in a battery bank.
If you want to create a battery bank, you’ll want to make sure you’re using same type of batteries. It’s best to just get two of the same model because they’ll be the most compatible with each other. Once you have the two, they can usually be connected with jumper wires.
7. Top off flooded cell batteries
Flooded lead acid batteries are the most common ones that are used in RVs. These are durable, hold a charge for a long time, and are nicely compact.
On the other hand, they do still have to be maintained. These batteries rely on a stock of water to keep them functional. Charging and everyday use will begin to drain and evaporate the water in these flooded batteries, so they need to be regularly topped off to prevent sulfation.
It’s especially important to fill up the batteries during the summer and winter months. Hot weather leads to faster evaporation and cold weather can freeze it. Carefully store the batteries when they’re not in use and check up on the water levels every month or so.
You should also only use mineral-free water (AKA deionized) when you’re filling the batteries. This will help them stay clean and prevent hard-water damage or crystallization.
8. Clean battery terminals
Aside from filling up flooded batteries, you also should clean battery terminals from time to time. Rust, sulfation, and other buildup can shorten the lifespan of any battery.
Baking soda and water can be used to clean most batteries, and several gentle commercial cleaners will work too. Clean the terminals at least twice a year (usually when you’re getting ready to leave on a trip or when you get home) and probably more often than that if you can manage it.
Many batteries contain corrosive materials, so be sure to wear gloves when you clean them!
9. Maintain batteries during the off-season
Some people use their RVs year-round, but many people will take breaks between travels to rest and enjoy staying in one spot. During these times, your battery won’t be used as often and will need to be properly stored and/or maintained.
As listed above, take this chance to top off and clean your batteries. If you live in a particularly hot or cold environment, consider removing it from the camper and storing it in a temperature-regulated space.
You’ll still need to charge the battery from time to time, even if you’re not using it. Car batteries can die if they aren’t used for awhile, and the same thing is true of RVs. Try to maintain a full charge, or at least 50% even when you’re not using them.
For more advice, you can also read our tips on how to prevent your camper battery from dying in the winter.
10. Disconnect your camper battery when it’s not in use
It’s easy to think that your battery isn’t losing power when you’re not using electricity. However, batteries are still providing background power to your RV even if the heating is off and no appliances are running.
As long as there are chargers or electronics plugged into the RV, the battery is still being used. If you’re going to be taking a break from travelling, disconnect the battery, or at least unplug all electronics from your outlets.
This practice will keep the battery at a fuller charge and will help prevent electricity loss.
11. Supplement the camper battery with solar panels
Another good way to charge your batteries is to supplement them with solar panels. RV solar panels are becoming increasingly popular and they provide an easy and environmentally-friendly way to reduce your energy usage.
The battery can be charged by the RV when it’s driven, but solar panels can provide power when the RV is parked! It also makes it easier for RV owners so you don’t always have to be worried about charging the battery on the road.
If you prefer more off-the-grid camping, solar panels could also be a great option for you! You don’t have to rely on exterior power sources and hookups.
If you’re interested in installing solar panels, check out our Ultimate Buyer’s Guide: RV Solar Panels.
12. Recycle old camper batteries
Unfortunately, no matter how well you take care of your camper battery, it will eventually break down. In the best case scenario, this could take 8+ years. However a day always comes when it’s time to buy a new battery and get rid of the old one.
When this happens, you should consider recycling! RV batteries are made from lead and plastic, both of which can be recycled. Most local collection centers will accept old batteries, which can be melted down and turned into new ones.
This is a great way to give back to the RV community and reduce your waste.
Make sure you stay on top of all your RV maintenance with an online tool like RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only does it allow you to keep all of your notes and documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when RV maintenance is due to help you potentially avoid a costly repair or serious accident.