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12 Ways To Extend The Life Of Your Camper Battery


camper battery connected to a solar panel

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.

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 Maintain My RV. 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.

Author Emily Lawrence Avatar

Emily Lawrence

Emily Lawrence lives in Idaho with her husband Nathan. Despite the cold winters in this area, it's Emily's favorite season! She loves to spend time skiing, roadtripping, and just exploring the outdoors.

17 thoughts on “12 Ways To Extend The Life Of Your Camper Battery

  1. Pretty poor article. Probably does more harm than good. Clearly, little understanding of what battery terms mean. Specifically, ‘sulfation’ is cited several times, all incorrectly. Inconsistencies….how do you keep your camper battery disconnected and topped off with a solar charger at the same time? The appropriate water type for replacing electrolyte loss is ‘ distilled’ not ‘de-ionized(DI)’. DI water can still contain organic materials that distilled will not. One of the bigger errors is ‘Try to maintain a full charge, or at least 50% even when you’re not using them.’……you are clearly confused…..Lead-acid should be stored and maintained at full charge ALL THE TIME. If stored at 50%, lead-acid will be permanently and irreparably harmed (this is actually the cause of sulfation). Lithium Iron Phosphate, on the other hand, should not be stored at a full charge but at 50% SOC. Using no more than 20% of your battery energy is a ridiculous standard. Lead-acid can consistently provide 50% and LFP, 80%+.

  2. Emily,

    There are so many things wrong in your article, I had to stop reading. “Flooded batteries are the most common and they’re easier to maintain.”

    Really? This list goes on…

  3. Oddly, 2 of the 3 batteries you mention as the ‘best’ are LiFePO4 (lithium) batteries, but the rest of the article completely ignores mention of Lithium batteries at all (eg. “The two main types of deep-cycle batteries are flooded lead acid and regulated valve acid.”) Did you read this before publishing it? It seems like it was written 5+ years ago.

  4. OMG – You left out the very popular (and for good reasons) Lion Energy UT 1300 where its 105 ah, small footprint, light weight, superior BMS, lower cost and most importantly “lifetime warranty” succeeds in blowing the competition in this arena away.

    Flooded batteries are not “easier to maintain”. They are more temperamental; subject to damage when discharged below 50%, have to be vented due to their off gassing when charging and have their water level constantly monitored.

    When LiFePo4 batteries are recommended (see #1) and then compared to flooded batteries, flooded batteries DO NOT hold a charge for a long time – nor are they “nicely compact”.

    Clean battery terminals? Spot on, and so often overlooked!

    Finally, just because Victron makes stellar energy products, it doesn’t always equate to being the best choice for your device needs. Take the Victron BMV-712 Battery Monitor; overpriced for what it does and much more affordable products that accomplish the same job. This has been born out by Will Prowse of YouTube solar power fame where he has real world tested these devices and shone a revealing light on many “respected” companies products.

  5. I never know how much water to add to my batteries to top them off. Is the water just supposed to cover the plates or a little more? O always seem to add too much and the water van boil out and corrode my battery box.

  6. always use a solar panel charge controller ;direct hookup might overcharge your battery from to high volts boil it dry.
    keebler.

  7. Take a look at the BatteryMinder. The key to making a battery last a long time is stopping “sulfation”.
    https://www.batteryminders.com/testing-your-battery-for-sulfation/

    I have an AGM battery that was purchases in 2010. We keep in on a Batteryminder when not in use, and it still tests out as good today. We keep BatterMinders on all our batteries – cars and outdoor equipment. We have not replaced any battery in 10 years.

  8. 800 to 1,000 $ for a battery…….get real. Plenty of good, solid batteries out there for a third of the cost.

  9. So basically, if you want to extend the life of your batteries only use 20% of their capacity. A 100 AH battery becomes a 20 AH battery. If you actually want 100 AH of capacity install 500 AH of batteries.

    OR:

    Switch to LiPo, they are not damaged by deep discharge, have a flat discharge curve and you get nearly all of the rated power. So a 100 AH LiPo gives you close to 100AH before its voltage starts falling precipitously.

  10. Enjoyed your column. From personal experience I can collaborate that batteries need proper maintenance or they won’t last as they should. It was nice to have a reminder to prompt me to check out all the some (11) batteries I have between vehicle, RV, and farm equipment.

    Maybe you can help me with a question I have about the (2) batteries powering my 2014 Rockwood Roo hybrid I bought used from a dealer in 2018. The batteries are located between the tongue tow bars, so there is easy access. I keep my Roo plugged in at my house (when we aren’t traveling) to a 30-Amp circuit in a separate panel from my house panel.

    So far, I have not had any issues. When I’m plugged in to shore power the batteries’ charge are maintained through an onboard charging system. That matches the output of the batteries. I have a button on my control panel with LED indicator lights that show the output strength of the batteries.

    My question is, “Is there any downside to always having the RV plugged in to shore power for several months at a time while no being used much?” I do go in it quite often to check to be sure all is well or to just get out of the house to get a sense of camping. 😀

  11. My 2-cents from a lot of study and hard experience:

    I missed seeing any reference to a hydrometer for measuring state-of-charge (SOC) for flooded cell batts. a Hydrometer is the ONLY way the actual SOC, via the specific gravity of the electrolyte, can be empirically measured. Flooded cell batteries will indicate a full voltage well before they have fully charged.

    The on-board inverter-battery chargers in RVs suck for correctly charging flooded cell, SLA, or AGM batts as they have generalized algorithms for the length of time and voltage for the bulk and absorption charge cycles. Per a conversation with a service engineer at Progressive Dynamics (manufacturer of our charger-inverter), he admitted that the charge algorithm was intended for RVers who spent their time at commercial campgrounds with hookups to shore power.

    I admit to ignorance re current production charger-inverters and settings that they might have for charging Lithium batts (these use a straight-line algorithm for the charge voltage and a shut-off when the batts reach 100%).

    For our in-series 6Vdc Trojan T-105s (essentially “gold cart batts), when connected to shore power we use a smart battery charger that has the proper charge algorithm. Else we use a solar charging system with a quality controller (Morningstar) programmed for the Trojan recommended bulk and absorption voltages.

    Final note about lead-acid batts and off-season: as they self-discharge over time, they really need to be trickle charge with a “battery maintainer” or similar at approx 13.8 Vdc when not in use. I pull my batts for storage with a maintainer is a relatively stable environment.

  12. I havw a question
    Is it better to
    1. disconnect your battery if your not going to use the RV for the next 3 or 4 week?
    OR
    Is it better to keep it charged with a trickel charger?

  13. Hey ! Most battery’s die because of under charging .. driving has the use of the vehicles regulator . No worries ! The solar panels also should have a regulatior , so no worries ! Always use a battery tender too keep them in near full charge when not in use ! Always keep your water topped off ..Agm. batt.s are much Easyer than flooded batt.s but also much more expensive . Happy camping !!!

  14. Curious as to how you determined you very short list of “3 best” on the market? The two LiFO batteries are highly “marketed” yet there are several other extremely high quality products available like Lithionics and more.

    Statements 5 and 6 are misleading. A battery bank does not make batteries last longer, proper charge, discharge and maintenance behaviors do. A single battery may be more than sufficient for the most basic of use. More batteries does not give more voltage, but more available amp hours…sort of like gas in the tank. You don’t need a big tank if you only go short distances.

    On the 80% discharge limit, that is an impractical situation. Fact is almost all battery manufacturers (lead acid/AGM/Wet) publish a discharge chart based on “rested” voltage and rate the estimated available cycles on a 50% discharge rate. Most fully charged batteries with drift to a 90% state of charge without load in a matter of days.

    BTW, I am an electrical engineer with many years of D.C. power plant design and maintenance under my belt…..

  15. Number 6 says that a battery bank will give a “higher voltage output”. This is incorrect. A battery bank will give out the SAME voltage output (provided it is hooked up properly). The goal here is to have a larger amp/hour available.
    Also, please don’t confuse “wires” with cables. When creating a bank of batteries, hooked up in series/parallel large cables are required in order to carry the extra power. 4 six volt batteries give more amp/hour service than 2 12volt batteries even though the total voltage is the same.

  16. Someone needs to tell Mike that he should mix the water and baking soda together before using. Also apply it to the the terminals with the cable connected- so it cleans them all at once. Finally, you don’t spray the terminals with the cables disconnected. The protestant is not a conductor- he’s lucky he can start the car after doing this. Further evidence most people willing to give advice don’t know what they’re doing. Sorry, but I hope not many people watch this and then try it out.

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