10 Tips to Extend the Life of RV Batteries
Read these tips from an RV expert to keep your RV batteries running as long as possible.
Properly maintained deep-cycle batteries should last for 6 or more years. Unfortunately some RV owners replace RV batteries every year or two. Extending battery life is not difficult; it just requires some basic care & maintenance.
Note: Always keep safety in mind when working around lead-acid batteries. When you work around batteries you should wear safety glasses, gloves and remove any jewelry. Do not smoke or use any open flames around batteries.
My Top 10 Battery Tips to Extend the Life of your RV Batteries
- Routine maintenance and recharging a discharged battery as soon as possible will extend the life of the battery. The leading cause of dead lead-acid batteries is sulfation. When a battery is in a low state-of-charge small crystals start forming on the plates (sulfation) and if it remains in this condition for an extended period of time, without recharging, the battery is ruined. Sulfation starts when a battery’s state of charge drops below 80%, or 12.4 volts. Recharging a battery in a timely manner helps prevent sulfation.
- Never let a 12-volt battery discharge below 12-volts. That probably sounds funny, but a fully charged battery is 12.7 volts. When a battery reads below 12-volts it is at or below a 50% state of charge. You can measure the voltage using a digital voltmeter. Measuring the voltage gives you a quick picture of the batteries depth-of-discharge, so you know when the battery needs to be recharged. Set the voltmeter on DC voltage and place the red lead on the positive terminal and the black lead on the negative terminal to read battery voltage.
- Reducing the batteries depth-of-discharge increases the life of the battery. A battery discharged to 50% everyday will last twice as long as a battery cycled down to 20% everyday.
- RVs have parasitic loads that can discharge a battery over time. Some but not all of these loads are LP gas leak detectors, the TV antenna power booster, clocks, stereos and appliance circuit boards. If your RV is equipped with a battery disconnect switch make sure it is in the “off” position when you are not using the RV, or when it is in storage.
- Hot temperatures and overcharging will kill batteries. When it’s hot outside and during periods of high battery usage check the water levels in battery cells more frequently. Checking the electrolyte levels and adding distilled water as required can save your lead acid batteries.
- When you add water use mineral free water. Distilled water is best. Regular tap water can cause calcium sulfation.
- Properly charging your batteries needs to be done in stages. A bulk charge should be used to return the battery to 90% of a full charge during the first couple hours. An absorption charge is used for the remaining 10 percent to prevent any battery gassing and loss of water, then a float charge to maintain a full charge. Lots but not all RV converter chargers are three-stage chargers that will charge the battery properly.
- Batteries should only be watered after charging unless the plates are exposed prior to charging. If the plates are exposed add enough water to cover the plates and charge the battery. When the battery is fully charged fill each cell to the bottom of the vent well.
- To prevent water loss from bubbling and gassing leave the vent caps on batteries while charging.
- The lead and plastic used to construct batteries can be recycled. More than 95% of all battery lead is recycled. Make sure and recycle your old batteries.
KOA’s resident RV expert, Mark Polk, and his wife Dawn started RV Education 101 in 1999. Since that time RV Education 101 has helped educate millions of RV owners and RV enthusiasts on how to properly and safely use and maintain their RV. Mark’s favorite past times are RVing in their 35-foot Type A motorhome, and restoring vintage RVs, classic cars and trucks. For more information on using, enjoying and maintaining your RV visit RV Education 101.