RV Tips: How To Charge Your Battery On The Go
As a long time RVer, I know how important it is to have a charged battery, especially when you're turning in for the night.
A few years back, my family and I were traveling across the country, and when I arrived at the parking area, I didn't have enough power to run the furnace!
Fortunately, it wasn't that cold outside, but from that point on, I resolved to always be sure that the battery in my travel trailer was fully charged and up to snuff.
As a result of this decision, I had to replace my old battery, but over the years, I've had many fellow RVers wonder how to charge RV battery while driving.
In this guide, I'm going to show you exactly how to be sure that your battery is fully charged when you're ready to turn in. I will also provide you with some tips for maintaining your battery so that you do not need to replace it every season.
- What You'll Need In Order To Charge Up Your Battery While Driving
- Checking The Voltage
- Charging The Battery While Driving
- Tips For Maintaining Your RV Battery
- Final Thoughts
What You'll Need In Order To Charge Up Your Battery While Driving
It's important to note that many tow vehicles provide a charge to your RV battery system as you drive, but that doesn't always quite mean that you'll have a full battery when you arrive at your destination.
This is primarily a result of the truck's own battery reaching a fully-charged status. When this happens, the charging rate has a tendency to reduce, which means that the RV battery will receive less power.
You should understand that your vehicle's charging system doesn't quite know what to do with the RV battery, so once your vehicle's battery is charged, the system may not be able to recognize that there is a second battery to charge up to full.
This can be made worse when you are using the battery every night when you camp. If you are not able to fully charge your battery, you may find that you are simply draining it more than is sustainable by daily driving.
Fortunately, there are definitely ways to make sure that your RV battery is getting its maximum charge, which is what I'm going to cover in this guide.
This procedure is all about ensuring that you're not losing power as you drive, and for that reason, you may have to replace some components in your system.
That being said, before you start, it's a good idea to have:
- A 12V voltmeter
- Anderson Plugs
- Voltage controlled relay (VCR)
- Eight- or Six-Gauge Wire
- Cable Strippers
- Anderson Crimpers
Checking The Voltage
Before you start, it's a good idea to check your house battery's voltage. Your trailer is going to have a 12V charging system.
On a travel trailer, the deep cell battery is located at the front of the RV. Typically, this will be directly behind the propane tanks.
Step 1# Setting Your Meter And Testing The Voltage
First, you will want to set your meter to the DC setting.
Once set, use the red lead, which is positive, and attach it to the positive terminal on the battery.
Do the same for the black lead, which is the negative lead.
If the battery reads over 12 volts, you're in good shape.
If it reads under, then you'll need to initiate a recharge or even replace the battery.
Step 2# Check The Charging System
Next, you'll want to check the system itself. Usually, on most RVs, the ground cable for this will be white and have a circular connector at the end.
Take the black lead from the voltmeter and hold it to the white ground cable. Then, take the red lead and attach it to the red cable that's coming from the front of the trailer.
When you do this, you'll get a reading, and for this reading, you'll want a readout of over 13 volts.
Check out this video for more information on voltage checking.
Charging The Battery While Driving
Really, one of the reasons that an RV battery doesn't always charge to its fullest capacity is because there is a loss in voltage during the running of your vehicle.
Fortunately, you can almost completely stop this voltage loss if you use the right components. For this part of my guide, you'll need to use Anderson plugs and voltage control relays.
One of the best features of Anderson plugs is their ability to manage a high level of amperage without much in the way of voltage loss.
So, to ensure a good power transfer where your RV batteries will become charged while you drive, you'll be combining the batteries so that they can run more efficiently.
Step #1 Working With The VCR
The voltage control relay (VCR) ensures that the right voltage is provided for the two batteries. One of the biggest dangers of connecting your two batteries via a 12-volt cable is that the RV battery can inadvertently discharge the battery in your tow vehicle.
With a VCR, when the truck or tow vehicle is turned off, the relay will close, which will prevent discharging on your battery.
The VCR serves as a good midpoint for the connection and its ability to open and close the relay point really can be advantageous for a recreational vehicle.
The automatic disconnect at vehicle shutoff is very convenient and can extend the life of both of the attached batteries.
To ensure a proper performance and to maximize the charge, it's a good idea to switch out the 12-gauge wire entirely.
You can use an eight or even a six-gauge wire so that the wire becomes less flexible. As a result, you'll have a more efficient power changeover.
Step #2 Combining Batteries
After you've connected the higher gauge wires, you can utilize Anderson plugs and new wires to further add efficiency to the process. Anderson plugs stand out because they can manage a massive amount of amperage.
They also lock in fairly well, and you can crimp the spliced wire so that you get a good lock when connecting up the batteries.
First, you'll need to strip your cables. Typically, a good cable stripper can be used for this. Expose the internal wire with the cable stripper. Attach the Anderson terminal to the end of the exposed wire.
Next, using a crimper that's rated for Anderson terminals, crimp the wire so that you have a secure and tight connection. Pull on it in order to confirm that it won't come loose.
Don't use a pair of pliers for this step because the wire won't quite fit right inside the housing.
Attach the cables, both positive and negative, to the Anderson plugs and link up the two batteries.
Finally, now that the batteries are combined, they will act like a single battery, so you'll want to connect the positive terminal that leads to the vehicle to one and the negative to the other.
With the use of Anderson plugs, you should have an excellent connection with very minimal voltage drop, which means a relatively balanced power changeover between battery systems.
Here is a guide on 12-volt Anderson plug connection.
Tips For Maintaining Your RV Battery
Typically, most RV batteries should last for a period of six years or more, so if you are replacing your battery every season, there is probably something that you can do when you store your vehicle to help improve the lifespan of the battery.
Here are some tips that could help you maintain a battery life of 50 percent so that you will be able to charge the battery more effectively while you are driving:
- Battery Disconnect Switch: When you are traveling in your RV, there are a lot of features in the trailer that can drain the battery. This can include things like a heater, a clock, or even your television antenna.
If you are not using these amenities, it is important that you have a battery disconnect switch that you can place in the off position. This will save battery power during your trip and help maintain the battery while it is in storage.
- Distilled Water: High temperatures can drain your battery as well, which means that you will need to check the water level in the battery more often than you would in colder temperatures. Distilled water is going to be best for this so that calcium does not build up inside of the battery cells.
- Multi-stage Charger: Single-stage charging methods are slow, so if you can charge the battery between trips with a multi-stage charger, you will find that keeping the battery life topped off while you are driving becomes easier.
- Store The Battery Outside: If you live in a cooler area of the country, it is important that you store the battery for your RV outside of the trailer.
This ensures that battery discharge that is released does not freeze. When a battery freezes, the battery cells will die, which will prevent your battery from becoming fully charged.
The battery should still be charged in a cool, dark place because if it is stored at high, humid temperatures, more discharge can be released.
- Bonus Tips: If your charge still seems to be slow, you may find that there is corrosion on the battery terminals that is preventing the battery from charging efficiently. This is a simple fix; all you need to do to remove the corrosion is disconnect the battery, combine a cup of baking soda with a gallon of water, and use a toothbrush to scrub both the positive and the negative battery terminal. Once the corrosion is scrubbed away, you will need to rinse the battery to ensure that the corrosion is fully removed before reconnecting the battery.
Keeping your RV battery charged is relatively easy with the right know-how; you just have to make sure that you're not having much voltage drop-off and you'll also need to ensure that your charging system is working properly.
In order to extend the life of your RV battery and charge it properly, just use the steps that I outlined in this guide.
The last thing you want is to not be able to run a furnace in a cold RV park because of a depleted battery, so I hope my guide has helped you in this regard.
Please feel free to comment in the section below if you have other ideas on how to charge up an RV battery while driving.
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