When you left your house, you anticipated having an exciting weekend of adventures and camping. Having your travel trailer’s battery die wasn’t exactly the kind of exhilarating experience you were anticipating. Now what are you going to do?
5 effective ways to charge a dead travel trailer battery:
- Use your vehicle as a power source
- Use your generator
- Use a portable charger
- Use a 3 or 4-stage charger
- Use an RV converter/charger while connected to a power outlet
Unfortunately, just knowing tools you can use to charge your battery isn’t enough. Luckily there are a few ways to effectively charge your travel trailer’s battery to help you prolong it’s life.
Use Your Vehicle as a Power Source
If you were planning on moving to a new location anyway, this could be a great option.
When you plug your travel trailer into your rig’s electrical system, so the brake lights will work, your battery also gets charged.
Before you leave, make sure you’ve turned off all of the non-essential items that may be draining your travel trailer’s battery:
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Satellite connections
- DVD or stereos
- Electronics charger stations
- Electric toothbrushes or razors
- Your Keurig
Even if you have these items turned off, they are still pulling what’s called a parasitic charge.
The fact is that if something plugs in, it never completely turn off. To keep it from drawing a charge from your battery, you need to unplug it – just remember to plug everything back in when you’re ready to set your travel trailer back up.
Make special note to plug the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors back in. The other stuff is optional.
RV BATTERIES – WHY ARE THEY ALWAYS DEAD?! What I learned >> Check out the video below:
Use Your Generator
Granted, generators can be noisy, and many campgrounds have what’s known as “quiet hours.”
Even so, if you have a few hours before that hush-hush period starts and you have a generator at your disposal, you can use it to recharge your battery.
Related reading: How to Use a Generator with a Travel Trailer: Complete Guide
Many road warriors choose to use a portable generator to power their entire travel trailer during regular hours and only draw power off of the battery during those silent hours.
One of the challenges with generators aside from the noise large ones can make, is that you need to make sure you have enough gasoline to power them for your entire trip.
Or you can make a trip into a nearby town to get some more gasoline.
Here’s the thing about your extra gasoline (or propane) … Make sure you keep it at least 10-feet away from your generator.
If your generator throws a spark, it could be explosive, were it to ignite your spare gasoline.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind that generators and extra fuel have a tendency to grow legs and walk away from campsites.
To prevent this, use cable locks to secure your generator and your spare gas cans (or propane tanks) on opposite sides of your travel trailer.
A Few Options
The Champion 3800-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Generator with Electric Start has had over 800 eligible purchasers rate it. They have given it a rating of 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars.
This particular generator runs on either propane or gasoline and holds .6 quarts of oil. It also comes with a 3-year warranty.
Reviewers have said this generator creates noise similar to that of a lawnmower.
The WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator with Fuel Shut-Off and Electric Start also has a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating. This one still had a significant number of individuals rating it at 177 ratings.
This particular model can be linked with a second like-kind generator. It also has built-in USB ports for convenience. This company offers a two-year warranty.
Use a Portable Charger
If you’ve ever had your car battery die, you probably have a portable charger that you keep on the ready when you know you’re going to be in remote areas.
If, on the other hand, you’ve never had the distinct “privilege” of being stranded because your battery died, you may not be familiar with this tool.
Although it won’t completely recharge your battery, it will get you started to be able to use your lights to get everything secured so you can move to a place where you can get a more powerful charge.
Here are a few examples of these portable battery chargers:
Clore Automotive Jump-n-Carry JNC550A 1100 Peak Amp Jump Starter with Air Compressor. This model has had over 1,100 people rate it, and it still has a 4.4 out of 5 stars rating. This unit states that it has “high power output and extended cranking power.”
The Kinverch Portable Power Station Jump Starter 1500 Peak/750 Instant Amps with 300 Watt Inverter and 150 PSI Air Compressor also has a rating of 4.4 out of possible 5 stars.
To the point that these are not intended to fully charge your RV battery, here are some running time examples the manufacturer provided:
- It will run a 4-Watt cell phone for 30 hours
- A 9-Watt car fan will be able to run for 14 hours
- It will power a 48-Watt 12-Volt cooler for 3 hours
- It will give you a charge for 2-hours for your 55-Watt spotlight
Use a 3 or 4-Stage Charger
Experts suggest that charging your travel trailer battery at the same level from low to fully charged is hard on it.
Have you noticed that the first 80-percent of your cell phone battery charges fairly quickly, but then the remaining 20-percent seems to take much longer than that first 80?
This is because batteries are now built to support different voltages of charges during different phases of the charging process.
Two things you can do to negatively affect your battery’s effectiveness is to drain it too far.
Some suggest you should never let it go below 50% charge; others say 20%. Regardless, running your battery until it’s dead is hard on its overall lifespan.
There are three and four-stage chargers that will help protect your battery’s health to keep it running longer.
The challenge with these is they are power converters and require a power connection.
They will be helpful if your batteries drained while your travel trailer was in storage, and you’re somewhere you can plug in for a few hours. These are not your boondocking solution, though.
Here are a couple examples of these staged chargers:
Powermax PM4 100A 110-Volt AC to 12-Volt DC 100 Amp Power Converter with Built-in 4-Stage Smart Battery Charger. 450 reviewers have given this tool a 4.4 out of 5 stars.
This particular model offers “reverse polarity, overload, and thermal protection.”
Note: To the point of thermal protection, heat can drain your travel trailer’s battery too. It’s in your best interest to keep your travel trailer parked in a shaded spot in the heat of the summer.
This one has a 4.6 out of 5 stars from 73 raters. This product has a detector that will automatically stop the charging process when the battery has reached 100% charge capacity.
Use an RV Converter/Charger While Connected to a Power Outlet
Most multi-stage chargers are actually power converters too.
The thing is, when you’re plugged into an outlet, you need to make sure you’re providing a conduit to make the power compatible with your travel trailer’s battery.
To do that, you need a power converter.
The Progressive Dynamics PD9260CV Inteli-Power 9200 Series Converter/Charger with Charge Wizard has an impressive 4.8 out of 5 possible stars rating from 366 people rating the product. It manages the output voltage so your battery can’t be overcharged and protects from irregularities as a result of low voltage.
WFCO’s WF8955PECB Black 55 Amps Power Center Converter Charger has been given a 4.6 stars out of 5 from 254 raters. It states that it runs quietly and is fully insulated.
It has the ability to limit currents and automatically shut down during overloads or short-circuit situations.
Just as you don’t want to over-charge your battery, you don’t want to leave a power converter connected to your battery for longer than necessary. It can boil your battery dry.
Why Not Solar?
Solar power is an incredible option for many things.
The thing about charging your travel trailer battery is that unless you have a huge panel, you won’t gather enough energy to fully charge the battery back to life.
This can end up having a long-term negative impact on your battery’s life.
Solar panels that haven’t met regulatory standards can also end up overheating your battery and boiling it dry. If that happens, you have the grand experience of buying a new battery.
Effective Battery Maintenance Tips
When you bought the battery for your travel trailer, it had an anticipated lifespan stated.
There are specific things you can do to make sure your battery lasts as long as you expect it to.
Tip.1 Disconnect Your Battery When You’re Not Using Your RV
By disconnecting your battery when you’re not using your travel trailer (especially while it’s in storage), you will prevent unnecessary drains from things that never turn off – like the clock.
Tip.2 Check Your Battery’s Charge While It’s in Storage.
As was already mentioned, to prolong your battery’s life, it’s best for its charge to not go below 50%, but never below 20%.
The challenge you face is that when it’s in storage, it’s easy for it to be out of sight – out of mind.
To prevent this, set a monthly reminder in your calendar to check on your travel trailer. During your routine check, you will want to
- Make sure everything is tightly sealed to avoid
- Moisture leaks
- Pests from making a winter home out of your home on wheels
- Check the battery charge level
- Check to make sure all of the locks are still working properly
- Check the tires to make sure they haven’t gone flat
- Make Sure Your Battery Cables are in Good Shape.
You don’t want your battery’s cables to be loose or frayed. It’s important to make sure they are still in good working order.
Tip.3 Clean Away any Dirt or Corrosion.
It is quite common for batteries to experience sulfation – particularly if they are exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures or have been overcharged or are extremely low on charge.
Note: Sulfation is the small crystals that start forming on the battery’s plates. Long-term exposure to sulfation will ruin your battery.
To clean your battery, you can make a paste of two-to-three tablespoons of baking soda mixed with just enough water to make it a consistency similar to the Elmer’s Glue Paste you may have used in kindergarten.
While wearing gloves, spread the past on the battery’s connections and scrub the corrosions away with a wire brush.
When you’re finished, use a rag and water to clean away the paste and debris. Next, you can apply some petroleum jelly to those places to help prevent further corrosion.
Tip.4 Check Your Battery’s Water Levels.
You want to make sure your battery has enough water, but… you don’t want it to completely fill it until after it’s fully charged.
If, when you inspect the water levels, the plates are exposed, use a funnel to pour in enough distilled water to cover the plates.
After you’ve finished charging the battery, go ahead and top it off to the bottom of the vent well with more distilled water.
Note: Using tap water can result in calcium sulfation deposits and may impact the life of your battery.
Tip.5 Battery Maintenance Safety Precautions
It may seem obvious, but there are certain things you always want to do when you’re working on your battery. Always:
- Wear eye protection
- Wear rubber gloves
- Remove any jewelry you normally wear
- Leave the vent caps on the battery while it’s charging
- Keep baking soda and water near in case any acid spills
Your Battery is Legitimately Worn Out
If your battery has just come to the end of its life and it wore itself out, check with your local automotive shop to find out what their battery take-back/recycling policy is.
Another option may be to contact a salvage shop to see if they buy dead batteries. Some do because they can get money for selling the lead to appropriate recycle locations.
Never dump an old battery in the landfill. It’s considered hazardous waste.
If you find that one battery isn’t enough to charge your RV, you might consider incorporating a battery bank.
Battery banks have nothing to do with your savings account, but they do save energy for you.
When you join multiple batteries together, it’s called a battery bank. This can be accomplished in a couple ways:
Placing Your Batteries in a Series
When this is done, you are essentially increasing the total voltage available while keeping your total amperage the same. To do this, you need to make sure you are connecting batteries with the same amp rating and voltage.
To connect your batteries in a series, a jumper wire is employed to connect the negative terminal from one battery to the positive of the other battery.
In this case, the overall voltage stays the same, but the amps are increased. As with the series bank, you need to make sure you are using paired batteries – they need to have the same voltage and amperage levels.
For this process, connect the positive terminal from one battery to the positive terminal of the other. Similarly, you will also connect one negative terminal to the negative of the second battery.
A Series Parallel Bank
This can be done, but it requires four batteries to accomplish it and can get quite confusing. Make sure you keep clear as to where your connections are so you don’t get your wires crossed.
You will probably also need to have a separate RV battery box.
A series-parallel bank allows you to increase both the voltage and the amps for those instances when you may need more power – like in the summer when the air conditioning needs to run harder.
If you’re someone who likes to carry that extra insurance policy, perhaps it would be a good idea to look into an RV membership.
There are several organizations that offer memberships for roadside assistance. A quick internet search on “RV Roadside Assistance” yielded the following (among others):
- Good Sam Roadside Assistance (goodsamroadside.com)
- Coach-Net (coach-net.com)
- FMCA (fmca.com)
- The RV Advisor (thervadvisor.com)
Sometimes just knowing that you have a great backup plan is all it takes to help you have a completely relaxing experience.
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