With colder temperatures not too far away, now is a great time to make sure your RV’s batteries are in good condition, especially if you plan to have your RV in storage over the winter. Even if you aren’t storing your RV, and you plan to take a winter RV trip or head south during the colder months, it’s important to keep your batteries maintained. Lower temperatures can mean less storage capacity. Your RV’s deep cycle flooded batteries are meant to last for several years, but that can be cut down to just a year or two if they are not properly maintained.
RVs with deep cycle flooded batteries require some attention to keep them performing as they should. It’s important to charge them correctly and watch their levels as they discharge. If a battery is over or under charged it can lead to sulfation, which is what happens when sulfate crystals form on the lead plates in the battery. In this case, using the right charger can be crucial. A good charger should have a multi-stage process, such as the
BatteryMinder 2012. Typically, a multi-stage charger will send the most power to get the battery up to 90%, then have an absorption charge for the last 10%, then send a float charge to the battery to keep it topped off without over-charging it. If your RV is being stored for the winter and you have to remove the batteries, they should be fully charged first. They can still discharge while in storage, so do not put them in a warm place, as higher temperatures cause them to lose charge faster. Also remember to check the level of discharge. Fully charged, a 12V battery is actually at 12.7 volts. It’s recommended to keep a 12V battery above 12.4 volts. At 12.4 volts, the battery is already at 80%, and the chances for sulfation increase. A battery should never drop below 50%, which is actually slightly above 12 volts for a 12V battery. Using a voltmeter or battery monitor will tell you how much power is left in your battery. Keep them charged while in storage and remember to charge them fully once you re-install them.
As the name suggests, flooded batteries have water that covers the lead plates and keeps them from being exposed to the air. When adding water, use distilled water as opposed to regular tap water. The rate of charge and discharge cycles for a battery and the discharge level can affect how fast a battery loses water. The water levels should be checked about once a month. Fill the battery so the plates are covered, without overfilling them. Unless the plates are exposed, the battery should be charged before watering them. Using a battery watering system, such as the
Flow-Rite Pro-Fill, will let you fill the batteries without filling each individual cell. They also prevent you from overfilling. Keep in mind the electrolyte can be boiled off faster due to overcharging, keeping your RV plugged in all the time, or improper charging. When the water levels are too low and the plates are exposed to the air, sulfation can occur.
Having the proper charge and water levels for your batteries go hand in hand. Keeping your RV batteries at their peak performance requires some diligence, but it pays off in the long run. When properly maintained, your batteries will last longer and be able to provide a viable power source.
Taking Care of Your RV Batteries