Increase the Battery Life of Your RV

A month or so ago, we offered you tips for keeping your car’s starting battery in tip-top condition. But many of you also have an RV (and a boat) equipped with another type of battery, the deep-cycle kind, to power the various electronic gear you have in your RV. 

According to statistics, the average battery life for the non-sealed lead acid batteries typically used in those applications is somewhere between 24 months and 48 months, even though some owners could swear it’s even less. And replacing those batteries isn’t just a hassle: It’s also downright expensive.

Batteries actually thrive on regular uncharging and recharging, but the way most people use their RVs and boats makes that nearly impossible. Many RVs lay dormant for most of the year, only to be used for the occasional weekend trip and the two-week family vacation in the summer. This type of use shortens battery life to the point that many owners simply buy new batteries every season.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Terry Fellner, a battery service veteran and president of Thermoil Inc., a manufacturer of products designed to enhance the lives of non-sealed lead acid batteries.

“Deep-cycle batteries require more maintenance than a starting battery and are more expensive because of the amount of power they need to generate,” he told us. “So it really does pay off for owners to take some basic precautions and protect their investment in these types of batteries. Many of these batteries will just flat out die if they are left dormant for months at a time, so owners should really be vigilant in their service of them.”

Below are four tips for better RV battery life:

1. Know why RV batteries “die” in the first place. 
The most common causes of battery failure are loss of electrolyte due to heat or overcharging (“running dry”), corrosion, sulfation, undercharging, vibration, freezing, use of tap water rather than distilled water and just plain old age.

2. Consider the climate at the location of your RV. 
All batteries self-uncharge when they are not in use, and warm weather actually makes things worse. In cold climates, batteries lose about 3 percent of their charge per month; in warmer climates, a battery can lose 8 to10 percent of its charge per month, just from sitting there.

If your RV or boat is not in use, charge the battery at least once every other month if it’s in a cold climate and once a month if it’s in a warmer one. Partially uncharged batteries deteriorate faster than fully charged ones.

3. Watch the volts too.
When not in use, your battery should never fall below 12.45 volts or it will start to sulfate and go bad. Once sulfated, batteries become very difficult to completely charge back up. In fact, trying to charge a battery once it has sulfated usually heats up the battery, which warps the plates and ultimately destroys it.

4. Investigate using a “battery de-mister.” 
A battery de-mister increases battery life and shelf life, maintains battery chemistry, reduces charge time, eliminates corrosion and greatly reduces water consumption. It also diminishes the risk of explosion and helps keep your battery working under any condition from -50 F to 400 F, according to Fellner.

“RVs and boats are serious investments for their owners, and their users need reliability from their batteries not only for enjoyment, but also for safety,” says Fellner. “Taking care of the battery not only protects your financial investment, but it also protects the owners and their families, who rely on those vehicles being able to get them where they are going and back again.”