We see a lot of battery failures through the workshop each week. Generally, owners notice an issue like lights being dull, everything flickering, or appliances not working in the morning.
Battery failure is a sneaky thing. It seems like it just happens all of a sudden, then you have to do something about it. However, its much more sinister than that.
Generally, batteries fail very slowly and day-to-day you don't notice the difference. There is a small amount of damage done to the internals of a battery everytime it is flattened, and the effect is cumulative - ie once of twice is ok, but regular excessive discharge is a killer.
But, "I've got a smart charger" is the most common response. With the idea that the smart charger is doing everything to look after the batteries. The problem is, while a smart charger might charge your batteries smartly, it doesn't manage your power system as a whole.
The 3 biggest issues we see every week:
- no monitoring
- leaving the van/batteries on chargers while in storage
- poor quality chargers
Most vans do a really terrible job at monitoring power usage. A lot of vans have a VOLTAGE display, which people rely on as a gauge for the battery level. But VOLTAGE is a really bad way of checking battery levels.
Leaving your van plugged in to power for weeks on end, is also a good way to shorten your batteries life. Straight up, a lot of factory fitted chargers are not that great, and can do a really poor job at managing your battery charge in this situation. With the biggest issue occuring once your battery has a slight degradation, most chargers will constantly charge the battery, speeding up the deterioration in a vicious cycle. Generally, it is better to charge your batteries for 12 hours, every fortnight. This is providing you have good isolation circuits and can turn of ALL loads in the van.
When experiencing flat batteries, a battery shop is going to replace the batteries and get you going again. But its not going to fix the problem. If you want a reliable fix, you need to check:
- all chargers (mains power, solar, DC)
- resting loads (any power draw when van is in storage).
Once you have them sorted, you can then proceed to replace the batteries with confidence you are going to get good life out of them. At this stage, it is worth fitting a low battery cut out system to protect the batteries in case of emergency.