Each week we get a number of jobs through the RVSC workshop where caravan batteries require replacing. A lot of these are emergency jobs for travellers on the road, who have just suffered through a night of darkness, with a fridge that is getting warmer by the hour. Often, the batteries are not that old, and we are told that they have been kept fully charged – that their failure was very unexpected. You don’t really want to be in that situation. If you lose battery power in most modern vans, almost everything will stop working, including running your fridge on mains power.
Caravan batteries certainly have a life span, but with a bit of information, you can save yourself thousands of dollars over the life of your van.
There are FIVE things that matter when it comes to your caravan batteries:
● What your daily usage is.
● How often you can charge – whether from mains power, solar, or driving
● What your charge rate is
● Type of battery
● Battery capacity
All of this can be calculated and worked out properly and is essential so that you know your capacities and that you are not stressing the batteries. If you have a van with a battery and 12v system running, you are likely to have some idea of how much power you use every day. With batteries we talk about voltages, percentages, green lights, red lights and naturally this can be confusing.
A simple way to think about it is to consider your water tank – if you know that you have a 90L capacity. You could drink 9L per day for 10 days before you run out. Inside the tank there are a certain number of LITRES of water. Its pretty straightforward. What’s inside your battery? Volts? Amps? Power? How long will it last? How will you know when its empty? The short answer is, in most vans its impossible to know the status of your batteries accurately, and its not your fault. If you don’t know the battery status, how can manage them properly?
So if you don’t want to waste money chewing through batteries – there are 3 steps:
STEP 1) Invest in a battery monitoring solution
These devices give you a PERCENTAGE read out. This is just like your water tank – you have an accurate gauge of what’s left and can take action (ie recharging) at the right time. This is not a volt meter, it is not a solar regulator, it is not an amp meter: it is a battery monitoring solution.
STEP 2) Install cut outs
Even when you turn off everything in your van, there can still be a drain on the battery. So when you put your van into storage thinking that its fine, your battery is slowly being depleted. This causes massive damage to the battery. A cut out will disconnect the battery at a certain voltage and prevent major damage. For more information on a low battery cut off switch click here.
STEP 3) Maintain your batteries while the caravan is in storage
If step 2 says your battery is going flat in storage and that’s a bad thing, it’s a logical thought to leave it plugged into power to keep the battery charged up. Right? Well, constantly charging a battery can be as bad or worse than letting it go flat, especially if you have a less than great charger. What happens in these cases, is the battery gets too much charge, eventually a cell fails and cannot accept charge. The charger thinks the battery is still flat, and goes into a loop pushing a huge amount on charge into the batteries, before eventually making them pop. Worst case – the batteries can explode and catch fire.
The best way to handle charging is to either invest in a good quality charger, or just plug in to power overnight every 2 weeks. Leaving on solar is a suitable solution – providing you have the right size solar. A small cheap panel may not have enough current to do the job.
Save thousands over the life of your caravan by taking command of your battery monitoring and effectively charging your batteries while the van is in use or in storage. Following our 3 steps will help you to avoid the emergency of an unexpected battery failure. For more information on battery monitors, chargers, and cut-outs visit our showroom at the RV Service Centre or give our team a call. We stock and install quality battery system solutions and, of course, replacement caravan batteries.