What you need to know about caravan batteries
If you want to get the most out of your caravan, a reliable leisure battery will be an essential piece of kit. While the vehicle battery keeps your engine running, the leisure battery powers the appliances that make your caravan a home, from the fridge, to the shower, to the lighting.
A faulty or discharged leisure battery can really ruin your holiday, so it is advised that every caravanner learns about purchasing, charging and maintaining this vital equipment.
What a leisure battery does
The most important function of your leisure battery is to run the 12V appliances in your caravan. This, however, is not the end of its usefulness. It also backs up the flow of power running from your caravan’s charger. So, on two levels, it is crucial to running a smooth touring motorhome.
The standard flooded battery represents the most affordable option. It uses lead acid and sports a removable cap for adding de-ionised water. So long as you are filling your flooded battery regularly, it shouldn’t give you any problems due to high charging voltages. Sealed flooded batteries are also available. They use valves to vent gases when the battery is operating.
The great thing about electrolyte is that it comes with no leaking risk. This jelly-like substance does, however, have other drawbacks. Over-charging is absolutely out of the question and extreme care is required if you’re planning a trip in hot weather. Due to their sensitivity, Gelled Electrolyte batteries have a pretty low life expectancy.
Absorbed Glass Mat Batteries
Essentially, Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries are a more muscular version of Gelled Electrolyte batteries. They use the same substance, so leaking is still not a danger, but they are hardier in their build, using fine boron-silicate mat. This means you don’t have to take such delicate care when using them and over-charging is not nearly as dangerous. What is an issue, however, is price. AGMs are, by some distance, the most expensive type of leisure battery you can buy.
Buying the right leisure battery
There is such a variety of products on offer and the price from cheapest to costliest differs so greatly, that the leisure battery market can be a confusing place to enter for the first time. While you don’t, necessarily, need to spend big to get quality, the really cut price end of the scale is best avoided. These lightweight batteries will rarely keep their charge for any significant amount of time and won’t stand up to much wear and tear.
A good way to judge how much life you’ll get out of your battery is to test the weight. Basically, the heavier it is, the more charge it can handle.
Does this mean that you can only be safe with the highest priced and heaviest power source? Of course not. In fact, a low to mid-priced caravan battery should be fine for the vast majority of owners, so long as you are staying in sites with 230V mains hook ups.
Should you be venturing to destinations where you won’t be offered such a provision, however, then a top-of-the-line leisure battery will be essential and, yes, you will probably need to invest a substantial sum to get one. The price is well worth paying, however, for the peace of mind and safety it provides.
Good battery maintenance
The better you take care of your leisure battery, the better it will take care of you. The good news is that doing so will not demand too much of your time. In fact, cleaning it once or twice per year is all that should be required to keep it running efficiently.
A battery requires regular usage so it is important to switch your charger off now and again. Also, when storing the battery, it needs recharging and discharging periodically.
Flooded batteries that have not been mounted correctly and fitted to their escape vent are a massive safety risk. The vent is what releases the hydrogen and oxygen that accumulates while the battery charges up to its highest power. Given the sort of chemicals you are dealing with, it is wise to charge your battery well away from even small naked flames.
When handling your battery, particularly as you inspect your cells, protect your eyes and hands from leaking acid with goggles and gloves. Use clamps when connecting your battery to avoid sparks.
As you can see, a reliable leisure battery should be installed to every caravan. Without proper maintenance and care, however, it can be the source of serious problems and risks. Be sure to keep yours fully charged and properly maintained to ensure a happy, safe journey on all your caravan trips.