Updated on: March 2024
One of the most powerful and sometimes overlooked pieces of electrical equipment you have in a camper van is the battery. Increasing the life of your camper van battery will allow you to enjoy your vanlife lifestyle. It can power your caravan, maintain the temperature inside the campervan, and power all of your appliances and electronics.
On average, well-maintained camper batteries will last for about 4 to 5 years. However, if you don’t take proper care of them, they can die in only a year. This expense might mount up over time, and the last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of now where with a dead battery.
Every style of camper, from the tiniest teardrop to the biggest fifth wheel, requires battery maintenance. Here are tips for keeping your battery in good working order and enjoying your camper van for years to come.
- Tips on how to help extend the battery life
- Buy a good camper battery from the start
- Avoid draining the battery
- Don't undercharge or overcharge your camper battery
- Choose the correct battery for your camping needs
- Use a Voltmeter to monitor the charge
- Clean battery terminals
- Maintain batteries when not in use
- Disconnect your camper van battery when it's not in use
- Add solar panels
Tips on how to help extend the battery life
The most common misconception among novice caravanners is that cars and caravan dual batteries serve the same purpose. A car battery has enough power to start the vehicle instantly. However, a caravan battery’s primary goal is to distribute constant power over a long time to operate numerous appliances.
Buy a good camper battery from the start
The first step in ensuring that your battery has a lengthy and healthy existence is to provide it with the best possible start. Taking the time to understand all your options and spending a few extra dollars on purchasing a top-quality battery will undoubtedly pay off in the future because it will last you much longer.
You’ll need to pick a camper battery that is durable, portable, and delivers the voltage required. This will help you discover the best choice. Camper batteries are usually categorized by their power in amps and their voltage.
Avoid draining the battery
Every campervan battery is designed to provide a specific number of deep discharge cycles. Depending on your type of battery, you can achieve 600 to 800 cycles for lead-acid and 2000 – 2500 for lithium batteries, you will want to recharge the battery before dropping below 80% to give it the longest life.
You should check your caravan battery charge at least every day when your on the road avoid running completely dry since this damages the battery performance.
Don’t undercharge or overcharge your camper battery
Like any other piece of technology, Batteries require maintenance and periodic charging to function effectively. In the case of your camper batteries, this is done with a solar panel or your van’s alternator.
However, it’s easy to go overboard, so make sure you’re regularly supplying your batteries with the correct amount of energy.
Batteries can be recharged while driving the camper van, which is a convenient way to keep them topped up on trips. However, if you’re at a campsite with power connections or charging them at home, you must not overcharge them.
Batteries that are overcharged can heat up and wear out more quickly, reducing their longevity. Batteries that have been undercharged might run out of power before you expect it, which is not suitable for them.
Choose the correct battery for your camping needs
When picking the ideal energy source for your RV, you should think about what sort of battery you’ll require.
It’s important to consider how many appliances you want to be able to run when you’re camping, especially when it comes to the times when you’re at a campsite.
If you plan on running your air conditioning, lighting and other devices, then you’ll need a bigger battery, unless it’s only for weekend stays.
There are two types of batteries generally used in camper vans. The first sort is the vans starter battery. These are similar to car batteries and are used to start your van. Vehicle starter batteries provide a significant surge of electricity for a brief time. They just need to jumpstart the engine.
The second sort of battery is the deep-cycle. These use a low, consistent charge to power daily living in a campervan. The two most popular types of deep-cycle batteries are lead-acid and lithium batteries. Lithium is becoming very popular in the caravan and camper van world.
Our picks for the top Lithium batteries are:
- Enerdrive B-TEC 125AH Lithium Battery with Bluetooth
- Victron 100Ah Smart Lithium Battery
- Invicta 12V 100Ah Lithium Battery with Bluetooth
Read a more in-depth review on the top 5 lithium batteries in Australia for camping
Use a Voltmeter to monitor the charge
You can check the charging and discharge of your battery using a digital voltmeter. To check the battery, you should use a voltmeter or an amp-meter.
Another easier option is to install a 12v battery monitor unit. Install it inside your campervan for easy access and monitoring of your batteries.
When you get your battery checked, make sure you ask the technician to charge it up again. It’s crucial to wait a few hours after charging your battery so that new readings are accurate. You should take voltage readings of recently charged caravan batteries no later than 6 hours after setting them.
Refer to the chart with the aid of a voltmeter to examine your battery’s condition at various strengths. (Note, this is with NO load connected to the battery)
Clean battery terminals
It would be best if you also cleaned the battery terminals regularly. Corrosion, sulfation, and other build-ups can reduce the life of any battery.
Baking soda and water will get most batteries clean, and several gentle cleansers can also be used. Clean the batteries terminals at least twice a year, ideally when you’re about to leave on a trip or upon returning home and, if possible, more often than that.
Batteries are made of corrosive chemicals, so make sure you wear gloves when cleaning them!
Maintain batteries when not in use
Some people use their campervans all year, and others store them during the off-season. No matter the choice, it’s crucial to maintain your battery during this time so that it will be ready for when you are back on the road.
Some batteries might have a yearly inspection sticker from where they were inspected by a mechanic, which you can use as an indicator of when this should be done.
If the battery is going to be stored for an extended time, it’s essential to have a fully charged battery, and a trickle charger hooked up on the unit, so it doesn’t lose its charge.
Consider taking it out of the camper and keeping it in a temperature-controlled spot if you live in a hot or cold environment.
Disconnect your camper van battery when it’s not in use
When you aren’t using electricity, it’s tempting to believe your battery isn’t running down. Batteries continue to provide a small current even when the device is switched off.
Batteries in campervans can be safely disconnected from a power source with a battery disconnect switch. The switch stops the flow of electricity to the battery but allows you to connect it whenever you need your van’s batteries again.
Add solar panels
Solar panels are another excellent way to charge your batteries. Solar panel systems will also need a solar charge controller that ensures the charge is always even and prevents overcharging.
These days, many camper vans are adding solar panels for this exact purpose. If you live in an area where it’s sunny nearly year-round, this may be more than enough to keep your batteries charged.
When the campervan is parked, solar panels can provide power, which means you won’t have to worry about charging the battery on the road! It also makes it easier for caravan and campervan owners since they don’t have to keep track of charging the battery while travelling.
Solar panels are a must if you want to go off the grid! You won’t have to rely on outside sources of electricity.
If you’re interested in installing solar panels, check out our Solar Panels for Campervans: Which One Is Right For Me?