Leisure Battery Care & Maintenance
The right care is essential to maximise the life of your Leisure battery
Whether you have enjoyed a long road trip, a holiday or a short break, maintaining your leisure battery is very important to keep it in the best possible condition. You may have your leisure batteries being used in caravans, motorhomes, camping and even off grid to name a few, all of these environments will require you to maintain your batteries. By keeping your leisure batteries clean and the cable connections secure you will remove many of the problems that are caused by dirty and loose connections.
Keep your battery fully charged to prevent any internal damage. One of the most crucial factors in extending your batteries life is not allowing, or leaving it in a discharged state. Prior to using your leisure batteries, make sure they are fully charged, when you are on a site with electrical hook-up the batteries will be charged using your onboard charger.
Once you have returned from your vacation, or trip, it is extremely important to fully recharge your battery as soon as possible to prevent any damage to your batteries. DO NOT leave your batteries in a discharged state, this will inevitably lead to sulphation and drastically reduce the life of your batteries.
People often think when they’re not using their caravans, motorhomes etc that the battery/batteries will remain charged and be ready for when they use them again. The truth is batteries will discharge even when you’re not using them. That’s why you should take precautions to ensure they are kept topped up with charge, using the correct battery charger, so your next outing or holidays don’t start with the disappointment of a flat or damaged battery.
Be mindful that caravans and motorhomes, may have small electrical devices such as, clocks, alarms, stereos etc which can drain the batteries over time if left connected.
When it comes to leisure battery maintenance, you will first want to establish what type of battery you have? For instance, do you have a wet flooded battery? Or perhaps you have an AGM sealed battery, maybe even a Lithium option. While the basics are similar, we will help establish a basis for you to maintain these battery options.
Regularly checking the level of charge in your battery is good practice to ensure you achieve the best possible battery life.
Wet Flooded Battery
Your standard wet flooded battery is one that would require filling with electrolyte (acid) when it was new, once the electrolyte was added you would then need to charge the battery to fully activate it, ready to be put into service. During your maintenance of the battery you would want to keep the battery clean and make sure the terminals are free of any corrosion, as this can lead to many problems. If you need to clean your battery and the terminals, as well as the battery tray, then a mixture of water and baking soda is ideal. You will need to make sure you regularly check the charge level in your battery and charge as required, if you’re using your leisure battery regularly hooked up to the mains power supply on a site then your level of charge should remain healthy. However if you are off grid it is likely you will want to have either a solar charging source or the ability to charge your batteries up close to your location once they are discharged. It is important that you also regularly check the electrolyte level in your battery or batteries, and add distilled water when it’s needed.
If you use your caravan or motorhome all year round then sticking to the above will help get the most out of your leisure battery or batteries, however if you are planning on storing your caravan or motorhome over the winter then please see storing a caravan or motorhome battery.
When it come to maintaining your Caravan or Motorhome battery that has AGM technology, you’ll be pleased to know there isn’t as much maintenance to do as with a wet flooded battery. This is because AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries are fully sealed and so once they have been activated from new, they are a closed and as such they don’t require any electrolyte or water. All of that said, you will still need to regularly check the charge level in your battery and charge as required. Also keeping your battery and terminals clean and free of corrosion will prevent many problems from occurring. When cleaning your battery, terminals or the battery tray then using water and baking soda is a great solution.
As with the AGM battery, there is relatively little maintenance to do on Lithium batteries unlike the wet flooded lead-acid battery. You must make sure you regularly check the charge level of the battery and charge as required. When storing a Lithium-ion battery, disconnect the battery from the caravan or motorhome and immediately charge the battery on a Lithium battery charger, the battery can then be happily stored for up to a year. When you wish to use the battery after storage, put the battery on charge to make sure you have full power prior to use. Also keeping your battery and terminals clean and free of corrosion will prevent many problems from occurring. When cleaning your battery, terminals or the battery tray then using water and baking soda is a great solution.
Storing a Caravan or Motorhome Battery Over The Winter
Once you have finished using the your caravan or motorhome for the season and it’s time to store it for the winter, there are some things you want to do to make sure your everything is in the best possible condition for storage, this includes your battery. Firstly you’ll want to decide if you are going to remove the battery or batteries from your caravan or motorhome. One important consideration is where you’ll be storing your caravan etc, because if your caravan or motorhome is fitted with an alarm, immobiliser or tracking device it’s likely that removing your leisure battery could disable them. If you have decided to leave your leisure batteries connected then be sure to charge the batteries fully at the outset of storage, thereafter check the level of charge on a regular basis, we would recommend once a month and then charge the batteries as required.
You may decide on a commercial storage unit for your caravan or motorhome, most of these facilities will not have electrical hook-up and as such you will need to remove your batteries and maintain them, perhaps at home. When you have removed the batteries they they won’t experience the electrical draw from items such as clocks, alarms, trackers etc, but over time they will naturally drain. You will need to charge the batteries fully from the start of storage, and this needs to be done in a well ventilated room, perhaps a garage or large shed. Check the level of charge on a regular basis, we would recommend once a month and charge your batteries as required.
When you are looking to put your leisure batteries back into service always make sure you fully charge the batteries and get them tested, to give you peace of mind for your next trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
There can be a few reasons why your leisure battery may fail, but one of the most common is due to a lack of use. If you're not using your leisure battery enough, in your caravan or motorhome and it sits, perhaps in an extended period of no use or during longer winter storage, then your battery needs to be charged.
If the leisure battery is not charged when the caravan or motorhome is stored this will lead to the leisure battery discharging, and can cause a chemical process called sulphation. When a battery is charged this chemical process cannot take place. However, when the battery’s voltage falls below 12.4 volts this process begins. The process causes sulphur crystals to form on the lead plates inside the battery, which in turn increases the battery’s electrical resistance. The longer this process is allowed to continue the worse the effect. Eventually the battery will become so electrically resistant, that you will be unable to charge the battery, let alone draw power from it.
If this process is caught early you may be able to salvage the battery using a battery charger with a pulse charge function. This will partially break down the sulphur crystals but the battery will never reach its full capacity again.
It is important to remember that if your battery fails due to sulphation this will not be covered under warranty. This kind of failure is classed as damage caused by the user through neglect.
Battery cables, the terminals on the end and the terminal connections to the battery, can all be susceptible to corrosion. It is important to keep these free of dirt and corrosion but also to check the condition of the battery cable and terminals. If you find traces of corrosion on the cable and or terminals seek the advice of your local dealership, they can advise you if the cables or terminals need to be replaced.
Loose, dirty or corroded terminals can interrupt the power flow from the leisure battery, causing it to be ineffective, leading to symptoms similar to a dead battery. Make sure the terminals are secure and connected correctly. Use a solution of water and baking soda to remove corrosion build-up.
By disconnecting the leisure batteries this will prevent excess discharge even when you're not using the caravan or motorhome, as electronic devices such as alarms, clocks, trackers stereos etc can continue to draw power from the battery, affecting the batteries lifespan, if not regularly charged. It is important to remember that if you disconnect or remove your battery or batteries from your caravan or motorhome, the any security devices such as alarms, immobilisers and trackers may be disabled.
It is important to note that even with the battery disconnected, you will need to check the battery charge level and charge accordingly. A disconnected battery will discharge overtime naturally, however not at the same rate as if it were connected to your caravan or motorhome.
The exception to this is Lithium batteries, as they can be charged and disconnected from the machine and happily sit for twelve months before being used again, down to their chemical technology. However as previously mentioned, disconnecting or removing your leisure batteries may disable your security devices. If you were looking to use your Lithium battery for the first time in a few months we would always advise you fully charge your battery fully prior to use.
The simple answer is yes. You must always recharge your leisure batteries after use, if you leave your leisure batteries to sit in a discharged state this will lead to poor performance and reduced battery life.
If your leisure batteries goes below 50% charge then it is very likely the process of sulphation will start to occur. Allowing your leisure battery to sit for a prolonged period in a discharged state will increase the sulphation process to a point at which the battery will not be able to be charged, let alone provide any power, this must be avoided at all costs.
Checking The Charge Level
Most modern caravans or motorhomes have a built-in battery monitor, however some of the older models may not. We recommend checking your battery charge levels with a voltmeter or multimeter, below we have a quick reference chart to assist your checks.
Prior to taking the readings, ensure all electrical appliances and systems are switched off.
Meter Reading Approximate Charge Level
12.7V or above 100%
12V or less Discharged