Avoid the cordless drill blues


By Dave Helgeson

If you are like me, you carry a cordless drill in your RV. They come in handy for a bunch of things including small repairs and campsite improvements. Many RVers even find them useful for raising and lowering the stabilizing jacks on travel trailer and fifth wheels, even though jack manufacturers don’t recommend doing so.

Inevitably, the battery seems to go dead at the most inconvenient place and time, like when you are in the middle of a job and you are dry camping without shore power to recharge the battery. I used to tell myself I will get out the charger for the drill at the next stop or when I start the generator, but I typically forgot. The other problem was even when I did have shore power, where do I set up the charger that isn’t in the way in the interior of the RV. Plugging it in outside wasn’t an option as it might be stolen. Furthermore, each time we moved, the charger had to be stowed away before travel.

To solve these problems, I purchased a second battery and charger and mounted it on the wall inside the exterior storage compartment of the RV where the drill is stored. Power was obtained by drilling a hole into the sidewall and tapping a 120 V wall outlet on the interior of the RV. Now, whenever I start the generator or am plugged into shore power, I know the spare battery is charging and I will always have a fresh drill battery ready to go.

Note: New-style lithium batteries charge in as little as a half-hour compared to NiCad batteries found in older drills, that take 6-8 hours to charge. If you are a boondocker like me and run a generator for just short periods each day, a drill with lithium batteries assures you will always have a fully charged spare battery standing by.

Editor’s note: Some RVers are “touchy” about electrical equipment inside basement storage compartments. Here’s something you might consider: Use remote-reporting smoke detectors in your rig. These detectors are “linked” so that if one alerts, all others do the same. Mount one in your storage compartment.


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2 months ago

Having had three garage fires in this area in the past 90 days – each caused by charging Lithium Ion drill or tool batteries – I would suggest not only smoke detectors in your storage bays, which is a great idea, but charge these batteries at the outside 120v outlet! Technology is progressing, but it isn’t there yet!

Brian Burry
2 months ago

We use a reliable cord type, not battery operated, as we have exterior plugs in our basement storage areas, we have an extension cord to reach any part of our RV. It is so simple and functional. Sometimes we get battery devices, when very inexpensive plug-in type can function get well. I am sure there are plenty of instances a battery run tool is excellent, however just think of the $29 VS much higher price of a battery operated cost, if a corded tool can work for you. Just my thought.

3 months ago

Just another tip: LiPO powered tools are getting more popular (and MUCH better power/size), but if you have an older NiCd/NiMH powered tool and it’s charge routine is “unplug after X hours”, DO NOT leave it plugged in all the time. NiXX batteries can be left on a modest charge current as they will dissipate the power as heat and return to their proper voltage. But, they are using power they don’t want, will also cook themselves doing this long-term, and possibly vent electrolyte which is irreversible damage. Even if your charger indicates when it’s charged, that doesn’t mean it shut off this constant charge current. So, just don’t leave NiXX batteries on a charger indefinitely…

Leonard Szymkowiak
3 months ago

Why is it that I am not able to download the poll anymore?

3 months ago

Much smarter than hardwiring an AC charger is to use a DC charger in the first place. No inverter waste and you can charge your drill anytime you like from house battery (which recharges automatically already).

h goff
3 months ago
Reply to  Wolfe

good idea and DeWalt makes a DC charger but its $$$ much more than the typical AC charger.

3 months ago
Reply to  h goff

Really?!? My “main” drill has a wall-wart that produces 12V on a 2.1mm jack into the charger base… it was less than trivial to substitute a very common “lighter” plug. If you’re willing to open the charger’s case, there is likely to be a point you can tap 12V into as well (after the AC>DC transformer/rectifier and before the voltage regulator circuitry).

I’m also an RC model pilot and a bit of a hacker (YT: RVhackingOnTheCheap), so I have a $12 universal charger (0-25V and 150W of NiCd, LiPo, Pb, etc…) and can charge ANYTHING, anytime if I can get an electrical connection… but that’s a tip for oddballs like me. 🙂

Robbie Simons
3 months ago

Most Class A’s have 120 volt plug inside a basement compartment.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

When we are boondocking I always have the inverter turned on (except at night) for using our Dish for music. The outside trailer plug is perfect for charging my fast charging drill batteries. It takes almost no time (relatively speaking) and I don’t have to worry about where to put all the assorted chargers and batteries.

Sharon Boehmer
3 months ago

I have an outlet in my closet, so charger sits on a back shelf with extra battery. When ever we are plugged in the battery is charging. I also change the battery at the start of a new project so less chance of dead battery in the middle of work.