By Mike Sokol
There’s a lot more to winterizing your RV than simply draining out the water and putting pink stuff in your pipes. In fact, if you forget one really important item it can cost you many hundreds of dollars in the spring. And that thing is properly maintaining your RV batteries over the winter.
First things first…
The first thing to decide is do you bring your batteries into your garage, or do you leave them inside of the RV. There are advantages to each, but I personally think that most RV owners should not be disconnecting and reconnecting batteries. That’s because there are many hundreds of amperes of current available if you accidentally short a wrench across the battery terminals (or even a positive wire to the frame).
Don’t get burned
That’s bad enough as it is since those huge currents and sparks can cause a battery explosion, spraying sulfuric acid everywhere (including your face). However, if you get your wedding ring or metal bracelet in the middle of the connection, it can heat up above 1,000 degrees in seconds. Read my story about how this happened to one of my Facebook members last month. Read more HERE, but be aware the pictures get much worse.
And remember that if you do plan on removing your batteries, you’ll want to carefully mark the wires and take good pictures. I get emails from readers every spring detailing how they accidentally reversed the polarity and burned up their inverter. So if you don’t have to remove them, don’t do it.
However, you’ll still need to use some sort of float charger to keep the batteries healthy over the winter months. Now, if you already have a 3-stage charger/inverter with a float or maintenance mode, then all should be well. Just remember that you probably need to leave your battery switch in the ON position so the float charging current gets to the battery. But under no circumstances should you use a 2-stage charger with a trickle mode as it may boil out the acid of your batteries, killing them and rotting out any metal in the battery compartment.
Pick the proper charger
So, if you have an earlier charger or just don’t feel comfortable leaving your entire RV electrical system energized, you should consider a dedicated float charger such as one from Battery Tender. This one not only provides monitored float/maintenance current, it’s also a 10-, 6- or 2-amp charger that handles all battery chemistries.
To use a Battery Tender (float charger) you simply turn off your main battery switch in the RV and connect the Battery Tender clips to your battery terminals. Even if you do make a mistake and get the polarity reversed, these modern units are smart enough to warn you about it and not blow up your battery.
Of course, Battery Tender, as well as other manufacturers, make smaller versions as well as solar panel versions that include a float charger mode. But I like having a 10-amp charger built-in just in case I drain my batteries and need an overnight recharge from an outlet.
But no matter what, don’t ignore your batteries this winter or you’ll likely have an expensive replacement bill come next spring.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.
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