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Indoor Storage > Storage Tips > Caring for Your RV/Boat/Trailer Battery

Caring for Your RV/Boat/Trailer Battery

The batteries used in boats and recreational vehicles are called deep cycle batteries, which are also used in renewable energy applications. These batteries are different from automobile batteries because they are constantly discharging to service the appliances and other electrical workings in the RV.

The biggest threat to deep cycle batteries, as opposed to car batteries that are constantly being recharged by the operation of the vehicle, is from sulfation. Sulfation occurs when the battery is discharged by 80 percent of capacity or more, and the result of this is that the plates inside the battery start turning to crystal. When a battery discharges to the 80-percent level, this is also known as undercharging, the number-one threat to an RV's battery.

Right behind undercharging as a source of battery trouble is overcharging, which results in severe water loss and plate corrosion. Overcharging, like undercharging, is generally the result of human error or inattention. Both can and should be avoided.

An important fact to remember is that batteries of all ilk are like leaky buckets. If left alone, batteries will self-discharge up to 30 percent each month and after a few months, sulfation will set in. (Leaving a car battery unused and unattended is just about the only way it can suffer sulfation.)

If you're having trouble with your battery, or you suspect that it may have sulfated, there are tests that mechanics can apply. One is by using a cell voltmeter, and the other is called a three-minute charge test.

Your deep cycle battery demands more care than an automobile battery, and as a result it will often enjoy only half the life of a car battery, which can last up to 48 months. Paying attention to your RV's battery can indeed extend its life, however.

Your RV battery needs to have its water level checked frequently. When it gets low, it exposes the battery to sulfation. Also, your battery needs to be charged frequently if you've been using it to run the house part of your vehicle and you're not plugged into an outside electrical source. Conversely, when you are connected to an outside source, hit the "battery off" switch to save your battery.

Another factor to consider is heat. When it gets hot outside, especially if temperatures reach 120 degrees or more, you need to check and refill your battery water level more frequently.

Also, when storing your RV, give the battery a good charge and then check it frequently (remember that "natural discharge" in the bucket analogy?). Some even recommend removing the battery from the RV during prolonged storage periods.

Recreation enthusiasts who tow trailers will face similar challenges with their trailer's batteries, which are typically deep cycle batteries as discussed above. Many such owners will use the alternator on their tow vehicle to charge the trailer's batteries by running electrical cables to and fro.

Boats often sport two types of batteries, a cranking or starting battery similar to a car's battery and a deep cycle battery to run accessories such as trolling motors. Care and maintenance of boat batteries is similar to RV batteries. You still face the same two destructive processes -- overcharging and undercharging. In addition, as boat batteries are more exposed to the elements, you should clean the terminals regularly as well as charging the batteries themselves and storing them properly. If you don't store your boat indoors for the winter, it's a good idea to remove the batteries and put them on a periodic charge somewhere inside where it's warm.

And speaking of storage, RV owners in the Inland Empire, whether Riverside, Ontario, Lake Elsinore or elsewhere, can store their possessions at Premier Indoor Storage in centrally located Corona, where service professionals will not only look after your batteries, but your tires as well. And if you want more work done, in-house mechanics can do just about everything you need. Your toy will be well babied at Premier Indoor Storage.

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