Unless you live in or travel to consistently warm climates, then the time will inevitably come every year when you have to give your camper a break. The winterization process preserves much of your vehicle until the spring comes, but you worry about your batteries. How do you prevent coming back to dead batteries in your camper?
When winterizing your camper, be sure to take the battery out. Bring it home, store it in a warm environment, charge it when necessary, and then check the battery levels about weekly until spring arrives.
This guide to camper battery winterization will ensure your batteries are ready to go come the spring. We’ll talk about how to take your camper batteries out, where to keep them, how often to charge them, and plenty more. You won’t want to miss it, so keep reading!
How to Remove Batteries From Your Camper
Before you can do anything with your batteries, you need them out of your camper.
It’s good to familiarize yourself with the procedure for removing the batteries, as it’s something you’ll have to do periodically. Outside of winterization, you’ll also have to take out your camper’s batteries when they’re broken and you must replace them.
Your camper battery will either have a disconnect switch or it won’t. The former is more ideal, of course, but not necessary. Here are the steps to taking out your camper battery with the disconnect switch and without it.
Camper Battery Removal with a Disconnect Switch
Disconnectors or disconnecting switches make the battery removal process a lot easier. You essentially hit the switch and your camper battery should come out.
How do you know if your camper battery even has a disconnect switch? That’s a good question!
Check near your battery’s hood and you’ll see the switch if it was preinstalled. If you bought an after-market disconnect switch, then you should already know where it is.
If after searching around for a preinstalled disconnect switch on your camper, you come up empty-handed, then check your camper’s owner manual. You’ll be able to learn more about the switch in the manual.
Now, not all disconnect switches are the same. Yours might require a key, or you could have to turn a switch. The third type of camper disconnect switch is a push button.
If your switch uses a key, then it’s the securest. You must remove the key from the switch and then your battery is powered down. This kind of disconnect switch is useful if you worry about camper theft.
A turning switch, aka a proper switch, requires you to turn it to disconnect the battery from your camper. This isn’t too difficult, as it doesn’t require an accessory like a key.
Finally, a push button is just that. You press a button, and you can connect or disconnect your battery (or vice-versa) instantly. Most push buttons have indicator lights to tell you which state the battery is in, but not all do.
If yours doesn’t, then you’ll have to remember the state of your battery after pushing the button.
Camper Battery Removal Without a Disconnect Switch
Disconnect switches are undoubtedly convenient, but you can still remove your camper battery without them. You’ll just have to go about it in a different way.
Park your camper in a safe spot that’s out of the way from passing traffic. A campsite or parking lot is recommended. Then, open the hood of your camper and find the battery.
When you do, you need to detach its negative connection without touching the positive connection. You can do this using a wrench. Wearing safety equipment is advisable, including rubber gloves and even rubber shoes.
The negative terminal and wire should be attached with a bolt. By unscrewing that bolt with your wrench, you’ve disconnected the battery. Move the wire towards the side to keep it secure, then reconnect it.
If you can, we’d suggest buying a disconnect switch for your camper battery sooner than later. It’s a lot faster to remove your battery this way, and it’s safer too!
Camper Battery Storage – Selecting the Perfect Place
Now that your camper battery is out, you want to bring it home with you. You’ll leave a lot of components in your camper during the winter, but not this one.
Most camper batteries are not so large that transporting them should be unwieldy. You can likely fit yours in the trunk of your vehicle.
Okay, so you have your camper battery, but where are you going to keep it? This is the million-dollar question.
Where you choose to store your battery can be the difference between a dead battery or one that’s in working condition come the spring.
The criteria for where your battery should go is quite general. You don’t want the battery to be exposed to the winter weather, so an indoor or covered location is best.
That doesn’t mean your camper battery needs to go in your living room or kitchen, of course. Your basement is a suitable place for the battery, as is a crawlspace, a shed, or even your garage.
Here are a few pointers that will help.
For one, don’t put your camper battery directly on the ground, especially if it’s in an uninsulated space such as a crawlspace, garage, or basement. The floors of these rooms are just as cold as the outdoors, so you’re not doing your battery any favors.
It’s much better to put your battery on a shelf in one of these rooms. If you can’t do that, then take a cardboard box, break it down, and store your battery on top of the box.
A slab of wood or a few cinderblocks is also fine. Really, you need anything that separates the battery from the cold ground.
Here’s a second consideration. Although a warm spot is recommended for the camper battery, you don’t want it where it can be exposed to direct sunlight. Thus, keep the battery away from windows unless those windows have curtains or blinds.
Camper Battery Charging Dos and Don’ts
Even if your camper battery was in decent health before you detached it, you can’t leave it in your garage all winter and expect to come back to see your battery at that same percentage.
All batteries discharge, which means they gradually deplete even if you’re not using them. You see this in play all the time with your smartphone, and it happens to your camper battery as well.
These dos and don’ts will help you keep your camper battery in good shape all winter long.
Do Clean Your Camper Battery After You Remove It
Some camper owners assume that once their batteries get a little corroded, it’s game over. The good news is that, in most cases, that’s not true.
If your battery is overly corroded, then yes, it’s a good idea to buy a new one. Should you only see a bit of blue or whitish residue (it could be green too), then you can always try to get rid of it so your camper battery looks as good as new.
How do you remove corrosion from a camper battery? You can try a product like NOCO Remove battery cleaner. Recommended for hold-downs, cables, battery terminals, and the batteries themselves, NOCO Remove can increase battery flow.
All you do is spray the stuff on and then clean the residue away. All corrosion is neutralized and dissolved.
If you’d rather not use a commercial product, you can always make a corrosion buster using common kitchen products. Mix water with baking soda, creating a 1:6 ratio with the 1 for the baking soda and the 6 for the water.
Transfer the ingredients into a spray bottle and mist the offending areas of your battery. Be sure to clear away any remaining residue.
For stubborn corrosion, spray the water and baking soda mix and use a wire brush to scour away the corrosive residue. That ought to do the trick!
Don’t Forget to Top Off Fluid Levels
Camper batteries are full of water and sulfuric acid. Through charging your electronics and appliances, the battery’s water will evaporate. Time will also do that, so even if your battery isn’t running, its fluid levels could still drop.
Now, water won’t cause you any harm if you spill some on yourself, but the same cannot be said for sulfuric acid. Although the percentage of ingredients is about 64 percent water versus 36 percent sulfuric acid, you still want to wear safety gear when topping off battery fluids. We’d recommend gloves and goggles.
To access the camper battery fluids, grab a flathead screwdriver. Take one of the battery compartments and, with your screwdriver, remove the compartment cover. The cover should have a label on it, and that will indicate that you’ve removed the right one.
You’ll see what look like holes once you take the cover off. Each “hole,” so to speak, is a cell. The cells connect to the battery’s main compartment.
The cells will have varying levels of fluids. If the water is half an inch over the cell plate’s tops, then you don’t need to refill it.
For cells with less water, you’ll have to top them off. Use distilled water rather than tap water since it’s free of minerals (your battery doesn’t need more of those).
Remember where to fill the cells and don’t overdo it. If you overfill, then the water can flow out from the battery when it’s running, creating an electrical risk.
Do Charge the Battery
Now comes the time to charge your camper battery. You have a variety of ways to do this, so let’s go over your options now.
- Solar power: We wrote recently about solar panels in campers and RVs. A solar power-charged camper battery would use the free, infinite, and renewable power of the sun to power your appliances and electronics. The setup requires solar panels, a solar charge controller, and a DC/AC converter.
- Alternator: An alternator with a seven-pin plug is your next option for charging your camper battery. An alternator can charge the batteries of your towing vehicle (provided your camper requires a towing vehicle) and your camper simultaneously, but only using trickle charging. In other words, it will take a long time for both batteries to be recharged.
- Power converter: If you have an onboard battery charger or power converter, this is ideal for charging camper batteries. You’d plug into a 120-volt electrical outlet and then use shore power to charge your camper batteries. If you have an external smart charger, you can use it for recharging 12-volt batteries more quickly than you would when charging with shore power.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could plug your camper batteries into the charger once, leave them in your garage all winter, and then come back to them in the spring ready to go? Awesome yes, and convenient, definitely. Yet plausible? No.
Overcharging your batteries, no matter the type, is always a poor decision. That’s why you’re not supposed to plug your smartphone into the charger before bed and leave the phone plugged in for seven or eight hours.
Your phone doesn’t need that long to charge. Once the battery reaches 100 percent, it’s overcharging.
So what’s the risk of overcharging whether it’s your camper battery or your smartphone? An overcharged battery can overheat, for one. Second, you could damage the battery, especially if you make overcharging a habit.
We’ll discuss in the next section how often you should check on and recharge your battery throughout the winter, but it’s not just once. You will have to commit to charging it several times if you want a useable battery come the spring.
Do Use a Battery Maintainer
In addition to the charging equipment you might have purchased for your camper battery, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a battery maintainer.
What is a battery maintainer? As the name implies, the job of a maintainer is to, well, maintain your battery levels.
For instance, if you use a battery recharger to bring up the percentage of your batteries to 80 percent, the battery maintainer will keep the batteries around 80 percent.
Battery maintainers only work when they detect that your battery voltage has decreased. Then the maintainer will increase the voltage of the batteries until they get close to the desired percentage.
Although using a battery maintainer is sort of a set-it-and-forget-it method, we still recommend checking on your battery periodically throughout the winter.
Don’t Allow the Batteries to Drop Under 50 Percent
So where’s the baseline for charging your camper battery? You don’t want the batteries to go below 50 percent power. When they do, the batteries are at a higher risk of sulfation.
The process of sulfation occurs when lead sulfate crystals develop on the pores and across the surface of the battery plates. Your batteries might not be able to take or hold a charge as well in the future.
Remember that battery discharging is a natural phenomenon that you must accommodate for when determining when to charge your batteries.
How Often Should You Check Your Battery Over the Winter?
Okay, so we’ve alluded to it enough. Precisely how often should you check your camper batteries and potentially recharge them?
At least every week, you want to go to your basement, shed, or crawlspace and take a quick peek at the batteries. Test their percentage, and if necessary, recharge. Check the fluid levels as well!
Your camper battery must be treated with care to prevent it from dying over the winter. Remove the battery from your camper, bring it to a warm indoor environment, clean it, and top off the fluid levels.
Then recharge the battery and use a battery maintainer to keep the charge at about that level. Don’t forget to check on your battery about weekly to ensure it hasn’t discharged too much!