If you’ve been an RV owner for a while, chances are you’ve experienced your battery dying at the wrong place at the wrong time. Bonus if it’s given out 2 or more times.
The headache (and costs) of locating a knowledgeable mechanic in the middle of nowhere can take its toll on even the most even-keeled of people and turn that dream trip of yours into a living nightmare.
This is why in this article, we’ll walk you through what’s really causing your RV battery to die- and warning signs to look out for.
Sense the smoke before the fire with this guide, and keep both you and your guests focused on enjoying the ride.
The information presented here applies to batters in travel trailers, 5th wheels and motor homes as well.
Table of Contents
- Root Causes of RV Battery Failure
- Your Converter Has Blown A Fuse
- Your Shore Power Connection Is Terrible
- Your Battery Has Gone Bad
- Your Battery is Old- Literally
- Your Solar Panels May Not Be Powerful Enough
- Your RV Converter Cooling Fans Have Stopped Working
- How to Increase The Life of A RV Battery
- RV Batteries Keep Dying Video
Root Causes of RV Battery Failure
Whether you’re riding motorcoach or utilizing a towable rig, there’s a few reasons why you’re having battery troubles :
Your Converter Has Blown A Fuse
Besides the usual suspects of sulfation, overcharging, and irregular maintenance schedules, your RV’s Power Converter could have blown a fuse, directly affecting the charging of your battery.
Do a quick check of your electrical compartment (usually where most of your fuses and circuit breakers are) and check to see if your Converter is on. Should it not be, look for any connections that may be destroyed or have corroded and replace them.
We strongly suggest that if there is any damage to the Power Converter, take it to a Certified Technician to prevent further damage (do not attempt to ‘DIY’ troubleshoot this).
Your Shore Power Connection Is Terrible
This is given nowhere near as much attention as it should. An RV battery may die due to insufficient shore power! Now you may be wondering what shore power is, and very simply, it’s the juice from the power pedestal that you use at campgrounds, parks, and other RV rest areas. Power to converter troubles, if your Converter is not getting the proper voltage when it’s recharging, this can also affect the battery.
If your AC states 120-volt AC, then you need 120 volts coming in from the electrical source. To double-check this, use a clamp-on meter, like Kaiweets Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000 or a WeePro Vpro 850L Digital Multimeter (you can check both AC & DC voltages on either option) and attach it to the electrical cable. Any number lower than a 1-3 point drop will be no good for you and cause more damage in the long run- hence battery failure.
Your Battery Has Gone Bad
And speaking of battery failure, your battery could be bad. Your RV runs off of both 12-volt and 120-volt electrical systems- each unique in its own way; however, should something be wrong with your 12-volt DC, the 120 may start overworking. Here are common tell-tale signs that an RV battery is dying:
– Rapid clicking sounds when starting the engine
– Constant malfunctions of electrical equipment (like charging outlets, windshield wipers)
– Your headlights are extremely dim
– Corrosion is present on the battery
– The battery fails to charge
Your Battery is Old- Literally
You’ve done your detective work and even replaced a few fuses for good measure, but your RV still won’t run properly. Why! From your inspection, both the Converter and inverter are fine, the electrical charge is coming in as it should be, and all the breakers are intact.
The heck is the issue? Sadly, it might be the battery itself. Yes, I know the life expectancy should be between 3-7 years, and if you’re not mistaken, you just bought this battery a few months ago- but was it a new battery that you purchased?
One quick way to tell is by checking the date on the battery. Once you’ve located the compartment, look for a four- or five-digit date code that should be showing alongside the corners of the battery (not the label sticker).
This code should be a mixture of letters and numbers that read from left to right. The alpha-numeric number is the actual shipping date of when the battery left the factory. Typically, the letter indicates the month, year, and manufacturing plant. So B5 may mean February 2015 with the last letter indicating the plant. If you’re lucky, you may see the ‘DDMMYY’ that saves you the trouble of figuring it out.
Should the date code be relatively new, then seek out a local Technician for further troubleshooting steps; however, if it is not as new as you thought it to be, that can be the problem entirely.
Your Solar Panels May Not Be Powerful Enough
Should you have a model with solar panels installed (or you added them after purchase), make sure they can handle the loads from high-powered appliances. Refrigerators and AC units are well-known power guzzlers- keep this in mind.
Suppose your solar panels cannot handle the amount of energy these appliances utilize- your generators/inverters may be in overdrive! In that case, this is an all-out recipe for disaster, and the panels need replacing immediately.
Your RV Converter Cooling Fans Have Stopped Working
If you were able to check earlier, did you hear a humming sound coming from the Converter (note that some models don’t make noise at all)? When you went to check it out, did you get blasted with a bunch of heat? If you did, it could be an indicator that your cooling fans are either not working correctly or not at all, causing overheating of other key parts.
Inside the case should also be a thermostat sensor. If you can, test to make sure that the power voltage is coming through as it should be (similar to how you check the voltage on the shore power- see above), and if not – hands-off and google the nearest tech.
Speaking of overheating, let’s discuss how it affects self-discharging. If you are not familiar, ‘self-discharging occurs when the chemicals inside of a battery naturally begin reacting with each other without any prompting of use.
Because it is happening on its own, there’s not much to be done but to regularly monitor the discharge rates and any sludge buildup (the sticky, gooey substance you may see near the bottom of the battery).
However, should your cooling fans fail and excessive heat accumulates inside for long periods, the ‘discharge rate’ will rise higher than usual and cause significant damage to the battery. We recommend not leaving your RV in boiling temperatures without regular maintenance.
How to Increase The Life of A RV Battery
In addition to doing the routine maintenance on your battery, we strongly suggest constantly monitoring your device’s amp usage by using a RV battery monitor and disconnect any appliances from the power supply that are not currently in use.
Also, while taking advantage of campground electrical stations and other on-the-road rechargers, makes sure that there has not been any damage to the station by utilizing a polarity testing device before use and physically turning all non-essential devices off before connecting your RV.
If properly taken care of, an RV battery could last you anywhere between 3-5 years. We suggest saving this article as a quick reference point in the future should you encounter any issues with your battery.