Should You Disconnect Your RV Battery When Plugged In?Anthony Day
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When parking at an RV campground, you usually connect to hookups to give your vehicle power, but should you disconnect your battery when plugged in?
A lot of RVers find themselves conflicted about leaving their vehicle battery connected when they are plugged in, as they worry that overcharging it might affect its lifespan. At the end of the day, if you want to get as many years out of your camper as possible, it is best to take care of the vehicle and all of its components - including the battery.
You do not need to disconnect your RV battery when it is plugged in short-term. However, if your RV has a bad converter or an old battery, and you are staying plugged in long-term, you should disconnect your battery to maximize its lifespan and avoid potential damage.
Once you buy an RV, you will realize that there are so many features and components that need to be looked after to keep the vehicle in good shape. Recreational vehicles are a major investment and proper maintenance is the best way to maximize the life span of your camper. One concern that a lot of RVers have is leaving their vehicle’s battery connected when they are plugged into a campground or residential hookup. Some RV owners have started disconnecting their batteries completely when they are plugged in because they are convinced that it will improve the battery’s lifespan. But is this actually beneficial to the health of the battery? To help you understand this further, we are going to take a closer look at whether you should unplug your RV battery when connected to hookups.
After researching RV maintenance and troubleshooting techniques, I have been able to gather enough information to determine whether you need to unplug your RV battery when connected to power. My research has indicated that although there are some practices that you can implement to maximize the lifespan of your RV battery, you should ultimately refer to your vehicle’s manual to confirm that these practices are in line with the design of your recreational vehicle.
Does my RV Battery Get Damaged When Plugged In?
The honest answer is - it depends. Overcharging your RV battery can result in a number of issues including the deterioration of your battery’s lifespan. So, yes - leaving your battery plugged in excessively will damage it over time.
With that said, the majority of the time that people use RV hookups and plug into a power source, they are doing so temporarily. Overcharging your battery over short periods will not have a huge impact on its lifespan.
This is particularly true if you have an RV with a good converter. If your vehicle’s converter is working properly, then it will prevent a lot of the negative effects of overcharging from happening, which implies that any damage to your battery will be mitigated or completely eliminated.
Is it Worth it to Unplug my RV Battery?
Unless you have a bad converter and are leaving your RV plugged in indefinitely, you do not need to disconnect your vehicle’s battery when plugged in. Given that most RVs are designed to be hooked up to power regularly, there have been a lot of failsafe systems put in place to prevent damage from occuring.
The converter in your RV will keep the battery from overcharging, provided that it is working properly. If you are using an older RV and are not completely confident in how operational your converter is, disconnecting the battery when plugged in may be worth it.
When Should I Disconnect my RV Battery?
Battery replacements can be quite pricey and can end up costing you upwards of $300. That is why a lot of RV travelers prefer to take measures to keep their batteries in good health, as it can make a huge difference in how many years you can get out of one.
While you do not necessarily need to disconnect your battery when connected an RV hookup, there are certain situations where this is highly beneficial and worth doing. Before you start tinkering around with your battery too much, I would recommend that you review the manual for your camper first.
Each RV is different and has its own system, which is why manufacturers will give you tips and instructions on how to approach specific situations - including maximizing the health of your battery.
As we have already covered, a converter is an essential component of your RV that regulates the power moving through the vehicle. The converter reduces 120 volts AC to 12 volts DC, which enables you to power all of your 12v appliances.
If the converter is not working properly it can result in a number of different issues with your camper’s electrical components - one of which is causing your battery to fail. If you know that your RV has a bad converter, you should avoid having your battery plugged in at all costs when you are connected to external power.
Normally, a bad converter will give you signs so that you can catch the problem early on. The most common indication of this will be flickering lights and malfunctioning electronic devices and appliances.
Even if you take great care of your battery from the very beginning, you can still expect it to get old and eventually die on you. If you are using an old battery and still want to squeeze as many years out of it as possible, leaving it overcharged even marginally can deteriorate its lifespan.
When you know that your battery is on its way out and you want to avoid replacing it immediately, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures that result in any kind of overcharging.
In this situation, it is not a bad idea to unplug your old battery. You should also keep the same principle in mind when charging the battery manually from an alternative power source.
Plugged In Long-Term
While some RVers only hit the road for a week or two, others might spend months or even years living in their campers. When you spend this much time living in an RV, it’s not uncommon to establish yourself at a base for a while and stay plugged in at a single campground.
If you are living in your RV long-term and are plugged in constantly, it is a good idea to disconnect your battery. While this is particularly important to do if your vehicle does not have a good converter, it’s also advisable even with a healthy battery and converter.
Overcharging your RV’s battery is not so bad if you are doing it temporarily such as for a night or a week at a campground. However, if you are doing so for weeks, months, or years, you can expect it to take a toll on the lifespan of your battery.
How to Disconnect an RV Battery
There are going to be some key times throughout your RV travels when disconnecting the battery is either advisable or necessary. If you are like a lot of RVers, you may have never been under the hood of your vehicle to disconnect the battery yourself.
Luckily, there are a couple of different ways that you can do this. Depending on the make and model of your RV, as well as the features that it is equipped with, you can disconnect your RV battery using one of these methods.
Battery Disconnect Switch
To make life easier for all of us, most RV manufacturers design their vehicles with a battery disconnect switch. Just as the name implies, a battery disconnect switch allows you to quickly and easily disconnect and reconnect your battery.
This saves you from having to use any tools and it is also a lot safer. If your vehicle has a battery disconnect switch, it will usually be located somewhere inside of your camper and it should be labeled. Alternatively, it could be under the hood of your RV and it is easier than having to manually disconnect the battery.
Manually Disconnect the Battery
If your RV does not have a battery disconnect switch, then you will have to do it manually. This approach is very common with older RVs and although you will need to use a wrench, it’s still not all that complicated.
- Grab a wrench
- Open the hood of your RV
- Unscrew the bolt connected to the negative terminal
Make sure to only target the negative connection and wear safety gloves while doing so. Adjusting the positive lead is more dangerous and you should avoid disconnecting it altogether.
For RVers that have never manually disconnected a battery before, check your vehicle’s manual or the instructions for your battery first. If you are not confident working with tools or the mechanics of your RV, it is best to have a professional do this for you.