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7 Steps to Charging Your Camper Batteries

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Camper Van in the Woods
Photo: Matheus Bertelli | Pexels

Most camper batteries are charged via an AC / DC converter. This takes alternative current (AC) shore power and turns it into DC power that is pumped into the battery. In some systems, the camper battery might be charged via the alternator of the vehicle pulling the camper. It’s a type of the best deep cycle batteries. This process is similar to how the car starter battery is often charged by the car engine. We’ll outline how to charge camper batteries in 7 simple steps.

1. Power everything down

Regardless of how you charge the camper batteries, power everything down. Disconnect the electrical grid inside the camper to the battery. If you’re going to charge the batteries via the alternator, first turn off the engine. You’ll want to turn off the air conditioner and any other power draws, too, so that as much power as possible will go to the battery, but only after it is safely hooked up.

2. Remove the battery cables

We’re assuming the camper isn’t set up to automatically charge the camper batteries via the car engine. The solution is then to remove the battery cables from the battery. Always remove the black negative side cable first. Then remove the red positive cable. And never touch the two terminals at the same time. Doing so could kill you.

3. Clean and check the battery

This is the best time to clean the battery connections. Ideally, this is done with baking soda paste before being dried out. Wiping it down is a less than ideal option. Check the battery casing for leaks. Verify the battery doesn’t have exposed lead plates, though you shouldn’t add water just before charging it. If it does need water to cover the plates, only add distilled water, not tap water. If you think you need to check the battery’s electrolyte density, this is the time to do it. If you have to add water to the battery, give the battery chemistry time to settle before you connect it to a power source.

You can spread petroleum jelly around the terminals to protect them from corrosion before you connect the battery to be charged.

4. Connect the battery to the charger

Always connect the positive terminals first. In this case, it will be the positive clamp from the charger to the positive terminal on the battery. Then you attack the negative terminal to the negative wire from the charger. If the charger or power source lacks a black wire, you can connect the wire from that side of the battery to metal to ground it. Just don’t connect it to the camper frame or anything else that can complete a circuit.

5. Turn on the charger and let it run

This is the point where you turn on the charger and let it run. Always try to charge the battery to 100 percent. Your batteries could last twice as long if you charge them fully instead of charging to 50 percent and back. This also helps reduce the odds that you fully discharge the battery, something that could alter its chemistry and make it hard to fully charge in the future.

6. Disconnect the charger and clean up

Remove the charger cables. Make sure the battery isn’t overheated or damaged. Reconnect the battery. The positive cable should be done first. If you have multiple batteries, connect the charger to the next battery in the group. Just make sure you don’t incorrectly cross wires for chassis and house batteries or switch your batteries’ wiring. You don’t want to accidentally switch from serial to parallel wiring or vice versa.

7. Test everything

Reconnect the camper power system to the battery. Verify that the lights come on and the water pump works. If it doesn’t, you may want to check the battery voltage. You may also need to check that you properly wired everything back up. You may find that you need to run a desulfation cycle or need to get a new battery.

Camper batteries are charged in a similar manner to every other RV battery. Take care of the steps you follow, because you could hurt yourself or damage your equipment.

This is a collaborative article.