Should I disconnect my travel trailer battery?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Should I disconnect my travel trailer battery? We will explain what is the role of a travel trailer battery, whether you really need one and how to choose the best for your RV. We will also give you a few tips on how to make the best of your travel trailer battery. 

Should I disconnect my travel trailer battery?

You should disconnect your travel trailer battery as long as you are not using your RV. When in storage, a disconnected battery will bring you many advantages:

  • The cost – As you can imagine, and you may have experienced it before, your electric bill may be higher than usual if you leave your travel trailer connected all the time. The same goes for your heating and gas bill. You may need to replace your gas cylinders more often also.
  • Premature wear – When you leave your travel trailer plugged in all the time, its components wear out faster. We are talking of batteries, air conditioning, and heating. They will also need more regular maintenance.
  • Preserve your batteries – By unplugging your travel trailer, you preserve the longevity of your batteries in the long term. The batteries are not meant to be permanently connected. They need charge and discharge cycles to last as long as possible.

As a general rule, all motorhomes and travel trailers have at least two batteries; a starter battery, usually located in or near the engine, and an auxiliary battery for the rest of the passenger compartment (cell). The most recommended is that the latter is also installed near the engine area. 

There are several types of batteries, but starter batteries, with few exceptions, are always acid batteries. In the case of auxiliary batteries, the best option is gel batteries, since unlike acid batteries they are hermetically sealed and there will be no risk of spillage or gas leaks or odours. 

Gel batteries, also called “AGM”, have the advantage that they allow it to be fully discharged without damaging it, being able to recharge it with starter clamps or by connecting the motorhome to 220V. Acid batteries, however, will be practically obsolete if they become completely depleted.

Precautions to be taken before connecting or disconnecting a travel trailer battery

Before working on a motor and an electrical circuit there are some precautions to take. You will have to be careful not to:

  • Hurt yourself;
  • Damage the motor. 

Start by making sure the trailer’s ignition is off! You can remove all your jewellery from your hands, but it would be best to wear cut resistant gloves. Never connect one terminal directly to another or make contact with a metallic tool. If the battery is not new, you can clean the battery terminals with baking soda and a wire brush. Then wipe everything off with a dry cloth.

Before reconnecting a battery, if you had taken it out of its location, there is a very good chance that it has a clip so that it does not move in the event of shock or jolts. Locate the clip before replacing the battery. The batteries can be held by two types of fasteners. Nothing complicated so far but you have to be careful about it. 

It may seem simple to connect a battery or even to disconnect it, but be careful, despite its simplicity, this procedure must be done in a very specific way so as not to run the risk of damaging your car or its wiring harness.

Can I use a travel trailer without a battery?

Yes, you can use your travel trailer without a battery. Your travel trailer is equipped with a transformer that converts 230V to 12V so that everything inside the travel trailer works properly when you plug it in, even without a battery connected. 

The travel trailer battery provides 12 volts, it is generally located under a seat and it supplies on-board equipment such as:

  • the lighting
  • the water pump
  • television
  • the refrigerator (in the case of a compression model).

Generally, there are four types of travel trailer batteries:

  • lead-acid battery
  • AGM battery
  • gel battery
  • lithium battery / battery

This travel trailer battery is “slow discharge”. You, therefore, have a certain autonomy, the duration of which is relatively long but not infinite! This is why it needs to be recharged regularly.

Some tips for making the best of your travel trailer battery

  1. First of all, avoid over-discharging the travel trailer battery. As a general rule, open lead batteries support between 20-300 charging cycles, GEL 400-500 batteries and AGM 600-800 technology batteries. The useful life of your solar battery is closely linked to the% discharge that it has undergone, therefore, you should avoid discharges below 75% even when long periods of time go unused. 

Many charge regulators incorporate a display that allows you to see the percentage of battery charge, but if your charge controller does not have a display, it is always possible to purchase a battery monitor so that you can strictly control the status of your accumulator.

  1. Avoid using high-consumption appliances. Appliances and air conditioners cause rapid discharges of your battery in a very short time, so it is better not to abuse their use. Try to use efficient appliances that optimize consumption but, if you are still going to use this type of equipment for a long time, make sure that the quality of your battery allows it.
  2. Keep the travel trailer battery clean. With use, batteries pick up dirt and connections can sulfate, affecting connectivity. For this, it is recommended to use petroleum jelly to clean the terminals.
  1. If you want to make your battery last, it is best not to use more than half of its capacity and to fully charge it between two discharge cycles.

Example of electricity consumption with additional equipment:

• A television: 4 Amps -> 4 hours: 16Ah

• Its demodulator: 1.5 A -> 4 he: 6 Ah

• Electric heating in winter: 1.2 A -> 12 h: 14.4 Ah

• A 50-liter compression fridge: 1.4 A -> 24 h: 25.4 Ah

By adding the standard and additional equipment, the daily consumption this time amounts to 100.15 Ah. Or with a 100 Ah battery, one day of autonomy.

  1. Install solar panels: Adding a solar panel to the roof of a recreational vehicle (motorhome, van, campervan) is also a good solution. A 110 Watt panel (like ours for less than 150 euros) delivers between 10 and 40 Ah depending on the level of sunshine.
  1. Don’t waste energy from your travel trailer battery. In the same way that leaving the lights or television on in your house will increase your electricity bill, an unnecessary over-discharge of the battery (especially if it is not accompanied by an immediate solar recharge) will end up cutting the useful life of the battery. Treat it well, let it recharge and it will last you for many years. 

Use your travel trailer battery wisely. Distilled water yes, tap water NO. No further explanation is required. Even so, if you want to save yourself the paperwork, buy a sealed solar battery for your travel trailer or van.

Conclusions

During summertime, you are likely to go out at any time, even on a whim. By keeping your trailer on the mains, you can be sure that it will be ready to go at any time, with the fridge cold and air conditioning on the way.

In winter, it is best to disconnect the travel trailer batteries. Most of the time, you won’t get out. There is no point in leaving it plugged in all the time if you are not using it. There is even a risk for the batteries to do so. So it’s better to be reasonable unless you really need to.

Do you agree with us? Please feel free to share your thoughts, any comments or questions about the content. 

FAQ on Should I disconnect my travel trailer battery?

Should you leave your travel trailer plugged in all the time?

Yes, you can leave your travel trailer plugged in at all times. You certainly have good reasons to leave it plugged in, such as:

  • leaving the refrigerator on;
  • charging the batteries;
  • keeping the motorhome heated (or vice versa);
  • so that you can take it out during the winter months.

How long does it take to recharge a trailer battery?

Recharging a battery to its full capacity can take up to 40 hours. Of course, this cooldown assumes it’s completely empty. It will also vary depending on its capacity and use. The best way to recharge the battery is via AC power.

How long will a trailer battery last?

A trailer battery will last between five and 10 years, depending on how you use it. The charge rate of the travel trailer battery is a very important factor to consider when determining how long your battery will last. 

How to make your trailer battery last longer?

If the capacity of your battery rises to 100Ah, and your energy consumption is higher (this is the case if you have additional energy-intensive equipment such as a TV, air conditioning, etc.), you will have to review your consumption at lowering or increasing the energy capacity of your trailer.

How long does it take to recharge a battery?

Recharging a battery to its full capacity can take up to 40 hours. Of course, this cooldown assumes it’s completely empty. It will also vary depending on its capacity and use. The best way to recharge the battery is via AC power.

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