RV Battery Maintenance

2/9/2022 – Good Sam Extended Service Plan

It's time to talk about battery maintenance and care. There are several types of batteries, but we will only be discussing 2 types: chassis batteries and coach batteries. With chassis batteries there are few designs that are used: lead acid and gel cell or maintenance free design. But we need to discuss safety first then we will go to cleaning and maintenance.

RV Battery Maintenance Safety

Before you start to clean or work on a battery you should take some time and put on your safety equipment. First, put on protective shoes so you don't have that big battery fall on one of your toes. Two, some safety glasses or a facemask to protect your body and face from acid splatter or accidental spill. Three, we cannot forget those hands.

They need something to cover them and protect them from the harsh acid that can burn your flesh. It is best to use rubber gloves. Fourth, a mask or respirator if you are dealing with multiple batteries that in large group, can give off gases that are harmful to you if inhaled. With all this in mind let’s now talk about the nitty gritty of battery maintenance.

Lead Acid Battery Maintenance

With the lead acid battery you have to do a few things to keep it in peak performance. Keep the water levels up and the battery clean. The water levels must be maintained or the battery will dry out and it will no longer charge or hold a charge. It uses the liquid in the battery to create the charge and the voltage. If you don’t keep the water levels where they should be you could find yourself in big trouble down some lonesome highway late at night.

The water that should be added to a Lead acid battery is Distilled water. Distilled water will be clean of all the minerals and chemicals that can hurt a battery. If you decide to use tap water the minerals in the water can over time short out the battery and kill it permanently, or the chemical in the water can neutralize the acid in the battery and cause it to go dead. The next thing you want to do is keep the battery clean and free of dust. It has been found that if a battery gets enough dust and dirt on it the battery can slowly discharge and go dead. The other part of the battery that needs to be clean and free of dust is the terminals. The terminals on the battery are the connection point on the battery and provide power to the chassis or the coach. These must be kept clean and free of debris or they will short out and the battery will not charge.

Gel Cell Battery Maintenance

Gel cell batteries do not need much maintenance other than keeping them clean and charged, so you will see a lot of people using these worry-free batteries.

The gel cell batteries still need some maintenance but not as much as the lead acid. First let's start with what you have to do to a gel cell battery. One, keep the battery clean and free of debris. Two, keep the battery terminals clean and tight. Three, if the battery has a condition eye on it check it to make sure that the battery is charged.

The only reason some people like the lead acid battery over the gel cell is that is relatively cheaper. One reason to choose the gel cell is you don't have to worry about an acid spill because the gel cell batteries do not have liquids in them and it is a sealed battery. Here is a very good procedure for maintaining your battery below.

Procedure for Maintaining a Battery

  1. Disconnect battery:
    1. Disconnect battery Always remove the cable from the negative terminal first. The negative terminal is marked with a minus sign. Then remove the positive terminal, the one with the plus sign. You will later replace them in reverse order, positive cable first and then the negative cable. While they are unconnected, bend the cables back, or if necessary, tie them out of the way, so that they cannot fall back and touch the terminals.
  2. Remove battery restraints:
    Remove the battery restraints or other hardware holding the battery down. Depending on the type of vehicle, you will need to unbolt, unscrew, or unclip the restraint and move it away from the battery. Keeping it upright, remove the battery from its tray and place it on a clean level surface. You are now ready to inspect it.
  3. Visual inspection:
    Carefully wipe the battery with a clean cloth. It is best to wear rubber gloves while doing this in case any corrosive electrolyte has leaked from the battery. Then safely dispose of the cloth. If you see major cracks in the battery case or obvious terminal damage, the battery should be replaced regardless of its electrical performance. If the battery is not serviceable, don't just dump it into the trash where it will be a hazard to the environment. Batteries are recyclable and can be rebuilt and returned into service.
  4. Clean terminals:
    If there are powdery deposits on the terminals, clean them off. It may be enough to brush the deposits off the terminal posts and cable connectors with a non-metallic brush and a mixture of baking soda and water. Sprinkle the baking soda onto the terminal, dip the brush in clean water, and scrub the deposits away. If this is not effective, use a battery terminal cleaner and brush to provide a good, solid mechanical and electrical connection.
  5. Clean connections:
    Examine the battery cables to see whether they are badly frayed or corroded. If the damage looks extensive, the cables and connectors should be replaced. Clean the insides of the cable connectors with the connector cleaner that is usually supplied with a terminal brush. If you don't have the correct brushes, use soapless steel wool pad instead. Dry the terminals and connectors with a clean, disposable, lint-free rag. To prevent corrosive deposits from forming, coat the terminals with some anti-corrosion terminal grease.
  6. Clean the battery tray:
    Clean the battery tray with a mixture of baking soda and water, or some other approved cleaning solutions using a small non-metallic brush. Wipe the tray clean and dry, and then replace the cleaned and serviceable battery. Replace the restraints and make sure they are holding the battery securely in position. If a new battery is to be installed be sure to compare the outside dimensions as well as the type of terminals and their locations prior to installation. These MUST meet the original manufacturer's specifications.
  7. Reconnect the battery terminals:
    Reconnect the battery terminals, Positive first, and then Negative. Test that you have a good electrical connection by starting the vehicle or powering up the coach lights with the RV unplugged.
Make sure to peform regular maintenance on your RV but also to be prepared. Check out the Good Sam Extended Service Plan so that you're covered with mechanical breakdown insurance.