Deep Cycle Battery Maintenance Checklist
Author: Your RV Good Guide Date Posted: 8 January 2024
Your motorhome’s deep cycle battery is the heart of the electrical system in your living zone. These 12V batteries are sometimes known as house batteries. Your deep cycle battery is used to run all those essential, non-automotive power requirements such as your RV fridge, TV, hob and cooker, lights, and so on.
Regular engine batteries deliver short, high-current bursts to start the engine and then are quickly recharged by the alternator. Deep cycle batteries, however, are designed to be discharged over longer periods and then slowly recharged. This repeated cycle, over time, can lead to wear and tear if not properly managed.
In this helpful guide, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about caring for your deep cycle RV battery, including:
The ultimate deep cycle battery maintenance checklist
To get the most out of your deep cycle battery and prolong its life, it’s important to have a proactive maintenance routine. Here are a couple of steps you can take to ensure your battery stays in optimal condition.
1. Inspect your battery regularly
Regular inspection of your deep cycle battery is vital for ensuring its longevity and safety. Always be vigilant for signs of damage, leaks, or corrosion on the battery casing. Equally important is checking the battery cables and terminals; they should be clean and securely fastened. Any loose or frayed connections can compromise the battery's performance and might pose safety risks.
Read more about how to extend the life of your RV batteries.
2. Clean terminal connections
Over time, corrosion and dirt can accumulate on your deep cycle battery’s terminal connections, hindering performance. Regular cleaning not only enhances performance but also helps extend your battery’s operational life. A simple solution of baking soda and water acts as an effective cleaning agent. By gently scrubbing with a wire brush or a dedicated battery terminal cleaner, you can remove this unwanted buildup. After cleaning, it's vital to rinse with water and thoroughly dry the terminals.
3. Check battery voltage
Monitoring your battery's voltage will give an insight into its charge state. You can use a multimeter to do this. Connect the positive probe to the battery's positive terminal and the negative probe to its negative counterpart. This setup allows a direct current (DC) voltage reading, indicating the battery's electrical potential. Regularly gauging the voltage gives you valuable information about your battery's health. For example, a fully charged 12V deep cycle battery typically reads around 12.6 to 12.8 volts. If your battery's voltage is consistently below this range after charging, it may indicate a potential issue. Additionally, if the voltage drops rapidly once a load is applied (e.g., when turning on an appliance), it suggests the battery may be nearing the end of its lifespan or there's an underlying problem.
4. Follow a charging routine
Sticking to a consistent charging routine is important for the health of your motorhome's deep-cycle battery. This is fairly straightforward if you follow the manufacturer's guidelines. Remember to use a charger tailored to your battery type. Make sure you don’t overcharge your battery though as this can reduce the battery’s lifespan and can even be dangerous. Fortunately, most modern battery chargers, like smart or staged chargers, shift to a float mode once the battery tops up. This makes them ideal for long-term parking. To determine charger size, aim for at least 10% of your battery bank's capacity; for example, a 100 Ah battery requires a charger of at least 10 amp.
5. Disconnect the battery when not in use
If you're storing your motorhome for an extended period of time, it's crucial to first prepare your deep-cycle battery. Start by ensuring the battery is fully charged; this prevents potential damage and helps prolong its lifespan. Then, disconnect the battery from the motorhome. This will prevent a slow drain from miscellaneous electrical systems or devices. Alternatively, using a battery disconnect switch can be a convenient way to isolate the battery without physically removing cables. If you disconnect your battery for a month or more (e.g. over winter), it is best to recharge it fully again before use.
6. Store your motorhome and battery safely
When storing your deep cycle battery, choose a cool, dry location that's shielded from direct sunlight and temperature extremes. This will help reduce the risk of accelerated battery degradation. Additionally, if you're concerned about the battery discharging over an extended period, consider a battery maintainer or trickle charger. These devices deliver a consistent low current, ensuring your battery stays optimally charged without the risk of overcharging.
7. Familiarise yourself with your battery manual
If you use an inverter, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re familiar with the instructions. Beyond general setup and guidelines, the manual provides essential instructions on safe handling, maintenance procedures, and potential hazards. And, if you have any questions about your inverter or your battery, don’t hesitate to ask one of the friendly team members at RV Super Centre.
8. Learn how to troubleshoot
When faced with power hiccups in your motorhome, knowing a few troubleshooting basics can save both time and potential expenses. Begin by assessing the battery voltage using a multimeter. Any discrepancies in expected and observed readings can be telltale signs of an issue. Also, take a close look at the battery cables and connections. Make sure they’re well-fitting and undamaged. Lastly, confirm that the battery is firmly mounted. Excessive vibration during your travels can adversely affect battery health.
9. Know when it’s time to replace your battery
RV batteries have a variable lifespan depending on their type. For example, sealed lead-acid batteries will last for around 3 - 5 years or around 500 cycles. Lithium batteries, on the other hand, will last around 10 years and up to 3,000 cycles.
Some of the common indicators that your RV battery may need replacing include:
- Parts of the battery look corroded or damaged
- The battery smells bad
- It takes a long time to charge or is discharging faster than normal
- Your battery light is showing on your RV dashboard
The best way to keep your battery in tip-top condition and to know when it needs replacing is to have your motorhome regularly serviced. Your local RV Super Centre has a fully equipped on-site service centre and workshop and can check and replace your battery for you.
Choosing the best battery for your RV
Selecting the right battery for your RV involves more than just picking any option off the shelf. While it's true that you often get what you pay for, understanding the differences is crucial. Take lithium-ion batteries, for instance. They boast a much longer lifecycle, meaning they can go through more charge and discharge cycles before their performance starts to wane. The catch? They come with a heftier price tag initially. However, if your finances permit, this investment can add up to long-term savings.
Read more about how to choose the best deep cycle battery for your RV.
How to install a new battery in your RV
Installing a new deep cycle battery is a job that’s often best left to the experts. This is both for safety reasons and so that it is set up optimally for the best performance.
Your local RV Super Centre has an expert service team who are happy to help with installing your new batteries. Each of our locations in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Christchurch, and Queenstown are open seven days a week, so you can book in on a day that is most convenient for you.
Need a new battery for your RV?
We hope this guide to caring for your deep cycle battery has answered all your questions and helped you to plan a good maintenance program. If your RV deep cycle battery is showing signs of poor health, has corrosion, or is coming to the end of its lifespan, now is a good time to invest in a new one. And because you’ve read our handy tips on extending its life, you’ll be able to get the most value out of whichever battery you buy.
RV Super Centre has a wide range of 12V RV batteries, including AGM batteries, lead acid, gel batteries, and lithium-ion batteries. If you’re unsure about which battery is right for you, the good news is that the team at your local RV Super Centre can help. There’s an expert on hand at each of our branches throughout New Zealand.