Everything You Need To Know About Leisure BatteriesMyles Pemberton
Have you ever had a problem with the leisure battery on your caravan, motorhome or van conversion? Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a leisure battery and a car battery? If you are new to caravanning and haven’t had to deal with anything battery related yet, you may never have given it a second thought. Whatever your situation, owning and holidaying in a ‘leisure vehicle’ means you will need to deal with a leisure battery regularly, making a basic level of knowledge invaluable. Aside from enabling you to maintain your battery in a way which will prolong its life and keep your costs down, being able to recognise the signs of potential damage in a leisure battery is essential for the safety of anyone using your holiday accommodation.
First things first: what is a leisure battery? – A leisure battery is the power source for the 12V appliances and equipment in a caravan or motorhome. These batteries are designed to provide a consistent level of power over a longer period of time and are used by the lights, mobile phone charger, T.V., kettle, oven and similar appliances. Basically, the battery is a component that makes your caravan into a comfortable, habitable accommodation, rather than just a vehicle.
Note – If you intend to buy a brand-new caravan, it is worth bearing in mind that leisure batteries normally are not usually supplied, although you will usually get one included in a new motorhome. It is definitely worth checking with the dealership when arranging the purchase to make sure you have time to source a leisure battery before you plan to take your first trip.
Lead-acid battery safe handling – Due to the potentially flammable nature of batteries and the corrosive properties of the acid within, proper safety measures must be followed when handling batteries.
- Ensure the battery is properly mounted and the gas escape vent correctly fitted at all times
- Safety clothing and eye equipment must always be worn when inspecting a battery
- High quality clamps should always be used to connect a battery to prevent any sparks from occurring and causing fire. Crocodile clips are not suitable for permanent connections!
Getting the most from your leisure battery –
- Apply a thin layer of Vaseline or grease to the battery’s terminals
- Always use high quality clamps
- If spring-loaded clamps are used, ensure that their steel contact surfaces do not rust
- Regularly check that the electrolyte level covers the lead plates on the battery. If not, top up with deionised water as required. Always wear full safety equipment when inspecting and maintaining the battery
- Check regularly to make sure the gas relief tube remains fitted securely and correctly
- Recharge the battery once it falls below 50% power. Never allow a battery to completely run flat as this can greatly reduce the lifespan
- Remember to care for your battery when your caravan or motorhome is to be unused for a period of time. A trickle charger is a good idea in this situation
- Never leave the battery uncharged. A white deposit, caused by sulphation, will form on the plates, rendering the battery unusable
- Remember that a battery needs a charger with an output of at least 10% of the battery’s capacity. For example, a 100Ah battery will need at least a 10 amp charger. Any less will significantly reduce the capacity.
What affects a battery’s performance? – There are quite a few factors which may affect the performance of a leisure battery, including temperature, age and the size of the battery.
- Temperature – The colder the temperature, the poorer the performance of the battery. The amp hours rating which is stated is based on a temperature of 25C, with each degree lower causing a 1% drop in performance. For example, an 110Ah battery operating in 15C temperature will actually perform as a 100Ah.
- Age – All batteries (all technologies) are finite. You can make a real difference to their longevity by caring for and maintaining them regularly. Most lead acid batteries probably won’t last more than around five years due to a decrease in performance over time.
- Consumption – If a high number of appliances are run from a battery, it will discharge far quicker and therefore need to be recharged more often. This frequent recharging (cycling), will cause the battery to degrade sooner.
- Size – The more appliances you need to run, and the more power-hungry those appliances are, the bigger your leisure battery will need to be. For example, a motor mover will require a larger battery.
While all of these will influence the performance of the battery, it is important to remember that there are countless other factors at play. It is best to assume you will need to recharge your leisure battery sooner than any calculations may suggest.
Checking the battery’s charge level – While your caravan or motorhome may have a light or display to show the leisure battery’s charge level, these may not be particularly accurate. It is advisable to invest in a hand-held metre, which can be used to easily obtain an accurate indication of the charge level.
The data below can be used as a guideline when carrying out any checks.
12.7V or above = 100% charged
12.5V = 75% charged
12.4V = 50% charged
12.2V = 25% charged
12V or lower = discharged
Contact the Experts at BBL Batteries for Advice on your Leisure Battery – Choosing a Leisure battery can be a daunting exercise, especially if you are relatively new to holidaying in a Caravan, Motorhome or Van Conversion. There are multiple technologies, brands, sizes and set ups to consider. More often than not your choice of leisure battery should be based on your individual situation and where you go (on or off grid) and how you intend to use your vehicle.
We certainly recommend you speak with one of the experienced BBL Battery Experts for free advice so your options can be discussed in full and to make sure you end up with a battery that will suits your requirements perfectly. BBL also stock full ranges of all the different leisure battery technologies sourced directly from the leading brands,
Please do contact us for further information.