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Should you disconnect your RV battery while it's in storage?

You might think that your battery will stay charged at the level you left it when it’s in storage, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. If you aren’t using your RV, you should always disconnect your RV battery when in storage to keep your RV battery and electrical system healthy. In this article, we’ll go over why it is better to always disconnect your battery, how to do it, and what to do with your battery while it is in storage.

What happens if you don’t disconnect your RV battery?

If you don’t disconnect your battery, you risk draining— and permanently damaging— your battery. It might seem like there’s nothing going on while you’re away from your RV. But even though you’ve turned off the lights, fans, and faucets, there might be something that you’ve missed that'll drain your charge. 

The smallest things are often the most common battery-draining culprits. If that faucet wasn’t closed as tightly as you thought, it might be running the water pump even if you don’t see a drop coming out. The little red light on your antenna amplifier may go unnoticed, but over the course of months can wipe out your power supply. 

And an RV battery is not like your phone; you can’t just recharge it if it drains down to no charge. If a deep cycle battery dies, they can be very difficult— if not impossible— to get running again, so you shouldn’t let them get below 20% charge.

Even if you were completely thorough and didn’t miss a thing, there are some things outside your control. One example is the propane gas detector. That is a battery powered safety device that cannot be turned off, no matter how hard you try. While you are using your RV, that is a good thing, since propane can be an asphyxiant at high enough concentrations, and highly combustible. But in storage, while there are no occupants, that sensor is hardly necessary and will only drain the battery further. 

Then there are all the small things you couldn’t prepare for. Rats or mice could get into your RV and chew through wires, leaving frayed ends dangling where they shouldn’t be. In the right conditions with the battery connected, electricity could arc from the wire to something around it and start an electrical fire. This isn’t the most likely scenario, but it's not unheard of.

There’s a lot that can go wrong— and it can all be prevented by disconnecting your RV battery. 


KEEP THE LIGHTS ON

Want to avoid a dead battery when you’re on the road? Read up on the best batteries for RVers in this blog.


How to disconnect your RV’s battery

Once you’ve found the battery, the first step is to disconnect the negative (-) terminal. Make sure not to touch the positive (+) terminal while doing so. The power flows out of the negative (-) end of the battery, through the circuits, powering the electronics, then back to the positive (+) end of the battery, so if you accidentally touch both terminals, you will become a circuit and that electricity will flow through you, possibly injuring or killing you.

Once the negative (-) terminal has been carefully disconnected, be just as cautious disconnecting the (+) terminal. Once you have the two terminals disconnected from their cables, you can safely remove the battery if you want to store it elsewhere (we’ll go over why you might want to soon). If it is a flooded lead acid battery, make sure to keep it upright as the liquid inside can easily spill if mishandled. With an AGM or gel batteries the liquid is sealed inside so you don’t have to worry about spilling any of its contents, and lithium batteries don’t have any liquid.

Some RVs, especially the newer ones, may feature a switch to disconnect the battery from the circuit. This can be a good way to reduce drain on your battery and is a great option if you don’t have the time to go in and disconnect the battery at its terminals to move it elsewhere.


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Wondering what the difference is between a lead-acid battery and a gel mat battery? Learn more about the differences between battery types in this blog!


What to do with your battery while it is disconnected

Like we said above, you can use the disconnect switch, but whether or not you want to just rely on that depends on the environment you’re storing your RV in and how long you intend to store it. 

Unfortunately, even while disconnected from everything, batteries will discharge themselves a little bit on their own. This rate will be much lower than if you left it connected, but still not zero. 

One factor that increases the self-discharge rate is the temperature: the hotter your battery is, the faster it loses charge. So if you’re leaving your RV outside in a hot environment, you should probably take the battery inside for storage. Similarly, if you keep your RV outside in freezing cold temperatures, a flooded lead-acid battery is at serious risk of freezing over, dying, and bursting open as the water freezes. Ideally you should be keeping your battery in a cool, dry area whenever it isn’t in use. If that describes your RV, then you should be fine leaving it in there as long as you plan on using it soon.


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That rate of self-discharge on batteries tends to be in the range of 3-5% every month for a newer battery in a good environment. This number can go much higher with an older battery or one stored in a hot climate. So if you plan to leave your battery in your RV, make sure you know how much charge it has left when you leave it, and how quickly it loses charge so you know how soon you will have to recharge it with a generator, solar power, or shore power. If you keep it in your home (say in a garage or shed), you can charge it whenever you need to with a trickle charger. This way, even if you can’t go RVing often, your battery is still ready to go next time adventure calls.

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