With freezing temperatures sweeping across much of the country, many RVers have already winterized their RVs to prevent the plumbing from freezing, but how many of you have taken precautions to keep your lead-acid batteries from potential damage during the winter?
Throughout the years I have met many RVers who ruined their batteries by not taking steps to protect them while stored during the off-season. Here is why this can happen and what you can do to prevent it.
Most RVs have parasitic 12-volt loads like gas detectors, stereo clocks, circuit boards, etc. that slowly drain your battery over time. Why is this bad for your batteries while in storage? Well, unless you have the luxury of leaving your RV hooked up to shore power or have an above-average solar charging system, your batteries will become discharged.
Completely discharging your batteries is undesirable for two reasons: 1) Every time your batteries are drained under 50% of rated capacity, it shortens the life span of the battery. 2) The fluids in discharged batteries can freeze.
The expansion of the fluids will often cause the plastic housing of the battery to crack, ruining the battery. If you have adequate solar charging, make sure the panels remain free of snow accumulations.
Frozen battery cells
The following are several steps you can take to protect your RV batteries while the RV is stored for the winter:
- Keep your batteries charged as a fully charged battery can withstand extreme subfreezing temperatures.
- Use a battery kill switch to keep parasitic loads from draining your batteries.
- Store your RV in a climate-controlled space.
- Remove batteries from your RV and store them in your garage (provided your garage stays above freezing). Contrary to popular belief, it is okay to store your 12-volt lead-acid batteries on the concrete floor in your garage.
Regardless, if you remove your batteries during the off-season storage or keep them in your RV, it is a good time to service your batteries by making sure they are clean and cells are filled to the appropriate levels with distilled water.
By taking the steps listed above, you can protect your RV batteries from becoming a casualty of winter—because dead RV batteries are an adventure in RVing none of us want to experience.