Battery Tips

Pointers for a healthy and happy battery

Our campers use deep cycle marine batteries. "Deep Cycle" means the battery can be fully discharged and recharged with less of a hit than a regular battery would sustain. A marine battery is structured to dole out fewer amps for a longer period of time (to run a trolling motor or a camper's furnace/lights) as opposed to a car battery which is designed to send a bunch of amps over a short burst (to start a car). So a deep cycle marine battery provides the most efficient power for a camper but a regular car battery will run a camper if a marine battery is not available.

Keep the battery charged up

Although deep cycle batteries can weather a full discharge their life span is decreased every time it happens. The life span is further decreased if a discharged battery is left discharged instead of being recharged at the first opportunity. So when you get home from a camping trip plug in the camper (Flagstaff's have a built-in battery charger) to an outlet and let the battery charge up completely (usually leave it plugged in overnight).

"My car has a hot lead--doesn't that charge the battery as I drive?" Yes, it does, but a very low battery may need 15-20 hours of charge-time (even a moderately low battery may need 10 hours of recharge time); if your drive home from a camping trip only takes 4 or 5 hours, the battery will need more charging at home. Plugging the camper into 110V and letting the power converter charge the battery may still be required (a trickle-charger will work, too, if you don't want the on-board converter to do the charging).

Take out the battery pack fuse

Flagstaff campers have a propane detector inside that has no "off" position. Even though the little green light and the actual circuitry of the detector uses very little power, over time it will drain your battery. Fortunately, Flagstaff uses a fuse near the battery pack to protect the battery. If you pull this fuse from the holder the camper battery will be isolated and the propane detector will turn off. We recommend doing this when the camper is not in use.

The day before your next camping trip put the fuse back in place and plug the camper in so any power that may have been drained from the battery can be charged back and you'll be ready to go the next day. When you return from the trip, plug in the camper to recharge and then pull the fuse out.

Be wary of the fridge

Even though the camper fridge is a "3-way fridge" (three sources of power will run the fridge: propane, 110V, 12V) the third way, 12-volt, is intended to work only with your car's 12V system. The reason is that a camper fridge draws about 14-amps/hour. You camper battery starts with ~100 amp/hours. So within seven hours of turning the fridge on 12V, your camper battery will be dead.

Your car's alternator, on the other hand, puts out power whenever the engine is running and can run the fridge with plenty of amps to spare to run the vehicle. Thus, the 12V option on a camper fridge is intended for use only while on the road.

Bottom line: run the fridge on 12V ONLY when your tow vehicle's engine is running and your charging circuit (hot lead) is functional. When you stop the car, turn the fridge to propane (or 110V if your campsite has power).

Batteries like warmth

Cold temperatures harm batteries. During the winter try to store the battery in your garage or basement (even though these aren't always the warmest places, they're generally warmer than being outdoors in the winter).

Check the fluid levels

Most marine batteries have removable caps on the top of the battery that allows you to check the fluid levels. Make sure the battery fluid covers the lead plates completely. If a battery cell has dried enough that the lead plate is exposed, fill that cell with distilled water until the plate is fully submerged and then recharge the battery.

If all else fails

At a certain point the camper battery will stop holding a charge. Batteries may last ten years, they may last only two years. There are many variables dictating a battery's life span--too many to track down completely. If it seems like your camper battery is not providing the power it used to, bring it to our shop and we can do a load test to see if the battery has truly reached its end.

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