Do RVs Need Special Batteries? (Complete Guide)


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RVs have a lot of different things to power, and motorhomes are even more complicated. So, do RVs need special batteries?

Yes, RVs need special coach batteries known as deep-cycle batteries to power the inside of the RV. Deep cycle batteries can be drained down and then recharged without risking damage to the battery. However, motorhomes do use standard batteries to power the engine in addition to the coach batteries.

Because they double as both a home and a vehicle, RVs have special power requirements.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. In this article, we’ll explore how RV batteries work and whether RV batteries are deep cycle. But we’ll also look at whether all RV batteries are deep cycle.

Let’s get started.

How do batteries in RVs work?

RV batteries store chemical energy and convert it to electrical energy. They are deep-cycle lead-acid batteries. They store power for a sustained period. They consist of a series of cells, with each cell producing about 2.1 volts. So, an average 12.6 volts battery consists of 6 cells. 

RV batteries are lead-acid batteries.

These are batteries made of up individual cells connected in a series. Each cell contains lead plates and there are separators between them. They are filled with electrolytes which is a combination of sulfuric acid and water.

An electrolyte is a medium through which charge balancing positive ions can flow.

There are positive plates made of lead dioxide and negative plates that consist of pure lead. A chemical reaction between the sulfuric acid and the lead plates causes the plates to be positively and negatively charged.

When a switch is flipped on, an electric circuit is closed, and electrons flow from the negative plate to the positive plate powering the circuit.

Once a battery is discharged, an electrical process is required to reverse the chemical process.

When it’s being charged, the battery’s lead sulfate and water are converted back to lead, lead dioxide, and sulfuric acid. A discharged battery is akin to an empty water tank. But once it’s recharged, it’s like it’s “new” again.

In a nutshell, a battery is a device that stores and converts chemical energy into electrical energy. The chemical reactions are electrons flowing from one electrode to another through an external circuit.

To balance the flow of electrons, charged ions flow through an electrolyte solution that is in contact with both electrodes. It’s the flow of electrons that provides electricity that an RV uses for several applications.

Are RV Batteries Deep Cycle?

Yes, all RV batteries for the coach are deep cycle batteries. But motorhomes have two types of batteries: a starter battery that provides amperage for starting the engine, and 1 or more deep cycle batteries for powering the coach; water pump, lights, refrigerator, and outlets when not connected to shore power.

The above begs the question: what are deep cycle batteries?

A deep cycle battery is a lead battery that’s designed to provide power for a long period. In other words, they provide a steady amount of current over a long period. Lead batteries are rechargeable batteries, the first of their kind ever created.

They are the most commonly used batteries for most rechargeable battery applications. They have a low energy density, moderate efficiency, and high maintenance, but they have a long lifetime and low costs relative to other batteries.

If you’re going to spend most of your time at a campground, you’d be using the camp’s power source, and a single battery would suffice.

But if you intend to spend a substantial amount of time off-grid or boondocking, then it’s smart to consider having more than one, with one of the batteries being a deep cycle battery. An indispensable necessity if you’re dry camping.

There are 6-volt deep cycle batteries and 12- volt deep cycle batteries.

Your power requirement is what determines which one is ideal for you. The former is cheaper, but if you use a lot of applications, the latter is the way to go.

Are all RV batteries deep cycle?

Yes, almost all RV batteries designed to power the coach (inside) are deep cycle batteries. They are the preferred type of batteries because they have an increased recharge frequency and a longer life than most other types. Motorhome engine batteries are not typically deep-cycle.

These deep-cycle coach batteries provide power for a long time, and some can be used until they are 80% discharged. But they shouldn’t be discharged past 45% before they are recharged.

A motorhome has two kinds of batteries; one is a starter battery, while the other is a deep cycle battery. So, in point of fact, the starter battery is not a deep cycle battery. But most other RVs use deep cycle batteries seeing as they offer a better value proposition.

Deep cycle batteries are different than starter batteries (such as the ones cars use).

Both starter and deep cycle batteries are based off of similar technologies, but they differ in how they are designed. A starter battery is designed to provide a large amount of current for a short period, while a deep cycle is designed to provide a steady amount of current over a steady period.

The latter also has the capacity for deep discharge over and over again. (That would ruin a starter battery).

Now, a deep cycle battery can provide a surge when needed, but not at the level of intensity that a starter battery can manage.

If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between RV chassis batteries vs. coach batteries, I’ve got you covered. 

It’s the theme of a recent article where I shared whether an RV generator charges the battery and if plugging in your RV charges its battery. But I also revealed whether the chassis battery charges the house battery.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Are Duracell RV Batteries Good?

Yes, Duracell RV batteries are good. They are manufactured by Procter and Gamble and are undoubtedly one of the best out there. The original company that started making them began about 6 decades ago. Duracell RV batteries are known for being consistent and long-lasting.

They have protective covers that prevent spills, there’s minimum gassing in areas with less ventilation, and they are maintenance-free. They are resistant to vibration and offer protection against deep discharge.

Even though they are arguably the best, Duracell batteries are also relatively affordable.

Are Duralast RV Batteries Good?

Yes, Duralast RV batteries are good. They provide power for a substantial period and are made with a mix of calcium and other strong materials. As such, they can withstand impact forces. It also contains polypropylene enabling it to contain the effect of shocks and vibrations when it is in motion.

They are great for RVs, vehicles, and many other applications, and they last for 3 to 5 years. They also come with a warranty. However, they have high discharge capacities and do not have handles, which makes it a bit difficult to carry them.

Are AGM Batteries Good for RVs?

Yes, AGM batteries are good for RVs. They are designed in such a manner that allows them to be installed at any angle. So even if you don’t have much space, you do not need to worry. They have a low self-discharge rate, are resistant to shocks and vibrations, and require little to no maintenance.

AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) battery is filled with fiberglass matting.

An acid and electrolyte cover the matting, which is then packed between the plates. The design enables oxygen and hydrogen to combine, replacing the water content of the battery.

Most other batteries often lose a significant amount of juice when an RV is kept in storage. AGM batteries, on the other hand, lose only a small amount, about 3% each month. And if water accidentally gets to them, they will not be harmed.

They are lead-acid batteries but contain no liquid. So, there is no spilling if they are tipped. They are actually maintenance-free, as there is no need to equalize the battery or to add distilled water. They do not corrode, so there will be no need to clean them.

And they are relatively affordable.

Are Golf Cart Batteries Good for RV Use?

Yes, golf cart batteries are good for RV use but may have to be used in pairs. They come in 6 volts, 8 volts, and 12 volts. It’s common to use 2 (6 volts) batteries together to generate at least 12 volts. Interestingly, lower voltage batteries often have a higher amp-hour capacity.

Golf cart batteries are deep cycle batteries. As such, they have all the advantages we’ve explored earlier.

This includes the fact that they provide power for a long time to be fully discharged and then recharged. Golf cart batteries work like this too. They cycle to charge all the way up and then come all the way back down.

Most RVs employ a 12-volt system. So, you’ll need at least two golf cart batteries wired as a series. You can DIY or get a pro to do it for you. It’s actually easy to do.

How to Tell If Your RV Battery Is Bad: Troubleshooting Guide

An RV battery is bad if there are broken terminals, a bump or bulge in the case, discoloration, or excessive leaking. However, sealed or gel batteries need to be load tested to verify if it is bad as there may not be visible signs.

Let’s explore those symptoms in greater detail:

Loose or broken terminals are signs that the battery is faulty

This could lead to short-circuiting, a situation where the negative and the positive charge touch each other without any intermediary. This could trigger a fire or an explosion!

Bulges or bumps are a bad sign

They indicate that the battery has been overcharged and should be replaced.

Say you’ve inspected the battery and there’s no physical sign that’s indicative of the fault, the problem may lie in the cells. To confirm, you would need to conduct a test.

There are two ways to conduct a test: voltage test and load testing.

Voltage Test

You can use a multimeter or voltmeter to test your battery’s voltage. Ensure it’s fully charged, then allow it to sit still for 3 to 5 hours. After which, you can test it. If it has retained a full charge, it should read between 12.5 volts to 13.2 volts.

If it reads between 0 volts, it’s likely undergone short-circuiting. If the multimeter cannot go past 10.5 volts, then it’s a sign that the battery is dead! Naturally, it has to be replaced.

If it reads 12.4 volts or less after it has been fully charged, the battery has been sulfated (a build-up of lead sulfate crystals). This is the most common source of battery failure. In that case, the battery needs to be replaced.

Load Testing

Ideally, you can take the battery to a local automotive shop to test it, or if you’re hip to technical stuff, you can DIY. In that case, you’ll need a digital voltmeter.

Connect it to the battery’s terminals and start your RV. If the battery is okay, it should be able to maintain a load of about 9.5V to 10.5V for 30 seconds. But if it can only hold it for a few seconds and then drops, it’s defective.

From the above, you can see that troubleshooting a battery is not hard to do. On average, a battery should last between 5 to 7 years, provided it’s well-maintained. Except if they are AGM batteries, in which case, there’s no maintenance needed.

RV Batteries What You Need To Know.

Conclusion

In the article, we explored how RV batteries work and whether RV batteries are deep cycle.

But we also looked at whether all RV batteries are deep cycle. Then, we looked at whether Duracell, Duralast, AGM, and Golf Cart RV batteries are good.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by finding out how to tell whether your RV batteries are bad.


Photo which requires attribution:

Battery Bank Compartment by RVWithTito.com is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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