Charging A Caravan Leisure Battery When Driving – What You Need To Know

Having your caravan leisure battery charging while you are on the move can really help keep things functioning such as your fridge and freezer.

A caravan leisure battery will charge while you are driving however you may need to set everything up to enable this to happen. Older trailers may not have a system in place to charge the battery from a dynamo or alternator and newer caravans may be set up and ready to charge as soon as you roll off your driveway.

Before you assume that your leisure battery will charge when you hit the road, you will need to check that one, there is a system in place that collects charge while you are driving and two, if your battery is enabled to take on a charge while driving. 

Do You Need To Enable Charging On A Leisure Battery While Driving?

Most modern caravans do not require you to enable charging before you start driving. Nowadays, when you hook up the caravan to the car’s electrics the electrical system knows that it is connected and will start transferring excess current to your leisure battery.

The only thing you may need to enable before you set off is your refrigerator. Depending on the fridge and freezer you have in your caravan, you may need to flick a switch depending on whether you are using gas, external charge, or your 12v caravan electrics.

It is unsafe to stay hooked up to gas while on the move, so if you have food in your fridge be sure to flick off the gas and run the fridge off your electrics. The only downside to this is that you will collect significantly less charge in your leisure battery while you are driving because the fridge will be draining power at the same time.

Some newer caravans and older models as well will require you to “enable” charging of the leisure battery from the car. You will find a selector switch in some models that allow you to change whether the caravan is taking charge from a mains supply, whether the caravan is running off of its own electric supply, or whether your caravan is hooked up to your car and is charging from the alternator. You will be able to find more information about this in your caravan’s handbook.

If the handbook or manual isn’t available and you are still unsure, you can usually find digital copies of caravan handbooks on the manufacturer’s website, or you can call the manufacturer to find out more about your model.

Older caravans may not have a system in place that charges the leisure battery from the car’s alternator while driving. If you find out that your caravan has this issue and you want to be able to gain some charge while you are on the road, then you will need to install a charging system. This sounds complicated but if you are DIY-minded and can get your head around some simple electrics, then you will have no issues.

You will need to get a conversion kit online and set a day aside to install everything, but once you are done you will have an effective way to top up your leisure battery while on the move. Alternatively, you can contact a caravan workshop or experienced caravan electrician to do the work for you. This way, you can be sure that everything is wired up safely and you get the best efficiency from your car’s alternator.

How To Check Whether Your Leisure Battery Is Fully Charged

Checking whether your leisure battery is charged or not is an essential thing to do before you set off touring or camping where there is no electrical hook up. Checking your battery level before you go allows you to ensure your battery is charged fully so you can keep those essential electrical appliances running.

Electricity is essential for many things in your caravan and to some of us it is quite a necessity especially when your stovetop, microwave, and kettle run off of it! So how do you check whether your battery has charge or not?

There are a few ways to do this, so below is a handy 3-point list with some of these methods.

1.  Check your caravan’s electrical control panel. Modern caravans usually have a display that notifies you of the charge in your battery. This may be something as simple as 4 or 5 led lights indicating how full the battery is (1 – discharged and 5 – fully charged), or it could be a digital display that indicates the exact percentage of charge in the battery.

Modern displays are usually pretty reliable and accurate however if your leisure battery is getting old or your caravan is getting outdated, it is best not to rely on this reading.

2.  The most accurate way to tell if your leisure battery is fully charged is to get a hand-held voltmeter that can be used to tell the charge level of your battery. Although a voltmeter is not going to give you a charge level percentage it will tell you accurately whether your battery is at 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, or lower.

You can tell this by how many volts your battery is reading when you hook up the voltmeter. You can also use this method to tell if your car alternator is charging the battery. Simply test the voltage level with the engine turned off and then test it when the engine is running, if the voltage increases, then your gaining charge. 

3. To tell whether there is charge in the battery you will need to know what the voltage means in regard to the percentage of charge in the battery. 12.7V means the battery is at 100% charge, 12.5V is 75%, 12.4V is 50%, 12.2V is 25%, and 12V or lower means your battery is completely discharged.3. 

If you have taken your leisure battery out of your caravan for charging indoors before you head off on your travels, you will need to know when your battery is fully charged before putting it back in the trailer.

Any modern charger should have an automatic cut off to prevent over charging, so when the charging light goes off you can be pretty certain that your battery is charged fully. Some chargers will also have a voltmeter and/or charge percentage reading integrated into its design, of course, this can be used to tell how full the battery is. If you want to double-check that your leisure battery is at 100%, then use the same method as point number 2 to ensure that your battery is topped up and ready to go.

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