How to Charge a Travel Trailer Battery

I was charging my travel trailer batteries the other day, and I got to thinking about the best ways to keep them charged. After some intensive research, I took what I have learned from using the trailer and published it here to help all of you.

How to charge a travel trailer battery?

Batteries in travel trailers can be charged by several methods. The most common way to charge camper batteries is plugged into 110 volts at your house or campground. Batteries can also be charged from a generator, off of your tow vehicle, using solar panels, as well as a stand along battery charger.

The most common way you will charge your batteries is when you are plugged into 110v shore power. This will use your on-board battery charger to fully charge your batteries and also trickle charge them once full to keep your batteries topped off.

Using a generator while camping will also charge your battery the same way your 110v shore power will.

While you are towing, your batteries in your travel trailer will get charged by your tow vehicle if properly equipped. Don’t expect your batteries to charge quickly with this method, this will charge at a low rate and will not be as good as using the shore power method but will keep them up if completing long drives.

Installing solar on your travel trailer will charge and keep your batteries topped off depending on the wattage you install. Typical solar installations are from 100-400+ watts.

Lastly, you can use a stand-alone battery charger to charge your travel trailer batteries.

Keeping your batteries charged on your travel trailer can vary depending on the type of camping and area you will be in. There is a lot to choosing a charging solution based on the particular application. Some of the solutions pointed out will be better than the rest.

The Ultimate Travel Trailer Charging Guide

Most people will use a combination of the methods described below to charge their travel trailer batteries even if they don’t know that they are, such as when you are towing. When you are towing, you are typically charging your batteries. We cover 5 ways to charge your travel trailer, fifth wheel, or RV batteries below:

Charging Method Charging Speed
Shore Power Fast
Generator Fast
Tow Vehicle Slow
Solar Slow (depends on wattage installed)
Stand Alone Battery Charger Medium

The best way to charge your batteries on your travel trailer is with the on-board charger through 110 volt shore power. If you have a good on-board charger, this will first rapidly charge the batteries, then implement a slower charging technique, and finally move to a trickle charge to keep your batteries fully topped off. This will keep your batteries ready to go when you are at your house or campsite. Always use a surge protector while plugged into 110 volt power, we discuss our favorite here, to skip the reading and find out favorite click here.

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If you are off grid, you can use a generator to accomplish the same charging technique. A generator will provide 110 power to your trailer to give the same charge cycle as being plugged in to a household or 30-amp breaker. A generator can not only charge your batteries, but will run some of your 110v accessories in addition to charging your travel trailer batteries if you are off grid (provided you have enough wattage in your generator). If you buy a large enough generator, you may even be able to run your air conditioner on your RV while charging. Click here for a list of our favorite generators.

Charging your travel trailer with your tow vehicle will depend on if your tow vehicle is equipped to do so. If it is, this will charge at a lower amperage depending on your vehicle and the alternator installed. Do not expect this method to charge your completely dead trailer with your tow vehicle idling for a few hours.

Always think of this method as a plus when you are driving from one campground to another or as an emergency backup. Getting to a campsite thinking your 2-hour drive would completely charge your batteries leaving you in the cold for the night will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Installing solar to your travel trailer or RV can not only keep your batteries topped off, but can charge them after a night of usage. To find out how much solar you need to install, read our article and find out. The solar setup you have installed may or may not keep your batteries fully charged depending on the solar wattage, and battery usage. Even installing a lower wattage solar panel such as a 20 watt on your travel trailer can keep your batteries topped off and ready to go. A lower wattage solar panel will not charge a dead battery, but keep a charged battery charged. The kit we have installed can be found here.

To use solar to charge your drained batteries after usage, you will be after a 100-400+ watt system. These systems can be found for relatively reasonable prices and can either be installed on the roof of your travel trailer, or can be portable systems only used when you are stopped at your campsite. Most light power users only using the water pump, some LED lighting, and some limited heat at night could get by with 100-200 watts of power. If you are a heavier user, you will want higher wattage to keep your batteries fully charged if solar is your only option. Keep in mind, if the sun isn’t out, you will not be generating any power.

Using a stand-alone battery charger is another method of keeping your batteries charged. This will require an extra step of removing the cables from your batteries, or possibly removing your batteries from the trailer. This method is mostly used in the wintertime when you have removed your batteries from your rig to keep them from the cold. It is recommended to charge your batteries over the wintertime so your batteries do not degrade. Charging them up to full then placing the batteries on a battery maintenance charger will keep them ready to go for springtime.

How do I find out if my tow vehicle will charge my travel trailer battery?

First off, if you have a 4 pin connector to your travel trailer, this will not work to charge your travel trailer and you can stop here.

If you have a 7 pin connector attaching your travel trailer, camper, or fifth wheel to your truck, read ahead.

There is a simple way to tell if your truck is charging your travel trailer. First, use a multimeter to check the voltage on your travel trailer batteries. You can also use your battery charge gauge installed on your trailer if they are not completely full reading 100% as these gauges are not super accurate. Second, plug in your truck with the 7 pin connector and start it. Go back and check your house batteries on your multimeter or on your battery gauge. If the batteries have a higher voltage, they are charging. If not, keep reading.

If you have a 7 pin tow wiring installed on your vehicle and it is not charging your trailer, you can check your charge pin which is #4 on the top right of the plug at an angle. Ground out your multimeter, start your truck and check for voltage. If there is no voltage, do some checking to see if there is a fuse on your vehicle that is missing for your tow wiring.

If the towing wiring was aftermarket, look to see if this function was installed. Most of the time if you have an aftermarket 7 pin harness installed, the charging wire is directly connected to the battery. Pop your hood and see if there are any additional positive wires connected to the battery. If there is, make sure there is a good fuse installed.

After you have completed these diagnostics and you still do not have power, consult your dealer or automotive repair shop to further look into your vehicle charging issue.

How long does it take to charge my travel trailer battery?

The length of time to charge your travel trailer battery will depend on how much it has been used. If the battery is depleted, you can plan on charging overnight. If it is almost full, it can be a lot less time. The length of charging time will also depend on the amperage of your on-board charger.

For example, if you have a 15 amp on board charger and your batteries have a maximum total capacity of 360 amps and 40% has been depleted, charging at a 15 amp rate, you can expect it to take 9.6 hours. This will take longer as the full charge cycle does not charge at 15 amps, but typically will lower as you approach 90% full until a trickle charge finishes the charging cycle.

Utilizing a generator will charge at the same rate as above, you will just be using gasoline to power your generator.

If you are using solar to charge your travel trailer and you are in the perfect solar conditions, plan on a charging rate of 5-7 amps per 100 watts per hour. Charging using a 100 watt solar panel using the same example above could take over 28 hours to charge under perfect sun conditions. This could mean about 3.6 days to charge your batteries of 8 hours of perfect sun time per day.

Your tow vehicle will charge at a lesser rate than solar, so if your battery is 40% discharged plan on a 36 hour drive to fully charge the trailer if the tow vehicle provides a 4 amp charging rate.

Using a stand along charger will depend on the amperage rate the charger charges at. If you have two house batteries, you will need two chargers or need to charge one battery at a time. If you have a 15 amp charger, expect about the same times as your onboard charger, but double if you have two batteries and only one charger.

How often should I charge my RV Battery

As you can see from the above question, while you are camping it is important to keep your batteries charged as much as you can to prevent large charging times. This is especially important in the winter when you are needing heat in your trailer at night. After a nights sleep, it is a good idea to fire up the generator for a few hours to keep your batteries ready for the next night.

Your batteries in your travel trailer, fifth wheel, or RV should always be stored charged so you are ready to go camping at a moments notice.

How do you keep RV batteries charged in the winter?

During the winter, it is a good idea to remove your batteries off of your travel trailer or RV and store them inside your house. Storing them inside your basement is a good idea as a garage can get too cold. Keep batteries off concrete floors by placing them on a shelf or on a few 2×4’s.

You will want to hook up a battery charger when you first store the batteries so they are completely full for the winter. After your batteries are charged, you can hook up a battery maintainer to keep each battery topped off. You can also put them back on the charger every few weeks.

Make sure to check the water levels on your batteries throughout the winter, and fill if they get too low. This step is overlooked by many people as sometimes the water levels are not easily seen. If you keep them up, you will have healthy long lasting batteries.

Related Questions

Does RV battery charge when plugged in?

Yes, your travel trailer battery will charge when your RV is plugged in if you have an on board charger. Most new RV’s have a charger preinstalled from the factory and will be located within your power distribution panel. If you have owned your trailer for even a brief period of time, you will know if you have an on board charger. If you still need help, consult your dealer to find out about your chargers capabilities.

How to charge a travel trailer at home?

Typically, the best way to charge your travel trailer battery from home is to use your shore power cord plugged into a 110-volt outlet. This will use your on-board battery charger to keep your RV batteries charged and ready to go for your next camping trip. Using the on-board battery charger can be the best way to keep your batteries charged and healthy.

Is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time?

Leaving your RV or travel trailer plugged in all the time can be good for your trailer. This not only keeps your batteries ready to go, but can keep your refrigerator and other items in your travel trailer ready for your next camping adventure. The only thing you will need to monitor if you do leave your trailer plugged in is your battery water levels. Your on-board battery charger will be trickle charging your batteries and you do not want your water levels to get low. Keep them filled and all shall be good.

How long to RV House batteries Last?

RV and Travel Trailer batteries can vary on their length of life depending on their use and maintenance. Typically, they can last up to 5-7 years under optimal conditions and care. Keeping the water levels topped off and your batteries fully charged will keep them in tip top shape. Batteries do like to be exercised, so make sure to use them frequently and not let them sit. Keeping your battery levels high and not discharging below 60% will help keep your life to the maximum level.

Helpful Products Mentioned in this Article:

This surge protector will protect your RV from harmful surges and miswired pedestals. This can save you $$$!

Installing solar on your RV with our favorite kit can keep you boondocking for extended periods of time without the noisy generator.

This battery maintainer will keep your batteries fresh all winter and extend their life saving you money.

A general battery charger like this handy one will keep your batteries charged while they are off of your trailer.

If you want to run your a/c off-grid or are in need of a generator, this one is our favorite as it has a remote start and is propane and gasoline compatible.

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