Need A New Battery In Your Caravan? Make Sure You Get the Right Kind
If you're in the market for a new caravan battery to run your on-board appliances and systems, you'll need to look at a leisure battery rather than the conventional car starter batteries. Even within the leisure battery line-up there are variations. Here are some battery basics to help you make the right choice.
Difference Between Car Batteries And Leisure Batteries
Car batteries are designed to deliver a high-current charge to start your engine. After that, the alternator recharges the battery so it's ready for the next use. They are not designed to handle the sustained power needed to run the 12V power systems typically found in caravans.
Leisure batteries are designed to deliver a steady flow of power over a longer period. The power is recharged by plugging it into a main at a caravan campsite. Most motor homes, where the sleeping areas and driving compartments are in the same unit, are also wired so the leisure battery will recharge while you are driving. Leisure batteries are also known as deep-cycling batteries.
Types of Leisure Batteries
When looking at leisure batteries, you'll need to decide between wet cell and gel cell models. Both are designed to fit in special battery holding compartments accessed from outside the caravan.
Wet Cell Batteries
Wet cell leisure batteries are built much the same as regular car starter batteries. The main difference is that the lead plates are thicker and each is enclosed in a separator. These are plastic envelopes that have thin glass fibre sheets that keep the lead oxide in place. The lead oxide, along with the electrolyte acid solution, creates the electrical charge. Since leisure batteries are frequently charged, they also have an outlet to allow the escape of hydrogen gas, a bi-product. The thicker plates and the separators make a leisure battery much heavier than a traditional car battery. The fluid levels on these batteries must be checked periodically by using the inspection caps on top of the batteries. If the electrolyte solution doesn't cover the lead plates, you'll need to top it off with de-ionised water. This is the same water used in steam irons.
Gel Cell Batteries
Gel cell batteries are used in jet skis and off-road ATVs because they don't leak if the vehicle tips over. They've also become popular in caravans because they are safer, especially during a crash. Instead of the lead-acid battery, an electrolyte gel provides the electrical power. The battery is completely sealed and no periodic checking of the battery fluid level is needed. Gel cell batteries discharge power and are recharged in the same way as wet cell batteries. The only difference is you must be sure not to overcharge gel cells because they can wear out faster.
When you go looking for that leisure battery, one thing to consider is how comfortable you are with battery maintenance. Another is safety. If you spend a lot of time in the outback driving on rough roads, the sealed gel cell might be the better choice. A professional battery technician, like those found at Riverton Auto Electrics, can help.