Whether you’re going on a camping trip or just planning on dry-camping, the last thing you want to end up with is a dead battery and no external power source.
Good news: RV generators can be used to charge your battery if they’re hooked up in a specific way. Sure, it’s slow and not considered the most efficient, but it can provide you with that much-needed power boost.
In this article, we’ll be going through a step-by-step procedure to charge your RV battery successfully. We’ll also mention a few more efficient ways to charge your battery faster, safer, and more efficiently.
Let’s get started!
What Do You Need to Know About Generators?
Here’s the thing about generators; they weren’t made specifically for charging the batteries of your RV.
It’s not that they’re not capable of it, but their limited amperage makes the process extremely tedious. In addition to this, you might be damaging your generator if it’s simultaneously being used to power your home’s devices and appliances.
This is why charging your RV battery directly using a generator isn’t a great idea. It’s much more efficient to do so using a smart charger as an intermediary. It will come with a higher amp power and won’t put as much stress on your generator.
How to Charge Your RV Battery With Generator
Here are the 6 steps you should follow to charge your RV battery:
Make Sure Your Generator Is Fully Charged
Of course, you need to make sure the generator has enough power to work properly.
A generator uses your RV’s fuel tank for energy. It’ll automatically shut off when the tank level is below 25%, to prevent it from accidentally draining your fuel.
You need to check the fuel level and, ideally, fill up the whole tank. Refer to the user manual to make sure your generator is charged as well.
Check the Connections of Your RV Battery
Before checking your battery, it’s imperative to switch off your vehicle and engage the emergency brakes.
Remember, a dirty battery can drain by itself and damage it in the long run.
Use a wrench to remove all cables of the battery. It’s recommended that you remove the negative cable first then the positive cable. Negative cables are always black, whereas positive cables are red.
It’s a relatively simple process to clean the terminals. All you need to do is mix some baking soda and water to create a paste, then using a wire brush to rub the terminals clean.
Finally, use a cloth to remove any remaining dirt, and wait till the terminals are dry.
Double Check Electrolyte Levels
There should be an indicator in the battery that shows the electrolyte level. If the electrolyte level is low, pour in some distilled water until it reaches the ‘Full’ mark.
Reconnect the cables of the batteries, positive cable first, and then negative. Make sure the lid is tightened.
Turn off All of the RV’s Lights and Devices
You want all the power to go into your battery and not get hogged up with all your different appliances. So, make sure you have everything turned off inside the RV.
Check the Temperature
Temperature is also an essential factor to pay attention to. The battery’s maximum charge can be significantly reduced if the temperature is below 40°F.
Plug the Generator To the Battery
Finally, connect the RV plug firmly to the battery. Remember, this isn’t designed to give you a full charge, but to get you by until you can properly charge the battery.
You should be able to charge your battery from 40% to 80% in around 4 hours. The generator will require remarkably more time to charge if it’s lower than 40%.
Charging Your RV Battery With Smart Charger
Using a smart charger as an alternative to the generator’s convertor is a much better idea. Even on the generator’s power, it will still charge your RV battery quicker. This healthier form of power should also increase your battery’s lifespan.
You can buy a charger for as low as $20, but we’d recommend a three-stage charger or a smart charger instead.
There are two reasons for this. First, a standard charger is designed to keep pouring in energy into your battery, even when it’s full.
If you leave the battery charging overnight, it can damage the internal components of the battery.
The second reason is that smart batteries are, just, smarter.
They come equipped with a lot of essential features. For example, the trickle charge feature will completely fill the battery’s capacity. Smart chargers will also learn where your battery’s power level is at, and reduce the charging power to avoid overcharging it.
The Best Smart Charger to Charge Your RV Battery
The best smart charger we can recommend is, without a question, the NOCO GENIUS10 Smart Charger, for 6 and 12-volt batteries.
It’s made for all types of batteries, including gel, AGM, and lithium-ion batteries. We tested it on our conventional lead-acid 6-volt battery, and it worked flawlessly.
The thing that caught our attention first was just how small this charger is. Weighing about 4 lbs and measuring 4.4 x 4.5 x 9.1 inches, it can literally be held in the palm of your hand!
Now, down to performance. This NOCO charger is 10 amperes, fully automatic, for pretty much all types of RV batteries out there. It comes with a 3-year warranty and a repair mode that can detect defective batteries down to 1 volt.
Overall, it’s a fairly priced charger that almost every user reports working better than expected. You can’t go wrong with this NOCO charger.
- Meet the GENIUS10 - Similar to our G7200, just better. It's 17% smaller and delivers 115%...
- Do more with Genius - Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and...
- Enjoy precision charging - An integrated thermal sensor detects the ambient temperature...
- Charge dead batteries - Charges batteries as low as 1-volt. Or use the all-new force mode...
- Restore your battery - Automatically detects battery sulfation and acid stratification to...
Tips and Warnings
Safety comes first. Here are some additional tips and precautions to keep in mind while operating.
- Always charge the battery outdoors and in a well-ventilated area. The battery can produce dangerous levels of hydrogen gas.
- Protective equipment is necessary when handling a lead-acid battery.
- The battery is highly flammable so make sure it’s away from anything burning.
- Don’t leave your battery charging for too long.
- When using the built-in generator, keep an eye on the RV’s fuel tank level.
- Inspect wires and clean terminals if they’re corroded or fuzzy.
- Never charge your batteries using two sources at the same time.
- Never charge your battery using jumper cables.
Now you know how to charge your RV battery with a generator. It may not be the ideal option, but it can do the trick in most cases. A smart charger is an excellent alternative too.
Remember, handle your lead-acid battery with extra care. Spilling battery acid on yourself can cause severe burns. So, wear some protective gear and be cautious.