Leisure batteries FAQs

A leisure battery is used to power electrical appliances and equipment (for example, lights or a TV) in a motorhome or caravan. As these appliances place higher power demands on a battery, leisure batteries are specifically designed to withstand repeated deep discharge cycles.

It’s important to use a leisure battery as automotive starter batteries within vehicles cannot support this type of usage, as it damages the internal components and can lead to premature failure.

Most motorhomes have two different batteries:

  • One that is used to start the vehicle’s engine.
  • And a second leisure battery that powers other appliances within the motorhome.

On the other hand, caravans only have leisure batteries, and these need to be charged to ensure your motorhome or caravan receives the power it needs.

Charging a leisure battery is a simple process. For motorhomes, whenever the vehicle’s engine is running, both your leisure battery and the starter battery will be charged using a split charge system. For caravans, it’s also possible to charge a battery while driving but the caravan will need to be carefully wired through the tow bar into the car.

When not driving, a leisure battery will be used as the only source of power in both a caravan and motorhome. To help support this, many have on-board charging facilities that can be connected to a charging point, like you’d commonly find on a campsite.

It’s also possible to charge a leisure battery using a solar maintainer. Providing a greener way to power your caravan or motorhome, solar panels come in various sizes and are also ideal for off-grid travellers who don’t have easy access to charging points.

During the off season when you won’t be using the battery, it’s best to use a smart charger to keep the battery topped up and to monitor its condition. Before doing so, make sure you’re using the correct type of charger for your battery and refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. The charger then needs to be switched to the correct settings for your battery.

TOP TIP: Always check that your smart charger is safe for unattended charging.

It’s important to maintain your battery during the off season as all batteries lose their charge when not in use or when not being charged.

If the charge level drops too low for an extended period (12.4 volts and below), permanent internal damage may occur, damaging the battery to a point where it cannot be recovered by recharging.

However, by using an intelligent smart charger specific to the battery type and technology, you can safely monitor and maintain your leisure battery when it’s not in regular use.

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Using a smart charger is a simple process.

First, ensure the smart charger is switched off, then connect your charger’s positive connector (usually red) to your leisure battery’s positive terminal.

Next, connect the negative connector (usually black) to your battery’s negative terminal. Once complete, switch your smart charger on and select the correct option for your application.

Depending on the level of pre-existing charge, the charging process can take several hours. Once complete, switch your smart charger off and wait at least five minutes to allow any gasses to clear before removing the leads.

Monitoring the condition of a leisure battery is important – after all, you don’t want to get all the way to your destination to discover it’s giving you no power!

Leisure batteries should be tested for both voltage and state of health regularly. On many vehicles, voltage can be checked using an on-board battery control panel. If not, you can also use either a multimeter or voltmeter. Always ensure that all electrical appliances and consumers are switched off prior to checking the battery voltage. To use either appliance, place the probes on the correct battery terminals. A fully charged leisure battery will show a reading of 12.7V or more. Anything less than 12.4V is deemed as deeply discharged and the use of a smart charger is advisable.

State of health testing should be carried out using a suitable conductance type tester. This type of test will require the input of an amp rating into the device which cannot be found on most leisure batteries as they are not designed for starting vehicles. To get the amp rating, simply multiply the battery’s Ah rating by 4.

How long a leisure battery lasts will depend on many variables, and these include:

  • The power requirements of a vehicle’s electrical consumers
  • Whether it’s been used on or off grid
  • Length of trips away and subsequent usage
  • Usage with high-power consumers such as motor movers
  • How well it has been maintained

While many presume a battery is a ‘fit and forget’ product, in reality, it requires regular monitoring and charging, especially when not in use for long periods. Yuasa, a top leisure battery brand, recommend using a smart charger to greatly improve your leisure battery’s service life.

However, it’s important to remember that, due to their internal chemical reaction, batteries naturally lose performance over time when they are not being used.

Connecting a Halfords solar maintainer to a leisure battery is easy.

Like a smart charger, you simply need to connect the red clamp to the positive terminal on the battery and the black clamp to the negative terminal. There should be + and – symbols next to the relevant terminals to help.

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Choosing the best leisure battery for your caravan or motorhome is important, and there are a few factors you should consider:

  • Room available: be sure to select a battery that will fit the space in your caravan or motorhome’s locker and tray.
  • Watt hours: the amount of power the battery can supply when fully charged. These requirements can be calculated by working out the consumption of the accessories the battery will power, and how long you usually use them for.
  • Cycle life: this is the number of times the battery can be discharged to 50% then fully recharged. The higher the cycle life, the more work the battery can do during its life in service. So, if you’re expecting to use the battery a lot, it’s best to choose a deep cycle battery.
  • Capacity: this is the amount of power the battery has. The higher the battery’s Ah rating, the more power it has to support your electric appliances and equipment.

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