Trickle chargers, also called battery maintainers, can come in handy if you have a struggling car battery or when it’s time to dust off the long-garaged cars or recreational vehicles like boats, jet skis, RVs, motorcycles, and golf carts. Even though you may be ready to hit the road (or water), it doesn’t mean your vehicle’s battery is.
There's an easy way to prevent battery failure when you're storing vehicles for a while, however. Read on for some expert advice about battery maintenance and how these trickle chargers work.
First, about your batteries
All batteries self-discharge, which is a decrease in power over time. Motorcycle batteries, for example, self-discharge 1% every day, even when not in use. The same goes for car batteries: keep a car stored in the garage for a couple months and you might not have enough battery juice to start it. A car’s alternator does the job of maintaining a healthy battery, but it won’t recharge a dead battery. That's where a trickle charger comes into play. Basically, trickle chargers help the battery maintain power and stop self-discharge.
How trickle chargers work
Trickle chargers use electricity to replenish batteries at the same rate as the self-discharge. The energy is transferred in a “trickle,” thus the name. We recommend that you use a trickle charger that shuts off automatically, or goes in “float” mode, when your battery is fully charged; otherwise, you need to monitor your battery and unplug the charger when you have enough power. A trickle charger can overcharge and damage your battery if you leave it on for too long, so don’t forget about it!
The “low and slow” method provided by a trickle charger results in a more thorough, reliable charge and longer battery life.
Low and slow wins the race
A quick jump charge from your neighbor or tow station may get your vehicle running, but allowing your battery to drain can contribute to premature failure. The “low and slow” method provided by a trickle charger results in a more thorough, reliable charge and longer battery life.
Battery storage and maintenance tips
A trickle charger is just one tool you can use to maintain your vehicle’s battery life. To ensure you don’t end up stranded on the road or lake, you can also follow these steps:
- Store your battery or vehicle in a cool location protected from extreme temperatures and changes.
- Use a battery with the correct amperage needed for your vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual.
- Reduce vibrations by tightening the battery’s hold-down clamps when in use.
- Accidents happen, but try to avoid deep-discharging, aka "killing/draining," your battery (by leaving on your vehicle’s lights for example).
- Never keep a battery dead for long periods of time.
- Keep your battery fully charged as often as possible.
And remember, if you're wondering if it's time to replace your battery, stop by your local Advance Auto Parts store for battery and charging system test. It's free*!
So, do you use a trickle charger to help with keeping your battery powered? Let us know in the comments.
*Car battery testing and installation available on most automotive vehicles, at most locations, unless prohibited by law.