All you need to know about caravan batteries-Creabest

Have you ever had a problem with the leisure battery on your caravan or motorhome? Maybe you’ve been wondering what the difference is between a leisure battery and a car battery? If you are relatively new to caravanning and haven’t had to deal with the battery yet, chances are you’ve never given it a second thought. Whichever category you fall into, owning and holidaying in a caravan means you will need to deal with a leisure battery regularly, making a basic level of knowledge invaluable. Aside from enabling you to maintain your battery in a way which will prolong its life and keep your costs down, being able to recognise the signs of potential damage in a leisure battery is essential for the safety of anyone using your holiday accommodation.

First things first: what is a leisure battery?

A leisure battery is the power source for the 12V appliances and equipment in a caravan or motorhome. These batteries are designed to provide a steady level of power over a prolonged period of time and are used by the lights, T.V, kettle, oven and similar appliances in some outfits. Basically, they are the part that makes your caravan into a comfortable, habitable accommodation, rather than just a vehicle.

If you intend to buy a brand-new caravan, bear in mind that leisure batteries normally are not supplied with new builds, although you will usually get one included in a new motorhome. Check with the dealership when arranging the purchase to make sure you have time to source a leisure battery before you plan to take your first trip, if one isn’t due to be provided.

Is a leisure battery just a different name for a car battery?

No, a leisure battery and a car battery are two very different power sources. It may be possible to use each of the batteries in the other’s place in the short term, but it is not advisable due to the different ways in which they produce energy.

A car battery is designed to provide a burst of energy to start the engine when required, whereas a leisure battery will release a lower level of energy over a prolonged period of time in order to power appliances.

Due to the difference in intended purposes, leisure batteries and car batteries are not constructed in the same way. A car battery has thinner plates and different separators, which mean that it is not as well-equipped to deal with a prolonged period of use for a lower level of energy, and vice versa for leisure batteries. There is a type of battery which can perform well at both functions, an AGM battery, but this is not commonly used.

Types of leisure battery

Most leisure batteries are lead-acid batteries, although we will provide information on some alternatives later in the article. Within the category of lead-acid battery, there are a few different types available:

  • Standard starter batteries – also known as calcium or cranking batteries
  • Standard leisure batteries – also known as auxiliary or deep-cycling batteries
  • Semi traction and traction batteries – also known as deep-cycling batteries

As well as these lead-acid batteries, there are a few alternatives which may be used as leisure batteries in certain circumstances.

  • Gel batteries – These are used in vehicles such as jet skis and quad bikes, which have a higher than average risk of crashing. The use of gel inside the battery removes the risk of damage from being tipped over and, therefore, the risk of injury from leaking corrosive acid. Some imported caravans and motorhomes are now fitted with gel batteries for extra protection in the event of an accident.
  • AGM batteries – We mentioned these briefly in the section about car batteries v leisure batteries. AGM, or Absorbent Glass Mat batteries comprises of lead plates and compressed glass fibre in each cell. Combined with specific manufacturing processes, this makes the battery capable of a much longer lifespan than a lead-acid one. However, it is also more expensive to produce. As well as being able to withstand a greater number of charging cycles, AGM batteries have the advantage of being functional as both starter and leisure batteries.
  • Maintenance-free batteries – While conventional batteries have removable caps to allow the acid levels to be checked and topped up with deionised water, some manufacturers are now producing what is described as a maintenance-free battery. This is a sealed unit which cannot be topped up, built due to the fact that batteries which are not charged in excess of 14.6V rarely need this done anyway. If 14.8V or more is used, it is important to regularly check the electrolyte level of a battery and replenish as required.

Battery icon with colorful charge level

Why should I use a leisure battery?

You will need a leisure battery in order for most of the 12V appliances in your caravan or motorhome to function but, even if it wasn’t essential, there is a very good reason for choosing to use a leisure battery rather than powering the devices directly from a mains charger or similar. The secondary function of a leisure battery, aside from powering appliances, is to correct any irregularities in the power supply, keeping you and your appliances safe. LiFePO4 battery is a good choice for your caravan.

Lead-acid battery safe handling

Due to the flammable nature of batteries and the corrosive properties of the acid within, proper safety measures must be followed when handling batteries.

  • Ensure the battery is properly mounted and the gas escape vent correctly fitted at all times
  • Safety clothing and eye equipment must always be worn when inspecting a battery
  • High quality clamps should always be used to connect a battery to prevent any sparks from occurring and causing fire. Crocodile clips are not suitable for permanent connections


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