Should RV Batteries Be Removed In Winter?

When camping season is reaching an end, it's time to think about keeping your RV in storage. There are many factors to consider, but one might have caught your attention. What do you do with the battery? Should you remove and store it in another location for the winter? If that's what you're wondering, let's find out!

Many RV owners recommend storing your RV battery in a warm and dry location during the winter. Doing so can ensure it performs at optimal conditions. If you leave the battery inside the RV during the winter season, it can potentially freeze. Consequently, you'll have to purchase a new battery when camping season starts.

Preparing the battery for storage is a simple process. Although it's easy, there are a few ways you can mess up storage. There are also some safety precautions you want to take when handling your battery. We cover these issues and more further ahead.

A class A motorhome covered in snow at the camping ground of a Ski park, Should RV Batteries Be Removed In Winter?

Why Should You Store Your RV Battery

Before we get into the details on storing an RV battery, you might want to know why you need to do so in the first place. As mentioned above, your RV battery could potentially freeze in extremely cold climates. But what if you live in an area that experiences mild winters? 

What purpose do you have to store your RV's battery instead of leaving it in the vehicle? The other reason you should remove the battery from the RV is because of battery sulfation.

RVs parked on the side of the road due to heavy snowfall

Battery Sulfation

Sulfation is the build-up of crystals on the battery's plates. It happens for a few reasons. Some of them are: 

  • Battery stored at a high temperature.
  • The battery is deprived of a full charge.
  • The battery is operating undercharged. 
  • It's not in use for prolonged periods.
  • Stored away without being fully charged.

So, why is sulfation a problem? During operations, the formation of sulfate crystals is a standard occurrence. They will typically go away during the recharging process. 

These sulfate crystals become a problem when you leave them unattended. When you don't recharge the battery, the crystals will become permanent. What does this mean for your battery? 

It means a reduced charging capacity. You might not notice the difference in performance at first, but the battery will eventually reach a point where it will stop working. 

How It Would Happen In A Stored RV

Now that we know what could happen to an RV battery, how can it happen if it's stationary? It will be in storage. So, there's no way it will operate without an adequate charge, right? 

If you don't use the battery for prolonged periods, sulfation can still occur. For this reason, you need to follow a procedure to store the battery correctly. In addition, even if your RV is not in use, some systems are always running in your RV. One example could be a propane leak detector. 

During the camping season, these systems will slowly drain your battery. The problem is, you won't notice it because your truck or motorhome engine is recharging the battery. If you leave the RV battery inside, it will continue working without ever receiving a recharge.

Consequently, you're unexpectedly allowing the permanent formation of sulfate crystals. Thus, removing the battery from the RV will prevent a situation where you'll have to purchase a replacement.

Frozen Battery

Sulfation is one problem - a frozen battery is another! However, this issue will apply more to RV owners that live in harsh climates. The fluids in a discharged battery can freeze. But, how does this happen?  

Again, it happens because the battery might continue operating while not receiving a recharge. When this occurs, the electrolyte in a battery is not working at optimal conditions. As some put it, a charged battery's electrolyte is closer to acid. 

In this situation, it will require much lower temperatures to freeze, which is why it can work in the winter. However, when it's working with an undercharged battery, the electrolyte is closer to water. Thus, it's more prone to freezing. 

Once it freezes, the expansion of fluids can crack the plastic housing of the battery. All in all, it will leave you in a situation where you'll have to purchase a replacement battery at the start of the camping season. 

Now that we've covered the potential issues of leaving an RV battery inside the vehicle - let's get to how you can store it for the winter!

RV Winterizing

How Do I Store My RV Battery for the Winter?

Removing your RV battery can be covered in as little as six steps! Of course, if this is your first time winterizing the RV, you might want more information on how to go about the process. Let's begin!

Remove The Battery

You want to start by disconnecting and removing the RV battery. Before you can do so, you'll have to turn off everything that's drawing power from the battery. The location of your battery will depend on the model that you own. To find it, you should consult your owner's manual. 

After finding it, take a half-inch socket wrench and begin removing the positive lead first. Once you've removed both leads, you can remove the battery. It will usually have a handle that you can grab.

For safety reasons, you can place caps on the lead ends. During the removal process, make sure these ends do not touch.

If you want visual guidance, here's a YouTube video demonstrating how to remove the battery: 

Clean The Battery

Next, carefully inspect your battery. If you see corrosion, dust, or dirt, give it a good cleaning. Corrosion can be a white, green, and bluish color.

Check The Water Levels

Once it's clean, you're ready to open it up to check the water levels. Before you start, you should wear safety goggles and a pair of gloves. You'll be working with sulfuric acid, which is corrosive. 

In general, each cell should be filled to 1/8-inch below the plastic vent tubes. If you need to add water, make sure to use distilled water. For help on how to proceed with this task, here's a YouTube video demonstrating what to do: 

Charge The Battery

Once you've maintained adequate water levels, it's time to charge the battery to capacity. When you're planning on storing it, you want to make sure it stays above 80% charge capacity. It will lose charge over time - even when it's not in use.

Storing The Battery

How you store the battery depends on how long you plan to keep it in storage. If it's only for a few weeks, you can store the battery in a warm area like a cellar, shed, or garage. However, if you plan to store it for several months, you can use a trickle charger.

A trickle charger will ensure the battery keeps a full charge. It works by detecting the battery levels. Once it falls below a certain capacity, the trickle charger will slowly recharge the battery. It's a suitable way to avoid undercharging while also avoiding overcharging it.

Finally, place the battery in a battery box or on a piece of cardboard. Even if you use a trickle charger, you'll want to check the battery every month to ensure it's keeping a full charge.

What Should I Remove From My RV in the Winter?

A motorhome trekking on the rocky and snow trail

With the battery removed, are there other things you should remove? Yes, there's more to do when you're winterizing your RV. The other task you'll need to do is drain the water system. 

You'll want to remove water to ensure it doesn't freeze and cause damage to the fittings and lines. You can use a non-toxic antifreeze to push all the water out of the plumbing system. However, if you're new and uncomfortable with draining the system yourself, you can hire a professional to do the job.

Should an RV Be Plugged In All Winter?

A big Class B motorhome parked near a battery charging dock

One way to prevent the battery from losing charge is to keep it plugged into shore power. Is this a safe procedure for your battery? Some would suggest that it's not a safe practice because you're going to overcharge the battery - subsequently shortening the lifespan. 

However, RV owners have shared their success with this method. For it to work without doing much harm to your battery, they'd recommend you check on water levels every month. 

If you want to play it safe, you can use the method above. Remove the battery, store it in a warm and dry place, and hook it to a trickle charger. In general, it will depend on what conditions you're working with.  

How Many Years Does an RV Battery Last?

An RV battery can last around six years or more if maintained properly. As mentioned, many factors go into maintaining a battery. Maintaining water levels, keeping an adequate charge, and storage are some, to name a few.

If you don't keep up with maintenance, the battery can last as short as one to two years before you need a replacement.

Final Takeaway

A class A motorhome covered in snow at the camping ground of a Ski park

Learning what to do before you store the RV for the winter season is the first step to ensure you keep optimal conditions. As we've learned now, removing the battery from the RV is standard practice for storage. While it might sound relatively simple, there's still a procedure you must follow! We hope you found the information above helpful.

Before you go, do you need more information on how long an RV battery will last? To find out more, check out our post, "How Long Will An RV Battery Last? [Inc. When Dry Camping]"

Is your battery not working all of a sudden? We can help you find out why! For more information, check out our post, "RV Battery Not Working: What To Do?"

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