How to charge a leisure battery on a Motorhome?

charge Battery on a motorhome

Planning for a trip in a motorhome, either with your family or friends is a quite fun thing to do. This is because it offers a great sense of adventure to most of us. But as with most things, things don’t go according to the plan sometimes, which is why it is of trivial importance to prepare yourself for the worst. This is why you must know about motorhome basics.

Following are some of the things which you must prepare before setting out on a motorhome trip:

Find yourself a campsite:

Finding a campsite before you travel has its perks. Make sure to find yourself a place where all the necessary amenities are available. Also, if you are travelling with your kids, make sure that the campsite has a recreational area attached to it. This way, your kids can stretch their legs and they won’t get bored.


As with all journeys, most people pack motorhomes like they are heading to amazon for a month-long camping spree. Doing so, they end up being overweight. This is why you should be clever about your storage and pack accordingly so that you do not end up being overweight.


Before travelling, make sure that you are travelling with all the essentials. Always carry a first aid kit, even a basic one. Also, don’t forget the toilet roll, not all sites supply it and you may wish to have a choice between using the motorhome toilet and the ones which are on site.

Also, if you have quick-drying towels at your home, make sure you take them instead of taking the heavy, fluffier ones, and remember a washing line to dry them on. Also, you don’t need any sort of specialist motorhome bedding at this stage, a sleeping bag or duvet from home will easily do the job.

Now that we have talked about essentials, one of the most essential items is the battery. There is no second opinion about the fact that charged batteries are a must if you are to enjoy your trip without any inconvenience. Many people do not understand or often underestimate the importance of a charged battery. A battery is indeed a device that is used to store energy, but for it to store energy, it is important that you have to put the energy into the battery.

Almost every motorhome is most likely to have at least one leisure battery. Almost all of the amenities and essential needs such as habitation lights, water pump, blown-air heating and every other piece of electric equipment relies on a battery, which provides all the more reasons for us to charge our batteries.

That all being said, you still can’t use your vehicle’s battery to charge your leisure battery. This is because each van that drives out of the factory usually has a battery fitted. These are usually located under the bonnet but at times, they are located under the floor in the cab or under one of the front seats. To find the location of your batteries, you can simply search for a user’s manual or a simple google search will also do the job.

A vehicle battery is primarily designed to start the engine. What this means is that it utilizes a lot of its power at once just to kick start the van. This automatically suggests that the purpose of the battery fitted in the vehicle is not to provide power for lights and fridge over a weekend.

Leisure Battery:

On the contrary, a leisure battery is primarily designed to discharge slowly. What this means is that it will keep your lights on, your cellular and portable devices charged, and will most likely keep the water pump running the entire trip.

Also, if you use the vehicle’s battery for charging the leisure items, there is a huge possibility for you to find yourself stranded at the campsite. It is true though that the vehicle battery will have the capacity to run the leisure items on your campervan but it can only do so for a short period. But you must also keep in mind that once you use your retrofitted battery for charging leisure items on your camper van, your battery will drain out of power, leaving you with little to no power for you to return home or travel any further.

How to charge your Leisure battery on a Motorhome:

There are many ways through which you can charge your leisure battery. We will discuss them one by one.

1. Split Charge Relay:

This is one of the widely used leisure battery charging methods and is fitted to almost every van. A split charge relay is a switch. If it is closed, it connects the vehicle with a leisure battery. Once fully charged, it enables the battery of the vehicle.

The split Charge relay method is further subdivided into three denominations

Ignition triggered relay – In this method, the switch is closed due to an electric signal. Normally, a 12V DC signal does the job easier when the ignition is switched on

Voltage-sensitive relay – This is one of the most widely and popular options. When the relay “senses” that the vehicle battery voltage has reached 13.7vDC, the switch is closed.

Battery to battery Smart Relay – It is to keep in mind that vehicle manufacturers are usually under duress to make vehicles with carbon emission rules in a bid to make their vehicles more environmentally friendly. Considering this, they came up with one solution to use smart alternators that have their voltage output regulated by the ECU. It is to keep in mind that a voltage relay doesn’t work with a smart alternator which is why a battery to battery (or DC-DC) charger takes the highly variable voltage and stabilizes it just so that it could provide a safe, controlled and fast charge for your leisure battery.

2. 240V hookup charging:

This option works best if the better part of your time is going to be spent on campsites. This option allows you to pitch up at a campsite which has the power to offer. You can simply connect to the campsite and then proceed to make the most out of your electronics. The only downside to this method is that it is more complex than the other ones. The 240V power source from the outside is transferred into your van via your mains hook-up lead. Doing so will plug into the van with the inlet socket. These sockets are usually fitted to the side of your camper van. But, they can also be fitted underneath. Doing so will provide a more stealth look. Also, the power will then reach the inside of the van. This will cause it to arrive at the mains consumer unit. This eventually disperses the power to two main places. The first place is the 24pv sockets which can be used to power any 240 V appliances. The second place the power goes is the leisure battery charger. This device monitors input and output levels, and at the same time keeps your leisure battery charged while at the same time also keeps you connected with the campsite

3. Solar Power:

Solar power is probably the most environmentally friendly option available at the moment. Although it is probably a less popular way to charge your motorhome battery, you simply cannot outrightly deny the fact that it offers some benefits which the other options don’t offer. The popularity of solar panels has increased over time and it has more to do with the fact that they are more affordable and practical.
The panel size which you will require is contingent on the fact that how much energy you will consume rather than the size of your battery. A solar panel of 80 watts will do the job easily if the only things which run on your camper vans are simple electronics
But if you own a larger vehicle with a lot of electronics to run, you will require a much larger solar panel. But you need not worry as long as you choose the right size for your motorhome. Having said all that, charging your battery with solar panels is the most convenient and budget-friendly option. On top of that, you can also contribute to the environment by choosing a more environmentally friendly option.

Final Words:

Camper van life seems all fun and games on the outside. But just like anything, it has its fair share of Pros and Cons attached to it. This is why it is important to prepare beforehand just so that you can avoid any inconvenience ahead in your journey.

There are 4 types of leisure batteries on the market:

  • Flooded lead-acid (FLA)
  • Gel batteries
  • Absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries
  • Lithium-ion batteries

Each of the 4 battery types uses slightly different chemistry so the way they work and perform is different too.
For the purposes of this post, that’s all you need to know but for more information on the differences between them and joining multiple batteries to create a battery bank, check out our article on campervan batteries.


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