12V Guru – Get Your Caravan Electrical System Ready For The Trip

Question to 12V Guru

We have had our van in storage for the past 6 months with all this dramas going on with COVID-19 and are thinking that we should be expecting to be able to get out on the road again around June/July. What’s you take on what we should do to checkup on our caravan electrical system?

John Allison, Dunkeld VIC

12V Guru answers:

Hi John,

Great question especially as it appears Australia has done great in “ISO” and we will all be back out there very shortly. The Caravan Industry of Australia estimates there are over 350,000 RVers gearing up ready to go so look out when they do open the interstate borders.  Good idea to have your rig in perfect order well before the rush on specialists like repair centres and auto electricians.

To check the status of your caravan electrical system, pay attention to three key focus areas:

  1. Batteries
  2. Connections
  3. Safety Critical Devices

Deep Cycle Batteries

Ensure your battery has been well maintained during this storage period.  Like what we should have all been doing during lockdown, most batteries respect a bit of exercise.  So, for the lead acid style batteries such as AGM and GEL we would suggest charging and discharging the batteries to a 50% State of Charge at least 4 times every 3 months.  It is a chemical reaction that occurs inside those black boxes, so we need to keep them moving internally.

The best way to do this is to give your batteries a full charge and then using something like your lights let the state of charge drop down to 50%. For those with a simpler system 12.1Volts will be a crude enough measure. Ensure you keep an eye on the discharge and do not let it drop below this level.

Electrical connections

No, these are not the ones that we have been maintaining through ZOOM during the lockdown stage – these are the ones that are critical to ensuring a safe and effective 12V electrical system.  A poor connection can result in everything from voltage and heat issues (caused by amperage) to electrical shorts or simply appliances not working after being jolted around for some months on rough roads.

Get underneath your van and check for cuts in wires caused by stone chips or interference. Give your electrical connections a firm “pull” test to make sure all connections are secure. Everyone has a myriad of tools and gadgets in their shed – dig deep and find the air compressor. Now with a high-pressure nozzle clean all connectors such as Anderson, Trailer and Portable Solar plugs. Put your safety glasses on to ensure you do not end up a casualty of high-speed dirt or stone particles.

SAFETY CRITICAL DEVICES

These are the ones that unfortunately are generally left to chance and not checked to ensure that they will provide the critical delivery when required. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) systems such as SwayControl and others do not normally need too much attention but power it up and double check for any warning lights.  See your service centre if anything red starts to flashing at you.

We also know that many grey nomads have installed sleep apnoea machines to ensure a good night sleep. Wanting to make sure this happens we would strongly recommend checking all electrical connections.  If you want to be sure that lights, coffee machine and the like power up first thing in the morning, or if you are using CPAP machine, monitor high currents to your battery with BC300 / Commlink.

Last, but not least  is the Brake Away Safety system, which is mandatory by law. There are systems which work off the house battery and those which require the maintenance of a separate 12V 7A battery.  In the first scenario ensure your house battery is maintained as above. Also check the pull pin connection at the front of your RV is working.  It should have a mechanism to show that brakes are activated if the pin is pulled.  Pull the pin and check this.

If your system has a separate inbuilt battery, then you will need to check if this battery is still working. They do not last long so after 1-2 years you really should be replacing it like the smoke detector battery above your kitchen. 

Hope that gives you some tips on maintaining your RV whilst in storage and preparing for the next big adventure.

Drive Safe

12V Guru

The article was written for Caravan World Magazine.

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