Many RVs have battery disconnect switches installed in them. However, these switches sometimes go unused or unnoticed by owners. Battery disconnect switches are a great way to conserve your batteries while your RV is in storage, even if just for a short time.
When I park my RV at the storage lot, I usually disconnect my batteries at the switch even if I’m going to be back at the RV in a week or so. In addition to preventing parasitic loads from slowly draining your battery, it also prevents battery drain from loads that might inadvertently be left on, such as lights or fans. Even though my RV has solar panels that keep the batteries fresh (as long as there is some solar energy), I regularly make use of my battery disconnect switch, which is conveniently located with my other RV controls.
Battery disconnects come in many different styles, from blade switches located at the battery terminal to relay-controlled remote switches. A very common style for trailers is the marine-style rotary contact switch. Whatever form you have, it is a good idea to make use of the battery disconnect switch whenever you are going to be away from your RV, unless of course your coach is plugged in while it is in storage.
If your RV doesn’t have a disconnect switch, you may want to consider having one installed. Simple switches are quite inexpensive and don’t take long to install. It is actually quite a simple DIY project if you are relatively handy and have the tools required. As with any project, be sure to plan it out first. Know where you would like your switch and the tools needed for installation. The basic tools required are:
- a wire cutter
- a crimper large enough to handle the gauge wire you are working with
- an extra battery wire
- hardware necessary to mount your switch
How to Install:
Simply splice the switch into the positive lead from the battery at a convenient mounting location (as close to the battery as possible is ideal). If you are not handy with basic electrical work, have someone else do the job for you.
If you live in a fairly mild climate where the coldest it gets is around freezing, you can leave your batteries in your RV over the winter (if you are not using your coach) and simply disconnect your batteries at the switch. You don’t have to remove your batteries for winter storage, as long as they remain dry in the RV. Just make sure they are fully charged and topped up with electrolyte (unless they are maintenance-free). With the batteries disconnected, you don’t have to worry about loads draining the battery, and in the spring, you can just flip the switch and you’re ready to go. Note that the battery may self-discharge over the winter to some extent, but if it does so to a large extent, it’s about time to have the batteries tested, as they may be worn out.
So, make good use of your battery disconnect switch. It is there for a good reason, and it provides peace of mind while your RV is in short- or long-term storage. If you visit your stored RV frequently, like I do, you can be sure your lights will work when you need to grab that item you left in your RV. Also,no more lying awake at night wondering if you left the fridge on in your RV.
About the author: Steve Froese
Steve Froese, an avid RV owner, traveler, and Coach-Net member since 2013, is the principal of “A Word to the Wise Technical Communications”, a published RV author, certified RV technician, and licensed Professional Engineer. He frequently collaborates with the “RV Doctor”, Gary Bunzer, and has worked with the RVIA/RVDA as a technical and training writer and consultant. Professionally, he works as a quality engineer and musician. Watch for more of Steve’s work in upcoming Coach-Net publications.
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Craig Knowles said:
I’ve always thought that a cutoff should preferably be installed on the negative side.
Don Chatfield said:
I had a knife switch installed at the battery years ago, which prevented battery drain over the long cable distance from batteries under the entry stairs on the side to the engine in front. The only problem I ran into was that over time corrosion built up on the switch, and one day I abruptly lost power (fortunately I wasn’t driving). Now I carry a can of Brasso and some rags, and clean the switch every 5 or 6 months.
Dalton Bourne said:
I really like this Ampper Am-CBS01 Battery Switch because it’s small and cheap. It has a simple and compact design that packs enough features to eliminate unnecessary power draw in my vehicle. The switch has a very solid feel, it’s easy to know if it’s switch on or off. The device works with 12-volt systems as it does with 48-volt battery systems. Securing your vehicle’s electrical system should never be a problem with this product.
Dalton Bourne said:
The best RV battery disconnect switch prevents battery drain, guards against electrical fires, and ensures safety during maintenance work. You will never have to disconnect your RV battery manually ever again. Having this small device also protects your vehicle and appliances against theft when not in use.
David Darwin said:
Another great illustration of straightforward battery isolation switches is the Ampper side post battery disconnect switch. It is simple to install and operates by physically isolating the battery from the car’s electrical system. By doing this, the battery is protected throughout extended storage times and is always available.