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RV Battery Charging : Using Your Vehicle As A Power Source

Your RV becomes a home away from home when camping or going on a long road trip across the states. It has a comfortable mini home with all the amenities, including a cooking station, a refrigerator, and whatnot.

The small RV battery powers all the electronic appliances while your RV is running at full speed.

Being a battery, it will exhaust its capacity sometime, and you will have to recharge it again. For new travellers, one of the main concerns is charging the RV batteries while on the road. Fortunately, there are ways to do this.

Here are different and innovative methods that allow you to recharge your RV battery on the go, that too faster without a hitch!

Steps to Charge Your RV Battery From Vehicle

Seasoned campers and experts will always tell you that there are multiple ways to charge your RV batteries while driving.

1. Be Cautious

No matter which method you choose, always remain cautious and attentive. Security should never be compromised while charging.

First, turn off the electronic appliances inside your RV and set the emergency brake to ensure nothing wrong happens. Next, locate your RV battery. You may have multiple batteries as well.

So, in that case, find each one. Now, wear protective gloves and take a wrench. Locate the cables connected to the battery and disconnect these. First, disconnect the black or negative cable and remove the red or positive one.

After that, prepare a paste by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water. Take this paste and apply it to the connection points of the battery.

Now, take a clean and damp cloth or rag and clean the paste from the applied area. After that, apply a bit of petroleum jelly on the terminals to prevent corrosion.

If you are using a lead-acid battery, make sure to fill distilled water inside the battery.

2. Use a Converter

 The modern RV models usually have a converter that securely converts the shore power connection to AC. Then it converts the AC to DC to ensure you can charge your battery. In general, the converters are stored inside a storage compartment of the RV underbelly or sometimes near the battery compartment.

 You can connect the battery with a 30 or 50-amp outlet (outside) or at home (15 to 20-amp outlet) to charge. Hook up with the power outlet to get raw shore power. In general, larger RV vans have a 50 amp hook-up, while smaller models require a 30 amp hook-up.

 When you hook up the battery, it will start charging your battery. If you want, you can connect a small rechargeable appliance to the battery and recharge those appliances at the same time.

 But charging with a converter can be challenging at times. Some of the appliances inside your camper van will be DC-compatible. Hence, you cannot recharge those appliances if the battery is completely exhausted.

3. Charge Using DC to DC Battery Charger

 If you are driving a smaller RV, you can charge the battery with a DC-to-DC battery charger. Since you are directly recharging the battery with DC, you will not need any converter tool.

Such chargers are usually installed between the alternator and the battery of your RV. The charger regulates the required CD to your batteries and charges faster than you think.

4. Solar Power is a Great Option

 If you want to contribute to a greener earth, go solar! Solar panels can be a great alternative to conventional methods. You will need to fit solar panels and solar kits in your RV.

There are also “solar ready” kits or portable solar panels that offer easy installation of solar panels. Mostly, solar panels are installed on the top of the RV. But, the panels are sometimes installed on the RV’s back side.

When choosing solar panels, it is better to choose panels that you can use permanently. On top of that, try to get portable and compact panels that are lightweight and high-powered.

You will also need to install the controllers to control the amperage to ensure the batteries get a safe charging environment. You can choose either PWM or MPPT controllers. While the first one is more pocket friendly, the other is more efficient.

You can also use solar generators. Connect all the solar panels to the generator, and you are ready to power up the battery. In most cases, a 12V generator is ideal. As you connect the generator, your battery will slowly start to charge.

The best part about solar power is that there is zero emission, and you can get solar electricity anytime while driving.

5. Use the Generators

 One of the most used methods is charging the RV battery with a generator. You choose different generators like gas, diesel, propane, etc. The generators produce electricity like a grid machine, and you get a portable, consistent on-grid solution for charging.

 You can charge the AC appliances directly from the generator alongside your battery. On top of that, this method can be used without many complications.

Here is the step-by-step guide-

  • First, start the generator by turning on the switch or the key to the “On” position.
  • Next, allow the generator to warm up for some time (10 to 15 minutes).
  • After that, take the RV power cable and connect it to the 30/50 amp AC plug. If the power cord doesn’t fit, you must get a 30-amp RV adapter.
  • You are all set now, the generator will start recharging the RV battery, and you can also recharge the AC appliances.

6. Use the RV Alternator

It is also another popular method of charging our RV battery. An alternator is a machine that converts the mechanical energy of the moving engine into electrical energy.

If you have a self-propelled RV, the model is already compatible with an alternator that can charge the house battery; if you do not have such a model, you will need to install a larger alternator.

Your RV alternator is already charging the chassis battery. Hence, it can quickly charge another battery or the RV house. If you are charging a 30 amp battery, you will need a 10 gauge wire with a 10 ft length. For a 50 amp battery, 4 gauge wires are often recommended.

Now, take a clamp on the voltmeter and set it to DC. After that, check how much electricity your alternator is producing. Take the reading while your car lights and fans are on. It will allow you to find a suitable capacity for the alternator.

Always use a battery isolator (a device with a diode) that separates the chassis battery and RV house battery to ensure that the RV house battery does not drain the chassis battery while charging.

Connect the battery with the alternator with the recommended wire and wait till the battery charging is complete.

Please do this only when you are on an extended road trip or a place where other methods may not work. Because overworking the alternator is also not good.

7. Energy from The Wind

Even though wind power is not that common, you can use this renewable energy source to recharge your RV batteries on the go.

For this, you will have to install a wind turbine on top that will produce wind energy. Please note that the power depends on the weather. In general, 10 knots or 11 mph wind can generate 40 watts, which is very low. Hence, you can use the turbines only when you are at a place with a high wind flow.

Connect the wind turbines with the charge controller that will convert the energy into electricity. Make sure to connect the controller to the RV battery securely. As the controller makes electricity, it will be stored in the battery through the wires.

Please remember that you cannot use the turbines while your car runs on the road, as it is problematic and can lead to multiple complex issues. On top of that, the turbines can be noisy. So, make sure to bear with the noise.

How Can You Charge Your RV Battery While Driving?

Suppose you are driving and cannot use any other method to recharge the battery. In that case, you can always use the alternator of your car.

As we have already told you, the alternator powers the chassis battery. Hence it can power another battery easily. But, most of the modern RV models come with an alternator that automatically charges the house and chassis battery at the same time.

Just take the 7-pin trailer plug and connect the battery to the alternator. Wait till the charging is complete. Please note that do this only when you are driving.

Turning on the engine to recharge the battery is never a good idea. On top of that, the alternator may only charge faster if you have a larger capacity installed.

Time It Takes to Charge an RV Battery

It is difficult to tell the exact time to charge your RV battery. Generally, the charging may take a minimum of ten hours and up to 40 hours to complete.

The charging may be complete in ten hours if you use a generator, a converter, or a DC-to-DC charging station. But, if you use a truck alternator to charge the house battery, the charging can take longer, nearly 40 hours.

It happens because the alternator is simultaneously powering two batteries- the chassis and house batteries. The chassis battery starts the vehicle whining and powers the headlights, car radio, etc.

Hence, it constantly takes charge of the alternator and may consume more electricity. Therefore, the charging will be slower if you are not using a larger alternator or an alternator that can charge two batteries with equal capacity.

Why Your RV Battery is Not Charging When you’re Driving?

If the battery is not charging while your car is running, probably the battery has developed a connectivity issue.

The wires are loose, and poor connectivity prevents the battery from charging.

There can be another issue involving the solenoid. The solenoid allows the electricity to flow from the towing vehicle to the RV. If this is defective, the electricity flow will be disrupted, and the battery may not get charged altogether.

Alternatives to Charge RV Batteries

You can use different methods to charge the RV batteries. If you are near a charging station, always charge the battery from the. Most camping sites have charging ports. If you are on a road trip, stop by a gas station with an EV charging facility. You can charge the battery there too.

Similarly, you can also use a converter, DC battery charger, or even solar power to recharge the battery.


While you are en route with your RV, you don’t need to worry about charging the battery. There are different methods to recharge the battery. You can check out all the methods from this article to find the right one for your RV.

Even though the task may seem challenging, you can always find the best method that suits your travel needs.

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