So, What Is a Trickle Charger?

trickle charger

Trickle chargers, also called battery maintainers, can come in handy if you have a struggling car battery or when it’s time to dust off the long-garaged cars or recreational vehicles like boats, jet skis, RVs, motorcycles, and golf carts. Even though you may be ready to hit the road (or water), it doesn’t mean your vehicle’s battery is.

There’s an easy way to prevent battery failure when you’re storing vehicles for a while, however. Read on for some expert advice about battery maintenance and how these trickle chargers work.

First, about your batteries

All batteries self-discharge, which is a decrease in power over time. Motorcycle batteries, for example, self-discharge 1% every day, even when not in use. The same goes for car batteries: keep a car stored in the garage for a couple months and you might not have enough battery juice to start it. A car’s alternator does the job of maintaining a healthy battery, but it won’t recharge a dead battery. That’s where a trickle charger comes into play. Basically, trickle chargers help the battery maintain power and stop self-discharge.

Even when not in use, a battery still gradually loses power.

How trickle chargers workhow a trickle charger works

Trickle chargers use electricity to replenish batteries at the same rate as the self-discharge. The energy is transferred in a “trickle,” thus the name. We recommend that you use a trickle charger that shuts off automatically, or goes in “float” mode, when your battery is fully charged; otherwise, you need to monitor your battery and unplug the charger when you have enough power. A trickle charger can overcharge and damage your battery if you leave it on for too long, so don’t forget about it!

The “low and slow” method provided by a trickle charger results in a more thorough, reliable charge and longer battery life.

Low and slow wins the race

A quick jump charge from your neighbor or tow station may get your vehicle running, but it comes at a high cost to your battery by prematurely wearing it out. The “low and slow” method provided by a trickle charger results in a more thorough, reliable charge and longer battery life.

trickle charger for atvs

Battery storage and maintenance tips

A trickle charger is just one tool you can use to maintain your vehicle’s battery life. To ensure you don’t end up stranded on the road or lake, you can also follow these steps:

  • Store your battery or vehicle in a cool location protected from extreme temperatures and changes.
  • Use a battery with the correct amperage needed for your vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual.
  • Reduce vibrations by tightening the battery’s hold-down clamps when in use.
  • Accidents happen, but try to avoid deep-discharging, aka “killing/draining,” your battery (by leaving on your vehicle’s lights for example).
  • Never keep a battery dead for long periods of time.
  • Keep your battery fully charged as often as possible.

So, do you use a trickle charger to help with keeping your battery powered? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. yanhong says:

    how long does a trickle charger can be charge?when the vehicle overcharge ,will the trickle charger lose battery?

    • The length of time needed depends on how low your battery charge is. If it’s down to 7 volts or lower it might be time to get a new battery. If you buy a “float” charger it will stop when the battery is fully charged. Otherwise a non-float charger will not turn off and more than like damage it. Your best bet is buy a float charger or battery maintainer.

  2. Tim Radley says:

    A simple adapter bolted to your battery allows you to plug in at any time. I have my Harley on one year round.

  3. Julian Regina says:

    Yeah I love my trickle charger, saved me camping a few years back. I don’t know why people don’t just carry one in their car.

    Great article!!!

    Julian

  4. Clarence says:

    Always read the instructions and carefully follow them whenever charging or jump starting a battery. Most batteries vent explosive Hydrogen when charging, never make sparks near a charging battery never charge a battery near an open flame. An exploding battery can splatter sulfuric acid solution that can cause severe burns and blindness.

  5. Friendly Customer says:

    I have a “fair weather” driver. It’s loaded with tons of gadgets and when parked for extended periods, those gadgets kill the battery. I now have a trickle charger and hook it up whenever the car is going to be parked for any considerable amount of time. It’s sssssooooo nice to hit the key and she starts right up after having sat for an extended period of time. Used to be, I’d hit the key, click click click! Pull out the charger, slowly bring the battery back up and hope that by then, the weather is till “usable”!

  6. Can you tricke charge more than one battery in series on one charger?

    • Bob,
      NO. Typically, the battery is full with 12.6V so 2 batteries would require 25.2V. Most standard chargers can’t provide that, let alone trickle chargers.
      Worst yet, if trying to charge batteries in series, one will reach full charge before the other and might get overcharged. That could cause an over pressure situation and a nasty explosion.

  7. Great question. I’m assuming your talking about batteries for a solar set up? If so, yes, it will, but very slowly. Our house in Mexico has solar and when it gets low we use a battery charger hooked up to a generator and it takes about 4 hours to go from 11 to 12-13.

  8. Help,
    2001 “BURB” needs AC compressor. I need one that will last till the day that I die plus a few.
    Do I go with an less expensive rebuild or a brand new Denso OEM?
    Any advised appreciated

  9. Can anyone comment if “trickle chargers” can be / should be used on the newer style, maint. free, glass mat or gel type batteries. I have multiple “GM Restoration”
    batteries, and have received conflicting answers as to whether or not “trickle chargers” should be used on them?

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