rv battery disconnect switch

Everything About an RV Battery Disconnect Switch

When you are finished using your RV for the season, you should disconnect the battery to prevent it from draining. This is where an RV battery disconnect switch comes in. It’s not a critical component for your rig’s functionality, but it keeps your battery in good health.

The switch comes in handy when storing your trailer for a long time, like in the winter. If you live in the coldest part of the United States, you must have this switch in your rig to protect the battery pack from the damage caused by long-term inactivity.

What Is an RV Battery Disconnect Switch?

The disconnect switch helps to conserve the battery power in your recreational vehicle (RV) when it’s not in use. By disconnecting the battery, you can prevent it from being drained by any devices that may be left inside your RV. Parasitic drainage brings the battery power lower than the recommended level, leaving the battery dead.

The disconnect switch cuts off the connection between the battery and an electrical power circuit. It can be a valuable tool if you plan to store your RV for an extended period, as it will help to prolong the battery life.

disconnect switch for RV battery
A disconnect switch. Photo: Jayco Owners Forum

Read more: Best RV Batteries For Dry Camping

How Does the Disconnect Switch Work in an RV?

The disconnect switch works just like any other electrical switch. It’s located between the battery’s negative terminal and the power-supplying cable.

Flipping the switch to the “on” position cuts off the power from the batteries to all 12-volt appliances in your RV. This prevents your RV batteries from being drained when not in use.

Some disconnect switches are placed directly on the battery terminal. These function by using a metal blade that can be lowered and raised. When it’s raised, it stops the flow of current.

Usually, the switch is located around the battery compartment or in a bay next to it. If your trailer does not have it and you’re installing an aftermarket switch, place it somewhere you can easily access.

All modern campers come with a disconnect switch. However, if you have an old RV or have purchased a used unit, you may not have one. But you can easily buy one from the aftermarket, and the installation process is relatively straightforward.

Be aware that the switch has to be rated for the RV battery. Also, don’t forget to check that the switch is compatible with the maximum DC load in your rig.

When Can You Use an RV Battery Disconnect Switch?

If you have an RV, you might be wondering about the purposes of the battery disconnect switch. Here are all the occasions when you can use one:

Battery installation

It is a handy safety precaution that allows you to cut off power instantly. When installing batteries on your RV, you can swiftly shut off the power from the battery bank using the disconnect switch.

Electrical maintenance

If you’re having electrical issues with your RV, one of the first things you should do is disconnect the battery. This will help narrow down the problem and make it easier to fix. It will also protect you from electrical shock, and you can conduct troubleshooting without any risk.

Prevents parasitic drainage

The disconnect switch serves another purpose, as you may already know that all batteries slowly discharge, even if they are not connected to a circuit. They drain even faster when they are connected to a circuit.

Protect lithium-ion batteries

The switch also works well in protecting the health of lithium-ion batteries. Since these batteries don’t need a trickle charge during long-term storage, you must use a disconnect switch to keep them functioning.

Long-term RV storage

If you do not disconnect the battery during long-term storage, the heater, fridge, or even the television will eventually drain the power away till the battery is dead. It can also damage the battery before you get around to recharging it.

Extending engine battery life

The switch protects the RV battery’s health and saves the vehicle’s engine battery from damage. Your towing car’s battery will also experience parasitic drain during inactive hours. A battery tender could be an alternative to the disconnect switch.

battery disconnect switch
It can disconnect an engine battery too.

When Should You Not Use a Battery Disconnect Switch?

You may not need a disconnect switch when the RV battery is lead-acid type. In that case, you have to leave the battery connected to the shore power when leaving it in storage. Also, your rig has to have a converter/charger with a “storage” mode.

Final Words

Learning to use your RV battery disconnect switch can maximize your battery life and save you from many unwanted troubles. If your rig doesn’t have a switch installed, install one yourself or talk to your local RV center about adding one.

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