RV Tech Savvy: Battery Connections

You Asked MotorHome:
I have a 32-foot Class A Itasca Sunrise with two 6-volt house batteries and one 12-volt chassis battery located under the entrance steps. Attached underneath the step is a sticker that states “Warning: disconnect batteries before connecting external charging equipment.” In order to use an external charger, i.e., BatteryMINDer, I assume I will have to first disconnect the negative cable to the house battery bank prior to connecting the external charger. Will I have to follow the same to charge the chassis battery? If I add solar panels, what kind of connections do I have to make?
Mal MacKinnon | Ventura, California

Our Expert’s Reply:
Some external charging equipment can be quite harsh, such as the jumper packs used on tow trucks and those big chargers on wheels used at shops and dealerships. The warning is aimed at such devices. Their voltage spikes and surges can take out delicate electronics boards, etc., which are common on motorhomes. A low-amperage battery maintenance charger shouldn’t send any significant spikes into the electrical system, which makes it OK for use on all batteries. I verified this with Winnebago/Itasca’s technical services. Solar panels are usually connected through a charge controller to the house batteries, not the engine-starting batteries. Some motorhomes have built-in devices that transfer some power to the engine battery(ies) to keep them charged during periods of inactivity. Owners can also add such devices if their motorhome is not so equipped.

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