A trickle charger is a great tool to have around if you own any vehicles or automobiles that are powered by a lead-acid battery. This is especially true if you have anything that stands idle and is only used from time to time, like a campervan or a petrol-powered bike of some kind or even a lawn mower. The best trickle charger options will keep all of these kinds of vehicles ready to go.
You can leave a trickle charger connected to the battery while it is still in the vehicle for long periods of time. Then, whenever you want to use the vehicle, it’s ready for you because the battery is always fully charged. They’re totally safe to use long-term and can be left unattended for days, weeks, even months.
The difference between a trickle charger and a regular one
It’s a great comfort to know that your vehicle will be ready and charged whenever you want to get going in your weekend getaway car or hit the water in your boat. But why get a trickle charger to do the job when a regular high-powered or high-ampere charger will do the job quickly just before you want to set out?
Our answer can be summed up in two words: convenience and safety.
With the best trickle car battery charger working its constant magic on your lead-acid battery, you can rest easy that the battery will be at full capacity whenever you want to use the vehicle. You don’t have to plan ahead and make sure your charger is handy. If you decide spur of the moment that you want to go out for a day trip in your classic roadster or on your motorbike, it’s ready for you then and there.
When it comes to safety, a trickle charger is a top choice because so many of them come with built-in monitoring systems. The device knows when your battery is fully charged and automatically switches off or changes to maintenance mode, where it keeps your battery fully charged in a safe way. A high-powered charger will get your battery from zero to full in an hour or so, but it does come with a risk of overcharging. You have to monitor the process, because an overcharged battery can get too hot or release toxic, flammable fumes.
We’re not saying that a high-ampere charger isn’t a useful tool. It will work wonders for a quick jolt if you’re out in the middle of nowhere or are having car trouble and need to get to a garage. What we are saying is that a high-powered charger just isn’t as convenient or safe to use on a vehicle that’s been sitting idle and you want to take out for a spin whenever you feel like it. A trickle charger is definitely a better bet for that situation.
Why you should get a trickle charger
If you own any kind of automobile that sits idly in a garage, a shed or in storage somewhere, then a trickle charger will be your best friend. Perhaps you have a motorbike or a classic car that you only like to take out on weekends when the weather is good. Having its battery connected to a trickle charger means that you can wake up one morning and decide that it’s time to hit the open road, head out to your garage and get going. This is because the battery has been maintained carefully and safely while it sat idle and connected to the best trickle charger.
Owning seasonal recreational vehicles is great for holidays. However, you can often leave things like boats, jet skis, ATVs and quad bikes in storage for months at a time. To look after them properly, you really need to start them up on a regular basis and use them to ensure the battery recharges through driving. Alternatively, you can hook the battery up to a trickle charger and leave them together in the storage facility until the seasons change and it’s time to use the vehicle again.
Best trickle charger roundup
Now that you know what you can do with a trickle charger, let’s take a look at what’s out there. We’ve done a round up of the best trickle chargers in 2020 available to buy. We looked at price, quality and features to help you make the best choice for your needs and your budget.
1. Best value: Foval Automatic Trickle Battery Charger 12V 1000mA Smart Battery Charger
First up, we have a great all-rounder. This Foval model has some great features on it and the price tag isn’t too steep either. It works for all vehicles that use 12V lead-acid batteries, from small lawn mowers right through to large boats or aeroplanes. You can use it to charge both flooded and sealed, maintenance free batteries, including gel cell and AGM types.
You get four different modes of charging, to ensure your safety and the health of your actual battery. These modes are initialisation, bulk charge, absorption and float mode. This trickle charger actually monitors the level of charge in your battery while it is connected and adapts its mode based on this level.
The charger also has a great safety feature to ensure that you don’t damage your battery or put yourself at risk. It can tell if it’s connected correctly to a battery before it starts charging. The charger will check that the connectors are attached to the correct terminal and that they are properly attached. This way, there will be no sparks when it starts charging and you don’t risk damaging your battery or charger by accidentally connecting positive to negative.
The Foval comes standard with two types of connectors – ring connectors and clip connectors. This allows you to safely use it on a wide range of different batteries, big or small. The connectors are well built and sturdy, and allow you to connect and disconnect your trickle charger quickly and easily.
2. Best overall: Battery Tender 12 Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger
The Battery Tender Junior is one of the top-of-the-range trickle chargers. It does come with one of the highest price tags, but is well worth it in terms of quality, durability and the five-year warranty that comes standard with this model. This is a completely smart trickle charger that also includes a maintenance mode to ensure the peace of mind for you and total health of your battery. You really can connect the charger to your battery (while it’s still in your vehicle) and forget about it until you want to drive off.
With the Junior, you get a trickle charger plus battery maintainer in one. The on-board computer constantly monitors the state of the battery it is connected to, and switches between bulk charging and float mode depending on the levels of charge. The smart microcontroller works in conjunction with the Junior’s Infinite Sequential Monitoring (ISM) to adapt its functionality as needed. The charger monitors and adapts over one hundred times per second. You also get both alligator clips and fused ring terminal harnesses to give you connectivity options depending on the battery you’re charging. In addition, the charger comes with a 12-foot output cord, which gives you plenty of flexibility and manoeuvrability.
The one downside to the Junior model is that it only works for smaller batteries. It’s suitable for anything up to a standard car. Once you get into SUVs and bigger, you’ll need to get a bigger trickle charger. If you like the Battery Tender range, and we do, they have a few options that span a full range of vehicles, including boats, tractors and RVs. Just make sure you check that you’re buying the right capacity charger for your needs.
3. Best quality: Schumacher SC1319 1.5A 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Maintainer
The Schumacher brand is one of the best in the industry and the SC1319 gets our vote as the highest quality trickle charger for 2020. You can use this device on either batteries that are 6V or 12V, as well as on various types of batteries: standard, AGM, gel and deep-cycle. The best part is, the charger will automatically detect which it is. This means you can charge any lead-acid battery, no matter what style or size vehicle it’s for. It comes with quick connect harnesses in the form of rings and clamps, to give you greater flexibility when it comes to getting your charger up and running.
The Schumacher SC1319 is designed to make life easy for you. It can be connected to a battery and then you can just forget about it. The charger is fully automatic and controlled by a microprocessor that allows for multi-stage charging. It monitors the battery’s status and adjusts accordingly. This charger can take a completely flat battery, restore it to full capacity and then maintain that charge for extended periods of time without damaging the battery.
Another key feature of this battery is the Schu Eco Energy promise. This charger rates as high as any charger can for energy efficiency in the industry, making it the healthy choice for your electricity consumption since it needs to be plugged into the mains and the healthy choice for the environment. It’s also a safe choice as it has features such as reverse hook-up protection that prevents it from trying to charge a battery if it has been connected incorrectly.
4. Best premium: NOCO Genius G1100 6V/12V 1.1 Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer
If you like to get the best of the best, then the NOCO Genius is a top choice. It is a sleek, compact device that has an exceptionally high rating for safety and for advanced monitoring capabilities. It’s also backed by a five-year warranty and has a host of extra accessories that you can add to it to boost charging and maintenance performance even more.
The NOCO Genius works on a range of different lead-acid battery types: 6V or 12V, Wet, Gel or AGM, and just about any automotive battery, including deep-cycle, marine and maintenance-free. It can also be used for charging and maintaining 12V lithium-ion batteries and lithium batteries with an internal BMS. The device is lightweight and portable on top of this huge flexibility in charging different battery types, making it truly multi-purpose. It even adds a cherry on top by being able to charge and maintain batteries in cold conditions.
Another great feature on the NOCO Genius is its visual diagnostic tool. The charger can actually detect issues like low voltage, damage to the battery and reverse polarity. It can also repair sulphated batteries by applying a high-voltage pulse. This pulse is also used to kickstart charging on batteries that have completely lost all charge.
The charger is also eco-friendly because it only uses full energy consumption when it needs to. The internal monitoring system doesn’t just check what charge it needs to send to the battery, it reduces its own consumption from the mains when it is in maintenance or float mode.
5. Cheap contender: Black+Decker BM3B Fully Automatic 6V/12V Battery Charger/Maintainer with Cable Clamps
For those who are a bit more budget-conscious, the Black+Decker BM3B is a good, solid choice. It works on a range of different battery types and has a built-in monitor to prevent overcharging. Once your battery is fully charged, the BM3B will switch into float mode, which maintains the battery at full capacity. This is all you really need from a trickle charger with maintenance capabilities.
You can use this one on most lead-acid vehicle batteries, including anything 12V or 6V, plus AGM, Gel and Wet options. The actual device is pretty rugged and hardy, making it good for use in a garage or for taking on the road with you. The casing has basic indicators on it for charging and fully charged, so you know where the battery is at any given time. It also has an indicator that lights up as a safety precaution if you’ve got the connections the wrong way round.
The casing also comes with a built-in mounting bracket that’s useful for hanging on a wall in a convenient place. The unit is actually designed for use on stored vehicles such as RVs, motorbikes, lawn mowers, boats and watercrafts, ATVs, classic cars and speciality vehicles. You can mount the charger on the wall next to your vehicle and leave it connected to the battery for the entire time you aren’t using it. Then, when you want to get the vehicle out, it’s ready and charged. The Black+Decker BM3B also has a built-in circuit protector that will prevent overcharging or a short circuit, making it a great choice for long-term use when you aren’t monitoring the charging regularly.
6. Best new comer: LST Trickle Battery Charger Automatic Maintainer 6V 12V Smart Float Charger
The Leicestercn LST is the new kid on the block and comes with a good, middle-range price tag that means you get proper value for money on this unit. It’s strong enough to use on a wide selection of vehicles, from lawn mowers and scooters through to boats and camper vans. It will also charge fully drained lead-acid batteries that are either 6V or 12V, plus Gel, AGM, SLA and PB varieties. All this makes it a strong contender for versatility and price.
The device is compact but still comes with quite a few features, including a five-stage automated charging process. The unit has a display that will show you when the battery is under 50% capacity and when it is above 50%. It will also light up with a warning if there is a fault in the battery or the charging set up. Once your battery is fully charged, it will switch to float mode to keep the charge levels safely at full capacity.
The unit comes with a three-year quality assurance and a twelve-month refund policy, so they know they’ve built a strong trickle charger. It also has a safety guarantee so you can plug it in and connect it your batteries with confidence and peace of mind. It has been tested fully loaded and in burn conditions, and has come out showing a high reliability and stable performance. The unit has multi-protection features to prevent sparks when connecting the leads via either rings or clamps. It also monitors the current load to prevent over voltage, overheating and overloading the system.
Read our review on the LST Trickle Battery Charger Automatic Maintainer 6V 12V Smart Float Charger here.
7. Cheapest: 12V to 14.8V Automatic Lead Acid Battery Charger/Maintainer 1.2A Trickle Charger
If you’re looking for the simple things in life – no fuss or extra features – then this is the trickle charger for you. It’s the cheapest on our roundup, but still has enough punch to do what you need it to do. The charger is designed and sold by Orion Motor Tech, a company know for strong build quality and professional technical support. The unit also includes various safety features that protect it and your battery against short circuits and fluctuations in current and charge.
With this unit, you get safe long-term charging and maintenance but without any fancy extras. It’s a simple plug-and-play device. Connect the crocodile clamps to your battery’s terminals and plug the charger into a mains socket. The single LED light will tell you when your battery’s charge is low, when it’s full and when the charger is in maintenance mode, keeping your battery’s charge at a high level. It’s that easy with this device. What’s more, the simple display means you’re saving energy whenever you use this unit.
It may seem like simple tech, but it can still fully monitor your battery and ensure that it doesn’t overcharge anything. You can connect it and walk away knowing that the unit will keep an eye on things using its micro-processor-controlled programme. This automatic lead-acid battery charger/maintainer works on a range of different battery types, including sealed or flooded maintenance free batteries. It’s also powerful enough to work on larger vehicles like RVs, trucks and lawn tractors.
Things you need to know about a trickle charger
When charging a vehicle battery, even with a top-of-the-range, fully automatic trickle charger, there are some things that you should always keep in mind for safety reasons. You are, after all, dealing with a lead-acid battery that contains harmful chemicals and a charger that requires an electric current to work. Please always be careful when connecting your trickle charger and remember the answers to these questions:
- Can you overcharge a battery using a trickle charger – It is possible to overcharge a battery even when using a trickle charger. This is why it’s so important to get one with an internal monitoring system that will keep an eye on the charge levels. If you’re worried, rather connect the charger for shorter periods on a regular basis instead of leaving it on for months at a time.
- How long does it take to charge a battery to full capacity with a trickle charger – There is no definitive answer for this one, but you can safely assume that it will take at least 24 hours to go from completely flat to fully charged. This is because a trickle charger tends to only have capacity to charge at 2amps and a standard car battery holds 48amps, meaning it will take 24 hours to get from nothing to full. Another big factor is how flat the battery is when you connect the charger. If it is more than half full, it will take significantly less time to get to full than a much flatter battery.
- How do you prep your battery for charging – Your safety should always come first because you are working on a battery that contains acid and an external electricity supply. Firstly, make sure that you are in a well-ventilated space. Outside is best unless it’s raining. Next, turn off everything in your car (headlights, radio, any automatic sensors) and remove the key from the ignition. Then, get the settings on your charger to where they need to be (if this isn’t done automatically by the trickle charger) before you connect it. Once that’s done, connect the charger to your battery – positive to positive and negative to negative. Finally, check that the charger is in a stable position and that the cables aren’t pulled tight or running through any liquids. Only then should you plug the charger into the mains.
- What should you do if you don’t have a battery maintainer or smart trickle charger – A basic low-ampere charger is often referred to as a trickle charger, but it’s really what is considered a “dumb” charger in that respect. This is because it doesn’t have an internal monitoring system to ensure the battery doesn’t get overcharged or damaged. If this is the type of charger that you have, then it’s best to ensure that you keep an eye on the charging process and disconnect the charger as soon as the battery is fully charged