Best Trickle Chargers: Maintain the Power and Health of Your Battery
Slow charge your battery safely and prolong its life with our top picks for the best battery charger.
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BY Zach Faulds / LAST UPDATED ON April 23, 2021
Trickle chargers are low-amp chargers, whose primary purpose is to charge a drained battery to keep it at its maximum capacity. A trickle charger is typically hooked to an idle battery and slow charges it to prevent depletion. It then automatically stops when the battery is full. The best trickle chargers are reliable, durable, and versatile products that can be used with different types of batteries and vehicles.
If you are someone who stores your vehicle or batteries for an extended period of time, then a trickle charger can be a smart investment. Whether you are looking for reliability, durability, versatility, or a user-friendly option, we took a look at the best trickle chargers currently available. Read on to see which charger is the best fit to charge and maintain your battery.
An automatic cycle charger for 12-volt flooded, lead-acid, and sealed maintenance-free batteries, with an LED indicator for the charging status of the battery.
- Reverse polarity protected
- Can be used on any automobile
- Spark-proof, lightweight design
- Easy to use
- Includes alligator clips
- Backed by a five-year warranty
- Not suitable for AWG batteries
- Not wear-resistant
- Not for fast charging
A 1.2-amp car trickle charger with a built-in processor that monitors the charging process of the battery and prevents overcharging.
- Low price tag
- Anti-spark technology
- Short-circuit protection
- Overcharge protection
- Easy to use
- Can charge and maintain smaller batteries
- May interfere with your radio
- Made from cheap material
- Takes too long to charge large batteries
A 12-volt battery trickle charger with an onboard mini-computer that monitors the condition of the battery.
- Reverse polarity protection and overcharge prevention
- Can detect and repair battery damage
- Extends battery life
- Non-slip outer surface
- Lengthy warranty process
- Reviewers claim it doesn’t work on a fully discharged battery
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Benefits of a Trickle Charger
- Enjoy prolonged charge. A major advantage of trickle chargers is that they can safely charge a battery long term without damaging it. Most units feature automatic cycles that turn off the charger when the battery is at its optimum capacity and back on when the battery level drops.
- Top up your battery. Idle batteries discharge when left unused for a long time. Trickle chargers ensure that the battery of a car, truck, RV, motorbike, or ATV works even after being left idle for a long time. The charger can be left connected to an idle battery, and it will transfer power in a steady trickle to prolong its life.
- Prevent a battery malfunction. A trickle charger prevents your battery from becoming sulfated, which often happens when a battery is discharging for a long time. Sulfide damages a battery and renders it useless if too much of it forms inside the battery.
Types of Trickle Chargers
Traditional ‘Dumb’ Charger
Dumb chargers are traditional chargers that come with more cables that are plugged into a wall socket. They are powerful, cheap, and can charge any battery size. "Dumb" refers to the fact that this chargers can’t monitor the charging status and often lead to overcharging of the battery if left unsupervised.
Smart battery chargers sport a modern design and can track the progress of the charging system to prevent overcharging. They are priced high due to their advanced safety features that prevent any battery damage. The chargers can be left unsupervised and can automatically adjust the settings to suit the charging needs of the battery. However, they can’t charge all battery sizes like a traditional charger.
Battery Tender is a family-owned company that was started in 1965. The company uses the most advanced technologies to create products that meet the end user's needs. It specializes in making batteries, jump starters, power inverters, trickle chargers, and battery charging accessories. The Battery Tender 12-Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger and the Battery Tender Plus Smart Charger are some of the best battery chargers for car storage.
NOCO is a multinational corporation based in Glenwillow, Ohio. The company was founded in 1914 and specializes in designing, manufacturing, and distributing consumer electronics. A few products you can find under the NOCO umbrella include automotive chemicals, plastics, battery chargers, and industrial battery management systems. One of its bestselling trickle chargers is the NOCO Genius G15000 Pro-Series Battery Charger.
DeWalt was founded in 1924 and is currently a subsidiary company of Stanley Black & Decker. It’s headquartered in Towson, Md. and specializes in manufacturing high-quality power tools, hand tools, and automotive electrical systems. One of its top-rated battery chargers and maintainers is the DEWALT DXAEWPC4 Fully Automatic 4 Amp 12V Waterproof Battery Charger.
Shumacher is a German-based company that has been making high-end precision tools for more than 90 years. The company invests in research and development activities to design and manufacture some of the best precision tools that meet the demands of the international market. One of its famous battery maintenance systems is the Schumacher 12V Fully Automatic Battery Maintainer.
Best Trickle Charger Pricing
- Under $100: You will find some of the best trickle chargers and battery maintainers that are priced way under $100. Most chargers here feature smart technology and can safely charge a battery left idle for months with minimal supervision. They can trickle charge cars, motorbikes, boats, and trucks.
- $200 and up: You should be ready to spend more on heavy-duty chargers with advanced safety features and onboard mini-computer systems that constantly monitor the charge status of the battery. Most are suitable for charging larger batteries, and the price of the chargers increases depending on the brand.
The capacity of the battery and chargers is marked in amp-hours. You need to ensure that your trickle charger has a higher amp-hour value than your vehicle’s battery. Most chargers have adjustable ampere rates, but ideally, a maintenance charger needs to be under 5 amps while a fast charger should be at least 10.
If you are going to maintain your battery throughout the winter season, go for a charger with an automatic battery-charge monitoring feature. This will ensure that your battery isn’t overcharged and that it’s topped off every time the battery level goes down. It will buy you time by keeping your battery in good condition before you get to use your car.
The trickle charger needs to have some safety features that prevent damage to the battery. That might include reverse polarity connection safety, which ensures that you don’t damage your car’s electrical system in case you connect the charger to the wrong terminals. Other safety features include spark-proof technology, short-circuit protection, overload, and overheating protection.
- Battery Type. If you have a deep-cycle battery, you should go for a charger with a deep-cycle program. For gel or lead-acid batteries, you need a charger that includes a three-stage charging procedure. Any battery charger can work with a liquid battery.
- Wall-Socket Connector. Manufacturers make different wall-socket connectors for different countries. Ensure that the charger has a wall-socket connector that’s appropriate for your country before you purchase the product.
- Maintenance vs. Fast Charging. Do you only need a battery maintenance charger for your car in storage or a fast charger for the vehicle you use most of the time? For maintenance charging, go for a low-amp charger with an active charge-monitoring feature. For fast charging, go for a high-amp charger that includes a jump-start function.
Best Trickle Chargers Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Always use safety goggles when working on a car battery. That’s to protect your eyes from corrosive lead acid in case the battery leaks and an explosion occurs. However, you should always go for spark-proof chargers to prevent the explosion from occurring in the first place.
- If you are charging an older battery, you should fill it with distilled water before charging it if the water level is too low. Newer batteries (AGM batteries) are often sealed, and you can’t fill them with water.
- Your car will show signs that the battery is about to die, which include headlights that won’t work, an engine that won’t crank, or a battery that dies 30 minutes after running the radio. You can jumpstart the battery and then use a trickle charger to top off the battery for the day.
- Make sure that your vehicle is parked in a covered, well-ventilated area before attempting to use your trickle charger. This will help to prevent any explosions or fires. Also make sure to turn off your vehicle and remove the key from the ignition before using your trickle charger.
- Never use the negative terminal of your vehicle's battery for the ground. Look for a large bolt connected to the engine block or chassis to use as the negative terminal. As an alternative option, you can also use a section of the frame that is cleaned of any excess grime, dirt, and oil.
Q: Is a trickle charger the same as a battery charger?
No, they are different. A battery charger delivers a high-amp electrical current to the battery by converting AC power to DC at a low voltage. Also, battery chargers can neither be left connected for a long time nor left unsupervised. Trickle chargers, on the other hand, can be left unsupervised and can be left connected for days as they deliver power safely at low-amp.
Q: After how long should I hook up the trickle charger?
Generally, a car’s battery discharges 20 hours after a full charge. It can take longer if you have a larger battery. You should hook up the trickle charger 10 to 15 hours after a full charge. However, if you plan to leave your car idle for weeks or months unsupervised, you can leave the trickle charger on. It will safely charge the battery whenever the battery level drops.
Q: Could I damage my battery if I leave the trickle charger on for too long?
It depends on the type of charger you have. Some trickle chargers have an automatic control system that stops charging the battery when it’s at capacity. Others might not have that feature and might end up overcharging and damaging your battery. The trickle charger may take half a day to a full day to fully charge a dead battery.
Q: How do I connect the trickle charger to the car battery?
A: Trickle chargers typically come with red and black clamps. Locate the positive terminal of the battery (often red) and connect the red clamp on the terminal. Then connect the black clamp to the negative terminal (often black) of the battery. Then adjust the setting of the charger to your liking: charging or maintenance mode.
For a high-quality, reliable trickle charger, consider the Battery Tender 12-Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger, an automatic charger and battery maintainer that’s suitable for almost all vehicles and prolongs the life of your vehicle’s battery. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the OrionMotorTech Automatic Battery Charger, which does a great job at slow-charging smaller batteries.