LAST UPDATED: July 8, 2019
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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PUBLISHED ON July 8, 2019
Trickle chargers are low-amp chargers that top up a drained battery to keep it at its maximum capacity. It’s typically hooked to an idle battery and slow-charges the battery to prevent depletion, and it automatically stops when the battery is full. It can be left on indefinitely, charging a car if you only use it once in a few months, and it will ensure that the battery never goes flat. Our review offers a buying guide to some of the best trickle chargers for your battery.
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Benefits of a Trickle Charger
- Enjoy prolonged charging. A major advantage of trickle chargers is that they can safely charge the battery all day and night 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. Some of its bestselling trickle chargers are the NOCO Genius G15000 Pro-Series Battery Charger and the NOCO Genius G4 Battery Charger And Maintainer.
DeWalt was founded in 1924 and is currently a subsidiary company of Stanley Black & Decker. It’s headquartered in Towson, Maryland 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 DXAEC80 30 Amp 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.
- Over $200: 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 Charger Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Battery Tender is a 0.75-amp car charger that maintains the health of the battery in your motorcycle, car, or any other off-road vehicle. The charger has a microcontroller that maintains the correct level of power, and its ISM-adaptive charging system quickly adapts to the needs of your battery. In addition, it has reverse polarity protection, meaning that it won’t charge your battery unless it’s connected correctly.
The charger has a four-step charging program that entails initialization, bulk charging mode, absorption mode, and float (trickle) mode. Once it fully charges the battery, it automatically switches to float mode to top off the electrical charge that’s naturally lost with time. Two LED indicators let you know the status of the charger, and it’s designed to be spark-proof when connected to the lead terminals. The charger is lightweight, easy to use, and backed by a five-year warranty.
However, it has been noted that this charger isn’t intended for fast charging, and it’s not wear resistant. It only has a 12-foot-long connection cable, which is short in comparison to other trickle chargers. The charger is suitable for all gel, lead-acid, and 12v AGM batteries, but it doesn’t work on AWG batteries.
The OrionMotorTech is an affordable car battery charger and maintainer with a simple design. It’s fully automatic and suitable for 12-volt lead acid batteries, AGM, and gel-cell batteries. The unit has a microprocessor-controlled program that monitors the charging process of the battery and maintains the battery at its optimum capacity. It automatically stops charging the battery when it’s full.
The charger is safe for float charging, as it features spark-free technology and is protected from short-circuits, overcharging, and reverse polarity. It charges the battery at a maximum voltage of 14.8 volts and features an LED indicator that displays the charging status. The charger is suitable for cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, boats, and lawnmowers. To top it off, the manufacturer offers a five-year warranty on the product and a full money-back guarantee.
One disadvantage of the product is that it may interfere with your stereo frequency. It may wipe out some AM/FM stations, and the interference may extend to some of your wirelessly connected devices. The unit is also designed from cheap material and takes too long to reach the fully charged state in a large battery.
The NOCO Genius is a premium smart battery charger with advanced safety features. You can leave it unsupervised for extended periods, and you don't have to worry about a damaged or discharged battery. That’s all thanks to an onboard mini-computer system that constantly monitors the condition of the battery. It also repairs battery damage, if any, and automatically switches from a full to a trickle charge when the battery is full.
The charger can be used on 12- and 24-volt lithium-ion and lead-acid battery systems, and it features spark-proof technology, reverse polarity, and overcharge protection. It’s known for extending the battery life, and its rubberized outer housing prevents the unit from slipping from any surface. Moreover, it charges batteries two times faster than a conventional battery charger. It’s designed for micro-hybrid, start-stop vehicles and CAN bus electrical systems.
However, all these top-level features don’t come cheap, as the product is more expensive than most trickle chargers. Another drawback of the product is that it doesn’t work on a fully discharged battery. You may also have a hard time getting NOCO to deliver on the five-year warranty of the product.
Here we have another high-quality battery charger from Battery Tender. It's a 1.25-amp device that fully charges and maintains drained and stored batteries on cars, ATVs, boats, trucks, motorcycles, and more. In fact, it features four charging modes for keeping batteries at peak power all the time. The charger even automatically switches to float mode, so it maintains the proper voltage levels on the battery without overcharging it. Overall, the device offers reliable, easy, and fast charging wherever you are.
The charger is compatible with lead-acid, flooded, and sealed batteries. It features a two-color LED light that indicates the charging status and allows you to keep track of voltage changes. All in all, it's an intuitive and easy-to-use device with spark-proof and reverse-polarity protection. You'll even get a 10-year warranty.
However, keep in mind that this charger won't work if you have a dead battery or if it's drained below a certain amount of voltage. The charger requires your battery to have at about 3 volts to be able to charge it. Also, it might take quite some time for it to fully recharge large batteries, so if you need something for quick recharges, this is not the best option.
This is a versatile device suitable for 6V and 12V gel, AGM, PB, lead-acid, and other batteries. It's an automatic charger you can use on cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers, ATVs, RVs, boats, and more. Therefore, you'll find it quite handy around the house for powering up and maintaining your vehicles, tools, and equipment.
The charger is made of quality materials and proves to be super reliable and durable. It features five charging modes for more efficiency, and is able to automatically switch between charging and floating mode. Thus, the device doesn't only charge, but also maintains and extends the life of batteries. There's also a convenient LED indicator that will keep you informed about the charging status.
The unit is protected against reverse-polarity issues, short circuits, overvoltage, and much more. It's also spark-proof and protected against dust and water. Therefore, you can use it both indoors and outdoors.
What might bother you with this unit is the charging time. The device is a little slow and might take quite some time to fully charge the battery. Also, the alligator clips are not the best quality, so you might want to handle them carefully.
The Foval trickle charger is ideal for lead-acid, flooded, and sealed batteries. It features a four-step charging program that includes initialization, bulk charge, absorption mode, and float mode. That allows you to charge your battery quickly and effortlessly.
You can use this charger on most car types as well as RVs, boats, and motorcycles. It's also suitable for lawnmowers, golf carts, ATVs, and more. With it, you can charge and maintain your regular and stored batteries and keep them ready to start at any time. Furthermore, there are LED indicators to notify you about the status of the charging process.
The charger is compact, highly portable, and easy to store. It features spark-proof and reverse-polarity protection and comes with an 8-foot long output cord. You'll also get a two-year warranty.
One of the charger's main drawbacks is the lack of clear instructions. They are printed on a small piece of paper and difficult to read. Also, the LED indicators are a little confusing, and it might take some time to get used to the signals.
The Noco Genius charger is one of the most popular devices within the category. It's highly praised for its overall efficiency and ability to diagnose, charge, and maintain two 12-volt batteries at the same time. With the sturdy construction and high protection, this 8-amp charger is ideal for all kinds of vehicles, tools, and machinery.
You can use the charger on all lead-acid batteries, including wet, gel, AGM, and deep-cycle ones. The unit is safe and stable, with excellent protection against reverse polarity, overcharge, short circuits, and more. It will charge and maintain your batteries everywhere and any time, and last for a while. The charger can even recover worn-out batteries.
There's one more benefit with this product. It features rugged and waterproof construction, so you get to use the charger both indoors and outdoors. With the IP68 rating and multi-level safety barrier, the unit ensures a safe charge at all conditions.
What may bother you the most with this unit is the mount. The charger is bulky and heavy, and it won't fit in tight spaces. The screws that come with the unit might be of low quality and the battery cables are a bit short. Overall, these are minor issues, but they might bother you in some situations.
The Optima charger is a reliable device that automatically charges and maintains batteries. With it, you'll be able to keep your vehicles at their best performance and even revive stored and completely drained batteries. Because it can recharge batteries reduced down to 1.25V, this charger is very convenient to have around the house.
The charger features a battery health mode that significantly improves battery life and performance. It offers an LED battery charging gauge and an easy-to-read LCD screen. You get to use it on all lead-acid batteries found in cars, boats, motorcycles, and other vehicles. Thanks to the high protection against reverse polarity issues and overcharging, the charger is super safe and secure.
Considering this is a powerful 12V battery charger and maintainer, it could charge up to two or three batteries at once. Still, it doesn't have enough leads, which can be a drawback for some customers. Also, several users complained about the display. It might malfunction after some time and lose segments, preventing you from reading it.
The CTEK battery charger is a universal device you can use on different types of 12V lead-acid batteries. It includes two interchangeable connection leads and features four charging modes. Overall, the device allows for hassle-free and convenient battery charging.
The main benefit of this charger comes from the fact it prolongs the life of batteries. It doesn't only charge and maintain the regular and stored batteries, but it also ensures excellent performance. Furthermore, the charger is well-made and protected against overcharging and outside weather conditions. With the IP65 rating and sturdy construction, it's ideal for both indoor and outdoor use.
However, you won't be able to charge completely drained batteries with this device. If the voltage drops under a certain amount, the charger won't work. Another drawback might be the lack of instructions. First-time users might struggle a little with connecting and powering up the unit.
Schumacher is known to produce high-quality batteries and vehicle accessories. This time, we have one of its devices that charges and maintains batteries rather efficiently. Because it's microprocessor-controlled and has multi-stage charging, the device offers excellent precision and superior protection.
You can use this charger on 6V or 12V batteries found on cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and more. Thanks to the simple and intuitive design, the charger is easy to use and quite convenient to keep around the house. The sturdy casing is very durable as well as compact and easy to transport and store. Furthermore, the charger has reverse polarity protection and features a convenient LED indicator light.
However, keep in mind that this is a small charger, so it can't deliver power like some of the bulky devices listed above. If you need something to charge large and completely drained batteries, this might not be the best option for you.
- 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.
Q: Is a trickle charger the same as a battery charger?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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.
Our top pick is the Battery Tender 12-Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger. It’s an automatic charger and battery maintainer that’s suitable for almost all vehicles and prolongs the life of your battery.
Our budget-friendly option is the OrionMotorTech Automatic Battery Charger. It comes with an affordable price tag and does a great job at slow charging smaller batteries.