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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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.
- Best OverallBattery Tender 12-Volt Junior Automatic Battery ChargerSummarySummaryAn 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.ProsProsReverse polarity protected. Can be used on any automotive. Spark-proof, lightweight design. Easy to use. Includes alligator clips. Backed by a five-year warranty.ConsConsNot suitable for AWG batteries. Not wear-resistant. Not for fast charging.
- Best ValueOrionMotorTech Automatic Battery ChargerSummarySummaryA 1.2-amp car trickle charger with a built-in processor that monitors the charging process of the battery and prevents overcharging.ProsProsA low price tag. Anti-spark technology. Short-circuit protection. Overcharge protection. Easy to use. Can charge and maintain smaller batteries.ConsConsMay interfere with your radio. Made from cheap material. Takes too long to charge large batteries.
- Honorable MentionNOCO Genius G15000 Pro-Series Battery ChargerSummarySummaryA 12-volt battery trickle charger with an onboard mini-computer that monitors the condition of the battery.ProsProsReverse polarity protection. Overcharge prevention. Can detect and repair battery damage. Extends the battery life. Non-slip outer surface.ConsConsLengthy warranty process. Expensive. Doesn’t work on a fully discharged battery.
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 2019
Best Trickle Charger Overall: Battery Tender 12-Volt Junior Automatic Battery Charger
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.
Best Value Trickle Charger: OrionMotorTech Automatic Battery Charger
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.
Best Trickle Charger Honorable Mention: NOCO Genius G15000 Pro-Series Battery Charger
The NOCO Genius is a premium smart battery charger with the most advanced safety features. You can leave it unsupervised for extended periods and never 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 damages, 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 products 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.
- 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.
Have you ever used a trickle charger? Which is your favorite brand? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.