Practical Caravan reviews eight battery chargers for caravanning – here's our verdict on the Clarke CC120, one of the cheaper battery chargers for sale
Look after your caravan's leisure battery whenever you're not touring, because when you're ready to hitch up and go on holiday again, the last thing you want is a delay from a flat battery. You may think it's all fine, because it was nicely topped up by the electric hook-up on your last holiday. Do check though. It's surprising how many little gadgets can conspire to steadily drain down your battery. The caravan's alarm system and electronic devices may not need much power, but it all adds up.
Now is a good time to adopt a maintenance mindset and buy yourself a smart modern battery charger and conditioner so that you'll never suffer the frustration of a flat battery again.
We tested eight battery chargers against each other to find out which is the best buy to keep your caravan leisure battery fully charged and well conditioned between holidays. They ranged in price from around £40 mark to £200 and the test revealed a few surprises.
On caravan holidays, what we really want from a smart battery charger and conditioner is that it should be smart enough to work out what kind of battery it's charging up and deliver the optimum charge for that unit. We also want long leads, so that we can charge the leisure battery while it's in the caravan, which may not be very near an electrical socket. We want good output, too, although we have to acknowledge that our leisure battery will only need a big charge when it's pretty flat, and will then draw less and less current as the charging time goes on.
Plus we'd like a reconditioning/desuiphation mode on our battery charger. If you know that your battery’s charge has fallen to a very low level for a long period, you can rescue it with a timely charge in reconditioning mode, because this should dissolve damaging sulphation from the battery’s plates before the deposits have a chance to become permanent and reduce the battery’s effectiveness.
Not only that, did we mention that we need our battery charger to be at least a little bit weatherproof? The caravan is most likely to be stored on a drive or on grass, and definitely outdoors, so it must cope with the potentially damp conditions of the caravan's battery compartment. Yes, we're a fussy lot.
So how did the Clarke CC120 battery charger cope on all these counts – especially when pitted against seven rival smart chargers and conditioners during our test?
In its favour, this cheap battery charging unit’s meaty maximum output of 8.5 Amps makes it ideal for batteries with capacities of 40-160Ah, which actually accounts for most of the cells we are likely to come across when charging up caravan leisure batteries.
Nevertheless, like Draper’s 11953, this is a basic conventional charger, which means that its operation is completely manual.
In other words, if you don’t keep a close eye on the unit’s ammeter and switch it off at the appropriate time, you could easily gas and ruin a modern battery. Obviously, this rules out any form of long-term conditioning.
Another niggle is the lead lengths: both the mains and 12V leads are so short, they’re almost unusable for charging up your caravan leisure battery in situ.
So where did we place the Clarke CC120 when we had to decide on the best battery chargers and conditioners? It's not at the top of the league, because that spot belongs to the Practical Caravan test winner, the five-star CTEK MXS 7.0, at £100.
In the middle-rankings we have the three-star rated Draper 11953 battery charger, £60, and the three-star Sealey Autocharge 10D, priced at £37.
The penultimate product in our group test is the Draper 07265 battery charger, which has a smart little computer, plenty of versatility in charging up 6 Volt, 12 Volt and 24 Volt batteries, but low power output and short leads. We awarded the Draper two stars.
And finally... yes, the Clarke CC120 battery charger, at £47, is so basic that it gets just one star.
In this case we feel that you get what you pay for – the Clarke CC120 is a fairly basic battery charger. It will do the job of recharging your caravan's leisure battery, but you'll need to use extension leads to get it into position and you'll need to watch over it to avoid it overcooking your battery. On the plus side, it will give a good 8.5 Amp boost to a big battery from 40-160Ah. That should get it going! We awarded this battery charger one star out of five possible stars.
- The output of 8.5 Amps will cope with batteries up to 160Ah
- It's not subtle, but it will do the job
- The price is low
- You could ruin your battery if you leave it charging for too long
- Don't buy it if you want a conditioner that you can just leave plugged in
- You'll need to buy longer leads