With more and more Australians getting out there in their RVs and 4WDs to enjoy the vast Australian outdoors, the need for better equipped RVs and vehicles is upon us. With so many electronic devices, including car refrigerator, lighting and battery chargers for those power-hungry cameras and phones put a great demand on your rig’s 12V electrical system. Many new RVs come with Anderson connector plugs on the a-frame in order to help make better use of your 4WD’s 12V power system. However, for the 12V power system to work optimally and longer, there are a few things you can do.
Before I even get to the wiring and Anderson connectors, let’s discuss battery storage. There are a few different types of batteries suitable for RVs and 4WDs, but the most commonly used ones are deep cycle batteries. Deep cycle batteries are designed to discharge at a stable rate, many times over. They’re usually rated in ampere-hours, so you can calculate the amount of discharge time they have according to the amount of power you’re using. You’ll find Gel and AGM deep cycle batteries – both types are pretty low-maintenance and they can be discharged and recharged many times over before they start losing their power holding capacity.
Most RV-ers and 4WD-ers will have a hard time getting by using the vehicle’s alternator alone to recharge the battery bank through the Anderson connector. However, with the addition of solar panels, you can replenish your power usage even while your rig is stationary. There are a few basic types of solar panels, and they can be either fold-out, mobile panels, solar blanket, or fixed to your vehicle or RV. You can take advantage of the Aderson plug on your RV’s a-frame to add portable solar panels into the 12V power system mix, however, you’ll need to fit a regulator, also known as a controller, between the panels and the battery bank in order to avoid damaging the battery from overcharging.
If you want to maximize the capabilities of your 12V electrical system, you should consider installing a DC-DC charger between the leisure battery and the 12V Anderson style connector. DC-DC chargers allow you to achieve a 100% charging capacity to your leisure battery, and the closer you fit it to the battery, the better. This is due to the fact that your vehicle’s alternator will only top up your leisure batter up to 75% capacity at best, leaving you without a significant portion of precious power. There are many DC-DC chargers available nowadays, and they can easily be installed by most 4WD parts suppliers, auto electricians, and even DIY-ers.
When it comes to wiring your RV and 4WD, bigger is almost always better. What this means is that a 50A Anderson power connector will handle a decent amount of power, but if your electrical wires are too thin, the voltage will drop too low to charge the batteries effectively. The wiring to the back of your vehicle needs to be at least 6mm and it shouldn’t be longer than a few metres, in order to minimise this type of voltage drop. Quality Anderson plugs will maintain their connection even when driving through the roughest terrain, and they can be used for much more than a 4WD or RV connection. They’re ideal for replacing common 12V cigarette lighter outlets that pop out when driving over bumpy tracks, especially for high power drawing touring essentials like a fridge.
There are several different sizes of Anderson style connectors, the most common ones being 50 amp Andersons, 175- and 350-amp Andersons. The 50-amp Anderson connectors are arguably the most popular ones, and they should be used with a 16mm battery cable. This type of cable is available on 4WD electrics in red or black and is usually sold in 10-meter rolls. The cable is rated petrol, acid, and oils resistant and to 110 amps. The 175-amp Anderson style connector should be used with a 3mm battery cable, and a 350-amp Anderson style connector should be used with a 50mm battery starter cable.
The reason why Anderson style connectors are used over other types of connectors for 12V wiring applications is due to their high durability and robust nature, including resistance to chemicals like hydrocarbons and solvents, their ability to operate high current systems, their ability to offer minimal contact resistance, their easy and quick assembly, their colour-coded design, and their safe housing that’s been designed to prevent accidental contact with live component, making them compliant with the UL 1950 finger probe test.
There are many online suppliers of quality 12V electrical systems where you can find basic as well as complex 12V power systems, and they can help you assess your power needs so that you can fit in the most suitable system for you. All of these systems can be installed by yourself, although you’ll need to check your power needs and make sure you get quality components to avoid any issues.