If you’re going to be storing a car for a long time, maybe you’re going on a long holiday or don’t drive your car in the winter, then a trickle charger is a must-have so you don’t have to deal with a dead battery when it’s time to put your ride back on the road again.

Trickle chargers are especially useful if you have an older car, a weaker or older battery, or just want peace of mind. Trickle chargers, also called battery tenders, work by releasing a small amount of current to match a battery’s natural self-discharge rate to keep it topped up at its fully charged level. Battery tenders can be used on your car battery, ATVs, boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and more.

Trickle chargers come in many sizes with many features. Some can charge at high rates, some have safety features, and others will let you know when your battery is fully charged or not. Fortunately, they come in a variety of price points too, so you can find the best charger for your budget. Here are the best trickle chargers for your car’s battery:

1. Editor's Pick: Battery Tender Junior 12V, 0.75A Battery Charger

battery tender 12v junior automatic battery charger

Another affordable trickle charger is this Battery Tender Junior, which can be used for batteries in vehicles other than cars, like boats. Like other low-cost and small chargers, it has a low charge rate of just 0.75 amps, which will take a long time to charge a battery but will adequately maintain a battery. It is spark-proof, reverse polarity protected, and has a 5-year warranty.

This is a good choice for many because of its low price, and it’s been well received, with over 8,000 five star reviews on Amazon.

2. Battery Tender Plus 1.25 Amp Battery Charger

battery tender plus battery charger

This is another low-rate trickle charger, but with a few extra features to make your battery maintenance experience easier. There are many extra measures in place on this charger like a reverse polarity protection, and lights to tell whether the battery is being charged or maintained.

It’s not an extremely powerful charger, but it’s reliable and well reviewed. The product is also backed by a 10-year warranty, which is more than some other products on this list.

3. BLACK+DECKER Automatic Battery Charger/Maintainer

black+decker fully automatic battery charger

Then again, if affordability is what you’re looking for, this BLACK+DECKER unit will definitely satisfy your budget. It’s really light on the wallet, but also comes with a few unique features and safety nets. It’s small and portable, so it will easily fit in your parking spot. It can only charge at a rate of 1.5 amps, but it has a reverse polarity check to make sure you don’t damage your battery in any way.

Buyers note that the device is really reliable but with its limited charge rate, it can’t do much but maintain a battery, and not charge it very quickly, which is something some of the more expensive devices here can do.

4. Schumacher SpeedCharge 2/6/10 Amp Battery Charger and Maintainer

schumacher speedcharge battery charger

This is the high-tech charger of choice, with lots of information to make it easier to trickle charge your battery. It’s expensive, sure, but which other chargers have this many displays and information, as well as a few selectable charge rates? This fully automatic charger is also easy to move and store with its retractable handle and compartments for the cables.

It can vary between 2, 6 and 10 amps, which can maintain or charge your battery as needed. It’s quick and easy to use, with many options, which is what makes it an ideal choice. It’s also backed by a limited 5-year warranty.

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5. Sunforce 5-Watt Solar Battery Trickle Charger

sunforce 5-watt solar battery trickle charger

Here’s a novel idea: trickle charge your car battery using solar power! You can plug this charger right into your 12V socket or attach it right to the battery. It’s relatively portable and lightweight, and Sunforce assures buyers that the panel is made from a durable aluminum frame, but customer reviews have been a bit less positive.

Many buyers have complained about shattered glass on the panel, as well as other build quality issues. Fortunately, it’s not too expensive, and can be used for more applications than just a car battery. It can probably work well in outdoor settings that don’t get much weather and lots of sun.

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6. Energizer 4 Amp Battery Charger + Maintainer

energizer enc4a 4-amp battery charger

This is another affordable option, but it has a stronger charge rate than the other small ones on this list. It charges at 4 amps, which is good enough to charge a battery in addition to maintaining it.

This model can actually vary its charge rate for the given application and has a 9-step system to help improve the longevity of the battery. It has auto voltage detection to protect against overcharging, reverse polarity, and short circuits. Some buyers noted that it sparks when connected and have seen some build quality issues and noted it on Amazon, but the product is backed by a 5-year warranty.

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7. SUAOKI ICS7+ 12V Battery Charger/Maintainer

suaoki smart battery charger

This is a new high-tech charger with a number of interesting features. It can switch between a 7 amp charge and a 3.5 amp charge in case you need a quick charge or a trickle charge. There’s also a handy screen to help you understand what the charger is doing with your battery. This charger is well reviewed if a bit expensive, but buyers like the many features included like reverse polarity protection, overcharge protection, overheating protection, and more.

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How to Use a Trickle Charger for Your Car's Battery

how to use a trickle charger

Photo Credit: Lesterman/Shutterstock

If you’re storing a car for an extended period of time, or if your car has a small car battery, it’s a good idea to get it a trickle charger.

These are handy devices perfect for those who have seasonal vehicles that don’t see duty during winter or are collectors, enthusiast, or show cars that don’t get driven very often. They help ensure a car’s battery doesn’t deplete while it’s not in use so that when you want to use your car, it’ll fire right up (assuming nothing else could be wrong with it).

But hooking up a trickle charger can be a bit complicated. It’s kind of like attaching jumper cables, but without another person there to reassure you that you’re doing everything correctly or to guide you in the right direction if you’re not.

Fortunately, we’ve got a  simple guide to alleviate any fears you have of blowing up your car that you plan to be safely storing.

First, park your car in a well ventilated and rain-free location. The car should be turned off, with the keys out of the ignition, and the trickle charge shouldn’t be plugged in.

Step 1: Locate your battery terminal and ground location

Start by popping your hood and locating your battery terminals. Most cars have a hood release button by the driver’s footwell although a few have more complicated ways to access the area where your battery and the terminals will be. When in doubt, look to the vehicle owners manual.

There are two important parts to the battery: the positive and negative terminal. You can usually tell these apart because they’re color-coded, or under a colored plastic cover. The positive terminal is red and the negative one is black. If they’re not color coded they’ll probably have a positive symbol (+) or a negative symbol (-) nearby.

You don’t always need to use the negative terminal. A good alternative is a ground location. This will help close the circuit in a safe way. Look for exposed metal or a part of the car’s frame, or a bolt that is attached to the car’s frame.

Step 2: Disconnect Battery

Now that you’ve located the battery and its terminals, detach the battery in this following order: remove the negative connector first.

Then remove the positive connector. Again, this can be identified by color, as the negative part of the battery will be black, and the positive will be red.

Step 3: Attach the Trickle Charger

Now attach the trickle charger in the opposite order. Take the red clip and attach it to the positive terminal, then take the black clip and attach it to either the ground location or the negative terminal.

Step 4: Turn on the Trickle Charger

After the charger is connected to the battery, its time to plug it in, turn it on and start charging the battery. Before you plug in your charger, some models come with additional features, including how strong of a charge, and for how long of a charge. A car battery can be maintained with as little as 750 milliamps. More basic chargers won’t have these features, so just plug it in after its all connected.

Step 5: Finish Charging

Leave the charger and cables in place while it does its thing. Some owners advise keeping the hood open while you charge a battery because it can give off hydrogen gas in the process. This is why a well-ventilated space for your car was previously mentioned.

Step 6: Remove the Charger

When its time to bring your car out of storage there are a few steps to follow as well, but it’s mostly the previous steps but in reverse. Start by unplugging the charger from the outlet. Then disconnect the cables from the battery, starting with the negative clamp and then the positive.

Remove the charger from the car and then reattach the battery to the terminals, starting with the positive terminal, and then the negative one.

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Conclusion

And then you’re all done, it wasn’t so hard and if your equipment is all new and in working order, the whole process should have been easy and safe.

There are many types of trickle chargers with a ton of extra features, including different rates of charge and a handy boost in case your car battery is dead and needs a jump. Other trickle chargers come with handy lights to point out when you’ve made the right connection and completed the circuit properly. Some even have a timer function to charge the battery at the appropriate times.


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