Whether you are a car enthusiast or not you know that the list of tools your cars need is often endless, especially if you take care of it yourself. One surprisingly affordable yet crucial gadget that every garage needs is a trickle charger. These devices prevent your battery from fully depleting and effectively shortening its lifespan. That is done through a continuous flow of low-amperage charge flow to the battery that matches its self-discharge rate. Browsing through the best trickle chargers can be tricky, however, as most modern models are very similar in terms of their features and performance.
In this guide, we will set the standard for what a good trickle charger should be able to do and give you a few extra tips on how to use one. Below are some of the top models for 2020 with their strongest (and weakest) features…
Trickle Chargers Comparison Chart
BLACK+DECKER BM3B Fully Automatic Battery Charger/Maintainer
The Black+Decker BM3B is one of the best trickle chargers out there for one good reason – it is a great all-rounder. Even with its budget price tag, it easily outperforms other more expensive models. The charger comes in a compact shockproof shell that is very practical and convenient.
It works semi-automatically, meaning you have to select whether the output is 6 or 12 Volts, according to your battery type. Then, it will charge it with its 1.5Amp outgoing current. It works with AGM, Wet, and Gel batteries. I a sense, this is more of a battery maintainer since it will cut off once the battery reaches 100%. When the battery drops below a certain percentage, it will kick back in and re-charge it back to the top again. That “float mode” is what makes it a desirable budget charger suitable for any garage and most battery sizes.
It comes with a mounting bracket on the back, as well as an extension cord and two clamps for the terminals. One downside is that it isn’t waterproof, especially since the other models from Black+Decker’s line of chargers are. Unlike some other models it also isn’t quite suitable for charging a battery, so if your battery is too low, it will take quite some time before it tops it off.
- Great price to value ratio
- Works perfectly for all battery types and sizes
- Comes with a wall-mounting bracket and well-built clamps
- Can be switched between 6 and 12 volts
- Practical and convenient design
- Not suitable for charging dead batteries
- Not officially waterproof
NOCO Genius G750 Battery Charger and Maintainer
NOCO has been the go-to brand for portable jumpstarters, car batteries, and trickle chargers for the past decade. Nowadays, they are still one of the premium brands in this category. The NOCO Genius G750 is a compact battery maintainer that uses a super weak current to keep your battery fully charger throughout its offseason. Whether you have an RV, truck, motorcycle, lawnmower, car, or anything else that you aren’t using for the full 12 months of the year, this is the best way to keep it in shape.
The G750 has an output of both 12 and 6 Volts making it quite universal when it comes to battery types. It works on a “thin” current of 0.75 Amps. While that is ideal to keep smaller batteries at 100%, it won’t be good enough to charge bigger ones if they are depleted. If you own a big truck that has an equally big battery to power it, you will need a stronger current to keep it fully charged. Still, the weaker the current the better for the battery’s long-term health, and that is why some brands double-down on 0.75 Amp trickle chargers. It can fully charge batteries only up to 30 Ah in less than a day. Anything above 30Ah, the G750 will only maintain.
Despite its slightly steep price tag, the NOCO Genius G750 comes with a plethora of accessories and is backed by a full 5-year warranty. In the package, you are getting a 12V Male plug, SAE Adapter, XL Eyelets, a 10ft Extension, and two clamps. This trickle charger is also one of the few in the class backed by an official IP rating, making it dustproof and splashproof.
- Durable construction
- Has an official IP Rating
- Charges both 6 and 12 Volt batteries
- Has Float mode
- Excellent for motorcycle and other small batteries
- 0.75 Amp low-current flow
- Comes with a lot of accessories
- 5-year warranty
- Cannot charge batteries larger than 30Ah effectively
- A bit expensive compared to its competitors
Schumacher SC1300 Automatic Battery Maintainer
The Schumacher SC1300 Automatic battery maintainer has been a user-favorite for quite some time now. Even today, it still is competitive and arguably better than most other maintainers out there. It is relatively cheap, well-built, and very flexible when it comes to powering different types of batteries.
The output here is at 1.5 Amps which is almost at charging territory. This means that while it can trickle charge batteries of all types and sizes, it can also charge up smaller batteries (up to 30Ah) relatively fast. It works for both 6 and 12V batteries. The impressive part of this battery maintainer is that it has a smart processor on the inside. That processor is responsible for its automatic charging functions. There is a multi-stage charging here which adds precision to your charging levels and can control the flow that goes to the battery based on the battery status. The fully-automated system also detects the voltage of your battery and switches it accordingly.
In terms of safety, there is a reverse hook-up protection which prevents any damage in case you hook up the clamps in reverse order. The downside here is that you don’t get clamps and the charger isn’t easily mountable to your wall unless you use double-sided adhesive.
- Great price to value ratio
- Convenient and versatile
- Automatically detects the battery voltage and changes accordingly
- Works with all types of batteries
- Has a multi-stage charging processor
- Has reverse hook-up protection
- Not easily mountable on your wall
- Doesn’t have clamps
CTEK (40-206) MXS 5.0 Battery Charger and Maintainer
The CTEK 40-206 MXS 5.0 Battery Charger is one of the more expensive models out there. While it is a little pricey, it more than makes up for that with its 4.3 Amp outgoing current. That makes it ideal for both maintaining large batteries (up to 160Ah) and charging rarely large ones (up to 110Ah). Most other compact maintainers cannot handle batteries bigger than 30-40Ah, but this one can easily trickle charge most truck batteries out there.
To top that, this particular bundle comes with a ton of accessories. In the package, you are getting 2 chargers, 4 indicator accessories, 2 12V car-plugs, and 2 extension cables. Basically, if you are taking care of more than one vehicle during their off-seasons, this bundle is the best deal out there. The MXS 5.0 is also one of the more durable chargers out there since it is dust and shockproof. It also has spark-proof and reserve-polarity protections making is super safe to use. Lastly, the charger is fully automatic, meaning it can double as a maintainer shutting off every time it detects that the battery is at 100%.
One of the biggest downsides of this potent charger, however, is that it cannot charge 6V batteries. As a whole, this charger is one feature away from being the go-to universal trickle charger even despite its price.
- This bundle comes with a lot of accessories
- Can fully charge batteries up to 110Ah
- Can trickle charge batteries up to 160Ah
- Shock and dustproof
- Has spark-proof and reverse-polarity protection
- Compact design
- Very expensive
- Cannot charge 6V batteries
BikeMaster Battery Charger
The BikeMaster Battery Charger isn’t the most powerful on this list but it is good at its intended job – trickle charging smaller batteries. If you have a motorcycle that you winterize or any other small vehicle or tool that uses a smaller lithium-ion battery, this is one of the best and most practical choices for you.
The charger itself is good enough for batteries up to 60Ah in terms of charging but it can handle trickle charging much bigger batteries up to 120Ah. It works at 2 Amps and 12 Volts giving it a decent amount of range, although it won’t be any good for 6 Volt batteries. While the construction isn’t water or dustproof, there is a circuit-protection guard adding to the safety of the charger.
The major downside, as the name suggests, is that this works on Lithium-ion batteries. While it is good that it is targeted at a specific group of batteries, there are cheaper models out there that are much universal. One example of that is the much cheaper Black+Decker BM3B. Still, the BikeMaster charger comes with an extension cord and two decent clamps. It also has wall-attachment ears mounted to its body frame, making it easier to put on the wall in your garage.
- Powerful enough to fully charge bigger batteries
- Has a smart trickle charging function
- Comes with a circuit-protector
- Small and convenient design
- Perfect for lithium-ion batteries
- Not a good value for your money
- Doesn’t charge batteries other than Lithium-ion
- Cannot charge 6V batteries
BLACK+DECKER BC2WBD Battery Charger/Maintainer
Having the first and last position to a Black+Decker product just proves that a company can make both the best and the not-so-good products out there. The fully-automatic Black+Decker BC2BDW is a robust charger that works at 2 amps and 12V. It is capable of powering up most of the batteries out there and can do it relatively fast. It works with AGM, Wet, and Gel batteries and can charge ones that are up to 30-40Ah relatively quick. For anything bigger, however, it will only act as a trickle charger.
On the downside, this charger won’t work with 6 Volt batteries and also won’t be good enough to charge larger batteries, as it will only be able to trickle charge them. Still, it has the usual Black+Decker safety features such as an official IP rating, a reverse-polarity protection mechanism, and is ETL/CEC Compliant. Also, while the material quality is generally good all-around, the clamps aren’t as rigid as the rest of the charger. Some users report the waterproofing not being good enough as well.
- Works well with all kinds of batteries
- Fairly priced
- Rigid construction
- Has AC low-voltage compensation
- Has Reverse-polairty protections
- Doesn’t work with 6 Volt batteries
- Waterproofing isn’t perfect
- Clamps are of poor quality
Trickle Chargers Buyer’s Guide
Trickle chargers have been used for quite a lot of decades now. A while back, they were bulky and hard-to-carry devices that usually stayed in the garages of state-owned vehicles that were used for seasonal work. That meant that the vehicle had to stay put for close to half the year which lead to issues with the battery depleting itself and not having enough charge to start the vehicle right back up when the time is due.
Modern families often have summer cars that spend the winter in the garage, waiting for the warmer days. Even then, though, the car uses a small amount of power on a constant basis that can fully deplete a battery in a matter of weeks if you don’t start up or drive the car to regenerate the battery back to its full state. That creates a problem – a fully depleted battery is of no use once you need it and allowing it to fully deplete also significantly shortens its life span. This is where modern trickle chargers come into play. Let’s now take a closer look at how exactly they work and why they are a must-have for any car owner!
How Do Trickle Chargers Work
As I mentioned earlier, every battery discharges slowly as time goes by. If you don’t meet that self-discharge rate with an equally big charging rate, you risk the battery slowly depleting itself. That is the whole point around a trickle charger – it supplies a low-amperage electricity flow to the battery that matches its discharge rate precisely, keeping it fully charged and healthy.
Some more expensive trickle chargers have smart functions that allow them to turn themselves off when they sense the battery is fully charged or the option to regulate their amperage and voltage according to the battery’s needs. These are often called “battery maintainers” instead of trickle chargers as their goal is to maintain the battery’s power at 100%.
There are also trickle chargers that can up their amperage to around 7-10 Amps in order to charge the battery faster, essentially turning them into 2-in-1 battery chargers. Now, let’s take a look at the benefits a trickle charger has over not having one…
Benefits Of Trickle Chargers
There are a number of benefits that you get from having a trickle charger in your garage. Some of the most notable ones are:
- It prolongs your battery’s life
- Trickle charging your battery improves its long-term performance
- Prevents your battery from going dead when your car is parked for the season
- Makes sure you have a fully-charged battery at all times in case of an emergency
- Most models can adjust their amperage according to the battery’s needs improving the longevity of lead-acid batteries
- It is an inexpensive way of reducing the running costs of your car
With every product there are features that you need to look out for, however. With the abundance of models out there, it can be confusing when you’re shopping for your first trickle charger. This next chapter is dedicated to all the important features that you should take into consideration when making your final choice.
Features To Look For
Trickle chargers are often defined by their stats and metrics. However, stats don’t always tell the full story and we must also learn how they help shape the device’s performance compared to its competitors. This is what we will do now by going through the following features:
- Amperage & Voltage
- Capacity & Compatibility
- Material quality
- Additional features
There are two main types of trickle chargers – automatic and manual. They are sometimes referred to as “smart” and “dumb” respectively. The main difference is that the automatic trickle chargers can detect various stats of your battery and act accordingly, while manual trickle chargers are more primitive and only do what you tell them, hence the name “dumb”. Automatic models also regulate their amperage according to the battery’s needs and even shut off when the battery is fully charged. That is called “Float mode” and I will touch on it a bit further down.
There is also a third kind of trickle chargers that is basically an all-in-one charger that can fully charge your battery fast but also has a trickle function. Those are typically a bit bulkier and way more expensive. Still, if you want one tool instead of two, these are worth the consideration.
Amperage & Voltage
While the topic of amperage and voltage can seem complicated at first, it can easily be boiled down to a few simple factors. First off, make sure your trickle charger charges at the right Voltage (V). That can be either 6 or 12 depending on the Voltage of your battery. There are some models that can switch between 6 and 12 volts making them more universal and convenient.
With Amperage (A), you just need to look for models that have a low amount of Amps. The lower the Amps, the slower it will charge the battery which is better for its long-term health. Higher Amperages like 4-8 Amps will charge the battery very fast and are basically considered battery chargers at that point. The maximum you should go to be able to trickle charge the battery is 2 Amps. Ideally, look for models that have 1 or lower Amps, such as 0.75A.
Capacity & Compatibility
When you choose your trickle charger, you should do so according to your vehicle’s engine. The bigger the engine, the bigger the battery will be and, therefore, you’ll need a more powerful trickle charger. 1 Amp trickle chargers are typically suitable for smaller engines and motorcycles, while 2-amp models can handle bigger batteries without much issue. If they are automatic, they will also be able to regulate their amperage to fit the needs of a smaller battery as well.
You should also make sure that the trickle charger you’ve chosen works with all types of lead-acid batteries (6 and 12-volt ones). There are also other types of batteries that should be compatible such as Gel, AGM, Wet, or other automotive or marine deep-cycle ones.
While material quality shouldn’t be your first priority, you should always keep an eye for the well-built models that are wrapped in quality materials. One other part that is often overlooked are the trickle charger clamps. On the budget models, they are often poorly built and flimsy. Make sure you get a charger with sturdy clamps and thick durable cables. A rubberized body is another way to make sure that the charger won’t break if you accidentally drop it.
One of the most important additional features a trickle charger can have is the Float mode. This mode allows the trickle charger to keep the battery charged at 100% at all times but also will prevent overcharging and overheating of the battery. To put it simply, once the battery reaches 100%, the trickle charger will cut off and will only start charging when the battery depletes a little bit again.
Temperature sensing modes are also a great additional feature. They are primarily a safety feature of any charger and are a must if you want to prevent your battery from accidentally overheating.
Lastly, look for models that are waterproof. Even if there won’t be any water in your garage, there can be moisture which is very damaging to any electrical device that is constantly plugged into the grid.
When shopping for various car-care items for the offseason, you can easily go overboard with the budget. Lifts, tire bags, trickle chargers, car covers, and various cosmetics can quickly add up to a price that won’t be ideal if you just want to keep your car healthy. Make sure you define the parameters of the trickle charger beforehand and pick one according to your needs instead of going for the highest-end model.
Now, let’s go through some common questions regarding this topic…
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a battery charger and a trickle charger?
Battery chargersare typically far more powerful. While some trickle chargers can go up to 6 Amps and effectively charge up smaller batteries, chargers are better at what they are meant for and charge fully depleted batteries much faster.
Should I charge my battery at 2 or 10 amps?
If you have the time to spare and your battery isn’t too big, charging at a lower Amperage is better for its long-term health. If you are in a hurry, charging at higher Amps is also okay.
What happens if you leave the trickle charger on for too long?
Nothing will happen if you leave the trickle charger running, that is its sole purpose – to keep running for long periods without stopping. It will keep your battery at 100% and prevent depletions.
If you have a car that spends its off-season in the garage, then choosing some of the best trickle chargers for it is essential to its battery’s life. Of course, there are other maintenance tips that you need to consider in order to keep it fully prepared for the spring but nothing feels worse than having a dead battery on the first summer day when you want to take your car out! Pay attention to features such as the amperage, voltage regulation, and the capacity of the trickle charger when you browse for one.