Batteries that sit unused for long periods of time (3-4 weeks+) can end up with sulphation built up on the battery plates. Once this happens, they’ll begin to experience a downturn in performance and run time. They can also become difficult and even impossible to charge. However, this can all be prevented from happening.
Tips for Troubleshooting and Preventing Dead Batteries on your Motorcycle or ATV
Less than half of the motorcycle /ATV owners maintain their battery over the winter. Lead acid batteries lose 1% of their power a day!
If your machine sits from December through March, you now have a junk battery. When the machine sits, the battery sulfates; this condition is almost impossible to reverse. People try to charge the bad battery and then hope the vehicle’s charging system will fix the problem. WRONG. You just over tax the charging system, burning out the stator, rectifier-regulator, connections and wires. “Good charging systems keep good batteries charged. They don’t re- charge a dead battery.” Once the battery is dead, it is not going to recharge.
Dead Battery Solution
Keep a trickle charge on your battery when the machine is not in use. If you suspect a bad battery, make sure you bring your motorcycle or ATV to your local service center. They can do a load test for you. If your battery fails the test, replace it. It costs a lot less for a new battery than to replace your whole charging system.
Know Your Battery
There are different types of batteries, and therefore different ways to maintain each one. For instance if you have a conventional battery, you’ll need to make sure the proper amount of fluid is added and maintained. If you use maintenance-free batteries, simply clean the terminals and any serious grime off the battery, and then spray a little silicone spray or other protectant on the terminals and connecting hardware.
Do Not Let your Battery Freeze
This will be a quick way to destroy a perfectly good battery. Make sure that wherever you decide to store your motorcycle battery, it’s in a place that will keep it from getting too cold. If not, you could very well end up with a cracked battery.
While warm weather may seem a long way off, Spring will be here before you know it. If you properly maintain your motorcycle battery over the next few months, it will be ready to go for you once the time does come to get back on the open road.
How long should a battery last?
CLIMATE: Colder climates tend to be hard on batteries from a starting standpoint, and for the fact that many people put their bikes away for the season when not using. Sometimes without charging properly. Hotter climates tend to discharge batteries quicker, and dry out batteries quicker. “Average” climates are the best for long battery life.
USEAGE: A battery that is used every day has the most chance of living a long life. Batteries that sit a lot, many times are neglected. This shortens overall life. Periodic charging is the best defense.
SULFATION – Sulfation is a buildup of crystals on the plates of a battery. This comes from not charging a battery properly. The more sulfation that builds up, the harder the battery is to charge, until finally it does not charge at all.
LACK OF CHARGING – As mentioned previously, lack of proper charging is the main reason that a battery will not last as long as it should. At the very minimum, a battery should be charged once a month if left unused.
COMPLETE DRAIN – Have you ever left your key on, and totally killed the battery? If recovered in a short time period, the battery should charge back to 100%. But every time this happens, it is similar to the battery having a “heart attack”, and shortening its overall life. Always turn your vehicle off with the keyed ignition switch, not the “kill switch”.
TYPES OF BATTERIES, WHICH IS BETTER…
SEALED AGM BATTERIES – Last Longer. They are not “open to the air” by way of a vent tube. They do not lose water. They are also packed tighter. Plates do not vibrate causing material to shed from the plates and short out. Or worse yet, simply breaking apart in some high vibration applications. Sealed AGM batteries typically last 3 to 5 years on average. 6 to 8 years is easily obtainable with proper maintenance. Typically sealed AGM batteries will give warning before completely dying. They will start slower, and require more charging. This is your clue to replace the battery. Typically they do not fail all of a sudden. Conventional “acid-filled” batteries have a harder life, for many of the reasons listed above. Conventional batteries typically only last 2 to 3 years on average. Although, 4 to 5 years is possible, in the best environments, and with excellent maintenance.