White Dog Guide to Motorcycle Batteries

Battery Facts
Routine Maintenance
Fault Finding

Motorcycle Batteries

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Motorbike Battery Care, Maintenance & Fault Finding

Motorcycle Insurance

If a motorbike is used regularly & a few basic checks are performed once a month, a motorbike battery should be serviceable for at least 3 years. Maintenance free & gel filled batteries require very little maintenance once they have been correctly charged & installed.

However, it is worth remembering that, due to their size, motorcycle batteries can be very temperamental if not properly maintained & will not take much abuse. Correctly charging your battery & checking the battery at least once a month will usually ensure trouble free usage.

Based on numerous years of experience with motorcycle batteries, we have found that a faulty motorbike battery will usually either fail within the first month or won't function correctly from the start. Most motorbike batteries that fail after a month have failed due to being incorrectly charged or due to being abused.

Motorbike batteries are very simple in their construction & the return rate for genuinely faulty batteries due to manufacturing faults is less than 1%. It is worth noting that most motorbike battery warranties only cover manufacturing defects or faults, not abuse by the owner or failure to keep the battery charged.

Common Motorbike Battery Facts

~Although most automotive batteries are referred to as either 6 volt or 12 volt, these numbers are only assigned to batteries to make it easier to distinguish between the 2 types of electrical systems & don't represent the true voltage of a motorbike battery.

~A healthy 12 volt motorbike battery should be between 12.5 & 13.5 volts & a healthy 6 volt battery should be between 6.5 & 7.2 volts if tested on a motorbike whilst resting (ignition switched off)

~Once a 12 volt battery drops below 12.4 volts (while resting) it will start to struggle to start most motorcycles.

~Brand new motorcycle batteries are only charged to about 80% of their full capacity (around 12 volts) which is why they need a top off charge before they are initially used

~Even a motorbike battery that isn't connected to a motorcycle will gradually lose it's charge. Once a battery is filled with electrolyte (battery acid), the chemical reaction that produces electricity starts to work & the process of 'self-discharge' begins. Batteries not connected to a vehicle will discharge slower than connected batteries

~A motorcycle battery charger specially designed for the purpose should always be used to charge a motorbike battery. Car & general automotive chargers use a higher rate of charge which forces a higher current into the battery very quickly. This can lead to overheating & plate damage as motorbike batteries are not built to take this kind of charge. A motorbike battery should be charged at about one tenth it's amp/hour rating (for most motorbike batteries this means about 1-2 amp's per hour).

~Distilled or de-ionized water only should be used to top up a conventional or lead acid battery. Other kinds of water (like tap water) contain elements which will permanently damage the plates in a battery

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Routine Motorbike Battery Maintenance

Checking your battery once a month & topping up the electrolyte levels (if required) will help to ensure you get the most from your motorbike battery. Below are a few checks that will help to prolong the life of a motorbike battery

Any checks that involve removing the battery caps can only be performed on a conventional or lead acid battery as maintenance free & gel batteries shouldn't need topping up or removal of the caps

- Check the electrolyte level
Conventional or lead acid batteries only
- With the battery on a flat & level surface, top up to the upper limit marks on the front of the battery with distilled or de ionized water. Always take care when handling electrolyte
- Keep the top free of grime
All types of battery
- Check cables, clamps, and case for obvious damage or loose connections.
All types of battery
Especially check the battery terminal bolts to ensure they haven't worked loose
- Clean terminals and connectors as necessary
All types of battery
If there is excessive build up of sediment of sulphate (the white stuff!) on the terminals or battery lead connectors, clean them gently with a soft wire brush
- Check inside for excessive sediment, sulfating or mossing
Conventional or lead acid batteries
- Make sure the exhaust tube is free of kinks and clogs
Conventional or lead acid batteries
- Replace caps firmly
Conventional or lead acid batteries

To accurately check the charging state of a motorbike battery & a motorcycle charging system, it is necessary to purchase a volt meter. Volt meters are available from most electrical parts stores & are relatively inexpensive (around £10 for a basic volt meter)

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Motorbike Battery Fault Finding

Fault
Remedy
No power, even to horn & lights
Check main fuse, located on red lead near battery
Intermittant loss of power, especially when starting (starts sometimes, won't start other times)
Check battery terminal connectors & tighten if loose
Clicking noise when trying to start the motorbike, starter doesn't turn over
Battery charge to low to turn over starter motor, only activating starter solenoid (switch that activates the starter motor, makes ckicking noise)
Strong smell of rotten eggs or sulphur when riding
Change underware! Usually a sign that the motorbike charging system is over charging the battery. Stop motorbike & switch off. Do not continue until charging fault fixed
Battery only holds a charge for 1-2 days
Possibly alarm draining battery, or old battery in need of replacement
Battery is flat & won't start motorbike immediatly after being ridden
Motorbike charging fault. Quick way to check, rev the bike with the light on, if the headlight gets dimmer as the revs increase, charging fault, probably regulator/rectifier
Starter motor turns over very slowly & struggles to start the motorbike
Low charge on battery, probably in need of replacement
Fitted heated handelbar grips are causing the battery to go flat overnight
Heated grips are wired to a permanent 12 volt wire, so heating 24/7. Should be wired to a 12 volt ignition wire that goes to 0 volts when ignition is turned off
Power to lights & horn but bike won't start
Check if motorbike is in gear, check side stand cut out switch, check clutch cut out switch

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