Battery 101: Charging Your Motorcycle Battery

Knowing how to take care of and properly charge your motorcycle battery helps ensure your battery enjoys a long life. Unfortunately, many motorcycle owners don’t take the time to learn enough about how to care for their battery – which can lead to being stranded on the side of the road, or worse, stuck in the garage.

Not All Motorcycle Batteries Are The Same

Just as with your car and other battery powered items you use regularly, you need to have the right battery for the equipment. The best way to go about this is to make sure you follow the motorcycle manufacturer’s instructions on what battery will work best with your bike.

Once you know what kind of battery you need, you can determine how to best care for it. The battery manufacturer will have specific instructions regarding the charging requirements and other special instructions.

The Basics

Most motorcycle batteries are lead-acid batteries and should be charged in addition to the charge it receives from your riding. The fact of the matter is unless you are going for a road trip or will be riding continuously for hours, the alternator is not powerful enough to fully charge the battery.

Because of this, motorcycle batteries tend to become more deeply discharged than car batteries. The longer the battery is used without being recharged between uses shortens the battery’s life cycle.

The climate where you live and/or operate the motorcycle can drastically affect the battery’s life cycle as well. Because all batteries have a natural rate of discharge even when not in use, it’s important to maintain a charge as much as possible.

Float Charge

The best way to maintain your motorcycle battery charge is with a float charger. Very similar to a trickle charger, a float charger delivers a slow, consistent stream of low-voltage electricity, and turns off when it’s done.

This is best done over a longer period of time. One option for weekend riders is to put the battery on the float charger during the week and that way you are fully charged for a weekend of riding.

A good rule of thumb is to remove the battery from the motorcycle and place it in a cool and well-ventilated area. Despite the fact that a float charger will turn off when the battery is charged, you will still need to check on it regularly and make sure that everything is working correctly.

You can charge a motorcycle battery with a standard charger, however, you will need to make sure the voltage will not exceed what the battery can handle.

Delivering too strong of a charge or just delivering the charge too quickly can actually damage the battery if not worse.

Pro-Tips:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when connecting the battery to the charger. By not following the directions you could cause irreparable damage to the battery and the charger.
  • If the battery gets really hot TURN OFF the charger and let everything cool down. Excessive heat is a good indication that something is wrong. Allowing the battery to overheat could result in an explosion.
  • If the battery is smoking or sparking, TURN IT OFF! If this occurs there is definitely something wrong.

Battery Maintenance

Lead-acid batteries will need to be refilled with water periodically. Doing this can help prolong the life of your battery and ensure peak performance levels.

Just as important as maintaining a charge and making sure the battery stays watered is the need to keep the battery clean. This can be especially true with a motorcycle battery.

The exposure to dirt, dust and other debris can increase the battery’s rate of discharge and lead to premature failure. Cleaning your battery can be as simple as using a clean, dry cloth to remove any dirt or dust build up.

Sometimes corrosion can build up which requires a bit more effort to remove but still worth it when it comes to prolonging your battery life.

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