Editor’s Note: If it’s advice about battery maintenance that you seek, you’ve come to the right place. James Dean works on our sales technician lines and is a graduate of WyoTech’s American Motorcycle Institute’s Harley program. To find out more about James, read his Meet The Team write-up here on the J&P blog.
For most of us in this country who actually experience winter months, preparing your motorcycle for hibernation requires some action on your part. And that holds particularly true when it comes to battery maintenance.
The first thing to always to remember is you should make or break a battery connection by using the negative cable. This ensures there won’t be any voltage spikes. More important, if there is gas seeping from the battery, it won’t ignite and explode. That’s much more than a personal preference issue. It’s a safety concern.
Secondly, when you’re hooking up battery connections, it’s always better to use dielectric grease on the connections and make sure you have a tight connection in order to prevent corrosion. A contaminated or loose battery connection often results in high resistance, which interferes with the flow of electrical current.
The best method of keeping a battery fully charged is to hook it up to a battery tender. The battery tender will maintain the battery at full charge and will not overcharge or overheat the battery. I also recommend you never charge a motorcycle battery with an automotive-type battery charger. Why, you ask? Primarily because most automotive chargers are of the constant voltage, variable current type, which means they don’t shut off. And that could result in overcharging your motorcycle battery, causing big time damage.
If you’re purchasing a brand new conventional battery, make sure you fill it with an acid pack — and follow the safety instructions. Once a battery is initially filled with the electrolyte solution (sulfuric acid and distilled water), you don’t have to add any more electrolytes to the battery. That’s because over time, the distilled water evaporates and the electrolytes collect on the plates inside the battery (called sulfating). These electrolytes are released back into the solution when the battery becomes fully charged, so if the level is low, all is needed is to add distilled water until the level reaches the top fill line.
One thing you don’t want to do is use tap water, which contains chlorine, iron and other contaminants that will damage and shorten your battery’s life. Once the battery is filled, leave it alone for a half hour before charging. Then go ahead and charge the battery for one-tenth of the amp hour rating for 10 to 12 hours, after which you can install the battery on your motorcycle.
If you get clumsy and spill any electrolyte solution, you can neutralize it with simple baking soda and water. Of course, if you purchase a sealed/maintenance-free battery, it’s already been filled from with acid. You should charge this type of battery — also at 1/10 amp hour rating for 10 to 12 hours — and then install the battery on your bike.
Amp hour rating is defined as the discharge rate of the battery’s amperes in hours. Here’s an example: A 12-amp/hour battery will discharge fully if 1 amp of current is consistently discharged from the battery for 12 hours. Motorcycle batteries are rated in ampere-hours, so the larger the amp/hour numbers, the stronger the battery. But know this: Voltage does not change in relation to amp/hour ratings.
These tips should help you prepare your battery for the winter months. We’ll have more tips on battery maintenance once the weather starts to warm and you’re itching to get back out on the road again.