Are Motorcycle Batteries Universal? A Beginner’s Guide

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It is crucial to have a reliable battery in order to start your motorcycle and keep it running. The battery’s primary function is to provide the power needed for the starter to crank the engine. Secondarily, the batteries provide voltage to any of your electrical components like lights or gauges.

Are motorcycle batteries universal? While 12-volt batteries are common for motorcycles, there are some differences. There are at least three or four types of batteries that can be used on motorcycles. Each one has a different cold cranking amp rating as well as a different size. Only use the type and size of the battery recommended by the manufacturer.

Sometimes, batteries go bad for a variety of reasons and need replacement. There are many options available if you feel you need a new battery. It can be confusing and overwhelming to select the right one.

They are the same, but they are different

If a battery from a 125cc engine has 50 cold cranking ams, it would sound and behave dead if it was used to start a bigger 1000cc motorcycle. It is possible to avoid frustration and save time by knowing the reasons before buying.

All batteries are built on the principles voltage and amperage. A battery is made up of multiple cells that are filled with thin metal plates and battery acid, also known as the electrolyte. The metal plates can be coated in acid-reactive lead oxide or made of lead.

This is an electrochemical reaction that can be harnessed for usefulness. Each battery is composed of 6 cells. They each charge at 2.1 volts and are combined to create 12.6 Volts. A 12 volt battery is a battery that powers a car or motorbike.

A key characteristic when it comes to motorcycles is the size of the battery. A car has more space, while a motorcycle’s frame offers much more. Manufacturers usually include the battery size in their design. This size difference is what makes motorcycle batteries unique.

They all look identical. Different brands will use different colors, but that doesn’t indicate much about the specifications of the battery. The dimensions of each battery are similar, so they’re all pretty close.

All batteries will include ratings and information printed on stickers. They may also have a date of manufacture, but that isn’t universal.

Different types of motorcycle batteries

A lead-acid battery is the most basic type of battery. Lead plates are flooded with battery acid. This creates the electrochemical reactions described above. These are typically the cheapest but don’t offer much for extended durability. The plates can break apart under rough driving conditions, such as in off-road applications or motorcycles that have vibration issues like old Triumphs and BSA’s.

A basic flooded lead acid battery has another con: they are unable to tolerate cold weather. The acid’s freezing point is lower when fully charged. However, if the battery isn’t fully charged, it will connect with the lead and leave the water behind, which can cause it to freeze. Batteries that are older or less efficient will not hold their full charge, and they will struggle to keep warm during winter months.

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries are made of fiberglass mats that absorb acid between lead plates. These mats are placed between the lead plates and act as a cushion and sponge to protect the acid from the plates. Because of the higher manufacturing cost, they are usually more expensive than regular batteries. These batteries can also be overcharged.

These batteries are flooded lead-acid battery upgrades that offer many benefits. AGM batteries are equipped with a valve system that prevents gasses and spillage. The mats’ cushioning prevents lead plates from bursting during rough riding. AGM batteries are more durable than a standard battery and have a faster charge time.

A gel battery is another type, in which the acid has been suspended in a gel substance. These batteries don’t need to be upright to be used, which can be beneficial for design engineering. Gel batteries should not be used for high-discharge tasks like starting or running an engine.

They are used for applications such as electric wheelchairs, boat motors, or applications that require a backup power supply.

Lithium-ion cells are made using lithium and graphite, which is then covered with an ethylene electrodelyte. The electrochemical reaction works the same way, but you only need to use these elements. Li-ion battery are lighter and smaller than other types. This makes them appealing to racers.

The battery can be discharged beyond the point of recovery. However, with circuit protection, this possibility is greatly reduced. This protection includes overcharging which can heat up and cause damage to the battery. Upgrades can be made quick and simple by using spacers on some Li-ion battery models.

These are the most popular types of motorcycle batteries. Flooded batteries are the most affordable, but they will need more maintenance and may not work as well as other types. Although AGM batteries can be more expensive than basic flooded, they offer greater performance and longer lasting life.

Although lithium batteries are highly efficient, they can be expensive. They can also be sensitive to improper storage, but they are extremely durable against vibrations.

A word on maintenance: As previously mentioned, older batteries and damaged batteries won’t hold a charge. It is essential to recharge a battery regularly in order to keep it healthy. The battery will not fully charge if it is allowed to discharge completely. It is unlikely that a battery with a partial charge will have any charge if it is left unattended in the off-season.

You can find battery tenders, which keep the battery fully charged by keeping it at a low amperage. This will extend the life of the battery, especially during the colder months when the bike isn’t seeing a lot of action and the battery isn’t getting charged during riding.

How do I know which battery to buy?

You should ensure that you have the correct type of battery in mind before buying a new one. The right battery is essential to keep your bike running at its best. The manufacturer will install a battery that is optimized for the design, but upgrading to a different battery shouldn’t affect the performance.

AGM batteries are my personal preference. They are very affordable and last for years more than regular lead-acid batteries. I find it difficult to justify the extra cost of lithium-ion batteries.

All motorcycle batteries will now be 12-volt. The cold cranking amplifiers (CCA) are another specification to be aware of. CCA stands for Cold Current Amplifier Rating. It is the maximum amps that the battery can run in cold conditions (0 degrees Celsius) for 30 seconds without dipping below 7.5 Volts.

An engine with a higher compression ratio will require more power to crank, so it’s good to know what CCA you will need. Every battery will include the CCA rating printed on the label. This makes it easy to compare the old and new batteries.

The Amp Hours (Ah) rating is another important rating. This rating is used to measure the battery’s capacity. This is the time that the battery can provide a steady voltage for before it drains. If your bike has a few electronics installed, it will draw power when the alternator isn’t charging (like at an idle). This is why the amp-hour rating is important.

It is not necessary to purchase the battery with the most CCA’s and/or Ahs. Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for these ratings. These ratings are often used by manufacturers to encourage customers to buy the more expensive batteries. You can match your original battery’s ratings if you still have it.

If you don’t have the original battery or don’t have an owner’s manual, there are ways to figure out what battery you need. There are many online databases that can help you narrow down the battery your bike requires. Motorcycle shops can also help you choose the right battery for your bike. They may stock them or be able order it in.

It can be confusing to find out what is being shipped online so be careful when shopping online. The prices for parts online are often too low to be true.

Conclusion

Although motorcycle batteries may not be universally compatible, there are many similarities that can be used to help you choose the right one for your motorcycle.

There are different types with their own pro’s and con’s. For more information, consult the manufacturer’s specifications or contact a professional. Pay attention to CCA’s and Ah’s and purchase a trusted brand. These principles will help you find the right fit for your bike.

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