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Often times, a lot of us are not able to ride our motorcycles as frequently as we’d like. I’ve been guilty of letting my motorcycle sit for months at a time. I wanted to know how long a motorcycle could sit before the battery died so I did some research.
How long can a motorcycle be left unattended before its battery runs out? The average motorcycle battery will die after 2 – 4 months without running. Newer batteries can last longer with an average of 3 – 5 months until dying whereas older batteries will not last as long giving it an average of 1 – 3 months until the battery dies while the motorcycle is sitting.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to letting your motorcycle sit and it’s battery life. Dead batteries are most likely to occur at the worst times. This article will provide you with some maintenance tips and explain the process. That way you can be sure that you won’t be left stranded with a dead motorcycle battery.
Why a Motorcycle Battery Loses Power When It’s Not Used
It’s important to use your motorcycle periodically to keep the battery in check. If a motorcycle battery is not used and just sits, it will lose it’s capacity to power your motorcycle. Every time you let your battery die, it causes some permanent damage, making your battery lose some of it’s ability to charge fully.
Think of it this way: if you’ve ever broken a bone, you understand what it’s like having a cast and not being able to use that part of your body. When you finally get your cast off, you’ve temporarily lost the ability to use that body part to it’s full capacity because you haven’t been using it or exercising your muscles. Similar is the case with a motorcycle battery.
Parasitic drain is another phenomenon. This occurs when motorcycle computers are not properly grounded and cause a slight discharge of the battery. Also, this means that your battery charge is slowly being depleted from another source.
This is particularly common for older bikes. Each time you don’t use your motorcycle, this parasitic drain can cause further damage. An automotive professor once told me that batteries are like cats in that they have 9 lives. Each time you let the battery fully discharge it loses some of it’s full charging potential.
Cold weather doesn’t necessarily drain your battery, it just means your motorcycle requires more voltage to start which your battery might not be able to give.
An electric current can be generated when the positive and the negative terminals are connected. An electrochemical reaction takes place, which generates electrons that are used to create the current in the battery. The current produced by this chemical reaction is less when cold temperatures are present.
The cold temperatures can cause problems when a motorcycle’s battery is left unattended. The battery is unable to produce enough current to turn the motorbike on by itself due the cold air. The battery can be especially vulnerable if it is left outside. Check out my article for more information about what can happen to your motorcycle if you leave it alone.
How to keep a motorcycle battery charged
Most motorcycles require a 12 volt battery. The exact voltage is 12.6. 12.6 Volts is considered 100% charged, 12.4 Volts is 75% charged, and 12.2 Volts is 50% charged.
To start a bike, you will need at least 12.2 Volts or 50% of a new battery. A battery’s efficiency decreases with age, so a higher percentage of battery is required to start the bike. Remember that a battery rated at 12.6 volts will not start the bike. It is essential to have enough current. The voltage can be checked but it is not a reliable indicator.
The stator is able to charge your battery up approximately 15V after you turn on your motorcycle. While most motorcycles come with a stator (some smaller dirt bikes have one), almost all of them do. If your bike doesn’t have a stator, you can check the headlight of the bike while it is running. If the headlight becomes brighter when you rev the bike, then it is likely that you don’t have a stator. However, if it remains the same brightness, then it does.
Motorcyclists who are cautious will be careful with their motorcycle, especially their battery. Problems with motorcycle batteries are common. There are many ways to maintain a full charge of your battery. This can help you avoid future headaches.
You should know how old your battery really is. A healthy battery should last for at least 48 months. If you know your battery is getting close to that age, be aware that it may give out some time soon and don’t be surprised if your motorcycle doesn’t start. You should also keep an eye on the size of your battery in case you have to buy a new one.
You can also use a battery charger. You can use a battery trickle charge charger as one type of charger. A trickle charger charges your battery with a steady charge. These chargers can cause permanent damage to your batteries if left on for too long. These are usually the cheapest type of chargers because they don’t have any built in protections.
A battery tender is also an option. This is the type of charger I use and highly recommend. The charger has a sensor that will either indicate when your battery charge is low and need to be charged or detects when the battery is fully charged and will cease charging. This charger can be connected to your battery at any time.
If you live in a cold climate, you’ve probably experienced too many dead batteries on your motorcycle. Keep your motorcycle indoors if you can.
If it’s still too cold and your motorcycle won’t start, use a space heater to pre-heat your engine by placing it directly next to your motorcycle. Don’t put it too close and burn something! Click here to read my article about what happens to a motorcycle battery when it freezes.
It should be easier to start your motorcycle once it is warmed up. I have used this method dozens of times and has proven to be a sure way to get a motorcycle started when it’s cold.
It can save you a lot of headaches to have a multimeter nearby. Multimeters are electronic measuring instruments. It measures voltage, current, as well as resistance. I use it often to find out how long my battery lasts.
How to ensure you have the correct size of battery for your motorcycle
It is crucial that you have the correct size battery for your motorcycle. If you don’t have the right size, you can cause some damage to the battery and to your motorcycle.
Inadvertently using an 18V battery, or a higher voltage, can cause damage to your bike’s wires. If you use too little of a battery you’ll never get the bike on the road.
If you have your user’s manual, that should tell you what size of battery you need. There are many PDF files available online that can help you find the right battery size. To find the right battery, you must know what the CCA (Cold Cranking Amps) is. Also, the voltage (some older bikes use 6V batteries). The correct dimensions will allow it to fit into the tray.
You can also consult with a motorcycle shop if you’re having a hard time finding the correct battery online. Many times, if you give them your motorcycle’s make and model over the phone, they will be able to tell you which type of battery you need. Make sure you get the correct size.
How a Motorcycle Battery Works
There are two types that can be used for motorcycle batteries. There are two types of batteries for motorcycles: the first is the lithium-ion phosphate, and the second is the more common lead acid battery.
Many people mistakenly believe that batteries are just a storage unit for electricity. In reality, they convert chemical energy into electric energy.
There are many cells inside the battery with plates. A 12 volt battery has six cells that produce just over 2 volts each. This is all submerged in an acid solution (in a lead-acid battery). The chemical reactions create a current that ultimately charges your bike.
It’s important to remember to not use flames around motorcycle batteries as they can emit flammable gases. Be aware of the acid in the battery. It can cause damage to clothing, objects, and your skin.
Can I use a car charger to charge my motorcycle battery? A car charger can be used to charge your motorcycle battery, although it is not recommended. You should be cautious as car chargers are more powerful and can cause serious damage to your motorcycle battery. Make sure you monitor the charge and adjust your car charger’s settings.
Does a motorcycle have an alternator? Some motorcycles have an alternator while others have a generator/magneto/stator. These all charge the motorcycle’s battery while it is still running.