How Long Do Motorcycle Batteries Last?
Many appliances and vehicles use batteries. And just like phones and cars, there is also a concern amongst motorcycle riders. This concern raises the question, “How long do motorcycle batteries last?”
Here, batteries refer to equipment that is made up of a cell or more which can make direct current. They do this by changing chemical energy to electrical energy.
Video: How Long Do Motorcycle Batteries Last?
If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here:
How long do motorcycle batteries last?
Motorcycle batteries last for as long as forty-eight months, that is four years. This length of time is greatly affected by how the motorcycle battery was maintained.
The word battery was first coined in the year 1748 by Ben Franklin who was a renowned leader and inventor. He did so when he was trying to explain how Leyden’s interconnected jars gave out electric energy.
Though the Leyden jars cannot be called batteries in the sense that we know batteries now, they are a type of capacitor. Capacitors have the ability to hold and give out electric power, so the naming was still on point.
Ben Franklin might have coined the words, but it was Alessandro Volta, an Italian Physicist who produced the first and working battery. This was in the year 1800. Volt is named after Alessandro Volta.
Thirty years later, gravity battery had turned to be one of the most trusted and sure ways of making electric power. They were used mostly to supply power to the first and earliest telegraph networks in those days.
Those gravity batteries are what made way for the lead and acid batteries that are available today. They still share some similarities.
The commonest type of batteries for motorcycles are acid or lead flooded batteries. These originated from seminal gravity batteries.
Wet batteries or flooded cells are actually a group of singular cells. Each of the cells produces 2.12 to 2.2 current volts (this is largely dependent on the design of the battery). The singular cells are placed together in one container.
How do you get the component cells in a battery to give out the power?
They are connected in a group of threes if the system is one that is six-volts. On the other hand, they are connected to a group of sixes. This is the commonest system used, the system of 12-volts.
Lead plates make up the cells. Each lead plate carries either a negative or positive charge. The negative one is made of spongy lead and the positive is made of lead dioxide.
This is, however, not a hard and fast rule. Any lead-based substance could be made use of after the price and quality of battery in view is considered. The arrangement of the plates come in alternating patterns, negative-positive-negative.
An insulating substance is added between the plates so that they do not touch. The insulators are usually fiberglass and paper. The plate’s area is directly proportional to the capacity of the battery. Hence, if the plates are large, more electricity will flow.
The negative plates in one cell are interconnected. The same applies to the positive plates in another cell. However, the cells that house the plates are connected in an alternating manner, negative-positive or positive-negative.
Due to the fact that the connection gives a combined effect, the power the battery gives off is a sum of the power generated by each cell. But the conversion of the chemical energy stored in the cells does not happen until something is added.
In chemistry, it is called a catalyst. An electrolyte is a catalyst in this case. The electrolyte is a combination of sulfuric acid and distilled water.
If you add the electrolyte, it will react with lead plates then give off an electric charge. This charge can now be used by any load that is in connection with the battery.
This sure sounds like an unending supply of power from a battery, right? Wrong! We do know that at some point the battery stops working and ‘dies.’
What happened? Well, in simple terms, a chemical change made the battery give off power; that same chemical change caused it to die. As the battery is being used or discharges, the makeup of the battery undergoes chemical reactions as the electrolyte will dissolve in water.
Also, lead plates that are coated with lead sulfate, are by-products of the initial chemical reaction. This causes the battery to go dead.
In those days when gravity cells were in vogue, dead cells were recycled. Few components were added. The job was not a pretty one, but it sure got it done. That way, new batteries that were fully charged were produced.
In modern times, the battery is recharged instead when it has not died yet. That is basically how every rechargeable battery works. If you connect a battery to an external source that gives off a higher power than the battery, excessive electrons accumulate from the battery.
This sort of brings the battery back to the original state, chemically. If you maintain this process, the battery may last for years, mostly if the load demand on it is reasonable.
The flooded cells like the ones in the motorcycle battery are famous yet they are not without faults. First of all, they are installed inside a plastic box and give off the most dangerous liquid known to man. The liquid is very corrosive.
The battery also gives off hydrogen gas which is an explosive gas. Due to this, the battery would need to vent. The vent that comes out is liquified hydrogen gas, very corrosive and also explosive
Due to the fact that the battery cells lose water in the discharge-charge cycle, the cells need to be topped up. Sadly, this rarely happens, and it affects the longevity of the battery and how long the battery can hold onto a charge.
Finally, the wet cells have to be in a vertical position so that the plates are submerged in the electrolyte. This is also to prevent electrolyte from seeping out from the vent and damaging stuff it comes in contact with.
This is a dilemma that motorcycle battery manufacturers face. Because the space given for a motorcycle battery to sit in is quite small, the cells may not be totally submerged in an electrolyte.
Manufacturers of motorcycle batteries have been trying their best to see how these challenges can be overcome. But until then, you need to learn how to maximize your battery.
How Long Does Motorcycle Battery Last?
So, how long do motorcycle batteries last? How long before the electrolyte totally dissolves in water? How long before lead sulfate totally coats lead plates? How long before the battery goes dead and cannot be used again?
The answer to these questions is actually dependent on so many factors. This is because, on the average, manufacturers of motorcycle batteries agree that batteries should last for four years. But how many of us have used the same battery for more than two years?
What affects how long motorcycle batteries last?
How long the motorcycle battery last is affected by three main factors:
1.The prevailing weather condition.
2. The battery rating.
3. The type and quality of the battery. AGM batteries are usually better than the wet cell battery.
Quality And/Or Type Of Battery
There are two main types of motorcycle batteries. The wet cells and the sealed batteries, also known as the valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (VRLA). The VRLA is also divided into two: gel battery and absorbent glass mat (AGM).
AGM and gel batteries have a lot in common with the wet cell yet there are stand-out differences. Even the AGM and gel batteries have differences too. The difference between the VRLAs and the wet cells is the reason why the former lasts better and is of higher quality than the latter.
The VRLA is made on gas recombinant technology but the wet cell is not. When a wet cell is charging, the chemical process which takes place splits water into the two parts that make up water – hydrogen, and oxygen.
Furthermore, both gasses cause pressure in the car battery which is then expelled to the air. What this means is water, in the form of hydrogen, and oxygen is lost. The only thing in the cell is now the acid. This means distilled water would have to be added to the battery periodically.
However, sealed batteries or VRLAs used lead-calcium combination. This is different from lead plate sponges and lead dioxide that is typical of normal batteries. What this entails is that when the VRLA is charging, hydrogen is not produced.
Oxygen forms anyway but it is not sent to the atmosphere. The chemistry or technology used in making the battery allows it to join active ingredients in the car battery and form water again. So, this means that there is no need for you to top up water.
If the battery becomes overcharged, the oxygen produced can be excessive. But there is a flame arrestor or valve arrestor that is on guard to prevent battery rupture. The battery would have to be hugely overcharged before it ruptures, though.
The sealed batteries are not cheap, to put it mildly. In fact, they usually cost double the amount of a wet cell. But they are better than the wet cell. So, if your battery is a sealed one (VRLA), it would last longer than the normal wet cell.
The AGM is the commonest type of sealed battery. How is it better than a wet cell?
There is no jobless electrolyte moving about the cell. Instead of having a paper dividing lead plates inside a cell, AGM makes use of the Glassfiber mat.
The mat is a strong high-tech sponge that is made of fiber from glass together with acrylic or styrene blinder. The mat is full of electrolytes and placed between lead plates.
Initially, when the battery is full, the mat absorbs electrolyte and holds it in suspension. Capillary action helps the electrolyte stay in touch with plates.
Due to the fact that the Glassfibre mat is strong and stiff, it gives the plates more support. This allows the plate to be made up of something purer and softer – an alloy of calcium and lead. This causes the battery to serve you more efficiently.
Since an electrolytic pool is not lying around, the battery of the car can fully concentrate on producing power for a particular capacity than the wet cell equivalent. This means the battery would last longer and work better; it can resist vibration and is robust.
Due to the fact that the battery is sealed, the need for constant maintenance is eradicated. In fact, as soon as the car battery is full, it is sealed with strips. So, you cannot even add water should you want to.
In the same vein, there’s no space for acid leakage, and there is no acid available to get out in the first place. This means the battery could be placed in any way. It can be bent or kept standing straight as there is no fear of leakage.
This means manufacturers can freestyle with battery designs and positioning. This is particularly important for motorcycles. That’s because they do not have much space due to the placement of other stuff like ABS plumbing, EFI computers, and huge airboxes.
In the same vein, separators and plates can be produced in many shapes. The AGM battery can be made in any configuration. Some manufacturers like Optima makes use of circular designs which can house many plates in small spaces.
The AGM battery also has the capacity to hold charges for a longer period of time than the wet cell. They also have the ability to resist freezing. This is one reason why many riders like them.
There is of course a disadvantage to AGMs. They need a strong charging system. The system has to send out a minimum of fourteen volts. This means that older motorcycles with less power may not work well with the AGM.
There is also the issue of being overcharged. Even though there is protection over this, overcharging is not unheard of.
The Gel batteries are not really used that much in motorcycles. They do not make use of liquid electrolytes. The manufacturer fills it with a combination of water, sulfuric acid, and silica. The silica looks like a toothpaste and it is very acidic. Asides these, gel batteries are like wet cells.
One fine thing about the gel cells is that they can hold charges for an exceptionally long time. They can also go low and be recharged, yet they will not lose many capacities. Asides this, they are not as good as either wet cell or AGM.
Due to the fact that internal resistance is high, gel cells do not give off much power like wet cell and AGM counterparts. This is not an issue if you are using it on a regular day. However, it might be problematic if you are trying to start up a bike on a very cold day.
The gel cells can easily be overcharged. They are also not as famous as AGM or wet cells.
Video: How Long Do Motorcycle Batteries Last?
This video teaches how to maintain your battery
The Ratings On The Battery
All batteries come with a certain detail which tells you how well your battery will perform. This even helps you compare the battery with another similar one albeit made by another producer.
The information on the battery may be much, but there are two that you need to pay attention to. They are the Ampere Hour Rating and Cold Cranking Amperage.
The rating tells how long a battery would last for a particular constant discharge rate. When using smaller motorcycle batteries, this average is mostly checked over a period of ten hours at one-tenth of the amp rating of the battery.
Here is an example, if the battery has an amp rating of 14 hours, it means that for every ten hours, the battery will lose 1.4 amperes. So, this means that a higher rating on a particular battery size means better performance and longevity.
Cold cranking amp measures how much amperage the battery can send out when the weather is zero degrees Fahrenheit for half a minute. This is without going under 7.2 volts. This is majorly what is used to access the performance of a battery during temperature and with a load.
This simply means that if your bike has a higher CCA, it will start with ease on cold days. Hence, there is less risk of the battery going dead and needing an external charge.
Another factor that determines how long the battery will last is the prevalent weather condition. If you have been following, you would notice that the battery has a hard time working fine in cold times. If you have a bike you would have noticed this too.
It is not just the battery of the motorcycle. Even the battery of the mobile phone behaves the same way in cold regions. The overall capacity of the battery is reduced gradually as the weather gets colder.
This is what happens also with car batteries and motorcycle batteries. This is why many people get new batteries during winter. The battery may be working fine in the summer but during winter, the battery would have to be changed.
The normal temperature is okay for the battery of the motorcycle. It is advisable that the motorcycle is stored in a heated garage, so the battery will be maintained.
If this does not happen, the battery will grow cold. If it does, it will go dead. And for every time a battery needs external charging, the longevity of the battery is reduced.
How Do You Use The Battery?
Another factor that affects how long the battery will last is the usage of the battery. How long do you use the battery? Unlike some other equipment that wears with usage, it does seem that the battery is even preserved by usage.
There are two kinds of people who use motorcycles. In the first category are those who use their bikes every day for at least thirty minutes to one hour. Then the second is those who use theirs occasionally, maybe once every week.
A battery that is not in constant use will die. A battery that is being used more often, on a daily basis will survive longer that one that is not. Allowing the battery to sit will reduce the lifespan of that battery.
If you make use of the bike periodically, then this is a call to action. A warning that you are actually damaging the battery. You can get battery tender to maintain the battery of your motorcycle. Charging the battery of the motorcycle – with the motorcycle – is one of the best ways to ensure longevity.
Clocks, alarms, computers, radios, disc players all get a little current from the battery, even when the ignition is off. This can cause a serious drain on the battery. To avoid this, you could disconnect it.
On the other hand, you should know that even without a load, batteries discharge. It is called the self-discharge. If batteries are allowed to sit and discharge that way, lead sulfate to build faster, and this will lead to total recharging ability loss.
For some people, when their bikes stay unused for some time, they do something which really does not work. They try charging the battery of the motorcycle by starting the bike and running it for a prolonged number of minutes.
Well, we hate to break it to you, but this does not work. The voltage which is created when the bike is idle with the only engine running isn’t enough. It cannot recharge the battery fully. The battery has to be ridden for some time before you park it back into your garage.
The periodic ‘warming’ does not do much. You have to take that machine for a ride.
So, it is vital that the battery is charged as soon as possible, and this should be by actually using the battery. It can also be done by using an external charger.
Well, you can charge your bike by using the battery tender or any other battery charger that you may have. But the best way to charge the battery is by riding it. You have to regularly engage that battery.
The way motorcycles charge their batteries differ from one make to another, from one model to another. Some motorcycles charge their batteries better than some others. When a bike is new, it charges the battery on it faster and better than the older bikes.
Some Tips On Motorcycle Battery Maintenance
Keep The Battery Clean
It is important that you keep the battery clean at all times. Dirt on the battery could shorten the terminals of the battery and this would make the battery drain in just a few hours. You can use a wet rag to wipe the battery case.
The rag can be soaked in a water pint that is soaked with three spoons of soda. This is very vital especially if you ply dusty terrains often. A thorough cleaning will help preserve the charge on the battery.
Grease The Terminals
The terminals of the battery should be kept clean as well. It should however be tight and dry. You can coat the terminal with grease or Vaseline. This will help secure the terminals against elements.
Top Up Distilled Water
If the battery that your motorbike uses is a wet cell, you have to keep tabs on the electrolyte. Check it at least once every month and see if it needs more distilled water. Add this whenever you notice that the indicator line has moved to the ‘add line’ level. Do not hesitate to do this.
No Room For Discharge
If the motorcycle is not flying around every day, you have to do something, so it does not discharge. You have to plug the battery into a tender. Your battery will serve you better-and live longer-if it is near a full charge as much as possible.
The majority of motorcycles need at least a battery of 12 volts. However, for one to be able to start a bike, the battery needs 12.2 volts. This means the battery has to be fifty percent charged.
As the battery is aging, the volt needed to start the bike increases. This means it would take more to start a bike using an old battery than a new one. Hence, it is vital for you not to let the battery run down to 12 volts at all.
The motorcycle contains an alternator or a generator. Its function is to charge the battery as the motorbike is running.
In conclusion, a good motorcycle user would pay proper attention to the motorcycle. This is including the battery and other components. The battery usually bears the brunt of motorcycle issues. But these are very preventable when you do the right thing with your bike.
It is good that you know the age of your motorcycle battery. Like we mentioned earlier, the average is four years. If you discover that the battery is getting close to this age, do something about it.
If you have used the motorbike battery for almost four years, change it. This is to avoid being disappointed on the day that you need it the most.
Can someone use the charger of a car battery to charge the motorcycle battery?
Well, yes, you can but need to be careful. The charger of the car battery usually charges at higher amperes and this may damage the battery of the motorcycle.
As you can see, the question has no specific answer. It all depends on you to get the best value from your battery.
If you have any method that can help the longevity of the battery, do not hesitate to suggest that in the comment section.
Here are some other posts that you might be interested in:
How Long Do Motorcycle Batteries Last?– Related Frequently Asked Questions
Will Motorcycle Run with Dead Battery?
Motorcycles will run with a dead battery. It is from the voltage in the battery that all the loads in the motorcycle draw from. These loads need steady current flow when you are about to start the bike, so they can turn your starter and then cause ignition coils to be active.
If the battery in your motorcycle is low on voltage, you can push start the motorbike. This would give the ignition enough force to start the bike.
Does Battery Affect Motorcycle Performance?
The battery affects motorcycle performance. A bad battery would make a mess of your motorcycle’s performance. It will also be hard on the motorcycle’s charging system as the system will try charging the battery and the battery will not charge.
This is why it is imperative to keep your battery in good shape. Do this by making sure the battery does not go dead and if in the eventuality that it does, you charge the battery with the appropriate charger.
Why Won’t My Motorcycle Battery Hold A Charge?
Your motorcycle battery won’t hold a charge because of three main reasons. The first reason is that the charger you are using is quite inadequate. If you are charging the battery with a bad or unsuitable charger, the battery won’t hold a charge.
The second is many things are draining the charge on the battery. Some of these things are the clock and the alarm. When these above factors are canceled out, the last reason why the battery won’t hold a charge is simply that the battery is bad.
How Often Should You Start Your Motorcycle?
You should start your motorcycle and run it for 15 minutes at least every week. This is very important especially during winter. When the motorcycle runs, the engine and all of its parts get lubricated.
The risk of condensation building up is significantly reduced. This also ensures that the carburetor won’t gum together. It also helps the battery to recharge. Many people just turn on the engine for some time and then turn it off. This will only make condensation build up more in the engine.
Does It Matter What Battery I put In My Motorcycle?
It does not matter what battery you put in your motorcycle. Motorcycle batteries are very much interchangeable. This is because all motorcycle batteries are 12 volts. The only difference in motorcycle batteries is the shape, size, and weight.
This means that a motorcycle battery that works for Honda can also work for Kawasaki. What you just need to do is to make sure it is a motorcycle battery. Again, ensure that the battery can fit into the battery space on your motorbike.
How Do You Revive A Dead Sealed Motorcycle Battery?
Here are steps to reviving a dead sealed motorcycle battery.
Step 1: Use a wrench to detach battery connectors and then remove the battery from the motorcycle.
Step 2: Drain the fluid in the battery completely.
Step 3: Use eight Epsom salt ounces to make a salt solution then add them to the cells of the battery. Use distilled water for the salt solution and ensure the solution is evenly spread inside your battery cells.
Step 4: Use a trickle charger to charge the battery.
Step 5: Let the charger charge the battery slowly overnight till full.