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When 12 Volts Is Not Enough

2015/1/7 14:04:53      view:1335

On the first day of a recent ride to Arkansas, with a group of seven bikes we managed to basically make it to our destination in Hot Springs with almost and I stress the ‘almost’ no incidents. You may have already read about this trip in an earlier article but in danger of being repetitive, the day started wet but ended dry and sunny with miles of perfect twisty pavement under our belts. We were lucky. When we finally pulled up to our hotel and were moving the bikes into our final parking spots for the night two of them wouldn’t light up and were totally dead. One of the riders had noticed in the previous town that his stereo kept turning off and on, a first indication of problems of an electrical nature. All of us did make it to our final destination that night so I guess that’s saying something but we were lucky. As it turned out the problem with both bikes was that their terminal connectors had come loose and so it was an easy fix. The battery is something that always seems to be overlooked until it fails but if you think of the stresses it has to overcome and it’s constant exposure to the elements you have to be amazed that it lasts as long as it does. The modern motorcycle battery with a small amount of maintenance should last more than two years and I’ve had bikes with the same battery over four years. Basically battery maintenance comes down to just a few things

  • Keep the contacts clean, tight, and free of corrosion and dirt
  • Keep it charged – If you are not riding frequently invest in a trickle charger, the best ones monitor the battery and turn themselves off when the battery has peaked.
  • Check it on a regular basis – Invest in a multi-tester, learn how to use it and understand what your battery is doing.

A good battery at rest should read over 12.6 volts. If you start to see less that 12.5 on a constant basis you may be due for a new battery. One of the things you should do when you replace your battery is take note to how your starter acts and sounds when the battery is new. As the battery ages your starter will change tone and slow down. Again every bike and every battery is unique, if you don’t pay attention you could be left at the gas station waiting for a tow or a jump start. It should be noted that for most modern bikes with electronic fuel ignition push starting is not an option. There has to be enough power for the fuel pump to push gas through the injectors or the bike will not start making the resting voltage of your battery more important than ever. Just 12 volts is not good enough, many bikes require a minimum of at least 12.5 to initiate the fuel pump, run the lights, and start the motorcycle. Once a battery has been allowed to discharge completely don’t trust it. At this point internal plates may be warped and the battery will probably not hold a reliable charge. Motorcycle batteries tend to cost a bit more than car batteries but they’re still much cheaper than what a single tow would cost. When you start to suspect or distrust your battery go ahead and replace it.