One thing everyone shopping on this site probably has in common – they all ride something that uses a starting battery! But even though a battery is one of the most basic parts of a motorcycle (or any vehicle), they can be pretty confusing, and we regularly get a ton of questions about them. Here are the most common ones, and the answers you’ve been waiting for.
How many cold cranking amps does my bike need?
That figure should be indicated by the manufacturer in your owner’s manual, or you can just look at the specs on your existing battery to figure out how many CCAs you need. In addition, we’ve also put a ton of work into our Parts Finder to make sure that the parts that are listed for your bike are compliant with OEM specs, so you can also use the Parts Finder to narrow down your battery search to only the batteries that will work for your bike!
One more note about CCAs: if you buy a battery with more CCAs than recommended, that’s totally fine – all you’ll get is a better performing battery with more power on reserve when needed. You should not be concerned about a battery that is “too powerful” for your electrical system when purchasing a new battery with more CCAs than your original equipment – in fact, we recommend it!
What’s the difference between a conventional, gel, AGM, and lithium battery?
We made the video below specifically to answer this exact question, so for the best answer to this question, make sure to check it out. But for a quick rundown, here are the basic differences:
Conventional: also called flooded cell batteries, these are the “old school” type of lead-acid batteries that have been around for over a century. They are made out of a case holding a series of lead plates soaking in an acid solution known as electrolyte, and energy is created by a chemical reaction that occurs between them. They are very reliable and the cheapest of all battery types, but they do require maintenance, are a little unsafe to use since they are filled with corrosive acid, and don’t perform as well as newer varieties of batteries.
Gel Battery: these work in the same way as conventional batteries, but they use a gel form of electrolyte instead of the liquid battery acid that conventional batteries use. They aren’t typically used as starting batteries however – they are actually best used where deep-cycling batteries are needed, like in marine and solar power storage applications. These are often confused with AGM batteries however, and you do sometimes hear people refer to AGMs as “gel batteries” incorrectly. (One exception is BikeMaster’s TruGel line, which does use a gel electrolyte, but with AGM construction, and is more accurately described as an AGM battery.)
AGM: AGM stands for “absorbed glass mat,” and uses the same chemical reaction as other lead-acid batteries, but uses fiberglass mats to hold the electrolyte in place rather than letting it flow freely like in a flooded cell. These are the most modern type of lead-acid batteries, and perform very well, last a long time, are safer to use, and will work in virtually any weather conditions.
Lithium: Lithium (technically lithium-iron-phosphate) batteries are very unlike lead-acid batteries in that they don’t use any lead or acid in their constructions, but rather, completely dry lithium based cells that create power in a completely different way. Lithium batteries are super light and high performance, but they are expensive, and can become finicky in colder weather.
Can I use a trickle charger on an AGM battery?
Yes you can. Trickle chargers are made for use with lead-acid batteries, and because AGMs are simply a very modern variety of lead-acid battery, they will work just fine. However, we do recommend a “smart charger” like the Battery Tender Junior, as it has a microprocessor that will sense the battery’s state of charge and adjust the charging level to optimize it’s state of charge without overcharging it.
Can I use a trickle charger on a Lithium-Iron battery?
Technically, yes you can – however we don’t recommend it. Chargers for lead-acid batteries won’t be calibrated to the same voltage requirements (lead-acids charge to around 12.8 volts, while lithium-irons need 13-14), so smart chargers will likely undercharge the battery, and a standard battery charger could overcharge it, damaging the battery, voiding the warranty, and even starting a fire! Lithium batteries rarely every need charging, as they have very low self-discharge rates, but if you do feel the need to charge it, we strongly recommend purchasing a model-specific lithium battery charger instead.
Can I use a car charger to charge my battery?
You actually can, because both car and motorcycle batteries are 12 volt batteries. However, the much larger car batteries charge at a higher amperage that can quickly fry a smaller motorcycle battery. If you do use a car charger make sure to use one that has adjustable current settings and don’t charge it at anything higher than 2-4amps, and use a voltmeter to make sure you don’t overcharge it. The recommended way, however, is to simply use a smart charger rated for a motorcycle battery for worry-free charging.
How long will my battery last?
That all depends on you my friend! While most batteries can be counted on to last about 3 years when taken care of properly, there is a lot that you can do to change that – you can baby a battery and get 5-6 years out of it, or treat it like crap and kill it before it’s first birthday.
The most common thing that riders do to ruin a battery is let them die completely repeatedly. The nature of a lead-acid battery is such that it becomes permanently damaged and loses part of its charging capacity every time it runs down, and this can only happen a handful of times with these batteries before they are dead for good.
How does this happen? A few of the most common reasons are:
- Letting a bike sit for long periods of time
- Only ever riding short distances (this does not allow the bike’s charging system to fully recharge the battery)
- Running excessive electrical accessories on a bike (these drain the battery much quicker than a stock bike would)
- Faulty or incorrectly installed accessories or wiring
- Using the wrong type of charger and over/undercharging
Do I have to fill my battery with acid? How do I do it?
This depends on the type of battery you choose. Here at BikeBandit, you can choose between a conventional battery that comes completely dry that you fill with electrolyte yourself, one that comes with pre-measured acid-filled tubes that you simply pour into the battery when you receive it, or batteries that are filled and the factory and sealed so you never have to deal with a drop of battery acid yourself. Most of our customers opt for maintenance-free batteries that are filled and sealed at the factory, but you can save a few bucks by choosing a battery you fill with acid yourself if you’re comfortable doing it.
I just installed a brand new battery, why is it still dying on me?
More than likely, you have a problem with your motorcycle’s electrical system and not the battery. If you have a voltage tester, you can test the battery to check and see if it has a healthy charge of around 12.7-12.8 volts, but if you are having even new batteries die on you, you should have your charging system diagnosed to see if that is the source of the problem.
How can I tell if my battery is dead or dying?
Sluggish starts are the most obvious sign of a dying battery, but the real way to tell is to test it with a voltmeter. A healthy 12 volt battery should ideally register around 12.7-12.8 volts at rest, but anywhere between 12.5-13.5 volts indicates a serviceable battery. Once a battery drops below 12.4 volts, your bike will struggle to start, and at under 11.8 volts, 12 volt batteries are considered to be dead.
If my battery dies, can I recharge it?
Yes you can, but you can’t do this very many times. The nature of a lead-acid battery is that its capacity to hold a charge becomes reduced every time it dies, and this damage cannot be undone, so letting your battery die a handful of times may kill it permanently.
If you do have a dead battery, you can recharge it with a battery charger (this is preferred), or by jumpstarting your bike with another bike or a car. (Note: if you use a car to jump off of, make sure the car is not running – the much higher current running from the car’s battery through your bike can fry your entire electrical system!)
Once you get the bike running, make sure to ride it for a good while in order to get it fully charged again. At idle, your bike will not produce enough voltage to recharge a battery, so even running the bike for a long time will not charge it reliably. You must ride it to produce a load on the electrical system, or at least run the engine at a cruising RPM, for quite some time to produce the 13.5-14.5 volts required to charge the battery back up.
How often should I charge my battery when I’m not using my bike?
For a healthy battery, a full charge once every 30 days at a minimum is recommended. This is because lead-acid batteries have high self-discharge rates, losing 0.5-1% of their charge every day they sit. If you have a bike with advanced electronics, accessories, or an alarm system on it (as many bikes do these days) your battery will drain even faster than that.
For this reason, even letting your bike sit for 30 days between recharges may still kill your battery, and many bikes have aged batteries to begin with, making it even harder to keep them charged. For this reason, we recommend simply keeping your bike on a trickle charger if you ride anything less than once a week. That will keep your battery healthy even if you have an aged battery or a bike that places high demands on it.
Can I charge my battery by running my bike for several minutes?
No, the voltage created during idle is not enough to recharge a battery fully. It must be ridden or at least run at a cruising RPM (generally 3K RPM or more to produce adequate voltage to recharge it.
Should I remove my battery in order to charge it?
You can, but these days it’s not receommended because of the more elaborate electronics systems that many motorcycles have. When a battery is removed, the ECU loses all power and memory, and when the battery is reinstalled and the bike is restarted, it may run oddly for a while as it “relearns” its fuel maps, throttle positions, etc. Think of it like yanking the plug out of the wall to turn off your computer, which can cause it to lose all of its memory, and will likely make rebooting it again difficult.
To avoid that, we instead recommend installing a trickle charger to your battery with a quick-disconnect plug. The “pigtails” remain permanently installed on your battery, and when hooking up the trickle charger, you simply plug the SAE connector into the AC extension cord and it does the rest. That way your battery is always topped off, and your bike’s ECU never loses power and always retains it’s important settings.
Got any more questions about batteries? Call us, email us, or just leave a comment!