Motorcycle batteries will slowly lose their charge when a motorcycle is not in use. This is why you should maintain them regularly so you don’t end up with a dead engine. In case you do find yourself with a dead battery, charging it can help bring it back to life. But, how long do you have to wait when charging a motorcycle battery?
New batteries can take between 4 and 24 hours, depending on the charger’s amperage and the battery’s condition. Now, you may be thinking: how about charging a motorcycle battery that’s already on my bike?
This depends on many factors. Let us dive deeper into the basics of motorcycle batteries, how to charge them, and how to keep them that way. Let’s go!
Common Kinds of Motorcycle Batteries
To start, allow us to discuss the most common types of batteries you can find in today’s motorcycles. We won’t get too technical but we would like to mention a few basics:
Lead-Acid Motorcycle Batteries
These motorcycle batteries are the most common ones on the market today. Each of the cells contains lead plates that are filled with a mixture of water and sulphuric acid. The chemical reaction between these two creates an electrical charge.
When buying a new lead-acid battery, you need to fill the cells with the acid that comes with the kit. Then, connect the trickle charger to the battery and wait for around 24 hours for a full charge. Install it into your motorcycle and you’re good to go!
They require regular maintenance, which a lot of owners neglect. The fluid in the cells may evaporate, causing the cells to dry, making it the quickest way to destroy the battery. Therefore, it’s a good idea to add a battery check to your regular maintenance. If you notice a battery cell running low on fluid, simply top it off with distilled water.
Lastly, remember that you should only install lead-acid motorcycle batteries upright. This will prevent the battery acid from leaking all over your bike, which would be a disaster.
AGM and Gel-Cell Motorcycle Batteries
These are both types of sealed lead-acid motorcycle batteries. Plus, when you buy a brand new battery, they already come with at least an 80% charge. They don’t require any maintenance, aside from keeping them connected to the tender while the bike is parked.
Unlike lead-acid batteries, they’re sealed so you don’t need to install them upright. This gives you more options on how to place them on your motorcycle.
However, we suggest connecting a new battery to a float charger for four to six hours. This brings the charge to 100% before installing it on your bike.
Lithium-Ion Motorcycle Batteries
These batteries are a newer technology. They’re lightweight (up to 1/3 the weight of lead-acid batteries) and require minimum maintenance. Additionally, if properly maintained, they tend to last longer than other types of motorcycle batteries.
Keep in mind, though, that this doesn’t mean a higher battery capacity. The higher price tag is another thing you may want to consider.
Lithium-ion motorcycle batteries can give a lot of power in a cold start. This makes them ideal for bigger bikes or starting bikes in cold weather. Just remember to follow these steps when doing a cold start:
- Crank the engine for around five seconds. You’ll notice that it cranks rather slowly and won’t start.
- Turn the power on and allow the bike to sit for 30 seconds. Doing this helps warm up the battery.
- Crank it again. Your bike should be able to start by now.
Note: You can still recharge lead-acid batteries even if you leave your headlight on and drain the batteries. This, on the other hand, will permanently damage lithium-ion batteries.
How Do Trickle Chargers Help When Charging a Motorcycle Battery?
Trickle chargers are also called battery tenders. They attach to your battery and connect to a wall outlet.
When a motorcycle is turned off, the battery charge slowly decreases. But, trickle chargers will keep drawing power from the outlet to recharge your bike until you start it up again. So, when you go out for a ride, you’re assured that you’ll always have some charge left in your battery.
Then, once you come back, just plug the charger in and let it do its job.
You may leave trickle charges connected to your bike overnight—you may even leave them for months on end in the winter! All motorcycle owners should own a trickle charger. If you don’t have one yet, you can easily get one from your motorcycle shop or buy one online.
How Do Smart Chargers Help When Charging a Motorcycle Battery?
Smart chargers are a type of trickle charger that is more advanced. They will automatically stop charging once the battery reaches a full charge, so you don’t need to worry about overcharging. You can choose either from manual or automatic models.
We recommend purchasing a smart version of a trickle charger.
How Do I Keep My Motorcycle Battery Charged?
To get the most life from your battery, you should always have a charger on hand. Plus, you should also never let the battery become too drained.
Here are a few more ways to keep your battery ready to go:
Keep It on a Charger
A battery tender must always be a staple in a motorcyclist’s garage. It’s the easiest way to make sure that your battery stays fully charged between rides and during the off-season. It consistently feeds current to your battery and switches to float mode when the battery reaches 12 volts.
There are plenty of motorcycle charger brands on the market. However, while you can use any charger to charge your battery, choose one that has an automatic mode. This means it will turn off or switch to float mode before charging it over 2 amps.
An unattended battery that charges above 2 amps will bulge or even explode. This will lead to battery acid splatters everywhere. Yikes!
Before Charging a Motorcycle Battery, Check for Parasitic Draw
Do a parasitic draw test to see if there’s a leak and know where your battery power is getting drained.
A small amount of battery drain is normal, for example, if you have a clock that’s always on. But, anything over an amp can be the result of poor or short ground wiring. Here are steps to follow when performing a parasitic draw:
- Check your motorcycle’s manual to see how you can access the battery.
- Disconnect the negative cable from the terminal.
- Grab a basic voltage or Ohm meter and set it to amps.
- Put one meter lead on the negative terminal while the other one on the negative cable.
- The meter should read zero amps.
If it reads anything over zero yet you don’t have any accessories to draw that power, it’s time to investigate further. Do your best to correct the issue. The last thing you want is for your battery to get drained one amp at a time.
Minimize the Use of Electronics
Having a lot of motorcycle accessories can stress your battery and drain it faster. If your bike has a GPS, stereo, and other gear, buy a battery that can accommodate all these gadgets.
Furthermore, know that long rides can also stress out your battery. So, if you’re planning a multi-day ride, make sure to take a charger with you. Check if the destination has a spare outlet as well, to plug the device in.
When Should I Replace My Motorcycle Battery?
We suggest including a battery check in your regular maintenance routine. Why not check the battery’s charge whenever you change your oil? Check your battery and look for bulging, leaks, and corroded terminals or connectors.
Attach a multimeter to the positive and negative terminals and set it to volts. The meter must read anywhere from 12.7 to 13.2 volts, which means a fully-charged battery. But, if it reads 12 volts and below, it’s time to replace your battery.
Check the voltage output under load. Connect the meter (same as above,) start up the bike, rev the engine up to 3,000 rpm, and check. A good battery will consistently read 9 to 11 volts for the whole 30 seconds. If it goes below that, maybe it’s time to replace it.
Motorcycle batteries are almost maintenance-free but it doesn’t mean you can ignore them. Be diligent when connecting your bike to a trickle charger. Top-off lead-acid batteries with distilled water. Incorporate a battery and voltage check into regular maintenance routines to make sure that everything is in good condition.
Doing these good habits will keep your motorcycle ready to pack up and ride even on short notice. These will also prevent you from getting stranded, especially in areas with no power.
Charging a motorcycle battery regularly ensures you don’t end up with a dead battery in the middle of your ride. We hope you learned something from our post so you can get the most out of your motorcycle battery’s life.
Happy shopping and stay safe on the road!