There’s nothing worse than saddling up for a ride pressing the starter and hearing nothing. A dead battery will ruin any motorcyclist’s day. When this happens, we start to wonder how long do motorcycle batteries last?
A typical acid filled battery will last from 2-3 years, but a 5 year lifespan is possible. However there are many factors that will play into how long your battery lasts.
Environmental Affects on Motorcycle Battery Life
Weather, particularly temperature can have a huge impact on your battery’s longevity. The colder the weather the worse your battery will perform.
Cars have the same issues too. Most car batteries that fail, fail in the winter. Batteries are measured in cold cranking amps (cca). This measurement determines how well the battery will perform at low temperatures.
The lower the temperatures the slower the chemical reactions are inside the battery. In other words the battery can’t produce the needed current that electric start motor requires to start the engine.
To summarize, cold weather shortens life and to prolong life it’s best practice to remove the battery from the motorcycle and store in a room temperature location. It would also be good to keep the battery on a battery tender during this storage.
The next factor that determines battery lifespan is the workload placed on the battery. The more things your plug into your bike the more stress your battery has. These days, phones, heated vests, heated grips, and other applications can all work together to drain your battery.
Short rides and high electrical usage can take a toll on your motorcycle’s battery. During longer rides this would not have much of an affect, because longer rides will give a motorcycle a chance to charge up while a shorter ride could leave the motorcycle with a lower net charge.
Frequency of Motorcycle Rides
The frequency of times you ride your motorcycle will also have a big impact on the battery’s longevity. Some people go on short rides for ten to fifteen minutes each way, whereas others will tack on 250 miles or more per weekend.
Regular usage of your motorcycle will actually increase the battery’s lifespan. If you only ride your motorcycle several times per season, you can expect a shorter lifespan. If you don’t ride your bike often, consider using a battery tender, as this will increase the lifespan.
Frequency of rides is important for battery health, but also duration. So if your wondering how long you have to ride a motorcycle to charge a battery, unfortunately, the answer depends. Different motorcycles charge at different rates. To be honest, you would have to ride your motorcycle for a good portion of the day and even then it might not fully charge the battery. If your battery is severely depleted and you are trying to charge it, a battery tender is your best bet.
Best Practices for Battery Life
Just like leaving the headlights on in a car, living a motorcycle key in the ignition will quickly drain the battery. Keep your motorcycle ignition in the off position unless your are running or going to start your motorcycle.
Make sure your battery is frequently charged. This can be done by frequently riding your bike, or by using a battery tender.
Under charging or over charging will reduce battery life. Make sure your battery gets charged at least once every month. This rule of thumb should continue through the winter. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but a battery tender comes in handy for this too.
Never allow your motorcycle’s battery to be completely drained. Although you can jump start a motorcycle, its not good for its health. For prolonged battery life ride your motorcycle once per week. The more you ride the better!
Clean Battery Terminals
Just like your car, a motorcycle will need to have its battery terminals cleaned. Overtime, dirt or corrosion can buildup on the battery terminals this increases electrical resistance making it harder for the battery to start the engine.
A mixture of baking soda and water will be able to clean your terminals so that function and conduct electricity like new! Never clean the battery while it is hooked up to the motorcycle. Its best practice to disconnect the battery and remove it for cleaning.
Another reason you should check your battery terminals for dirt or corrosion is because they could actually be loose. A loose connection can mimic a dead battery, and the fix is a simple tightening of the terminals.
Correct Water Level
Some motorcycle batteries require somewhat regular maintenance to ensure that they are kept at the correct water level. If your battery has screw caps on the top of it, it probably requires a certain water level. Its a good idea to check this water level at least once a month if not more. If you need to add water, you should only use distilled water.
Evaporation or overcharging can reduce the water level in the battery. If the water level gets too low, corrosion or an internal short can result causing a failure.
Distilled water is required due to its purity and lack of contaminates. Regular tap water will have impurities which can inhibit the battery’s function.
Sealed batteries which do not require water level maintenance have become more popular in recent years. These batteries have a slightly longer lifespan than conventional lead acid batteries.
These batteries will give warning signs when they are close to dying. These signs could be but are not limited to difficulty starting or taking a longer time to charge. When your battery starts showing signs that its time is running out, its best practice to replace it than to have to deal with the hassle of getting a jump start.
The last topic I want to briefly talk about is improper charging. If you overload your batter with amperage its not going to thank you. In fact it will probably die. Never use a car battery charger for your motorcycle. Only use motorcycle battery chargers for your motorcycle.
The most important factors when looking at a charger is voltage and amperage. If you have a 12V battery use a charger rated for that 12V battery. A higher powered charger will overcharge or overheat your battery.