Looking for a motorcycle battery charger?
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How to charge your motorcycle battery
Motorcycle batteries are miniature versions of car batteries and as such, they are subject to the same problems, failures, and maintenance requirements as car batteries.
However, there are two notable exceptions to this rule, the first being that motorcycle batteries are far more likely than car batteries to suffer fatal damage when they discharge due to non-use, and the second being that motorcycle batteries are almost certain to suffer fatal damage if they are charged incorrectly.
So, what is the correct charging procedure when your battery seems a little lifeless and you need to recharge it?
To help you avoid damage to your motorcycle battery, we have compiled a list of useful tips and advice that will get you back on the road, and keep you there with a healthy, fully functional battery in your motorcycle or scooter.
Maintenance free batteries
These batteries are usually designated by the letters YTX, GTX or CTX on the casing. This is important, since you don’t have to top off the electrolyte level in the battery. Doing so could damage the battery.
This type of battery is usually designated by the letters YT, GT, CT, YTZ, CTZ or GTZ, and to prevent the gel from spilling or boiling out during charging, NO caps or sealing devices should be removed from these batteries- ever.
Recharge at the correct amperage
As a rule of thumb, motorcycle batteries must never be charged at a rate that exceeds 10% of the battery’s rating. For instance, if you have a 20 Amp battery, you need to recharge it at a maximum rate of 2 Amps to avoid damaging it.
Of course, a lower rate will also charge the battery, but it will take little longer.
Most, if not all, battery chargers and tenders designed to be used on motorcycle batteries use “intelligent” technology to detect the level of charge in a battery, and will automatically use the safest charge rate to recharge the battery.
WARNING: Never use a battery charger meant to charge car batteries to charge a motorcycle battery. The high charge rate of car chargers will almost certainly destroy your motorcycle battery by buckling the plates, causing fatal internal short circuits.
Check the electrolyte level before recharging
Make absolutely sure that the battery needs topping off with electrolyte before you attempt to charge it. Overfilling the battery will cause excess electrolyte to boil out of the casing, and since motor cycle batteries use higher concentrations of acid in the electrolyte than car batteries do, there is a distinct possibility of sustaining severe acid burns when excess electrolyte boils out.
Charging new motorcycle batteries
If despite a recharge your motorcycle battery remains lifeless, the battery is almost certainly defective, and you need to replace it. However, unlike new car batteries that can be installed and used without trouble, motor cycle batteries are a little different.
Unsealed lead acid motorcycle batteries are supplied dry, i.e., without electrolyte, meaning that you need to add the electrolyte solution before fitting the new battery to the motorcycle. However, there is right way and a wrong way of doing this, so to avoid damaging your new battery, do the following-
Add the supplied electrolyte
Allow the battery to “rest” for at least 30 minutes after filling it. After this time, the battery may display a nominal charge of around 12 volts, but this is not enough to start a motorcycle. At 12 volts, a motor cycle battery has only about 20-,to 25% of its capacity available, so charge the battery for at least 3-5 hours before installing it.
NOTE: Lead acid batteries need to bubble freely during recharging, so be sure to remove the cell filling caps before charging a battery to allow the resulting gases to escape. Also be sure to only charge a motor cycle battery in a well ventilated area.
Check the charge level after 4 hours
Assuming that the battery charger does not exceed a charge rate of 10% of the battery’s rated capacity, the battery should be fully charged after about 4 hours or so.
Switch off the charger before removing the charger cables, and use a multimeter to check the battery’s charge level. A fully charged battery should display at least 13 volts.
NOTE: Depending on the charger used, it is entirely possible that the battery may not be fully charged after 3 hours. If the battery shows a charge of less than 13 volts, allow it to cool down, and continue charging it, but be sure to check the charge level at 30-minute intervals until your multimeter shows a charge of at least 13 volts.
When it does, replace the filler caps and fit the new battery into the motorcycle, but make absolutely certain you don’t mix up the negative and possible terminals.
Doing so could cause the battery to explode, or worse, destroy your motorcycle’s electrical system. Fit the positive cable first, and only fit the negative terminal when the positive connection is secure.
How NOT to charge a motor cycle battery
Fitting a new, but undercharged battery to your motorcycle and hoping the electrical system will charge it, is a big mistake. At idling speeds, the electrical system only generates about 12-, to 12.1 volts, which is just enough to keep the electrical system working. At this rate, there is not enough current available to charge the battery as well.
You need 13.5 -, to 14.5 volts to charge a motorcycle battery, but riding the bike to get this current might overstrain the electrical system, since it was not designed to charge a depleted battery.
Moreover, motorcycle batteries develop “charge memories” just like car batteries do, meaning that even should the electrical system survive the abuse, the battery will never be fully charged.
Since the battery will “remember” its initial charge of 12 volts (when you installed it before charging it), it may never “learn” accept a higher charge, so in practice, this means that you will never have a fully functional battery.
Having said all of the above, let us now look at a selection of motorcycle battery chargers we believe will keep your batteries charged, even if you have to wait an entire winter before you can ride your motorcycle again.
Extreme Max 1229.4000 Battery Buddy 6V / 12V Charger
This innovative little charger/tender uses intelligent technology to charge and maintain your battery’s charge level with a four-step program.
- The Battery Buddy Battery Charger / Maintainer can charge and maintain all 6 volt and 12 volt lead acid, flooded, or sealed maintenance free batteries. Required charge rate is automatically adapted to suit the battery being charged.
- Product features a four-step charging and maintenance program to prevent damage to batteries.
- Designed to withstand extreme temperatures in all climates
- Product features a waterproof design, so it can be used outdoors.
- Spark-proof connectors come as standard.
- Product features reverse-polarity and short circuit protection, and a single LED status indicator light.
- Battery Buddy comes with a 1-year warranty.
The first step prepares the battery for charging if it is severely discharged; the second step delivers a controlled charge at the correct amperage, while the third and fourth steps involve maintaining the charge for as long as required.
However, should the battery’s charge level drop below a certain level for whatever reason, the Battery Buddy will automatically initiate the four-step charging program to bring the battery back up to a full charge again.
The Battery Buddy is also able to charge car batteries (which might take a little longer), as well as batteries in ATV’s, boats, jet ski’s, and other power sport vehicles and machines.
Battery Tender 022-0198LI Green Lithium Junior Battery Charger
This 12 volt, 750 mA charger is designed specifically to charge and maintain lithium batteries using a 5-stage charging program that incorporates a dedicated program to charge severely discharged lithium batteries in power sport applications.
- Product is designed to charge and maintain Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries found in some power sport applications.
- Product features a special 5-step charging program to charge and maintain lithium batteries at 13.6 volts.
- Product features spark proof connectors, short circuit, reverse-polarity protection and a charge timer.
- Product is approved for all Oregon and California applications.
- Product comes with a 5-year warranty.
Note that lithium batteries have special requirements, and that the maintenance charge for these batteries is 13.6 volts, which is slightly higher than for other types of batteries.
The green casing of this charger is meant to distinguish it from the Battery Tender Junior model, which should not be used to charge lithium batteries.
Battery Tender 12V 0.75 Amp Charger
Although this charger is designed specifically to charge and maintain AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries, it will also charge and maintain all lead acid batteries, from tiny scooter batteries to large batteries for commercial and construction applications.
- Product features a fully water proof design, making it suitable for use onboard boats and other water craft.
- Product features Infinite Sequential Monitoring to protect batteries against overcharging.
- Charger is fully protected against short circuits, reverse-polarity connections, and features spark proof connectors.
- Charger is fully UL, CSA, and BC approved.
- Charger is approved for use in California and Oregon.
- Charger comes with a 5-year warranty.
It will also charge, and maintain deep-cycle batteries indefinitely.
The charger uses a 4-step charging program to prepare the battery for charging, then to charge it, and then to maintain the battery at a full charge for extended periods of time.
To prevent damage to marginal batteries, this charger has a safety cut-out timer that turns the charger off after 72 hours.
CAT 4 Amp Waterproof Battery Charger
The most notable feature of this charger is that it employs an AC voltage compensation mechanism to maintain full input voltage/current when it is used with long extension cords.
- Charger is waterproof up to 1 meter (3.2ft)
- Charger can recharge and maintain all types of batteries, including deep cycle batteries for marine applications.
The unit is also sealed against dust, water, and oil, making it possible to recharge batteries on boats and other applications without having to remove the battery from the machine or vehicle.
Connections to battery terminals can be made with spark-proof O-rings, regular battery clamps, or a supplied 12V DC cord.
Ducati Battery Maintainer
If you own a Ducati motor cycle, this is the perfect battery charger/maintainer for you.
Designed specifically for Ducati products, simply connect this compact charger to a special plug that can be installed under the seat, and forget about it until the weather improves.
- Charger is suitable for use on SBK, Streetfighter, Diavel, Diavel Carbon, Monster, Hypermotard, and MTS, SC, ST, SS, and S models.
- Product comes with a 2-year limited manufacturer’s warranty, but be aware that the warranty is only valid if the unit is fitted by a Ducati-certified technician at an approved Ducati service/repair facility.
This charger is protected against reverse polarity connections, it is waterproof, and it monitors itself. It is however not recommended that this charger be used for non-Ducati applications and products.
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