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Scooter or Motorcycle Battery Maintenance 101

6 July 2010 147,646 views 13 Comments

Scooter or Motorcycle Battery Maintenance Tips

Illustration Courtesy of Yuasa Batteries

Motorcycle or Scooter Battery Maintenance
Typical Scooter or Motorcycle Battery

Motorcycle and Scooter Battery Maintenance

Your scooter or motorcycle battery is one of those maintenance items that should be checked on a regular basis so that your ride is ready to start and perform the way you expect. If you are leaving your scooter or motorcycle for any period greater than a couple of weeks without riding, it’s a good idea to get a battery tender to keep your battery in optimal condition.

Scooter or Motorcycle Battery Basics

12-volt batteries are not really 12 volts. Twelve volts is just a nominal, convenient term used to distinguish one battery from another. A fully-charged 12-volt battery, allowed to “rest” for a few hours (or days) with no load being drawn from it (or charge going to it), will balance out its charge and measure about 12.6 volts between terminals.

When a battery reads only 12 volts under the above conditions, it’s almost fully depleted. Actually, if a battery’s resting voltage is only 12.0 to 12.1 it means only 20 to 25% of its useful energy remains. It’s either a goner or it has been deep cycled, and a battery can only be deep-cycled a limited number of times before it is indeed dead.

12-volt batteries supply useful energy only through a limited range — from over 14 volts (when fully charged and unrested) down to 10.5 volts in use/under load (when lights dim, your motorcycle is hard to start). No 12-volt battery will remain at over 14 volts for more than seconds unless it’s being charged. The lowest limit is 10.5 volts (used in testing) and obviously unsatisfactory in practical use.


NOTES: Keep in mind that listed voltages are “Resting” Volts.
Table Courtesy of www.TotalMotorcycle.com

Maintaining Your Battery

If your scooter or motorcycle will not start, you usually do not have to look much further than the battery for the source of the problem. A little checking and periodic maintenance goes a long way. Many riders are deterred because on some scooters and motorcycles, the battery can be in an awkward location to readily access – time to get out the manual.

A few minutes of monthly maintenance will keep your battery working perfectly and also help to ensure a long battery life. Keep the battery charged to 100%, recharging when the lights dim, your horn sounds wimpy, the starter sounds weak, or the battery hasn’t been used in more than two weeks.

Here’s a good simple battery maintenance procedure:

Monthly battery maintenance will extend battery life and will make sure your motorcycle or scooter will be ready to start when you want to go.

Step 1

Put on  rubber gloves and protective glasses or goggles

Step 2

Removing the battery from the scooter begins by spraying the battery with battery cleaner such as Krylon #1336.

Using your screwdriver, disconnect the negative (-) wire on the battery first. Remove the positive wire (+) and remove the battery strap or belt. Pull the battery out SLOWLY, so the overflow tube does not catch.

Step 3

Take the disconnected battery to a clean space and place the battery on some newspaper. Clean the battery top to keep free of dirt and grime prior to opening the caps on the battery chambers. If the terminals are corroded, take a wire brush and brush them clean, wipe filings and dirt away with a dry cloth. Spray battery cleaner onto a lint free cloth and wipe the terminals.

Step 4

If the overflow tube appears dirty, kinked, or clogged, remove the overflow tube and clean it by spraying battery cleaner through the tube. Run the tube under hot running water until it’s clean. Used compressed air to blow out the water and re-attach.

Step 5

Check the fluid (electrolyte) level in each chamber. On the front of the battery, see the fill level in each cell; they should all be just below the “High” fill line. If they appear lower than this level on a flat surface, you should fill them up. To fill the cells, pull off the filler cap for that cell with a pair of needlenose pliers. Most filler caps pull straight out; however, some are threaded, so twist them in the direction marked first. Look inside for excessive sediment, and sulfation. Top up only with distilled or deionized water (NOT TAP WATER). Tap water has minerals which will reduce battery effectiveness and life. Replace the filler caps.

Step 6

If your battery was severely discharged for some reason (signals not working, horn quiet or tail light not coming on when the key is turned), charge it up with a motorcycle battery charger (never more than a 2 amp charger). Make sure you have the charger set on the correct voltage for your battery (6 volt or 12 volt). Also check the fuse in the your bike while the battery is out. The fuse is usually held in a clip-on holder on the left-hand side of the battery platform. If the fuse is blown, replace it before installing the battery. Check for any rust or corrosion inside or outside the fuseholder. If it is corroded replace the fuseholder without delay.

Step 7

Re-install the battery in the reverse order or removal making sure that the overflow tube goes back in the correct position. Check cables, clamps, and case for obvious damage or loose connections. If the rubber strap is broken, replace it. If the wires to the battery are corroded, clean them with that wire brush and carb cleaner. If you need to replace a battery connector, get a similar one from you local scooter or motorcycle shop.

Finish up by testing the battery with either a hydrometer or voltmeter if you have these available

Battery Storage

Storage can be hard on batteries. In fact, non-use can leave them unable to hold a charge.

Store your scooter or motorcycle in a place that is always above freezing temperatture. If your bike is outside remove the battery from your bike and store it in a location that is always warmer than freezing. This will insure that your battery does not freeze and crack.

If you remove the battery from your bike DO NOT store it on a concrete or metal surface, place the battery on a wood or other non-conductive surface. Batteries stored on concrete or metal will discharge over time.

Place a charger on your battery. Trickle charge your battery at least once a month with a quality battery tender. A battery that is fully charged will have a longer life.

Safety when working with your Scooter or Motorcycle Battery

Always wear a face shield or safety goggles.

Wear rubber gloves to prevent acid burns. An apron or smock will protect your clothes.

If you accidentally get battery acid in the eyes, flush for several minutes with water and seek immediate medical attention.

If you get battery acid on your skin, flush with water or a mixture of water and baking soda.

Clean up acid spills immediately using a water and baking soda solution to neutralize (1 lb. baking soda in 1 gallon of water).


Battery Charging Safety

Properly connect the charger to the battery: positive charger lead to positive battery post and negative charger lead to negative battery post. Unplug the charger or turn it off before you disconnect the leads, which will cut down on the chance of sparks.( + or red is  positive and – or black is negative.)

Charge your battery in a well ventilated area. A buildup of hydrogen and oxygen in the battery or in the charging area can create an explosion hazard.
If the battery feels hot to the touch during charging, STOP. Allow the battery to cool before charging again. Heat damages the plates, and a battery that is too hot can explode.
Make sure the vent tube isn’t kinked or blocked. Otherwise, gases could build up and explode.

ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING, SPARKS OR FLAMES AROUND CHARGING BATTERIES. Charging gives off hydrogen and oxygen, which explode if ignited.

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13 Comments »

  • James Garcia said:

    may friend had a china made battery charger and it overheated after a week;,`

  • Tristan Coleman said:

    battery chargers that are made in china are a bit under rated so i don’t use them anymore*;*

  • Cooker Hoods · said:

    most battery chargers do not have an automatic termincation if the batteries are fully charged already ;

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  • Ricklesss in Oregon said:

    I think it was proven a long time ago, that storing batteries on a concrete floor will not discharge it any more then any other kind of floor. It’s just an old wives tale; batteries were commonly found to be discharged on concrete floors only because they had been there a good long while…

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