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Kyle Bradshaw of Cruiser Customizing talks about the reasons our motorcycle batteries fail, and what we can do to extend the life of our batteries.

Did you know the life span of an average motorcycle battery is on 12 to 24 months?!

Only 30% of batteries sold today reach the 48-month mark. In fact 80% of all battery failure is related to sulfation build-up. This build up occurs when the sulfur molecules in the electrolyte (battery acid) become so deeply discharged that they begin to coat the battery's lead plates. Before long the plates become so coated that the battery dies.
Sulfation of Batteries starts when specific gravity falls below 1.225 or voltage measures less than 12.4 (12v Battery) or 6.2 (6 volt battery). Sulfation hardens the battery plates reducing and eventually destroying the ability of the battery to generate Volts and Amps.

State of Charge
Specific Gravity







The causes of sulfation are numerous. Below are several common causes of battery sulfation:

Batteries sit too long between charges. As little as 24 hours in hot weather and several days in cooler weather.
Battery is stored without some type of energy input.
"Deep cycling" an engine starting battery. Remember these batteries can't stand deep discharge.
Undercharging of a battery, to charge a battery (lets say) to 90% of capacity will allow sulfation of the battery using the 10% of battery chemistry not reactivated by the incomplete charging cycle.
Heat of 100 plus F., increases internal discharge. As temperatures increase so does internal discharge. A new fully charged battery left sitting 24 hours a day at 110 degrees F for 30 days would most likely not start an engine.
Low electrolyte level - battery plates exposed to air will immediately sulfate.
Incorrect charging levels and settings. Most cheap battery chargers can do more harm than good. See the section on battery charging.
Cold weather is also hard on the battery. The chemistry does not make the same amount of energy as a warm battery. A deeply discharged battery can freeze solid in sub zero weather.
Parasitic drain is a load put on a battery with the key off. More info on parasitic drain will follow in this document. [/list]
Aside from Sulfation, Parasitic Drain another common battery destroyer! What is parasitic drain?

Parasitic drainis a load put on a battery with the key in the OFF position. Most of todays motorcycles come from the factory with clocks, engine management computers, alarm systems, etc. And what do we do when we get our motorcycles home? We Accessorize them! We add radios, GPS, and all other sorts of gadgets. These devices may all be operating without the engine running. You may have parasitic loads caused by a short in the electrical system. If you are always having dead battery problems most likely the parasitic drain is excessive. The constant low or dead battery caused by excessive parasitic energy drain will dramatically shorten battery life.

It is recommended you must put back the energy you use from your battery immediately! Charging or refilling your battery is important, and is best done usingSmart Chargers such as Battery Tenders and PuseTech Xtreme Chargers are the best way to accomplish this task.

You don't find these types of chargers in most auto parts stores!

Battery Tender has been in the business of battery maintenance for over 44 years! Battery Tender is the Official Charger of Both Harley Davidson as well as BMW.

The first step of a Smart Charger such as a Battery Tender isbulk chargingwhere up to 80% of the battery energy capacity is replaced by the charger at the maximum voltage and current amp rating of the charger.

When the battery voltage reaches 14.4 volts this begins theabsorption chargestep. This is where the voltage is held at a constant 14.4 volts and the current (amps) declines until the battery is 98% charged.

Next comes theFloat Step. This is a regulated voltage of not more than 13.4 volts and usually less than 1 amp of current. This in time will bring the battery to 100% charged or close to it. The float charge will not boil or heat batteries but will maintain the batteries at 100% readiness and prevent cycling during long term inactivity.

PulseTech takes battery maintenance to the next level with their 5 Stage Charging system.

PulseTech Xtreme Charger

Stage 1 - Charge Evaluation / Test and Initalization

Stage 2 - Bulk Charge

Stage 3 - Absorption and Saturation Charge

Stage 4 - Variable Float Maintenance Charge

Stage 5 - Continually PULSE Charges to minimize the size of lead sulfate crystals

18 Posts
I personally agree with most of what is written here. However it should be noted that this is really a general battery informational document. To really understand what is going on you need to look at the physical properties of your own battery. For instance, my brother-in-law has an older Honda ACE and it uses a traditional lead-acid battery (old nasty t-shaped one.... but that's another story) while I just installed a new Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery in my '02 RSW. The discharge, charging, and tolerace properties are drastically different between the two. As an example, one of the major benefits of AGM batteries is that the 5-stage charging doesn't have to be followed since the Charge curve is almost linear with a standard charger.

Please don't take what I'm saying as a knock. It is excellent that someone posted this information. It's just that depending on the specific type of battery the properties can be drastically different.

3,821 Posts
Thanks very much for posting this. RSW has been flooded with Battery posts (sorry) and I'm enjoying learning about ths quite boring but essential subject!!! To some who only ride stock bikesin town it's pretty much irrelevant what battery you have. For me with my 108 and high comp pistons, I have a hard time finding a good enough battery. Pomeroy, in South East Washington is not the best place to start wondering if your battery is up to snuff:}:} Thanks for the info:}

30,097 Posts
This is great info thanks for posting it Tom.

Did they talk about the new idea on some battery types to - charge then partly drain - then charge then partly drain - (in a cycle) - to keep the battery healthy by keeping the sulphates from hardening or dropping to the battery floor over time? I don't have a good understanding of how that helps, or which batteries need that treatment, but I gather there is a brand of charger now available that does that cycling?

I like how members here stay current with changing technologies. Next year the rest of theworld will be learning about what is happening today, but we will already know what's best, thanks to posts like this one.
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