First things first. A 12-volt battery is not a 12-volt battery. 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.
Maintaining Your Battery
Tip: Check the fluid levels on each chamber. If any chamber is low, carefully top it up. Use only distilled or deionized water, NOT tap water. Tap water has minerals in it that will not do the battery any good.
The humble battery is a very common cause for motorcycle breakdowns! Unfortunately they are awkward to get to and therefore do not get checked as often as they should.
A battery only requires a little monthly maintenance to perform perfectly. Keep the battery charged to 100%, recharging when the lights dim, the starter sounds weak, or the battery hasn't been used in more than two weeks. Other than that, follow this simple check list every month:
- Check the electrolyte level
- Top up only with distilled or deionized water, wear gloves and protective glasses. Top up in a well ventilated area, Beware of fumes.
- Keep the top free of grime
- Check cables, clamps, and case for obvious damage or loose connections
- Clean terminals and connectors as necessary
- Check inside for excessive sediment, sulfation or mossing
- Make sure the exhaust tube is free of kinks and clogs
- Replace caps firmly
- Finish up by testing the battery with either a hydrometer or voltmeter. To extend the service life of your battery, make monthly battery maintenance part of your routine.
Use only distilled or deionized water, NOT tap water. Tap water has minerals
in it that will not do the battery any good.
Storage can be hard on batteries. In fact, non-use can leave them unable
to hold a charge.
Store your bike in a place that is always warmer than 32 degrees. If your
bike is outside remove the battery from your bike and store it in a location
that is always warmer than 32 degrees. 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. A battery that is fully charged will have a longer life and is less likely to freeze during cold winter weather.
Safety - Proper Clothing
Always wear a face shield or safety goggles.
Wear plastic gloves to prevent acid burns. An apron or smock will protect your clothes.
Working With Acid
Clean up acid spills immediately using a water and baking soda solution to
neutralize (1lb. baking soda in 1 gallon of water).
Make sure the acid container is clearly marked and the work area is well-lighted and well-ventilated.
If sulfuric acid is swallowed or splashed in the eyes, treat immediately. Sulfuric acid in the eyes can cause blindness. Serious internal injuries or death can result if swallowed. Used as an electrolyte, sulfuric acid can burn the skin.
ANTIDOTES: For acid on the skin, flush with water. If acid is swallowed drink large quantities of milk or water, followed by milk of magnesia, vegetable oil or beaten eggs. Do not induce vomiting. Call a poison control center or doctor immediately. For acid in the eyes, flush for several minutes with water and seek immediate medical attention.
When charging conventional batteries, loosen vent caps and ventilate charging
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.
NEVER put the red sealing cap back on the battery once you take it off. If you do, gases will become trapped and could explode.
Make sure the vent tube isn't kinked or blocked. Otherwise, gases could build up and explode.
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.
ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING, SPARKS OR FLAMES AROUND CHARGING BATTERIES. Charging gives off hydrogen and oxygen, which explode if ignited.
Selecting the Proper Battery
It's easier than you think to buy the wrong battery for your vehicle. Unless your current battery is definitely the original equipment, you're taking a chance by not double checking before you purchase the new battery. You can search for a certain battery, but there are a few general rules you should know before you search.
If the battery for your vehicle is sensor-equipped, remember to replace the
sensor at the same time you change the battery.
Never swap a Maintenance Free battery for another battery unless the Applications book says it's OK.
When given the option of several different batteries for your vehicle, choose the one that will give you what you want performance-wise. It's up to you.
Always make sure you have the right battery before you charge and install it. Save yourself the hassle (and money) of having to buy another battery.