When it’s time to replace or upgrade your motorcycle battery, what type do you choose? Sure, you could just order yourself the same stock unit and keep riding as normal, but what if you want more from your battery? Here’s a list of the 10 best motorcycle battery products currently on the market, and an outline of battery technology in general.
Flooded lead acid, absorbed glass mat, gel cell, lithium iron, or lithium ion? Factory-activated, sealed or unsealed? Buying a new battery for your motorcycle isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think, so we’ve decided to take the guesswork out of the task and give you a thorough overview of all things battery related!
What’s The Best Motorcycle Battery Out There?
Best Motorcycle Battery Buying Guide & FAQ
It’s all very well reading a list of highly rated batteries, but different riders have different demands and while these are what we consider to be the top 10 best motorcycle batteries, they may not be the best fit for you. To help you make a better decision we’ve put together a battery buying guide that makes the confusing jargon a little easier to understand. There’s a lot to learn about batteries, from the size, voltage, material type, sealed or unsealed, et cetera. It’s a lot to take in! With that in mind, we’ll look at the difference between battery types, their power ratings, and answer some frequently asked questions too. Let’s get started.
What’s The Difference Between A Sealed Or Unsealed Battery?
Typically, motorcycle batteries come in two distinct flavors: sealed or unsealed. In short, a sealed battery is a product that is ready for use from the moment it arrives on your doorstep. As the name suggests, these batteries are sealed units which require no maintenance of any kind throughout their lifespans; they are either Gel Cell batteries or AGM batteries – more on that later.
An unsealed battery, however, requires the addition of distilled water and it vents acid and fumes. These batteries require maintenance. These types of batteries are known as wet lead acid batteries.
Battery Size and Construction
The size and build of a particular battery is another important thing to consider before you buy. We’re not talking about the voltage either. If you buy a battery with a casing that’s too big for the dimensions of your motorcycle, it’s not going to be very much use to you. A battery that’s too small isn’t such a big problem, but you’ll have to install it correctly and fit it into your existing battery box with shims and spacers – whatever happens, you don’t want it rattling around causing damage!
It’s also important to pay attention to what materials the battery is actually made of. The vast majority of batteries on the market are built from tough materials such as ABS plastics and the like, which is great because you want a durable product, but you should also look out for other features such as strong vibration, heat, and pressure resistance too.
What Voltage Is A Motorcycle Battery?
12 Volts is the most common voltage for motorcycle batteries. There are exceptions to this rule though. For example, some smaller motorcycles don’t require so much power and are happy running a 6 Volt battery. For a full-size motorcycle 12 Volts is the average. While you can play around with battery types and materials, the voltage is the one thing that you really must get right. Look at your stock battery and make a note of the voltage and other specifications, and use those as the benchmark for your next purchase. A voltage that’s too low will drastically affect your motorcycle’s functionality. A voltage that’s too high could cause damage to your bike and wiring.
What Does CCA Mean?
“CCA” stands for Cold Cranking Amps. The CCA is the number of amps that a battery can deliver for 30 seconds at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit whilst producing 1.2 volts per cell. The CCA for a motorcycle is the power that’s required to get it started. Older bikes, or bikes that are harder to start, will need a higher CCA. Newer motorcycles, or bikes that haven’t clocked up thousands of miles yet, probably need a lower CCA.
“Overall Performance” is a term used in tandem with CCA. Overall Performance rates the power that can be produced by your battery. Batteries with lower overall performance will require charging more regularly. Buying a battery that suits your riding style will help you improve your battery’s overall lifespan too.
What Is A Motorcycle Battery’s Life Expectancy?
Battery life expectancy varies depending on what type of battery you buy and what manufacturer you’re buying from. Obviously, most riders are looking for a battery that will have a long life. Batteries with long life expectancies are generally more expensive due to the fact that they’re built from higher quality materials that keep wear and tear to a minimum whilst maintaining a low discharge rate. The vast majority of batteries will have a life expectancy of somewhere between 500 and 2000 charge cycles, or at least 48 months’ worth of use. This figure can be affected by a wide range of variables, but as long as you store your battery correctly and maintain it appropriately, you should be able to get the most out of it.
What Are The Different Types Of Motorcycle Batteries?
As you might have noticed, batteries come in a wide range of styles, but what are the differences between them? What’s the difference between a gel cell battery and an AGM? Here’s a brief overview of the different types of motorcycle batteries.
Wet Lead Acid Battery
A wet lead acid battery, or a flooded lead acid battery, is a common battery type that requires regular maintenance. This kind of battery needs to be topped up with distilled water to function properly. These batteries are incredibly cost-effective and enjoy quite a long life span if taken care of. Unfortunately, they’re prone to sulfation and degradation. Plus, they release a noxious hydrogen gas when charging, which isn’t ideal. Still, this a great cheap option.
AGM batteries, or Absorbent Glass Mat batteries, are popular battery options. They’re valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries that work by suspending electrolytes in thin fiberglass mat between lead plates. They’re highly resistant to vibration, can be mounted at any angle, and do not spill. They’re excellent choices for vehicles that experience a lot of movement, and since they’re sealed and maintenance-free, they’re very easy to install. Unfortunately, they’re more expensive than flooded lead acid batteries, and they don’t usually last as long either.
Gel Cell Battery
A gel cell battery is a valve regulated lead acid sealed battery that contains gel electrolytes. They are maintenance free batteries that have a lot in common with AGM batteries. They’re both sealed and maintenance free, but they have some key differences. Rather than fiberglass mats, gel batteries use at thick paste-like gel to meet the same ends, but the difference in performance is large. Gel batteries aren’t as good as AGM batteries in terms of higher charges and discharge rates, but they do last longer and are better for applications which require slow and deep discharges. They also work better in hotter climates too. Finally, they are more expensive than AGM, which is a very important statistic to note.
Lithium Iron And Lithium Ion Batteries
Lithium batteries are also available options, but lithium iron batteries are not the same as lithium ion – though both can be used to power a motorcycle, and other lightweight vehicles.
Lithium iron batteries, or LiFePO4 batteries have a much greater cell density than you’d find in a traditional lead acid battery but at a small fraction of the weight. These batteries have a smaller cell density than lithium ion though, which actually makes them less volatile. They’re great alternatives to AGM batteries, can be used at high temperatures, usually have a lifespan of up to 2000 charge cycles over a period of 10 years, and usually hold their charge for just over one year.
A lithium ion battery shares many of the qualities of a lithium iron phosphate battery, but with some significant differences. Although they’re incredibly lightweight, lithium ion cells actually have a greater cell density than lithium iron phosphate batteries, which they have a higher capacity per cell, but they’re much, much more volatile – as you may have read in the news about lithium ion battery related fires. They can’t safely be used in temperatures in excess of 60 degrees Celsius for that reason. They also have a shorter life-span, with a typical life of 2 to 3 years, or up to 500 charge cycles. They only hold a charge for approximately 300 days too, depending on the battery pack. Still, they offer excellent power for such a low weight.
Other Motorcycle Battery FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I install a motorcycle battery?
After locating your old battery, remove the bolt from the negative cable first, followed by the positive wire. Remove your battery carefully, especially if it’s an unsealed battery type that could leak acid if improperly handled. If you need to prep your new battery before installation, do that now as per the manufacturer’s instructions. To install it, all you need to do is place it into the battery box and attach the positive wire before attaching the negative one. That’s a basic outline of how to install a motorcycle battery, but there are more intricacies depending on the battery type and motorcycle model.
How to charge a motorcycle battery?
The best way to charge a motorcycle battery is to remove it from the motorcycle and plug it into a battery-specific charger. Disconnect the battery and hook it up to a trickle, float, or smart charger. Be sure not to over-charge your battery as it can damage it. Check the charge of your battery with a multi-meter to be sure it’s fully charged, and then reconnect it to your motorcycle. Note: lithium batteries may require a different kind of charger for safe charging. Check with your battery’s manufacturer for specific instructions. Always take care when handling and charging batteries.
How long to charge a motorcycle battery?
Depending on what kind of battery you have, and what kind of charger you use, the time it takes to fully charge a motorcycle battery can be anywhere between 4 and 24 hours for a standard 12 Volt unit. Regularly checking the progress of a charge cycle with a multi-meter is highly recommended. For most batteries, a low and slow charge rate is much better for the battery’s health.
How many volts is a motorcycle battery?
The most common voltage for a motorcycle battery is 12 Volts. However, some smaller motorcycles may operate with smaller voltage batteries, while some large motorcycles that have aftermarket accessories installed on them may accommodate batteries of a higher voltage.
How to test a motorcycle battery?
The easiest way to test a motorcycle battery is with a smart charger, which will tell you when your battery is fully charged. If you don’t have a smart charger then you’ll need a multi-meter to perform a voltage test. After disconnecting your battery from either the motorcycle or charger, test it with your multi-meter when the motorcycle is completely switched off. Touch the black lead to the negative post, and the red lead to the positive, and make a note of the voltage. If it reads 12.73 volts or higher, then it is fully charged and ready to go. Anything below that indicates that further charge is necessary or that the battery is failing.
Can you jump a motorcycle with a car battery?
Yes, it is completely possible to jump start a motorcycle with a car battery, but it’s not exactly the same process as you’d use for a car to car jump. Since car batteries are much bigger and more powerful than motorcycle batteries, it’s necessary to jump it from a car that is switched off rather than running. If the car is running the power could be too great for your motorcycle’s battery and electrics to jump properly. It won’t fry your battery, but it won’t do it any favors. Always ensure that the car is not running, and it should be no problem. If in doubt, a push start is an excellent plan B.
How should I maintain my motorcycle battery?
Different batteries that require maintenance recommend different maintenance routines. Some batteries, such as AGM and gel batteries do not require any maintenance at all. Flooded lead acid batteries however require regular check-ups. Be sure to check your battery at least once a month for loose connections, corroded terminals, and the water level; you should top up the latter with distilled water as needed. How regularly you need to charge your motorcycle’s battery depends on how regularly you use it.
Does a new motorcycle battery need to be charged?
If you buy a new battery that is described as “factory activated” then it shouldn’t require any charging at all and you should be able to install it and use it right away. However, we recommend that you never assume anything and check the manufacturer’s instructions before installation. There are some batteries that specifically require an initial charge before use, so make sure you understand what battery you’ve bought before installing it. Most of the time it’s not necessary though.
Can I overcharge a motorcycle battery?
Yes, you can overcharge your motorcycle battery, and it is not recommended. If you can’t spare the time to monitor your charger with a multi-meter, then it’s definitely worth investing in a smart motorcycle battery charger that will stop charging it the moment your battery is full, which will prevent long term damage. Failing that, make sure you keep an eye on your charger for the best results and for longest possible battery life span!