View Full Version : Motor Bike Batteries

31st Jan 2009, 09:51

Why are motor bike batteries so bloody difficult to get at, to check the electrolyte level for instance ?

Do they really start with a battery and build a bike around it ? If so why ? Why can't it be simple ? Just like aeroplanes I only want to ride the thing, not re-build it for fun, if God had intended me to be an engineer - Bless Their Cotton Socks - vowed never to fly without one - He ( She ? - gotta be PC ) would have provided me with 10 thumbs.

Lon More
31st Jan 2009, 10:10
Presumeably to connect it to a charger?I had this on a Harley. Possible solution is to wire a cigarette lighter socket to the battery and put an accesory plug on the trickle charger. Kept the battery cycled and ully charged o chances of failure was much less

31st Jan 2009, 10:24
My Honda only needs a side panel removing (it just pulls off) and I can see the electrolyte levels. I have an "Optimate" type charger to keep the charge topped up. It came with a harness that permanently fastens to the battery terminals and ends in a small two pin socket. The charger just plugs in to that, no need to remove the battery to charge it up.

Buy a Honda? ;)

Say again s l o w l y
31st Jan 2009, 11:00
I could start a rant about the joys of batteries and their placement on silly Italian bikes, but since I got an optimate and use it all the time, then I don't need to rant and tear my hair out in frustration. Instead of having to remove the entire fairing and then getting the socket set out, I just plug it in and leave it.

3 years later the battery is still perfect, whereas before I'd go through 3 batteries a year. (I hate alarms on bikes!)

31st Jan 2009, 11:14
Our Yamaha Fazer 600 has a battery in plain sight, very easy to check. Just undo the rubber strap, pull it up a little bit and you are looking at the electrolyte levels. Call that two minutes, maximum.

My BMW R1100S, on the other hand, I think they start with a battery and assemble the rest of the machine around it! It is literally right bang in the middle.

Let's see now: You only have to take off the left side of the fairing, the air inlet hose, the battery retaining strap and the cables to the battery itself and then you can slide it out to get a look at the electrolyte levels, just 25 minutes work when you sort of know what you are doing but if you happen to kick a few fasteners into a dark corner of the garage, say, you should budget more time than that.

I once was rewarded with a few turns of the starter, some chatter from the solenoid and then... nothing on one of those rarely perfect riding days in North Germany, despite having faithfully used my Optimate.

I pulled the battery out to find that I must have managed to spill some electrolyte when I had tipped the bike over by losing the front end. D'oh! I had fixed the damage but I didn't think to check the battery level too.

I bought one of those Hawker gel batteries after that! Nothing to check with that, but you do need to use a charger or so I have been told, since they do not take being deeply discharged. The Hawker costs about twice as much as a normal "service-free" battery but it's more powerful and leak-proof too.

Say again s l o w l y
31st Jan 2009, 11:41
Another vote here for gel batteries. Much much better on a bike than having acid sloshing about. Not cheap, but mine has been faultless and given that it has to kick over a temperamental Italian twin with a very high compression ratio, the extra oomph it delivered was very welcome.

sled dog
31st Jan 2009, 14:10
I think i lost most of my hair changing batteries on the old air cooled :ok: BMW Boxers i owned over the years.
Now, that was a real challenge. REAL motorcycles, but the best bike owned was a Honda Pan European ST1100, big tourer, but with almost sports bike handling. Oh to be young again :{

31st Jan 2009, 14:12
I remember the days when motorcycles didn't have batteries.
Just a magneto and some sort of voltage controller.
Had to give 'em a good kicking to start the damn things.
None of this softie electric starter rubbish. Men were Men then!

Bring back carbide lighting!!!!

Captain Stable
31st Jan 2009, 16:00
I have to echo the first post. I have a Kawasaki Zephyr 750 and to get at the battery you have to remove the seat, then remove the air filter cover and then you can see the battery but can you get at it? Like fcuk you can. I quite like the idea of installing a cigarette lighter socket somewhere, but my worry about that would be to ensure it stays watertight.

31st Jan 2009, 16:01
I used to have two of Pater's footmen running in front with flambeaux, flanking the man waving the red flag. "Carbide lighting" indeed! What ever next, heated seats?

I once had a state-of-the-art BSA 441 Victor, what we quaintly used to call a "scrambler," knowing nothing as we did not of this European "motocross" thing that later became all the rage. The BSA 441 had no battery of course but also next to no ignition system and very little of what passed for lights. You could kick and curse all you liked but if the phase of the moon was not just right that availed you nought. Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness!

Now I just push a little green button and those fun-loving Germans sort everything out from that. There is no kick-starter, of course, and I don't even know if you can bump-start one of these modern machines; that would probably send the "motor management system" into a tizz, "Ze Maschine ist moving but ze Motor ist nicht running: Illogisch! Alarmstufe Rot! Scram ze Reaktor!" After all, it went into full freak-out mode when I dropped it and then the wheel speeds didn't match so that the ABS system shut down until I could take the bike back to the shop for the BMW diagnostic computer to murmur sweet nothings in its ear, for a price...

I had a friend ask a Nigerian lady if she still had her "kick-starter," when she put her cigarette out in his ear. Thing was, I don't think she rode...

Lon More
31st Jan 2009, 16:21
Captain Stable FWIW I used an accessory socket like this. (http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Motorcycle-Waterproof-12V-Power-Socket-GPS-phone-MP3_W0QQitemZ290273945113QQihZ019QQcategoryZ10460QQcmdZViewI temQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262#ebayphotohosting) Came with a handy little rubber bung on a chain to seal it up.

Standard fitting IIRC on Honda Crudwings so they have power for the tent airco and the 98" tv

31st Jan 2009, 16:41
The BSA 441 Victor - Motorcycle Forum (http://www.motorcycle.com/forum/showthread.php?t=7713)

Loose rivets
31st Jan 2009, 17:02
s'funny to see the thread title. I've just spent a couple of days researching bike batteries. Haven't got a bike (yet) but the Fly-by-Wire breaking system in me car has a back-up battery that takes over if the big one in the rear gets smashed for instance.

Gel? Dunno. MB service manager told me that a lot of people are going back to lead-acid...not just cost, but reliability. A lead-acid is compromised if you let it run down, but the gel is even worse. I left two good batteries in the MB and then stayed at home for 7 months. They were wiped out. $300 for the rear ( it's huuuuuuuuge!) and $220 with tax for the backup. I paid $75 for a pattern L-A and $84 for the backup. That was gel.

I can see the sense in going for gel on a bike - just in case you lay it down, but for the most part, a well maintained l-a works well enough.

I come from an era where we used to collect all the liquid from the battery, filter it, wash out the battery with the garden hose - trying to wash the sludge from the bottom. Much shaking and cussing later, re-fill and charge. Sometimes it even worked.

While trying to kick-start (ho ho) the old battery into life, I wet the gel with distilled, and put about 50v accross it. The meter showed .03 of an amp. More or less open circuit. But after a few minutes, this became .3 then 1.3...time to be careful. Soon charging was normal, but the residual voltage after charge was 10.5v One cell hadn't recovered.:{ Of to Interstate for a clone.

31st Jan 2009, 17:52
My first bike, a BSA Bantam, had a very accessible battery - provided you didn't mind hopping off and walking back down the road to retrieve it.

The cradle was almost rusted away and the wire just couldn't hold it for long. Must have been tough though, it hit the road several times and kept working.

31st Jan 2009, 17:56
AGM - Absorbent Glass Mat.

Beats wet Lead/Acid and the Gel's...

12+ motorcycles currently owned.

Much better in High temp areas...

Loose rivets
31st Jan 2009, 18:37
My first bike, a BSA Bantam, had a very accessible battery - provided you didn't mind hopping off and walking back down the road to retrieve it.

That made I larf...and remember going back for the bits that fell off.

AGM...that's what it was, not gel. The first big battery was gel and would not revive. But the little'un was AGM I had to fill it with a thing like six plastic bottles joined together. Oddly, it seemed to have a good state of charge as soon as the stuff had soaked in - before top-up charge.

31st Jan 2009, 18:58
That was an interesting link G-CPTN :ok:

(Suspicious of that quoted wet weight though)

Captain Stable
31st Jan 2009, 19:16
Thanks v much for that, Lon - ordered one.

cockney steve
31st Jan 2009, 21:01
I'm sort of with norm on this one...EVERY bike i ever owned has had a kick-starter...many were Mag-ignition, including a 98cc James with a huge brass flywheel....many years later I learned that the enforced bump-starts would have been negated, had i had the flywheel remagnetised:rolleyes: (wonder what happened to RHK 3 :hmm:

the spillproof battery was made by Varley and never attained the popularity it deserved. the approved procedure was to put a teaspoonful of distilled water in each cell, wait 10 minutes, then tip out any surplus....they seemed to last well ,as the paste couldn't cfall out of the plates and short-them.

Done the washing-out bit and also tried reverse-charging a totally dead, sulphated one..it revived but was still very sickly.-batteries are relatively cheap and long-lasting nowadays, most OE automotive stuff seems to do 5 years or so.....back in the 60's they would croak around 18 months.

Used to love taunting the local "Lucas, King of the road" depot with the alternative "Prince of Darkness" epithet.

31st Jan 2009, 21:30
I don't usually throw my bike down the road. If I did that then the lead-acid battery might not be high on my list of "problems to solve!"

It is just that the gel battery is the best available at the moment for motorcycles. Of course you have to back that up with an Optimate charger to make sure it stays topped up but I had one of those anyway for the last battery. The bike sits there for at least five weeks unused, often longer than that when the weather is lousy or I have something else to do. Meanwhile my fertile mind is busy planning some trip...

There is nothing like getting all packed for that trip, bidding the wife farewell, waddling out to the bike in full touring kit, climbing aboard and only THEN discovering that the battery has had the radish! Being asked, "Back already, dear?" really should be grounds for divorce, I think.

Loose rivets
1st Feb 2009, 07:44
.many were Mag-ignition, including a 98cc James with a huge brass flywheel...

My English teacher saw me out on this one night...aged 13. When he told me to be careful in front of the class...I gained a lot of street cred.

BTW...the bloke on the back took me for my first flight...aerobatics in a Tiger. Got me hooked. He flew 2 - 3 - and 4 hole-ers for the next 40 years.


Ten West
1st Feb 2009, 09:04
I had a Greaves with the 200cc Villiers engine! Huge brass flywheel, and setting the points gap with a Rizla paper. happy days. :ok:

The battery in my old Merc has just died, but as it's 10 years old and has been in 3 of my cars I can't really grumble. Hoppecke. Good kit!

1st Feb 2009, 09:43
I started this, and my thanks to all the tips.

To answer some:

It is a Honda - a CBX400F

The side panel does pull off, but the filler caps are obscured by the frame, so the battey has to be removed to fill, and the plastic is too opaque to see the levels. The present one has replaced the individual caps with a strip of plastic to which they are all attached, so with the aid of a pair of cranked, long nose pliers ( purchased from the mighty Sears in the US of A ) it is possible to rip it off from one end in the manner of removing a strip of sticky plaster covering the scratch that one gets when one falls off on the gravel surrounding every roundabout in NZ. But ... replacing it involves the aforementioned dismantle and re-build - or remove the battery. And of course there has to be a method of inducing water to go down the little holes. A sipper bottle and a long rubber tube works tolerably well, apart from the two forward holes which are similarly obscured by the frame.

Cigarette lighter socket- I had already attached two wires to the connecting posts, and led them out under the seat to a small, flat, male/female connecting plug and socket, purchased from the NZ equivalent of Radio Shack / Tandy. This evokes such comment as - what's that sticking out between your legs, but enables a connection to a charger, on a timer, with ease, waterproofing isn't an issue, I never ride in the rain, and if in doubt I don't go and only rarely get it wrong - that's not the problem, checking and topping up is what infuriates me. Perhaps I'm just unreasonable !

Nobody has shown me a gel battery in NZ - yet.

Thank you all.

1st Feb 2009, 11:58
My old Honda had a magneto, so the battery was a bit of a luxury: I threw it way.

Today's bikers are a bunch of fluffies. Electric start? Pah! :}

1st Feb 2009, 15:28
These optimate chargers are the ok to be left on a small 12ah bike battery indefinitely 24/7.


1st Feb 2009, 16:26
I use an Optimate III on my 2 Ducatis. Best thing I ever did. I shift it between the 2 bikes.

I had it on Junior for the past month and decided to go and start them today.
(Missed the glorious sound of a V-twin).

The ST3 (aka Senior 2006) started with ease and ticked over happily. Very impressed. :D

Junior (1991 400SS, 18 years old) who had the charger, took about 5 min of shouting, swearing, jiggling the choke and general pleading before he coughed into life. :ok:

1st Feb 2009, 16:48
What the Optimate is supposed to do is charge the battery to a certain level, something like 13.2 volts, I think and then wait until the voltage drops to something like 12 volts to repeat the cycle. A normal trickle charger just puts in a constant voltage and can make a battery go dry if left on for an extended period. You can approximate what you get with an Optimate by using a trickle charger connected to a timer but an Optimate is not terribly expensive. I have two of them, one for each bike, and they seem to work really well so that I can recommend them.

The Optimate is delivered with a little plug connector on a cable that you wire into the battery and then secure someplace handy on the machine such as under the seat.

If the little plug gets dirty (the one on the BMW is exposed to a bit of road dirt there under the seat) then you can clean it with a small brass brush and some WD-40. This will short out the two poles of the connnector plug and cause the fuse in the positive line to blow, when you have to dig that out and open it up to replace the little fuse you do not happen to have right handy so that you have to go to the local auto parts store in the next town. Then the next time you want to clean the dirty connector you will know to use an old toothbrush, say.

unstable load
2nd Feb 2009, 13:17
The Optimate is a great bit of kit, isn't it? I used to have to buy a battery every 9 months or so for my Guzzi until my friendly dealer sold me an optimate.
My current battery is now going on 3 years!:D:D