IT’S all about THE Battery!
Welcome to this week’s tech talk at Venom Motorsports!
Many of our customers have questions and concerns about the battery in their bikes.
In this edition of “Tim’s Tech Corner” we are going to chat about some of the more common issues presented to me. Please take a minute to watch the “youtube” videos below. They will help with your understanding of batteries.
The battery in your bike is a very important component, there is nothing sweeter than pressing the start switch and having the bike roll over. No effort required!
Just that sweet Vrooooom sound we all love.
Then, that sad day finally arrives when the electric start is not working and you have to use the kick start. LOL thats effort!
When does that sort of situation become even sadder....when your bike has no kick start. Yes, no kick start and you discover that sad fact when your out of town and have to walk your bike back home, uphill barefoot in the rain. But wait, there is a little magic that can still be worked here. If you push your bike downhill than jump on it and pop the clutch in second gear...you can get a compression start out of it. Gotta love standards! Same trick can be used with your car. I have used this trick a few times in my life.
So, now you are beginning to see the important roll your battery plays. Ya gotta keep the battery in good condition and well maintained. Otherwise your kickin, rollin or walkin.
Ok, onto this week’s topics;
Tim...How does my battery work?
The type of battery most commonly used in bikes today is a “Lead Acid” battery. As the name implies it consists of separate lead plates in a Sulphuric acid solution. The lead plates hold charge and the Sulphuric acid solution allows the charge to flow between the plates.
Like all things in life...the electrical charge flows from a higher potential to a lower potential, just like water. The flow of electric charge is referred to as Amperage.
Whenever current flows through a path it always encounters resistance. In electrical systems the resistance is measured in the unit Ohm.
The push required to overcome resistance and get the charge to flow is referred to as Voltage. Your bike uses a 12 Volt direct current system. The 12 Volts is developed in the battery by joining “6” two volt cells together in series. Series means one feeding into the other, feeding into the other etc with only one path of flow. You get the idea right?
In conventional electrical flow discussions the “flow of electrical charge” is referred to as “current”. The current flows from the positive terminal...through the load “say the starter on your bike” to do useful work...and back to the negative terminal on the battery.
In order for current to flow we must always have a complete path from the positive terminal to the load and back to the negative terminal. In circuits where we want to control the load...say turn it on or off the situation changes just a bit.
Current flows from the positive terminal to the switch then onto the load and returns to the negative terminal on the battery. We will be discussing electrical circuits in greater depth next week when we look at the electrical systems found on our bikes.
Tim...My battery came with a series of plastic tube all joined together and it looks like there is water inside. What’s that about?
Some of the bike batteries “gel cells” are sealed, deemed to be maintenance free and require no extra effort on your part. Just install them and away you go.
Others are of a “conventional design” and need to have the battery acid added before use. The clear plastic tubes are actually filled with “Sulphuric acid” and you need to be super careful when working with them. If you get acid on your skin wash it off right away, and wear safety glasses!!! Acid in your eyes and you could lose your vision.
With your safety glasses on, tear off the protective plastic cover on the tubes. You will notice that the end of the tube is fitted with a female fitting. The battery body filler ports are fitted with male fittings. Turn the battery upside down and insert the male battery fittings into the female ends of the plastic tubes. Once the tube are fitted turn both the battery and tube assembly right side up. You will notice that the Sulphuric acid solution is still sitting in the tubes. Take a small “push pin” or “thumb tack” and poke a small hole into the top of one of the tubes. Once you make a hole atmospheric pressure rushes in and the acid will flow quickly into the battery body. Repeat this to all of the tubes and fill all of the cells.
Once the battery is filled with the acid install the vent cap across the fill holes in the top of the battery. You can check the level of battery acid present and if need be you can actually top it off with distilled water. This might be enough to get your battery through another season.
The battery plates where charged when the battery was manufactured. So once the acid is added you should now have a full electrical charge. The battery is ready for use.
If your battery does not have a full charge I recommend using a trickle charger and charging the battery slowly overnight.
Tim...What does the battery do for me?
The main purpose of the battery is to supply electrical energy to the starter motor so you can start your bike at the push of a button!
Once the bike is running the alternator makes all of the electrical power the bike needs.
So once the bike is running you can actually take the positive terminal off the bike and it will continue to run. If the bike stalled it would indicated that the alternator is not working properly.
You see, when the alternator is working well...it constantly supplies all of the electrical energy that your bike needs for ignition, lighting, horn and speedometer functions. The alternator also provides a trickle charge to the battery to keep it full at all times.
If you leave your bikes lights on...you will quickly use up the charge in the battery and end up with a “dead” battery that no longer has any charge left.
But, I only left the lights on for a short time...maybe 1 or 2 hours. Yes, that is sometimes long enough to completely drain the battery. You have to keep in mind that the battery on bikes is very small and light weight. So it really is designed to allow you to roll the bike over say 30 to 40 times before it dies out. Best practise is to run the bike if you want to leave the lights on. Then you will never have a problem, and be stuck in the dark trying to figure out how to use your kick starter LOL. Yup been there!
Tim...After storing my bike for the Winter, my battery is dead. How do I charge it?
Firstly, LOL let’s hope that you took the battery out of the bike before leaving it in that brrrrr cold garage over the winter months. Bike Batteries do not like temperatures below 10C. So always store them indoors if possible. ATV’s on the other hand have batteries designed for the cold to be used during the winter months. Riding ATV’s in the snow is a blast!
You can easily recharge your battery by attaching it to a trickle charge overnight.
Trickle chargers supply a 1 to 3 ampere charge rate and have automatic shut off features once the battery has reached a full charge state. It is always better to charge your bikes battery with a trickle charge.
If you lose your charge while out in the woods on your ATV, then yes you can get a boost from your buddies ATV or car. 12 Volts is 12 volts. So any 12 V power supply can be used to charge the battery.
However, always keep in mind that batteries prefer a slow charge rate not a fast one.
If you force a large charge rate into the battery, the chemical reaction of the acid in the battery will become very rapid. This will cause the battery to heat up...and could cause damage to the battery plates. Imagine the battery casing being so hot you cannot touch it. Scary!
Also this excess charge rate could release free hydrogen separated from the acid. Hydrogen is a problem...as it burns really really well sometimes referred to as rocket fuel. Mix it with some air and spark, you have a large Kamboom!
Tim...How is my battery rated?
Batteries are rated according to Voltage level, Amp Hours and cold cranking amps.
Voltage is the easiest of the three to deal with as all bikes use 12 Volts direct current as the standard voltage.
Amp Hour rating is a little more tricky. A battery with an AH rating of 1...should be able to supply a current flow of 1 ampere to the load at 12 volts for one hour before becoming completely discharged. So the higher the Amp hour rating of the battery the better!
Cold crank amps is the ability of a battery to deliver current flow for an extended period of time in cold weather. Typically the rating occurs at a temperature of 32 F. The battery is rated by the amount of current that can flow for 30 seconds without dropping the voltage below 7.2 VDC. This is a concern for AVT folks who love to drive in the snowy winter months. Having a battery with a high cold cranking amperage rating means that you will be able to get your ATV engine to start, even on the coldest of winter days. Again the higher the cold cranking amperage rating of the battery the better. Using Amsoil Synthetic ATV oil also makes a huge difference when starting cold engines. The oil remains thin and does not thicken up in low temperatures. This makes a cold engine much easier to roll over and start up faster. Even at -40 F.
Now, as you might have guessed higher Amp Hour rated batteries and Higher Cold Crank Rated batteries are “no cheap”. However, there are some things in life where you simply need to spend the money.
Never “go cheap” on batteries, lube oil, tires for your bike or a nice dinner for your sweetie!
If you have any tech questions about our vehicles, please feel free to email them to...
To watch this weeks VLOG about the batteries click here
Check out our blog next week as we look at bike electrical systems.
Till then, Enjoy the ride!
Technical Support Specialist
Venom Motorsports Canada