Preventative Battery Maintence
another member had suggested tech-write ups and the such, and so i thought i would start with the most common...how to properly maintain your battery. trust me, it needs much more care then your car battery. it is a long read, but it might save you a benjamin....and in these tough economical times, a 15 minute read might be worth $100 to you. i might make some spelling errors, bear with me.
if you are unaware, many powersport batteries are i $60 or more dollars, with a quite a few over $100. the first common question i always got behind the parts counter was "How can this small battery be more then my car battery?" The answer is quite simple, you ATV battery has to be much more effeicant at producing cold cranking amps per battery pound then your car battery. ATV's do not have the luxury to have large, oversized batteries like our cars do. we have dont have the space, and dont want the weight. so your ATV battery has to do a better job at putting out cranking amps. batteries are one of those items that you get what you pay for! you can find a $50-$100 spread in price for the same size battery from many different manufactures, but there is truely a difference in quality among the prices. my suggestion is get the higger end battery and then maintain it. it will pay for itself if you maintain it right. if you do nothing even the best battery will fail. a good quality battery should have a 6 month warranty on it. there is a percentage of batteries that will fail right away. my suggestion is do not buy a battery unless the manufacture offers a 6 month replacement warranty for a failed battery and keep your recipts!!!! my personal favorite brand of battery is Yuasa, but there are many other good brands.
so what causes a battey to fail? every single day, a battery naturally discharges about 1% of charge a day, every day it is not used. so in 1 month of not being used, your battery is at about 70% charged. in two months its about 40% charged, and after three months it is only about 10% charged. perminate, unreversiable damage starts to occur around 20-30 days of no use. i would personally not allow the battery to go more then two weeks without a recharge. as a batteries charge starts to drop, sulfate builds up on the plates, reducing the amount of contact area between the plates and acid. once this chemical reaction starts, it is almost impossible to stop. eventually the plates become so covered in sulfate that your battery can no longer put out the requried cranking amps to start. which is why, when in this stage and hooked to a battery charger, the battery charger can show the battery is fully charged as far as volts go. if your battery shows fully charged but wont start the machine, you will need a shop to preform a load test. the battery must have a full volt charge to do it. it only takes 15 seconds of time. it is a simple test that shows if the battery can recover from a large draw of amps (i.e. simulates starting).
so how do you prevent this all from happening? starting your machine briefly is the worst thing possible. not only is it losing charge daily, but you are taking away a large load of amps without giving it a chance to recharge, and its also a great way to foul spark plugs as well. starting you machine and letting it idle isnt much better. at idle RPM the stator is not producing a lot of extra amps to recharge the battery. it takes higher then idle RPMs to really get your battery back to fully charged, but reving the motor while its not moving is hard on the cooling system.
so you can either ride it 15-20 minutes every 1-2 weeks or.....you can buy a battery tender. battery tenders are great! you can buy them at just about any battery shop, atv shop, probably even car part stores. a decent one will run you about $40-50. less then the cost of a new battery! how you use a battery tender is you connect the postive and negative terminals to your battery, just like you would a booster or charger, and plug the tender into a normal 120V wall outlet. what it does it slowly charge your battery back to full and then floats your battery charge at full for however long it is plugged in. you can leave it plugged into you battery for months on end, it will never overcharge it and boil the acid inside! that is the actual intent and design of the tender, to stay connected to your battery for however long you need it to be. by keeping your battery fully charged, it resist the build up of sulfur on the plates inside. common life of todays powersports battery is 2-3 years, but with a battery tender, a lot of my customers where getting 4-6 years from one battery and i have heard of some people getting 8+ years from one battery.
my recommendations are: buy a battery tender for every powersports battery you own. these things are well worth the investment. plug it in when winter rolls around, forget about it until spring.
this is my speech that i give all of my customers that come to the parts counter confused because their battery failed. i had on guy buy an 2008 sportsman 400 for his daughter for christmas. then he calls us up in april ready to ride for spring, but his furious because his ATV he bought 4 months ago with only 6 miles and 0.3 hours will not start. i asked if he had charged the battery at all during those 4 months, he said no, but continued to tell me it cant be the battery, the batter is brand new. he wouldnt accept the info i just shared above. anyway, he brought his machine in, we replaced his battery. (it was a yuasa, still under the 6 month manufacture warrranty) and as soon as we got a new batter in and some fresh fuel it fired right back to life. protect you wallet, and go have fun!
feel free to add, change, or edit if you feel i mis-stated something.