Looking after your bike’s battery this winter

An often neglected part of motorcycle maintenance, here’s a brief guide to keeping your motorcycle batteries in tip top condition this winter.

A proper long-term battery care routine is vital to keep performance at its optimum throughout the cold months. As the temperature drops, the chemical reaction inside the battery slows down, reducing its capacity to accept a charge. Add to that the increased strain from increased use of headlights and auxiliary/fog lighting, heated grips and you’re heading for battery failure.

And, even if you don’t use your bike very often through the winter months, charge is still lost to alarms/immobilisers, clocks and on-board computers – and of course, through self-discharge, as the battery saps a little of its own energy every day to stay alive.

Regularly charging and maintaining your battery not only keeps it working to maximum capacity, it can also double its working life, as well as significantly reducing the likelihood of failure. Thankfully, most intelligent motorcycle battery chargers come with leads which can be permanently fixed to your battery, with the battery connector neatly hidden away in the bike – making charging just a matter of plugging the connector in to the charger.

Types of chargers

TRICKLE CHARGERS charge the battery continually at a fixed rate. However, they require a watchful eye as they do not have a way of responding when a battery is fully charged. Leaving them to charge excessively can damage the battery.

TAPER CHARGERS decrease the amount of current delivered through the battery as the voltage rises. As with trickle chargers they require a watchful eye to avoid overcharging. Both taper and trickle chargers are slow.

PULSE OR INTELLIGENT CHARGERS monitor and collect feedback from the battery’s voltage during the charging process and drop into a standby mode once the battery is fully charged. When the battery naturally discharges to a certain level the charger will go into charging mode and restore the battery to its normal charge. A pulse charger can be left unattended for long periods of time, but you should still carry out periodic fluid level checks.


Don’t forget

  • If your bike has an alarm or immobiliser fitted, a battery can reach a deeply discharged state within matter of days.
  • Never user a car battery charger to charge a motorcycle battery – car chargers supply more current than a motorcycle battery can cope with and can damage the battery beyond repair.
  • Conventional and Yumicron type batteries need to have their electrolyte checked and topped up with distilled water at regular intervals. Maintenance free batteries use processes that quickly re-absorb the gas into the electrolyte and therefore never need topping up.
  • Weather and temperature can affect the rate of discharge and functionality of the battery. Hotter temperatures rapidly accelerate the self-discharging process – while a discharged battery is less resistant to the cold and may freeze at -1°C.
  • Inspect the battery cables, posts and fasteners. If necessary, clean the terminals with a stiff brush or battery cleaner spray. Make sure the cables and their housings are in good shape and the connectors are secured tightly to the battery.