Help! Dead Battery
December 29, 2010 at 1:27 am #4301
Need some advice here regarding battery longevity. I went to get on my CBR this week and it would not start. After 3-4 tries the power just kept decreasing until it had no juice. I assume this means my battery didn’t have enough power to start the bike up? This also happened last winter but a jump-start got it going and no more problems till this winter.
I am assuming that the cold weather drained the battery. Keep in mind that we have mild winters here. Our lows are generally in the 30s and highs are in the 60s. I do keep my bike in the back yard in the open. In the winter I ride it about once a week. I generally try to start it up about once a week. Other then this issue I have not had any mechanical problems with my bike.
First, what’s the life span of a motorcycle battery? I have an 07 Honda CBR which I purchased from the dealer in 08 (new). It has the same battery it came with.
If it is the battery, what can I do to not have to get a new battery every winter? Keep in mind that I do not have an outlet for a battery tender outside. I also don’t have a garage to store the bike in.
I can jump start it but my friend claims that motorcycle batteries are sensitive. He claims that once you drain them, they tend to be unreliable. Is this accurate?
I am dreading having to spend $100 and just want to avoid this in the future. Thanks.December 29, 2010 at 2:15 am #28953
You’ve identified the problems pretty well – cold, stored in the open, no battery tender, ran infrequently. When you do start the bike, do you run it long enough, at high enough rpm, for the battery to charge? It’s generally true that a fully drained battery would suffer some degree of permanent damage, but it seems yours was just low.
The only thing I can think of is to remove the battery from the bike and store the battery indoors. Even better if you could have the battery hooked up to a battery tender indoors.December 29, 2010 at 3:14 am #28954
I run it for 10 minutes, give or take, but I dont rev it too much. What RPM should I keep it at?
I don’t remove the battery since I do tend to use it about once a week. Taking it on and off would be a pain.December 29, 2010 at 4:03 am #28955
If you only let it idle for 10 minutes, with the headlight and taillight on, I don’t think you’d charge the battery much. You may even be draining the battery with a low engine speed and the lights on. I don’t know what rpm you need to be at for max charging current – that depends on each bike’s charging system – but I’d guess it needs to be 3k rpm or above. Even then, not sure if 10 min per week is enough, especially when it’s cold, besides the fact that running the engine but not going anywhere is a pretty inefficient way to charge the battery.December 29, 2010 at 5:04 am #28956
Good point Gary. I’ll keep this in mind as soon as I get a new battery. Thanks.December 29, 2010 at 2:25 pm #28958
Three years is about par for battery life in my experience also. If you visually inspect the battery electrolyte, you may notice a heavy accumulation of lead sulphate (white goop) in the bottom of the battery casing. Once the sulphate crystals buildup reaches the plates, the battery shorts out internally and prevents it from taking a full charge.
I have read and believe it true that; the older a battery is the longer it requires to charge and the correct charging rate also needs to be reduced proportionately. We are not talking small changes here either! When new, a battery will completely charge in less than 1 hour and when they are old they require many days to fully charge at a considerably reduced charging rate. Fast charging is also known to shorten a batteries life or even destroy the battery.
An really old guy told me to never sit a battery on the concrete floor either, always sit it up on a board or bench. The notion being that electricity is synonymous with magnetism and it’s trying to find its way to earth, sitting it on the ground will cause it to drain faster. Believe this part or not, totally your choice. But I sit mine up off the ground now because it’s not that hard to do and he might be right.December 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm #28960
That last bit gave me a good laugh. Been so long since I did any physics classes I can’t disprove it but if ever there was a candidate for old wives (or old man’s) tales this is it. You really think the earths magnetic force is significantly different between your bench and the ground?December 29, 2010 at 7:43 pm #28962
Kirk, wouldn’t it be possible for you to run an extension cord to the backyard and hook up a battery tender that way? You don’t need to do that 24/7, but I’d try doing it maybe 1 full day per week when it’s not raining, and see how that works out in keeping the battery charged up. For safety you’d want to use an out-door rated cord plugged into a GFCI circuit.December 29, 2010 at 7:47 pm #28961
I’m an EE, and circuit 101 says current, like water, cannot flow unless there is a closed loop/path. In a battery, there must be a path between the + and the – terminals for the current to flow, i.e., the battery to drain. One can connect the battery + terminal to earth/concrete floor, but if there is no path back to the – terminal, no current will flow, and no drain will occur.
However, current drain is not the only way the battery gets weak. Since batteries generate electricity from chemical reaction internally, temperature has a big affect on the chemistry, i.e., low temperature slows down chemical reaction significiantly. I’m guessing that the concrete floor, being colder and a better heat conductor than a bench top, could have the effect of chilling the battery more. I don’t know if that would cause permanent damage or not, but maybe it depends on how cold it gets where you are, ’cause I guess you wouldn’t want a wet-cell battery to freeze.
Now, the funny thing is, for dry-cell disposable batteries (AA, C, D, etc.), they say to keep them in refrigerators to keep them fresh longer, i.e., slows down the internal chemical reaction. You just need to let them warm up enough before use.December 29, 2010 at 8:06 pm #28963
Jeff in KentuckyParticipant
I do not start the engine unless I am going to ride the bike 20 miles to more fully charge the battery. My last Walmart battery lasted 7 years. I think it was partly luck. I replaced the original battery after a year, but it turned out to be a problem with the auto fuel valve stuck closed instead of the battery.
I do not use a battery charger, except to fully charge a new battery before installing it according to the battery directions, and the longest I go without riding in the winter is one month, because it gets below 40 degrees F for a daily high temperature.
Also check the tightness of the battery terminals- sometimes they get loose from vibration and cause battery problems. I added stainless steel lockwashers at the battery terminals when I replaced the battery.
Another trick is to put some red plastic spray can narrow tube extensions under the terminal nuts when installing a new battery, to make it easier to start threading the terminal bolts in from above, then remove these tubes afterwards.December 29, 2010 at 8:26 pm #28965
My DRZ recently died due to a weak battery DURING a night ride.
I hadn’t ridden it for almsot a month (due to travel and stuff). The bike started a bit hesitantly but then it ran fine. About three miles down the road, I got stuck at a traffic light for a couple of minutes, because the police had blocked off the road due to an accident. When I finally got clear, I made it to the next light, and as I slow down and signaled to turn, the bike died. It woudn’t restart, and the cranking got weaker quickly. My wife came by and gave me a jump from the car battery, and the bike started right up. I rode it home in heavy rain just fine. The bike sat for another 2 weeks, and yesterday I rode it to work and back home (39 miles total) ok.
I think what happened was I started with a weak battery (from sitting for nearly a month), didn’t go far, and then idling at the light, with the brake light on, drained the battery below the level to keep the bike running.December 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm #28966
Thank you all for the helpful advise. And by the way, my dad also used to preach about leaving a battery on the concrete floor. Haha! I couldn’t help but laugh after reading your scientific explanation. I laugh because you make sense but what chance does science hold against a family tradition? Haha!
Gary, I guess I could run a really long cord from the house outside. I didn’t want to do this because the closest plug is a bit old. Didn’t want to start a fire. I will be taking the battery out this weekend and in the process I’ll check the connections. Either way I think I will be replacing the battery since this is the second time it dies. I am paranoid that it is permanently damaged and it will leave me stranded somewhere.
Jeff, would it be safe to assume that rather then turning on the bike for 10 minutes once a week, a 20 mile ride is preferable once a month?December 30, 2010 at 12:26 am #28967
With some further investigation I found this article and some basis for the Old Guy Theory
Still puzzled by the surface “grime” thing though, it almost contradicts everything he said previously?
…I really enjoyed the “Grandfather Clause”
A storage battery on a trickle charger is a completed circuit.December 30, 2010 at 1:08 am #28968
Good article – myth busted!
The surface “grime” (acid, dirt, moisture, etc., on a battery case), being ever so slightly more conductive than a clean surface, could allow a tiny bit of current to flow between the + and the – terminals, thereby speeding up the self-discharge of the battery.
A storage battery on a trickle charger is a completed circuit – of course; the battery couldn’t be charged unless there is a compelted circuit. The charger takes energy from the ac wall outlet, converting ac to the suitable dc voltage and current, and “pushes” the charges into the battery. The dc side of the charger circuit (two leads, + and -) forms a complete loop with the battery.December 30, 2010 at 1:50 am #28970
Here’s another one for you; have you ever visited a power generating station and seen birds attempting to land on the extreme high voltage power outputs? Try as they might they simply can not land on those conductors, they get close and appear to bounce right off. Here is an excerpt from elsewhere describing this same extreme voltage phenomena that I once witnessed: “(in fact, it’s so high that birds can’t land on the wires because the magnetic field surrounding them is so strong, the birds are physically repelled).”
…how cool is that ?
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