Have you ever woken up early in the morning to go for a refreshing morning ride, only to find that your motorcycle won’t start? Well, the most probable cause of that could be the low battery charge. “But a battery is meant to store charge,” you say. And that is true. The purpose of a battery is to store charge so that the electricity can be used for all the other requirements of the bike.
So by logic, it goes to say that the battery doesn’t have any charge because it is not charging. Although it might take you a while to find that the battery is not charging, once you do, you can quickly try and rectify the causes hampering your battery from storing charge.
Let us look at some of the easiest ways of troubleshooting a motorcycle that won’t charge.
1. Battery Is Dead
The first and the most probable cause of the motorcycle batteries not being able to store charge is that the battery might be dead. That doesn’t mean that the battery is useless or needs to be replaced (not always), but in fact, it tells us that the battery has no more charge left in it.
A motorcycle lead-acid battery is a rechargeable one, and simply charging it might be able to reverse the problem (although you also need to keep the battery life in mind). Also, the charging voltage is kept higher than the discharge voltage.
Other times though, the battery might have indeed outlived its use and needs to be replaced. At such times, a mere charge of external electricity won’t help.
You need to remove the old battery gently and replace it with a new one. Only then will the battery start to work normally again. Such a battery is said to be a Bad Battery, as it can no longer be of use to you in any form.
However, not many people know what symptoms to look at or why does the motorcycle battery die. I once left my bike overnight at a friend’s place, and by morning, found the battery to be dead. What exactly leads to a battery dying? Can the causes be inhibited or eliminated somehow? Is regular battery charging a good practice?
Reasons For A Dead Battery
Battery charging in a motorcycle happens while the bike is running. One of the most common reasons for the motorcycle battery not charging is a component that might have discharged the battery completely.
Although it is not that common, leaving the headlights on while the bike is parked can discharge the battery completely.
Another reason to keep in mind is the load on the battery. A battery is usually only used to power the bike and the various systems aboard it. But aftermarket gadget additions may put a drain on the battery, lowering its life.
Additionally, some motorcycles utilize all the battery’s power, leaving little for the aftermarket electrical system. This can lead to a lack of power and high demand. Removing some of the accessories is one of the surest ways of increasing the life of your battery.
Poor Ground Connection
Another reason for a dead battery is the poor ground connection between the frame and the battery itself. A proper check (or a once-over) can easily take care of this problem.
Just ensure that all the connections are tight and firm and are not hampered by any dirt or unwanted material. Using sandpaper or a Scotch Brite to clean the connections before plugging them in is a good idea. Also, keeping the battery cables covered can help improve the life expectancy of the various battery components.
A circuit with a leak in it will inevitably cause the battery to die. This is because all the battery charges are being lost somewhere along with the connections, leaving the battery with lesser and lesser charges after each cycle.
Now finding the leak in the battery is relatively easy. You remove any other accessory that is not vital to the bike, turn the ignition off, and remove the negative battery terminal cable. Attach a volt-ohm meter to that point, and check the readings.
Ideally, the current drain should be zero, giving a zero reading on the voltmeter. But small (minuscule) currents may be visible sometimes. However, any and all current values beyond half an ampere need to be investigated further, as they are a source of the charge leak.
Now that you have determined that the battery is leaking, moving forward becomes tough. You need to now investigate and find out where the charge is leaking to.
This can be a pain in the “donkey” and might consume a lot of time. Having it checked out by a professional would be the best course of action.
Maintenance Of A Battery
There are many ways that a battery can die. We just discussed a few above. But taking care of a battery is more straightforward than finding a cure for a dead one. And as luck would have it, it involves doing the opposite of the reasons that lead to a dead battery. A few things need to be kept in mind-
- Do not overload your battery. Avoid putting accessories that might be colossal charge guzzlers.
- Check your bike before leaving it alone. Ensure that no electrical accessories are running when you don’t want them to.
- Do not press the ignition switch if the bike does not start after repeated attempts. This will further drain your battery.
- Clean the connections regularly, and do not let desirable materials (dirt, mud, dust) accumulate at the joints of the battery terminals. Also, ensure that the corroded terminals are thoroughly cleaned.
- Ensure that your bike does not lose charge. This will increase the battery life and reduce the load on the battery at once.
- Clean and tighten the cell caps regularly.
2. Alternator Is Not Working
An alternator changes the mechanical energy of the bike into electrical and stores it in the battery. On a typical day, an alternator will work just fine and charge your battery, working in tandem with the voltage regulator to deliver optimum charge to the battery.
However, a lousy regulator-rectifier can end up being the leading cause of a dead motorcycle battery. This is because the regulator rectifier stores the AC charge in the battery and changes it to DC whenever required by the electrical systems.
A bad alternator will also cause electricity leakage, thereby making it inefficient and useless. But it can get challenging to diagnose the problem with the only outward effect being a dead battery. So let us look at some ways to tell whether an alternator is in working condition or just bad.
How To Tell It Is A Bad Alternator
One of the easiest ways of checking the status of an alternator is to jumpstart the battery. If it jumpstarts but doesn’t start normally, the problem is not with the battery but the alternator.
If it doesn’t jumpstart and doesn’t start normally either, the battery is dead and might need to be replaced.
Another way is to remove the motorcycle battery, charge it externally, and check the voltmeter values. If the battery shows charge, the alternator is at fault, and the battery is fine.
However, if there is no reading even on the voltmeter, the battery is dead.
3. Regulator – Rectifier Is Damaged
A regulator converts that AC voltage to DC and makes it fit for storage in the battery. But if the rectifier itself is bad, then the battery won’t be charged.
So if you have checked the battery and are sure that there is nothing wrong with it, you should check the alternator. However, if all the components are working fine, the problem likely lies with the rectifier.
The rectifier is an essential part of the charging system. It works with the regulator to ensure that your battery is not boiled due to high electricity and receives enough AC power to keep functioning.
A bad regulator-rectifier setup is challenging to identify and diagnose. Hence it is best if you have it checked out at a dealer or by a professional.
4. A Blown Fuse In The Motorcycle
A blown fuse means that the charge in the motorcycle’s electrical system went beyond the threshold limits. The fuse then melts and protects that motorcycle from further harm.
So, if the new battery is not sharing even after going through the tests as mentioned above, you should have the fuse checked, and in case it has blown off, you should have it replaced.
Inspecting and Replacing Fuses
Turn the ignition off, and remove the battery connections. Then remove the fuse and inspect it. If the fuse has blown, you need to replace it with another fuse of the same rating.
Using a different fuse will end up causing more harm and is not at all recommended.
If the fuse keeps blowing up repeatedly, then you should have your motorcycle checked out by a dealer, as there is likely a fault with the system somewhere that needs to be rectified.
Steps To Replace A Blown Fuse
In case you need to replace the fuse at home, follow the steps given below-
- Remove the bolts on the bike seat and pull it backward, thereby removing the bike seat.
- Now, use a fuse puller from your toolkit to remove the fuses from the bike one by one. You need to check the fuses to find out the blown-out ones manually.
- Remove the blown fuse and replace the fuse with a spare one of the same rating. Do not use a differently rated fuse, as that will cause electric problems in the system.
- After replacing the fuse with a new one, put all the other fuses back, cover the fuse box and reinstall the seat.
5. Loose Or Broken Wires In Charging Circuit
No matter how much you clean and maintain your bike, this is a problem that will eventually creep into your motorcycle. Natural fatigue causes the many connections and, worse, the charging circuit to become loose and come out eventually.
Check all of the connections first, and ensure that everything is in place and tightly connected. Motorcycle riders are generally aware of the various connections in the bike, but you should check the manual to be on the safer side.
How long does a motorcycle battery last?
Typically, a motorcycle battery lasts for around two to five years before needing to be replaced.
Checking the battery fluid regularly can help prolong the life by a good many months.
How often should you check the battery?
Ideally speaking, you should check the battery every week. This will allow you to maintain the bike in good shape for a long time, thereby increasing the life of the various components.
You should also keep in mind to top up the battery’s electrolyte levels if it is not maintenance-free.
Can a motorcycle run without a battery?
Most bikes nowadays cannot work without a battery. A battery is required to start the bike and keep it running. Hence, it would not work.
A battery with a meager charge might be able to start the motorcycle with a slight push, but a dead battery won’t be able to start the bike, no matter what you do.