If you’ve been tinkering around with your motorcycle’s battery or trying to do some home repairs, you’ve likely come across the term ‘rectifier’. The rectifier is an extremely important battery component. Lots of battery issues stem from a malfunctioning rectifier with bad connections or voltage issues.
What does a rectifier do on a motorcycle?
A rectifier is a device that changes alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). Essentially, it takes the AC power from the grid and converts it into DC power. Without the rectifier, your motorcycle battery will drain voltage and you won’t be able to start your engine.
Will a motorcycle start with a bad rectifier?
Believe it or not, but this tiny rectifier could stand in the way between your motorcycle getting up and running, and you won’t be able to use it regularly.
The rectifier is responsible for converting AC power to DC power and then storing this power in the battery. You can only charge the battery with a rectifier and regulator. Starting a motorcycle requires the battery to be working properly, so a bad rectifier will prevent your motorcycle from starting.
Does a motorcycle rectifier need a regulator?
The motorcycle rectifier is often attached directly to the stator’s output via a set of electrical connections known as “the Regulator Unit.”
The regulator unit ensures that electricity flows in one direction only from the battery positive terminal through the Rectifier. After this, it flows from the ground through to the stator windings where it is turned into direct current. This process is known as rectification.
Some motorcycles do not have a dedicated rectifier regulator but use diodes instead to accomplish this task. Diodes are much smaller than standard rectifiers so they can be placed anywhere other than the top of the stator (which is where most motorcycle manufacturers choose to install their devices because of regulatory requirements)
There may be fewer or more components involved in converting AC into DC current before it reaches other parts of the electrical system in some motorcycles.
These devices are all meant to ensure that electricity from either battery or alternator gets supplied to all necessary areas with enough voltage and amperage for perfect operation. The regulator also plays a role to prevent overcharging in the battery.
Key Signs of a Failing Rectifier/How do I know my motorcycle rectifier is bad?
Here are the main symptoms to look out for:
- Your battery is giving you trouble. This might mean it’s difficult to start your motorcycle,
- The main electrical accessories that are dependent on the battery will start acting up. You might notice that the meter readings are fluctuating, or irregular meter readings. This is also an indication of a battery issue.
- You might see dimming headlights since the battery is unable to supply sufficient voltage to them.
Reasons Why Your Motorcycle Rectifier Isn’t Working
There are a few possible scenarios in which your motorcycle rectifier stops working and needs to be replaced. As you know by now, the rectifier is an essential part of the motorcycle battery and has to be replaced as soon as it starts malfunctioning. This isn’t one of those parts you want to postpone replacing, not if you value your two-wheeler!
Here are the reasons why your motorcycle rectifier isn’t working:
- Rectifier is overheating
- Rectifier using too much current (Regulator failing)
- Rectifier has faced water damage
- Rectifier is either corroded or worn out through wear and tear
Reason #1: Your Motorcycle Rectifier is overheating
One of the easiest ways for a rectifier to fail is by overheating. Overheating is a more complicated issue than it sounds, and it’s best to catch it in its early stages. There has been the occasional case of an overheated rectifier neglected that later explodes or catches fire.
The main reason why a rectifier overheats is because of insufficient airflow over the component (due to incorrect mounting or because of the way it’s used). Some models of modern motorcycles tend to place it too close to the radiator.
And while it is rare, excessive heat might also be generated because of a poor-quality motorcycle rectifier. Always stick to original equipment manufacturers when you’re replacing any part of your battery.
Solution: This is one of the few cases where you may not need to replace your regulator rectifier just yet. There’s still a chance that a different placement can stop the excessive heat and get it back to normal. See if you can get a second opinion from a mechanic to look at any alternate placements for the regulator so that it’s not too close to the radiator and has some space to breathe.
Reason #2: Your Motorcycle Rectifier is using too much current (Failing Regulator)
The Rectifier could also fail due to using too much dc power. Like all electrical components, it has an optimal range in terms of how much power it should handle at any given time. Going beyond that amount can lead to overheating, which causes further damage (due to insulation issues). A good voltage regulator prevents too much ac voltage from traveling to the battery terminals.
Solution: You’ll have to check if the regulator is working. If your motorcycle has a separate regulator and rectifier, you might be able to salvage the rectifier. It’s easy to detect a battery overcharge. Excess power will always result in a diode burnout and the bike’s rectifier is almost always at fault. You’ll need to use a voltmeter to check the voltage — if it is anywhere higher than 14.5 volts, you know that there’s too much dc voltage, and a replacement is needed. Always take a look at the alternator to ensure that it’s working alright.
Reason #3: Your Motorcycle Rectifier has faced water damage
Like all electrical components on a motorcycle, the Rectifier is going to be susceptible to water damage. If it’s mounted in an environment where there’s lots of moisture or if there’s a chance that any water will get inside the case itself, you’ll need to make sure it gets properly sealed.
Solution: Unfortunately, if there’s been any water damage, it’s likely been significant enough for you to notice that there’s something wrong (such as your bike not starting up!). At this stage, the damage has likely led to poor starts and may have affected the alternator as well. Find the source of the water damage so the same thing doesn’t happen to your replacement!
Reason #4: Rectifier is either corroded or worn out through wear and tear
Corrosion can start as early as the first time you use that component. Letting corrosion build up inside of the Rectifier is never a good idea. This can cause it to fail, and if this component fails under load, you’re going to be left with some serious problems. If the motorcycle’s charging system isn’t working, your battery will drain until it’s totally dead.
This means that you won’t have any lights, your starter motor will be useless, and it might even mean that the valves inside your cylinder head will become flooded with fuel (which could lead to internal damage).
Solution: There’s no safety measure against corrosion — once it’s happened, you’ll have to get a replacement. A regular rectifier should have anti-corrosive finishes to prevent it from happening, so make sure that there’s no excessive moisture content around your battery.
When it comes down to it, rectifiers are (usually) reliable devices. Assuming they’re installed properly and working as intended, there’s no reason that they won’t last a long time. While other components on your motorcycle can fail without warning, there’s a good chance that a working rectifier will be able to see you through countless miles of use.
It’s always going to be important to have the component properly protected from all sources of moisture and other damage. Even still, if something does go wrong, you’ll need to make sure it’s replaced as soon as possible. If you let the damage get too severe before replacing the part, you may end up with some irreparable problems that can’t be fixed. Just make sure it’s the rectifier at fault and not your alternator!
Check out our article here if you have any questions about your motorcycle battery not charging!