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How to test your motorbike electrical system?

Battery open circuit Voltage check

Charging Voltage test

Leakage/Drainage current test

Physical faults and maintenance

What types of batteries available on the market?

Conventional

Maintenance Free

Gel

Lithium

 

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How to test your motorbike electrical system?

OK, so you think that your battery died. It seems obvious to go out and purchase a new one, however it's highly recommended to follow the below quick and easy (let alone inexpensive) tests to find out what is causing the problem.

An average battery with little maintenance and a faultless electrical system should last a good 4-5 years. If you need to replace your battery more often than that, these below tests must be done as it is a good indicator of some kind of fault. All you need is a multimeter.

Battery open circuit Voltage check

This test will tell you the condition of your battery.

Gain access to your battery and set up your multimeter to 20V DC voltage measuring range. Connect it to the positive and negative terminal of the battery.

If your reading is under 12.5V, charge the battery with a suitable charger, wait an hour after it's fully charged and repeat the test.

After that if the result is still under 12.5V, it's time to replace the battery.

Expert advice: You can increase the life of your battery dramatically if you use a suitable charger regularly (most chargers include a quick connector to make it easy to use).

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Charging Voltage test

Regardless whether your battery failed or passed the previous test, it's recommended to continue with this check. Charging Voltage test will reveal whether your motorbike's charging circuit is working as it should.

Start the engine and leave the multimeter at 20V DC. Connect the multimeter to the positive and negative terminals as before and rev the engine up to 3-4,000 rpm.

Evaluate the test:

  • 13.5V - 14.9V
  • The charging system works as it should

  • <13.5V
  • Undercharging: the charging system is not capable of fully charging the battery while you are riding. Eventually your battery will go completely flat.

  • >14.9V
  • Overcharging: your motorbike uses higher charging voltage than it should, this will slowly cook your battery causing it to die. Commonly the problem is caused by a faulty regulator.

Warning!

If your motorbike fails this test, we don't recommend to buy any kind of lithium battery.

Expert advice: Commonly overcharging is caused by a faulty regulator while undercharging is a faulty alternator. There are known typical model problems, so browse the forums before you purchase a new part or take your motorcycle to a workshop.

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Leakage/Drainage current test

If you haven't riden your bike for a while and you notice that your battery is deeply discharge, this is a sign of a hidden load or leakage current draining your battery.

Set your multimeter to A, disconnect the positive terminal of the battery. Connect one end of the multimeter to the disconnected terminal and the other to the disconnected cable.

Ideally the reading will be 0, however any number below 5mA is acceptable.

If the reading is above that, it could be:

  • Faulty switch
  • Frayed cable
  • Incorrectly fitted extra (ie alarms, heated grips, extra lights etc)

Expert advice:If the reading is anything above 0, it's recommended to charge your battery between ridings and monitor the charge level. Alternatively fit a battery master switch, so you can separate your battery from the electric system for the times when it is off the road for a longer period.

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Physical faults and maintenance

Very often problems are caused by a damage and tear in the cable or a rust and residue on the terminals and connectors. Workshops might charge you for a new part when in reality all your electric parts need is a good cleaning and a throughout check.

Battery:

Clean the poles from residue using an electrical cleaner and protect it with terminal grease.

Fuse box:

Remove the fuses one-by-one and clean it with electrical cleaner.

Grounding cable:

Check for any damage, if found any, replace with a new one. If not, clean the connectors with electrical cleaner.

Any other cables and connectors:

Check all the cables for damages, tears and burns. Replace if found any. Clean the connectors with electrical cleaner.

Expert advice:

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What types of batteries available on the market?

In general for motorcycles there are 4 main types of batteries based on the structure:

  • Conventional
  • Maintenance-Free
  • Gel
  • Lithium

 

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Conventional

Also known as standard, open cells or lead-acid battery.

The easiest way to recognise this is that all of them are fitted with a breathing hose. Since the cells are open, it requires refilling with de-ionised water.

How to fit

The battery is delivered as dry and requires filling with acid (all our batteries are sold with the acid pack included, but there are a lot of batteries on the market which are sold without it). Remove the cells' cups and fill in the acid up to the marks. Leave to stand for an hour and then charge it with a suitable charger. Refit the cups and the battery is ready to be used.

This type of battery is not maintenance free, check the acid level at least once a month and if it is below the minimum mark, refill with de-ionised water.

Pros

  • Cheapest type of battery
  • Perfect for older motorcycles and occasionally the only option for them
  • Simple and reliable
  • Widely available

Cons

  • Acid can leak
  • Lower performance
  • Requires maintenance
  • Not ready to be fitted
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Maintenance Free

Also known as closed cells battery.

The main difference compared between this and the standard is that the cells are closed. After initial filling with acid, you don't need to refill with de-ionised water.

How to fit

The battery is delivered as dry and requires filling with acid. The pack always includes the exact quantity and comes in an easy-fill bottle. Remove the protective foil from the battery, fill it with the acid pack. Leave to stand for an hour and then charge it with a suitable charger. Use the plastic top to cover the acid cells.

After this battery is ready to be fitted and used. Never remove the plastic top. It doesn't require any further re-filling with acid or de-ionised water, however it might still require charging.

Pros

  • Maintenance free
  • Reliable
  • Fairly priced
  • No acid leaking
  • Widely available
  • Can be fitted in an up to 90ยบ angle

Cons

  • Not ready to be fitted
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Gel

In these batteries the acid has been replaced with a gel material.

 

How to fit

Very easy, remove the old battery and fit the new gel battery straight away. It comes filled and charged.

Once the battery is fitted, it doesn't require any maintenance, however it might still need re-charging.

Pros

  • Maintenance free
  • Ready to be fitted
  • Best performance
  • Long lifetime
  • No acid leaking
  • Can be fitted in an angle
  • Better vibration resistance

Cons

  • Heavier than lithium
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Lithium

In the last 10 years it has conquered the motorsport world. Recently more and more brands are using it in road bikes as standard (ie. BMW, KTM, Ducati). It is a based on a completely different technology and doesn't contain lead at all, therefore it is 75% less in weight than all the other types of batteries.

We are proud to be selling the battery brand which has been selected by KTM.

How to fit

Very easy, remove the old battery and fit the new lithium battery straight away. It comes fully charged.

Once the battery is fitted, it doesn't require any maintenance, however it might still need re-charging.

Pros

  • Maintenance free
  • Lightweight (75% less)
  • High CCA (cold cranking Amps)
  • Very low self discharge
  • Waterproof
  • Longest lifetime
  • Can be fitted in any position, even upside down
  • Quick charge available
  • Vibration and heat resistance

Cons

  • Sensitive to faulty charging system and leakage/drainage
  • Lower capacity
  • Can't be used with trickle charger
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