Motorcycle batteries need to be replaced every few years. When a motorcycle battery starts getting old, it can start to cause problems in modern motorcycles. We’ll cover how often you should replace a motorcycle battery, and when it is or isn’t time to replace it.
On average, a lead acid motorcycle battery can last between 2 to 5 years. A lithium-ion motorcycle battery can last 3 to 5 years. The lifespan of a motorcycle battery can vary greatly based on:
- battery capacity
- The type of battery
- The quality of the battery
- How the battery is used
- How well the battery is maintained
- How the battery is stored
If your battery is showing signs of weakness, issues starting your motorcycle, or electrical issues while riding your motorcycle, it’s a good idea to check your battery. Let’s look at what can effect your battery’s lifespan and how to know when it’s time to replace it.
What effects your motorcycle battery’s lifespan
1) Battery capacity
Larger capacity motorcycle batteries tend to be a bit more hardy than smaller ones. That’s why you may find yourself having to replace batteries more often on smaller motorcycles and scooters like my old Vespa S150. Custom choppers, bobbers, and cafe racers like my Honda CL350 also sometimes use smaller capacity batteries for aeto use small batteries for aesthetic purposes.
Larger capacity motorcycle batteries typically last longer than smaller capacity batteries because they have more energy stored in them. This means that they can be discharged over a longer period of time before they need to be recharged. Additionally, larger capacity batteries can also handle deeper discharge cycles which means they can be discharged to a lower state of charge and still retain their capacity over time. In general, a battery that is consistently only partially discharged will last longer than one that is consistently fully discharged.
Another reason is that larger batteries typically have more “reserve capacity”, which means they can supply a certain amount of power for a longer period of time before the voltage drops too low to be useful. This can be useful in case of a power outage or other emergency.
2) The type of battery
Most motorcycles come from factory with lead acid batteries, but lithium motorcycle batteries will actually last longer for three key reasons.
Lithium motorcycles batteries have a higher energy density, meaning they can store more energy in a smaller space. Lithium batteries also have a lower self-discharge rate, so they lose less of that energy over time when the battery is not in use. Finally, lithium motorcycle batteries have a higher cycle life, meaning they can be charged and discharged more times before reaching the end of their lifespan.
3) The quality of the battery
When it comes to lead acid batteries, Yuasa is the only brand I recommend. If I need a lithium battery, I’ll pay a little more for an Antigravity. Buying from a reputable name brand like these can mean your motorcycle battery will last longer.
Companies like Yuasa and Antigravity are known to use high quality chemicals and materials in their manufacturing. They maintain a high standard in both manufacturing and quality control standards. Fly by night battery brands will often value profits over reputation and may use cheaper quality lead or lithium, and less stringent manufacturing processes or standards.
4) How the battery is used
Personally, this is the one I worry about the least. How you use your battery is obviously going to impact the battery’s lifespan. Some things can be avoided, but others shouldn’t be.
For example, frequent shorter motorcycle rides, or frequent riding stopped in slow moving traffic, can be harder on your motorcycle battery. The battery is being forced to turn over the starter often on short rides. On rides sitting in traffic, the motorcycle’s RPMs may not be high enough to really recharge the battery fully. I don’t recommend avoiding riding your motorcycle in traffic or for short rides. I encourage you to ride every chance you can, but do so with the knowledge of how your motorcycle functions.
There are examples of riders hurting their battery which can and should be avoided however. Turning off your motorcycle with the kill switch and leaving the headlight on for a long time after is one example. Turning on your headlight and leaving it on as you gear up before hitting your starter a moment later is another.
5) How well the battery is maintained
Proper battery maintenance is one of the biggest factors in battery lifespan. Unfortunately, battery maintenance also gets neglected by motorcyclists quite often.
Did you ever notice that your motorcycle’s battery always tends to come with a cover over the top? That’s because dirt and grime building up on the terminals of the battery can create resistance which can shorten the battery’s lifespan.
Proper maintenance of lead-acid batteries means keeping the batteries charged up. Allowing a battery to be discharged too deeply, or leaving it in a discharged state for an extended period of time can shorten the battery’s lifespan as the lead plates inside the battery become sulfated . This damage can be irreversible and accumulates over time.
Just like undercharging or neglecting a battery can hurt it’s lifespan, so can overcharging a battery. Motorcycle batteries typically don’t like being charged over 1 Ah. A common problem is that people will plug them into car chargers, which charge at 5 Ah rate, which ends up cooking the battery. It’s important to buy a motorcycle-specific battery charger for your battery. Likewise, if you buy a lithium battery, it’s important to buy a lithium-specific battery charger.
6) How the battery is stored
The way a motorcycle battery is stored can also impact the battery’s lifespan. Lead acid batteries don’t like extreme temperatures, and it’s not just the cold you need to worry about! Excessive heat can cause the battery to degrade more quickly too.
What to do if you have a dead battery
1) Get yourself home if you can
If you’re reading this from the side of the road, good news, you can ask a by-stander with jumper cables to help you out.
Remember that cars need and produce much more voltage than our motorcycles are designed to handle. Hooking up to a running car can damage your motorcycle. Before you do anything, make sure to keep the car turned off.
All you’ll need to do is connect the red jumper cables to the positive battery terminals of both vehicles, and the black jumper cables. Then with the car still turned off, try to start the motorcycle. You can check out my full details on how to jumpstart your motorcycle, or in the video above.
2) Recharge it and test it
If you find yourself with a dead motorcycle battery, the first thing to do is grab your motorcycle-specific battery charger and recharge your battery. Once your battery is recharged, you’ll want to test your motorcycle battery to determine if it needs to be replaced, or if you can get away with simply recharging it.
Remember: Just because your battery could take a charge and start your motorcycle up again, doesn’t mean it won’t leave you stranded later on down the road. Sometimes you don’t need to spend over $100 on a new motorcycle battery, but sometimes you do. I recommend watching the video above, and checking on my article on how to tell if you need to replace (or just recharge) your motorcycle battery.
3) Replace it if you need to
If you find you need to replace your motorcycle battery, you don’t have to bring it to a shop. It’s easy to fill, charge, and replace a new motorcycle. You can check out the link to my how-to article, or watch the video below: