Battery Maintenance


  • How do I store my bike battery for the winter? Last year I left it in the bike & it was stone dead in May. {Mike, NJ, 1983 XS650 Special}

  • Do I need to use a special "bike battery" charger or is a regular auto charger ok? {Neil, ME, 2004 CRF250X used}


Since these questions were both about Battery Maintenance, we decided to answer them together.

Never leave the battery in your bike over the winter. Or any other long period of time, like a military deployment or college semester. At the end of the riding season, disconnect the battery & take it out of the bike. Mark the positive (+) terminal with a dab of red nail polish or red electrical tape.

Yes, most batteries have a sticker or red rubber boot on the positive terminal but do it anyway. Its a battery, filled with acid. Stickers & things tend to corrode & disappear.

Next, place the battery in a plastic tray. The lid to a storage tub or a cat litter pan are cheap & work well. This gives you a way to contain accidental leakage and to carry it without actually handling the battery. I know you're thinking "Pick it up Girl Scout! Its just a battery." You try explaining to the ER doctor how you got battery acid in your eye. Besides, if your bike has a steel battery tray, this will stop it from turning to dust from rust & corrosion.

I prefer to store batteries in the garage or shed, not in the house. The temperature changes are less extreme and there is less risk of battery fumes making someone sick. Don't have a garage? Keep it at your buddy's place.

What are the fumes and what can they do to you?

Traditional automotive and powersport batteries contain a liquid acid and lead plates.  The acid reacts with the plates causing a chemical reaction which produces the electrical current.  They have a vent tube and filling ports.  The vent tube normally releases the small amount of fumes that are constantly being created as a byproduct of the chemical reaction.  Usually hydrogen or sulfuric acid gas.

If a battery gets knocked over the acid can escape through the tube or filling ports & evaporate.  The odorless airborne acid vapors (fumes) now get on your skin, in your eyes & you breathe them into your lungs.  Yummy.

According to the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) prepared by manufacturers' of batteries, vapors from a battery can cause skin irritation, severe burns, blindness, respiratory distress and pneumonitis of the lungs.  Do you really want to keep this in your house?

Now that you have moved your battery out of the house, let's continue.

If you keep a battery charged, you keep it alive. A floating or trickle charger will charge the battery safely. Once the battery reads a full charge, they automatically switch their output voltage over to a lower, float or trickle level. You do not have to check on it, disconnect & reconnect. Just leave it alone.

At the beginning of riding season, your battery will be fresh and ready to go. That's the simplest battery maintenance I know of.

We have used Battery Tender chargers for initial charging and battery maintenance in our shops for at least the last 15 years, with great results. I have found them to be easy to use, safe, dependable and reasonably priced.

I had experienced the hassle of forgetting a battery on charge and having it be "boiled away" by the next morning using other brand chargers. The trickle charging feature of Battery Tenders avoids the danger of this ever happening again. They do not cause huge electric bills and if there is a power outage, they do not draw the current back out of the battery on charge.

You can charge bike batteries with Battery Tenders or most automotive chargers. Provided that you use a 12v charger on a 12v battery and the proper amp setting. Some older bikes are 6v systems. You can get trickle chargers that have multiple volt/amp settings for charging 6v or 12v batteries. You do not need something just for motorcycles.

For proper battery maintenance, you can buy a Battery Tender or a similar trickle charger on Amazon.

Use the Ask a Question form below to send us your motorcycle, ATC, ATV, moped, scooter or dirtbike repair and maintenance questions.

Be sure to check the Q&A link list below or use our search page to see if we have already addressed your topic.

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