Naturally, having a motorcycle can be an absolute dream- allowing you explore the world from atop your mechanical horse, so to speak. It makes light work of traffic, cuts down on trying to find parking spaces and gives you that almost indescribable feeling of freedom, no matter where you decide to travel. Of course, if you only ever use your motorbike once in a blue moon, then you’ll know how much of a pain it can be when your battery dies.
Before you begin, you’ll need to be sure of the following:
- Ensure the battery is the part that is faulty. Check these simple rules to see if they could be at fault, before you start:
Is the bike in neutral? In-built safety features will not usually allow a bike to start that is in gear
Is the kickstand down? While not all bikes have this feature, there are some that will not allow a bike to start-up without the kickstand being suitably placed for riding (ie. up)
Is there enough fuel? It might sound a little obvious, but we’ve all had one of those moments that causes us to have a “brain fart”- where something so simple slips our mind and we feel pretty silly, after we realise what it is!
- You should also make sure you’re in a safe area. Preferably away from busy roads, where you can work on your bike, safely. It’s also preferable to stay in a well-ventilated area, in case the battery is shook up or damaged.
- You should have soap and water to hand. Battery acid spillages can be lethal, causing harm to you and your environment. Keeping a simple solution of soap and water nearby can help avoid serious burns.
How to Charge a Motorcycle Battery Without a Charger
There are two ways to restart and charge your motorcycle battery without a charger. Neither are particularly simple, although we’ll start with one that everyone may be a little more family with- the push start.
The push start will only work if you are able to pick up enough speed for your bike to register the movement- so if you can get the help of a stranger, that is ideal. Otherwise, you may have to find a hill or slope to begin the next series of steps!
- Pop your bike into 2nd The first is, surprisingly, not as reliable for push-starts.
- Press your clutch and roll the bike
- Once you’re at jogging speed, release your clutch
- As soon as this is done, put your bike into neutral and rev your bike as much as is safe, while pumping the throttle to avoid the battery dying, again
- Carefully ride your bike home or to your nearest garage, so you can fully investigate your battery and charge it fully, if required.
The second option is to jump-start your bike. I place this as secondary as you’ll usually need someone who is willing and able to lend you their transport for a few minutes while your bike’s battery charges. You’ll also need some jumper cables, or be able to borrow some from a kind stranger.
If you’re jump starting using a car, be sure to leave the car off. Unlike jump starting another car, the battery may be a little too powerful for most bikes and therefore the car can be left off while you sort your battery out. Of course, jump starting using another bike is different, and can be treated in the same way you would if jump starting another car- by leaving the bike on during the process. Once you’ve decided on your host vehicle and taken the appropriate measures, follow these instructions:
- Connect the red clamp to the positive terminal of your bike’s battery
- Connect the black clamp to the frame of the bike (why the frame? To avoid destroying your battery)
- Attach the other red clamp to the positive terminal of the working battery
- Attach the other black clamp to the negative terminal of the working battery (ensuring that the black and red clamp do not touch each other during this process)
- Start your motorcycle. This may take a few tries, so don’t be disheartened.
- If the bike does not start at all, it could be that your battery is completely drained
- Leaving your bike running, you should disconnect the cables IN THE FOLLOWING ORDER ONLY:
- The black clamp from the live battery
- The black clamp from the other battery
- The red cable from the live battery
- The red cable from the other battery
You should also be sure that the cables do not touch each other when disconnecting your clamps.
How to Charge a Dead Motorcycle Battery
If you’re forward-thinking enough, you should have a charger on you. This can make the process so much easier and means you’re less likely to damage your battery while trying to restart it! If not, you’ll need to find out your battery type and buy the corresponding charger that is appropriate for your bike. The following instructions are based on your having the correct charger type:
- Ensuring your bike is switched off, you’ll need to disconnect an remove your battery. This avoids any nearby components being damaged during the charging process. If you’re struggling to find the best way to do this, refer to your manual for specific instructions
- The charger should then be connected to the battery using the correct terminals (positive and negative)
- Once connected, switch your charger on. If the charger itself isn’t a modern “smart charger”, you’ll need to stay nearby to keep an eye on your battery. An overcharged battery can lead to leaks and even the battery exploding. On the other hand, a smart charger will automatically switch itself off when it senses the battery is fully charged.
- Switching off your charger, you can then detach the cables and place your battery back in to your bike. Once all the components are reconnected as is normal, you can start your bike!
Charge Your Battery Without Removing it From Your Bike
If you were wondering about charging motorcycle battery while on the bike, don’t worry. All you’ll need are cables that are small enough to fit into your battery storage. You can also use a battery tender.
Battery tenders have been around since 1965 and are a reliable alternative to the usual chargers, since they are designed to fit with your bike and the subsequent lifespan of the bike’s battery charge. In other words, these are designed to keep your bike’s battery charged during long periods of hibernation. If you don’t use your bike on a regular basis- preferring to take it for a spin on the warmer days or for shorter drives- this is a must-have item for your motorcycle.
Another alternative to this is the trickle charger, although a battery tender is more safety-conscious, with spark-free technology and an easy-to-read system that keeps you updated on your battery’s wellbeing. The tender is also less likely to try to continually charge your battery in the way that a trickle charger might, since it has the technology to turn itself off when the battery is fully charged- meaning there’s less accidents likely.
Here’s how to use your Battery Tender:
- As above, you’ll need to keep some soap and water nearby, in case of any battery acid spillages.
- Keep the charger itself as far away as the battery cables will allow.
- Ensuring the tender is switched off, you’ll need to keep any cables free from local trappings (doors, movables etc that can catch your wires)
- Locate the Positive (Pos or +) and Negative (Neg or – ) battery posts
- Connect the charger clips appropriately
- Turn on your charger
There are a few variations on this- as we all know every bike type and brand will be different- which can be seen, in full, on the Battery Tender website.
Things To Look Out For When Charging Your Motorbike
Charging a motorcycle battery at 2 amps can be considered a “quick charge” which means you may damage your battery. Of course, some bikes might be able to handle this, so check with the manual, first. The general rule of thumb, however, is to charge your bike’s battery at no more than one tenth of its rating.
In other words, a 20-amp battery can totally take a 2amp charge over 10 hours. However, a 15-amp battery would boil, overheat and may even explode due to the aggressive charging rate. And it’s usually in everyone’s best interest to avoid explosions where necessary.
Be careful not to spill any battery acid on yourself. As mentioned above, this is damaging to the skin and can cause corrosion. It’s best to have some soap and water handy to clean up any spills. If your skin is still reacting, it can be worth visiting a medical professional who may be able to help further.
Always take your time when changing a battery or using any of the equipment mentioned above. While it can be frustrating to have your motorcycle’s battery die when you need it most, it’s better to go slow and be safe than rush and end up seriously harming yourself.