Lead-Acid Batteries vs. Lithium Batteries: What to Buy
Lead-acid batteries have been around for a while and are popular because they’re inexpensive. Typically, they sell five times cheaper than lithium-based batteries. Besides just considering cost, which type of battery should you choose?
Lead-acid batteries are heavy, contain lead plates, and depend on sulfuric acid to run. However, over the past few years, the world of motorcycle batteries has been “revolutionized” by the advent of lithium, a light and soft element that’s being used to power everything from motorcycles to cell phones.
So, are lithium batteries really better than traditional lead-acid batteries? Bikers and mechanics alike will say yes and here is why: Lithium batteries outlast lead-acid batteries. You can go through several lead-acids before you wear out just one lithium-iron. Also, lithium-irons are better at holding a charge. Their self-discharge rate is 10 percent per year compared to lead-acid’s self-discharge of one percent per day. Next, lithium-irons will continue to crank until it’s completely dead, whereas lead-acids are virtually unable to crank once their charge goes below 50-70 percent.
Another important difference to note is how much safer lithium-iron batteries are compared to lead-acid batteries. The latter is notorious for containing dangerous sulfur, being highly flammable, and occasionally leaking acid.
Installing and Taking Care of a New Battery
Regardless of what type of battery you purchase, there are some simple guidelines to follow when installing it into your motorcycle. The first thing you should do is charge your battery to full capacity. This is also something you should do any time you find that your battery has gone dead.
Installing a new battery isn’t difficult; however, you should begin by reading the factory service manual that came with your bike. Next, you have to find where the battery is located, for which the manual will prove handy. Once you’ve found it, don’t just disconnect all the cables at once. You need to start with the negative cable first, which is usually black and has a minus sign on it. Just like changing a car battery, should you disconnect the wrong cable, you run the risk of blowing a fuse and burning yourself. Next, you can remove the positive cable without concern.
If your new battery requires to be filled with acid, do it before you place it in your motorcycle, lest you risk spilling acid on your bike. Again, it’s best to do this in a well-ventilated area.
Next, take your new, fully charged, battery and place it in the holder, making sure it’s secure. Then, reattach the cables, starting with the positive one first, to their proper places and tightly secure the battery in place. The only thing left to do now is to test it.
Once you’re done with the old battery, find a recycling center to take it to. Throwing it away normally can be dangerous.
Battery Maintenance: Charging and Discharging
The longer a battery sits or the more time it discharges, the more likely it is to go bad. Self-discharging is a chemical process that is always occurring within a battery, especially if it’s not being used or isn’t connected to a charger; that’s just how the science of how batteries for motorcycles works. Also, the hotter it is, the more your battery will self-discharge. Similarly, colder weather slows down the discharging process.
Sometimes, the charge on your battery may be low due to short rides during which the battery doesn’t have enough time to properly charge. Or, if you only ride your bike a couple of times a week, the charge on your battery can run low.
Frequent undercharging of the battery causes sulfur deposits to build up, so much so that recharging it back to normal can’t dissolve them, ultimately leaving the battery prone to failure.
If the charge on your battery is low, there are ways to recharge it. However, as previously mentioned, there’s a chance that your battery cannot be saved, so be prepared for that. The steps in charging your battery are simple. First, figure out what kind of battery you have, as alead-acid, gel, and AGM batteries use different chargers than lithium type batteries. So, based on what kind of battery you have, make sure you have the appropriate charger. Next, cautiously remove the battery from your bike. Chemical reactions take place inside the battery while it’s charging, causing it to heat up and possibly leak sulfuric acid. Once the battery is removed, you should take it to a well-ventilated area, as it will give off hydrogen gas. After that, all you need to do is charge it and hope that it takes the charge. Then, reinstall your battery in your motorcycle and hope for the best.
There are also a few quick things to note about batteries for motorcycles: Always wear protection such as gloves and safety glasses when dealing with a battery. Never hold the battery against your body, as spilled battery acid or corrosion could cause damage to your skin.