When it’s time to inspect the vehicles that you’ve stored during the off-season please make sure that the battery is high on your checklist. Just charging a battery is no indication of its’ overall health. Unless you’ve maintained the battery during the storage period, it may not be able to deliver its peak performance and service life for the upcoming season. To insure that you get the best performance your battery can deliver you need to perform a few simple checks.
Before performing any inspection on your battery, make sure that there are no open flames or possibility of sparks around the battery and absolutely no smoking. Always wear eye protection, protective gloves and clothing.
For a conventional style battery (those with the liquid electrolyte) you should visually inspect the battery for any apparent problems. These can include dirty or corroded terminal connections, low fluid levels, physical damage such as broken or missing filler caps or dirt and moisture on the battery. If you need to service the battery, it’s best to remove it from the vehicle. First insure that the electrolyte levels are properly adjusted. Using distilled water; fill each cell until the level is above the minimum level line on the battery case and at or below the maximum line. Never overfill the battery or leakage will occur. If you discover that the electrolyte levels have fallen below the minimum level lines, there is a possibility that permanent damage may have been done to the internal lead plates in the battery and a new replacement may be required. After adjusting the levels, make sure the filler plugs are secured and the battery is free of dirt and corrosion.
If you need to clean the battery, use a mixture of baking soda and water to neutralize any electrolyte that may be on the outside of the battery. Simply brush this on the battery and terminals using an old paintbrush or tooth brush and rinse it off with clean water. Dry the battery using an old soft rag or paper towel and make sure the terminals are clean and free of corrosion. You can clean the terminals with a small wire brush, if the corrosion is significant, or just brighten them up by using a piece of emery cloth.
When your battery is clean, it’s time to check the state of charge. When using a voltmeter, the battery terminal voltage should read at least 12.6 volts. If your voltage is below this or you’ve adjusted the electrolyte levels, a boost charge is required. Charge the battery in a well ventilated area away from kids and pets. The variety of chargers you can use to endless but it is recommended that you use an automatic taper type charger specifically designed for Powersport batteries. Do not use a high current or fast charger for the boost charge unless you are familiar with their operation or permanent damage can occur to the battery.
When servicing a Sealed Maintenance Free battery, you do not need to inspect the electrolyte levels since the battery is permanently sealed. The cleaning method and charging methods are the same as for the conventional style batteries. Sealed Maintenance Free Batteries have a slightly different electrolyte, which influences the terminal voltage. The full charge voltage should read about 12.8 volts.
After you’ve performed this maintenance, you still may require additional help with your battery. While the battery may exhibit good terminal voltage, it may not be in the best state of health. The battery could be seriously short on capacity if it had deteriorated due to corrosion or sulphation. To check this condition you may choose to reinstall the battery in your vehicle and perform a very fundamental start test or you could take the battery to a service centre and have a capacity test performed. Most battery dealers will perform a simple electronic or electrical resistance test on the battery and be able to tell you the state of health. By knowing the state of health, you can determine the useful life expectancy of you battery. With this information you can decide if you should replace the battery with a new one or reinstall the existing one in the vehicle.
To insure maximum performance and service life for your battery, we recommend that you use nothing greater than a 1.5 Amp or 900mA Automatic Battery Charger or Float Type Charger for battery maintenance. Please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for additional battery charging information.
Even with the proper care and maintenance your battery will eventually wear out. It is usually easier, more convenient and in some “mission critical” situations safer, to replace them before they fail unexpectedly. With this in mind, you may want to simply replace the battery every few years with a new one.