Battery maintenance is one of those things you just can’t hide from, especially if you like to travel in high moisture situations. Check out our How To, and let that battery of yours, live life to its fullest charge.
Nowadays you would be hard pressed to find an ATV without a battery.
Electric starters have become the norm and kick-starters will no longer
be needed at all. Battery maintenance has become a necessity at least
once or twice a year, if not more, so wouldn’t it be nice if you
actually knew how to deal with your machines electrical source? We
thought the same thing, and just like most of you out there, we at Dirt
Wheels have had our share of mishaps when it comes to the power under
the seat. Have you ever left the key on overnight? How about blowing a
fuse because you didn’t read the directions while wiring a kill switch?
I don’t need no stinkin’ directions! Uh huh, sure. Take a look at our
simple guide to the proper maintenance of the source behind our ATV
riding happiness, a battery.
Before you work on, or purchase, an ATV battery, you should first learn
the basics. We are not going to sit you down and spoon feed you a whole
lot of information you will soon forget, but briefly explain all there
is you need to know to save yourself some risks when dealing with an
There are many terms used when dealing with batteries, such as “Gel
Cell” “Sealed,” “Maintenance-free,” and so on, but there are only two
types of batteries used on ATVs, and both of them are lead-acid
batteries. A lead acid battery is made up of lead plates and oxide
with a 35 percent sulfuric acid and 65 percent water solution. This
solution is called electrolyte which causes a chemical reaction that
produce electrons. These electrons give your machine life.
The first type of lead cell battery is a conventional (also known as
flooded). This batteries technology has been around longer than Dirt
Wheels Magazine’s Senior Editor has had the nickname “Ketchup,” and if
you don’t know, that’s a long time.
These batteries have extra acid above all of the negative and positive
plates. Dry plate surfaces become damaged and that is one reason why
conventional batteries must be topped off with distilled water as
AGM batteries are a little newer. They were pioneered on Honda
powersports vehicles in the early 1980s but have since taken over as
the prevailing battery on ATV’s. When you hear people talking of
sealed, Gel-Cell or maintenance-free batteries from any manufacturer on
a powersports vehicle, they are talking about AGM technology. Absorbed
Glass Mat refers to the battery’s design in which all of the
electrolyte (acid) is absorbed into fiberglass pads that are pressed
between the positive and negative plates. There is no loose acid in a
properly activated AGM battery. AGM batteries are not vented to
atmosphere so they do not dry out with normal use.
MAINTAINING YOUR ATV’S BATTERY
The average battery life has become shorter as energy requirements have
increased. Nowadays Utility ATVs have everything from GPS units to
winches and electrical outlets, so battery maintenance is very
important. We put together a simple step-by-step guide to what should
be done a few times a season, but before you jump into things, here are
a few rules to live by when working with batteries.
RULES TO SAFETY
Rule 1. Remove all jewelry to prevent unnecessary sparkage.
Rule 2. A battery puts off a hydrogen gas while it is charging, so we
would suggest throwing on a set of safety goggles before hooking it to
Rule 3. Sulfuric acid eats things up, so wear junk clothes while working on your battery.
Rule 4: When doing electrical work on vehicles it is best to disconnect
the ground cable. Keep in mind you are working with corrosive acid,
explosive gases and hundreds of amps of electrical current.
STEP 1: Remove the battery from the ATV. The battery should be cleaned
using a baking soda and water mix. Use a couple of tablespoons to a
pint of water.
STEP 2: A serviceable battery needs to have the fluid level checked.
Use only mineral free, or distilled water. A sealed battery needs to be
charged at this time. Connect the charger to the battery before
plugging in. While it is possible to express charge your battery using
a higher amp selection on most chargers, it is best to trickle charge
the battery. This is usually selecting the lower amp, usually 2amp and
lower, and charging 6 to 10 hours. Then return the battery to your ATV.
STEP 3: Before you reconnect make sure all connections have been
cleaned. Tighten the positive cable connection, and then apply a small
amount of Vaseline or grease over the top of the connection (This is
used to prevent corrosion).
STEP 4: Tighten, and Vaseline the negative post connection. Before
tightening the negative post, make sure the positive post is covered to
prevent accidental touching of both posts. Repeat these steps every few
months to prevent corrosion. Keeping your battery fully charged at all
times will enhance the life of your battery.
To clean your battery try mixing baking soda and water, and scrubbing it with a small toothbrush.
CHARGING YOUR ATV’S BATTERY
The majority of all battery failure is related to sulfation buildup.
This buildup occurs when the sulfur molecules in the battery acid
become so deeply discharged that they begin to coat the battery’s lead
plates. Before long the plates become so coated that the battery dies.
To prevent this you need to make sure your battery is properly charged
at all times, thus preventing sulfation and enhancing the longevity of
Companies like Battery Tender (www.batterytender.com or (386)
736-7900), Christie’s (www.christiecbs.com or (949) 829-8264), or
Tecmate (www.tecmate.com or (905) 337-2095) supply all types of
chargers that match every power, current, voltage and style that best
meet your needs. Battery Tender battery chargers are equipped with a
variety of safety and interconnect options, such as spark free
operation, reverse polarity protection, and continuous short circuit
protection. They also come with alligator clips, fused ring terminals
and a quick disconnect DC output cable harness.
Most new chargers, such as the ones sold by Battery Tender, charge in
a certain way. This type of charging is called three-step regulated
The first step is bulk charging where up to 80 percent of the battery
energy capacity is replaced by the charger at the maximum voltage and
current amp rating of the charger. When the battery voltage reaches
14.4 volts this begins the absorption charge step. This is where the
voltage is held at a constant 14.4 volts and the current declines until
the battery is 98 percent charged. The next step is a regulated voltage
of not more than 13.4 volts and usually less than one amp of current.
This will put the battery at 100 percent. Make sure you do not
undercharge your battery. This means you cannot hurry up the process of
the charge. Only charging a battery to 90 percent of capacity will
allow sulfation of the battery.
STORING & REPLACING
When purchasing a new battery we suggest that you get one through a
name brand company. While all of the basic technology is the same
regardless of manufacturer, there are varying levels of quality from
manufacturer to manufacturer. The more familiar names in lead-acid
batteries, such as YUASA or Power-Sonic, have been at this for a long
time, and quality will never be an issue.
The freshness of a new battery is very important. The longer a battery
sits and is not re-charged, the more damaging sulfation buildup there
may be on the plates. When you buy a new battery you want it to be
trickle charged for at least 8-10 hours at between one and three amps
(depending on battery size) on a charger designed specifically for
powersports vehicle batteries—not a car battery charger.
It is best to disconnect the battery on an ATV if it is going to be
stored or parked for longer than a month. Nearly every ATV has
something called quiescent current draw that puts a continual,
low-current draw on the electrical system. This draw will kill a
battery in just weeks. Make sure you disconnect the negative battery
cable so that you cannot short-circuit your wrench to the frame of the
If the ATV is going to be parked for more than a month, take your
fully-charged battery off of the ATV completely and store it in a cool,
dark place. A discharged battery can freeze solid in sub zero weather,
while hot temperatures increase the chance of discharge as well.
WARNING: Much of the action depicted in this magazine is potentially dangerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced experts or professionals. Do not attempt to duplicate any stunts that are beyond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear. Copyright 2008 Hi-Torque Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Console Login