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Be honest – how much attention do you give your battery?
Either way – you really should. Next to the engine itself, the battery is an essential component for a motorcycle or scooter.
Tune in to discover:
- The 2 crucial jobs that your battery does
- Differences between conventional, AGM, and lithium batteries
- What “CCA” stands for – and why it matters
Hello, and welcome to another episode of 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast for those riders who are at the beginning of their own Dual Wheel Journey, where you’ll discover something new about how your motorcycle, moped, or scooter works – in less than 30 minutes.
How often do you think about the battery for your motorcycle or scooter? Probably not all that much – until it goes wrong, that is.
But do you know what the battery actually does? Do you know the differences between conventional, AGM, and lithium batteries?
That’s what you’re about to discover in this episode – so let’s start with what your battery actually does.
Because unless you’ve got an electric motorcycle or scooter, perhaps you’re unsure why your internal combustion bike even needs a battery.
Doesn’t it run on gasoline or petrol?
Well, it runs off of a battery too, in a way. Actually, there are two equally important jobs that the battery does.
The first one is that it helps to start and run the engine – more specifically, the battery provides the energy needed to activate the starter motor, which in turn turns over the engine to start the bike.
But a fully functional and above all, charged battery is also needed to deliver the spark needed to ignite the fuel and air mixture – especially if your motorcycle or scooter has a CDI Ignition syste,
If you’d like to hear more about CDI Ignition, please check out episode 41 of this podcast.
Anyway, the second job that the battery does is that it powers the lights and supplies current to the charging system.
All those lights on your bike, such as the front headlight, brake light, and turn signal lights, need power – especially when the engine isn’t running quickly enough to deliver the current for the charging system.
Fortunately, the battery is there to deal with both of these things.
One final thing – most batteries for motorcycles are 12 volts, but there are a few small scooters that use small batteries that are only 6 volts.
So now that you know what your battery does let’s talk about the different types of batteries that are available.
There are 3 main types of batteries today:
- Conventional batteries
- AGM batteries
- And lithium batteries
A conventional battery is easy to spot – as it has a series of filler caps at the top.
There’s a reason for them being there – it’s so you can check how much electrolyte (which is a mixture of sulphuric acid and water) your battery contains.
As the battery goes through countless cycles of being charged and discharged, the electrolyte level drops – and when it drops to a certain point (usually below the battery’s cell plates), it’s time to top it up with distilled water.
In case you’re wondering what is so special about distilled water, it’s water that has been cleaned of any minerals and bacteria.
The important thing to remember about conventional batteries is that if you need to refill one, remember to remove the filler caps BEFORE you pour in the electrolyte.
That way, any explosive hydrogen gas will escape and reduce the odds of an explosion when the battery’s connected again.
Also, there’s usually a marking of the battery’s maximum fluid level – it goes without saying that you should never overfill it, but just to be on the safe side, I’ll say it anyway.
And while we’re on the topic of being on the safe side, avoid coming into contact with the fluid inside conventional batteries – if you do, it will froth away at your skin.
Now that we’ve covered the conventional battery type – let’s move on to AGM batteries.
Similar to conventional batteries, an AGM (or “Absorbent Glass Mat”) battery also contains an electrolyte solution (or, in some cases, a special gel).
But that’s where the similarities between it and a conventional battery end – AGM batteries are radically different from conventional batteries in many ways.
The main difference is that AGM batteries don’t require topping up with distilled water – that’s because the absorbent fiberglass plates absorb the electrolyte.
This fibreglass plate makes the battery more resistant to short-circuits caused by vibrations. It can also hold a charge much longer.
For this reason, AGM batteries are designed to be permanently sealed – in other words, don’t even bother trying to open them.
One final thing to note about AGM batteries is that they’re sometimes known as “maintenance-free batteries” – although this isn’t 100% true.
It’s true that they require less maintenance, but that does NOT mean that they require NO maintenance – they will need an inspection every now and then.
This will require you to disconnect your battery – and if this is something that makes you break out in cold sweat, I recommend that you listen to episode 42 of 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast, which goes into more detail about how to disconnect and connect a motorcycle battery safely.
Finally, we have the lithium battery – a particularly powerful battery type, especially for EV motorcycles and scooters.
Lithium batteries are much smaller compared to conventional or even AGM batteries, although they’re as expensive to buy as they are to manufacture.
Not only that, but they discharge quicker in cold temperatures.
Speaking of cold temperatures, you may or may not have noticed a strange abbreviation stamped on your battery – “CCA.”
What does this mean?
“CCA” stands for “Cold Cranking Amps,” and it’s something to take note of, especially if you live in one of the colder regions of Planet Earth.
The CCA rating refers to how much current the battery can produce during 30 seconds in temperatures below -18 degrees Celcius or 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
But why is this important?
Because the colder it gets, the more the battery will struggle to carry current – the Cold Cranking Amps rating, therefore, indicates what kind of current the battery can handle in these freezingly cold temperatures.
As a rule of thumb, batteries with a higher CCA rating can carry more current in the cold.
And there you have it – that’s what your motorcycle battery does, the 3 most common types of batteries, and what “CCA” stands for – “Cold Cranking Amps,” that is.
I hope you enjoyed listening, and above all, that you discovered something new.
Until next time, keep your helmet on and your eyes on the road. Bye!