Performance Technic Tip: How the cold is messing with your battery
Performance Technic is the new technical facility in Kyalami, run by the same team behind the phenomenally successful Fire It Up and Bike Buyers. Every Tuesday they will be providing some technical know-how that could make your biking life a better and easier one. Today, we explain how the coming winter chills will affect your battery.
Excuse the cringeworthy Game of Thrones cliché, but winter is coming. While South Africa completely fails to match the numbing freeze of places in Europe and North America, it can produce its fair share of chill, and this leads us neatly onto our topic for today – how the cold affects your motorcycle’s battery.
There are two types of winter riders – the ones that don’t and the ones that do. For some, the wintery chill is too much, and their bike will remain isolated to the garage for weeks, maybe even months. The problem with this is that, while your ignition may not actually be turned on, your bike will very likely still slowly drain the battery so that when the sun eventually returns and the helmet is dusted off, you are left disappointed by a lifeless motorcycle. Apart from hindering your first Spring ride, this has the effect of weakening the battery’s charge and shortening its longevity. The answer is simply to leave your battery on trickle charge while you are not riding.
For people who brave the weather, your life might be similarly complicated, especially those with big motorcycles that have lots of gadgets. Winter is the time to use these gadgets, so apart from the satnav, the USB charger and the various electronic aids, you also have your heated grips running amok plus your heated seats. This isn’t too much of a problem for people doing longer weekend rides or long commutes, but for people who have a short, easygoing ride to work, you might have difficulties.
The problem is a matter of space – your motorcycle uses a similar amount of current as a car, but instead of a massive hunk of battery under the bonnet, you have a tiny micro-unit squeezed into a limited amount of space. So you draw current starting the motorcycle, especially when it’s cold and your motor takes a few goes to cough into life. You then commendably leave your motor idling to warm it up, plus heat up the grips and the seat. While the motor is idling, it’s not producing enough current – especially with the extra electronics running – to properly regain the lost charge. You then ride a short distance to work at a sedate pace in the traffic and cold, once again without the motor producing any serious current and having to power a range of accessories.
When you do get to work, you have not yet charged the battery enough to make up for the current lost when starting that morning. The same will then happen for the ride home later. Do this a few times and, eventually, your battery will drain to the point where it cannot turn your starter one morning.
The answer to this is to either take a longer route to work with some bits where the motor can stretch its legs (experts say that it can take up to 20 minutes of decent riding to fully recharge your battery) or leave your bike on trickle charge overnight.
The last problem affects bikes with Lithium-Ion batteries. This is a new trend in the world of automotive batteries, especially in motorcycles because the Lithium-Ion battery can be smaller and lighter while producing the same charge. The issue is that these batteries tend to lose performance in the cold, especially temperatures from 10º C and down. What people find is that they turn on their ignitions on this particularly chilly morning only to find that it appears to be flat, with the lights dimmed and not enough power to turn the starter.
Many people will then curse and swear, getting on the phone to their local bike dealer to tell them about the dud battery, when it actually needs it to be warmed up. You can do this by running current through it – turning the headlights on, switching the ignition on and off to let the fuel pump work or turning on accessories such as heaters. You will see when the battery starts warming because the lights will get brighter and other electronic gadgets will start performing better. Then the bike should start without hassle.
Performance Technic offers customers a free battery check. They have all the equipment and expertise to give your battery a full assessment and possibly a renewed charge. Contact them for more details.
Performance Technic Contacts:
Tel: 010 880 2849