[Originally Written 13MAY2013. Misplaced and forgotten about, then found and published 04FEB2017.]
It happens to all of us at one time or another. We go out to our bike all excited about the ride we’re about to take, turn the key, hit the start button, then either nothing happens or our pride and joy gives us a pitiful little “help me” whine, then nothing. The battery is dead. 😦
The normal course of action is simply to go to a local motorcycle shop or dealership to by an exact replacement, or take a cheaper (less desirable) route by purchasing one with the same rating(s) from a discount store. I decided to “upgrade” this decision a little. I’ll tell you how, but first I need to give you some background information.
When I first purchased my bike (see “Starting From Scratch“) I had to replace the battery since the bike had sat un-ridden for at least 3 years, and I’m suspecting it was closer to 6 years. Even with the new battery I still noticed what appeared to be a charging problem, especially when negotiating long stop-and-go traffic jams. My bike’s built-in voltage meter showed a substantial reduction in voltage, down to 9.5 volts in some cases, when encountering these types of slow downs. The voltage would gradually get back to normal after an hour or so of riding under normal conditions afterward or when putting it on a charger at the end of a ride. Knowing the battery was new I replaced the voltage regulator which, according to my voltage meter, had slightly reduced output. This did not resolve the problem. Next I searched the online forums for a resolution to the problem. One theory was it was due to a failing Stator. I doubted this because the maintenance records I got with the bike showed it had been replaced just before it got parked by the original owner. A check by the local repair shop showed it was operating properly so I had to rule that out. After more searching of the forums I found a “remedy” that involved removing and hard-wiring select connectors. There was a substantial number of favorable reviews by people who had tried this method so I did that also. It helped the problem but did not completely resolve it.
During all of this time I had a nagging feeling the problem was caused by the battery itself, but refused to allow myself to believe it since the problem had always been there and my battery would hold a charge between rides. Well, one day while doing some other maintenance work I accidentally shorted out the battery so replacing the still new battery was not an option. This takes us back to where we started, choosing a replacement battery… again.
While checking prices online I stumbled across what was called a “Glass Mat” Battery.
Having never heard of that type of battery I did some research. I found out its technical name is Absorbent Glass Mat Battery or AGM battery. The more I read the more I liked what I was seeing. Among other attributes AGM batteries have very low internal resistance, are capable of delivering high currents on demand and offer a relatively long service life, even when deep cycled. AGMs are maintenance free, provide good electrical reliability and are lighter than the flooded lead acid type. While regular lead acid batteries need a topping charge every six months to prevent the buildup of sulfation, AGM batteries are less prone to sulfation and can sit in storage for longer before a charge becomes necessary. The battery stands up well to low temperatures and has a very low self-discharge rate. I also learned that AGM batteries are the preferred battery for upscale motorcycles because since they are sealed there is a much reduced chance of acid spilling in an accident, they lower the bike weight for the same performance, and allow installation at odd angles.
I was sold so I ordered one online and anxiously awaited it’s arrival. As soon as it arrived I checked to be sure it matched the specs I gave when ordering it. It did.
To install this battery on my bike, a 1985 Honda Goldwing GL1200 SE, I had to first remove the battery cover on the right side of my bike. The photo below shows a “Battery Tender Plus” which I highly recommend. I’ve used this model on other bikes, and a lot of repair shops, not to mention tons of bikers, recommend this over other chargers as well.
Next, after disconnecting the negative wire from the left side of the original standard lead acid battery, I had to remove one (1) bolt from the combination swing-arm/hold-down bar that holds the battery in place. I’ll say more about this later. Once this bar is released the battery can be tilted out, the positive (hot/red) wire disconnected from the right side of the battery, and the acid overflow tube disconnected. After this battery removal is pretty straight-forward, just slide the battery straight out and carefully place it somewhere it won’t get knocked over.
I typically take a few seconds at this point to clean the area around and behind the battery since one doesn’t typically have to open the battery cover under normal conditions unless you need to access the primary fuse-able link. Now is when you have to make a decision if you opted to go replace a standard lead-acid battery with an AGM battery. Do you remove the acid overflow tube or cap it off and tuck it in for possible future use? I opted to remove the tube from my bike. It is not difficult to replace latter should I decide, or for some reason have, to install a Lead Acid battery at some future time.
Next, simply slide the new battery into the box leaving it tilted out slightly. Attach the positive, then negative, cables onto the top of the battery, then push it into place while being sure there are no wires being pinched behind, or beside, the battery. Now, while holding the battery in place with one hand, swing the bar into place against the battery and replace the hold-down bolt. I’ve added an additional step to this on my bike as the picture below will illustrate.
If you’ll look closely at the bar you will see I’ve added a padded strip between the battery and the bar. In this case I used a piece of non-slip matting from my woodworking shop. This strip allows a snugger fit for the battery so it does not vibrate so much in the compartment and reduces the chaffing of the battery against the bar.
Once this is completed all that is left is snapping the battery cover back into place. I recommend taking your bike for a ride afterwards. Why? Because it’s fun! 🙂