Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Battery Maintenance

Between having a chronic ear ache, sub-freezing weather and torrential downpours of biblical proportions, I haven't rode my motorcycle in several weeks. On Thanksgiving Day it was clear and sunny in the mid 40s and despite my aching ear (not rear), I was determined to ride my bike over to my sister's house where our family was having our annual get together. One of my brother's in-law hadn't seen my newest bike which I've had almost 2 years now. He is interested in getting a motorcycle, so I thought he would like to take a look and possibly a ride.

The anticipation of being back on the road was building; I readied myself like an astronaut preparing for the launch. Boots-check. Jacket-check. Helmet-check. Earplugs, sunglasses-check, check. Okay, key on-check. Switch on-check. Gas on-check. Choke pulled full out-check. A couple twists of the throttle-check. Ignition, 3, 2, 1, Blastoff! Nothing. Houston, we have a problem.

Dead battery.

I should have known, my poor Sportster sits in an unheated shed and I hadn't even thought of hooking it up to the trickle charger yet. I had been riding steady, freezing weather and all until I came down with an earache and the rain got worse. Everyday I thought I would be riding again so I didn't worry about a dead battery. One day led to the next and before I knew it, it had been two weeks and now my motorcycle won't start and its Thanksgiving Day.

We were running late so no time for a quick charge. I rode with my wife and kids in the cage over to my sister's house, tail between my legs.

When I got back from the festivities I hooked my battery up to the charger. It's a Black & Decker and worked fine last winter. This time I kept getting a code on the digital display (F03) which means according to the manual; "Internal open cell, have battery checked..." Which I did. I took it over to Batteries Plus and they found nothing wrong with it. I hooked it back up to the charger and it charged fine despite the code. None of the indicators seemed to be working such as showing that it was charging or if the charge was complete etc.

I don't know what to believe. There could be something wrong with the charger or an undetected problem with the battery. Anyway, it took a charge and fired up once again without problem.

The Black & Decker charger that I have has a lot of features. It charges 12 volt batteries at 2, 6, or 10 amps, has a float (trickle) charge after charging is complete, it also checks battery voltage and the alternator. It also has like I previously mentioned a digital display that will show codes such as internal shorted cell battery, bad battery connection, voltage too low to accept charge, internal open cell, and overheated condition. Once the battery is charged, you can just leave it hooked up and it will kick on and trickle charge as needed.

But, I'm not all that confident that the thing is working right.

Despite all the "bells and whistles" of the Black & Decker, I sort of wish I would have got a simpler charger instead such as the "Deltran Battery Tender" or the "Yuasa Smartshot." I've heard a lot of good things about those two and don't know anyone who's had any problems with theirs. It's just a matter of hooking them up and forgetting about it. If your battery doesn't charge, it's the battery that has the problem; not much of a chance the charger isn't working properly.

I'm back on the road again. My bike starts fine. Since the battery people tell me my battery is strong, I'm pretty certain the charger isn't working as advertised. I'm going to put on my Christmas list a new battery charger, one that I can count on, and a nice warm garage for my Sportster. Maybe I can get those Extreme Makeover guys over here to build a proper place for my bike to sit out the cold waits between winter rides!

Before I end this already too long post I need to explain the title.

This brings me to Zen. Buddha learned and taught what is called "The Four Noble Truths." I doubt that 2,500 years ago he anticipated dead motorcycle batteries but Buddha sure understood the pain caused by things going south.

The first Noble Truth is "Suffering exists." The second is "Desire and attachment are the causes of suffering." The third is "There is an end to suffering." And the fourth Noble Truth is "The end (to suffering) can be attained by journeying on the Noble Eightfold Path."

To put it into our topic of discussion; that is dead batteries and not being able to ride, this is how one may process The Four Noble Truths:

Noble Truth One - Suffering exists, dang!

Noble Truth Two - I want my bike to start dammit!

Noble Truth Three - There is an end to this friggin situation!

Noble Truth Four - I'm going to find out what that "Eightfold Path" thing is all about and in the mean time, I'm hooking up to the charger and then I'm going to forget about it!

If my bike doesn't start later on, well that's in the future. I can't predict the future and it's not reality yet, just an illusion. No need to suffer for an illusion.

If it didn't start yesterday that's old news. No need to suffer again for something that has already happened.

The only thing that is real is right here and right now, my motorcycle is hooked up and charging, everything is cool.
Kano's Coffee House

Deltran SuperSmart Battery Tender Plus 12-Volt 1.25 AMP Battery Charger

Black & Decker VEC1086BBD Smart Battery 6/4/2 Amp Battery Charger

Yuasa 1.5 Amp Battery Charger #YUA1201501

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Steve said...

If your sporty is carbureted, you could've jump started it with the car. No need to start the car's engine, just hook the cables up and start the bike. I've done this on a Honda Shadow 1100 and jumps just fine.

Steve -

irondad said...

So this guy goes to a fancy restaurant. The very snobbish head waiter tells him he can't enter without a tie. Having just jumped his Honda Shadow, there are cables in his saddlebag.

The rider fashions the cables into a bow tie. He goes back to the head waiter and asks if he can now come in. The snobbish waiter curls his lip in disdain but has no choice but to admit the rider.

"You can come in, but don't start anything!"

Conchscooter said...

Are we too old to bump start anymore? Motorcycles are getting heavier, not lighter, but thats just part of the fun. I can afford to be snotty- winter? what's winter?

Heinz & Frenchie said...

Luckily we don't have to worry about the cold weather. We just have to ride our scooters at least once every couple of weeks to keep the batteries from going down. That is "no problem". We have had some great weather lately, so we have been hitting the road every weekend.

Just one problem, Frenchie our yellow LX150 is squeaking like crazy and has been in the shop every weekday for the past few weeks. They can't find the source of the squeaks. If anyone knows anything about it, we would love to hear.

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Marco said...

My wife has a 150cc scooter and over the winter we tried cranking it periodically to keep the battery charged. However, on a couple of occasions the battery was dead and I placed it on the same B&D charger described above. The first time it took the charge and the charger went to "Charge Complete." But then soon thereafter the battery was dead again and I put it on the charger and got the same FO3 fault (Internal open cell). We are on our third battery now and the same problem keeps occurring with the battery seeming to take a charge and then it winds up dead the next day and the charger indicates the FO3 fault. Any advice?

Apple Notebook Batteries said...

i love how you compared this to the four noble truths and the eight fold path as a solution.

Ill definitely be buying a trickle charger if that helped you i have the same problem. I get a cold every winter from riding and end up at home for a while then that happens.

Although i just moved to LA where its always sunny :)

Cant wait to never go through that again

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