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Do maintenance chargers really work?


JayW

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I submit that trickle/maintenance chargers are, for most people, a waste of electricity and effort. I particulary feel this way for those who always use one when the bike is parked. I have never used one and my batteries have always lasted for a minimum of 4 years, and often much longer. I have yet to have a long-idle battery fail to start an engine, unless the battery was on its way out anyway.

 

The exception might be those who park their bikes, tractors, ATV, etc for more than 3-4 months at a time, but even then the battery could be brought up to snuff overnight easily with a regular charger.

 

Folks who use them obviously believe they are useful, but I am not aware that any objective data has shown that such devices prolong battery life? My experience seems to support this, but I welcome dissenting views.

 

Jay

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Sorry, no dissent, I pretty much agree with you. It's not a good idea to let a battery sit in a discharged state but since you made an allowance for batteries that sit for months between use then I think you've got it covered... under normal circumstances there's no real need to float a battery in automotive service as long as the vehicle is used once in a while (and as long as you don't have any phantom loads drawing down the battery.) In fact, an even slightly misadjusted float charger can do more harm than good.

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This web site sells such chargers - of course they are going to cite testimonials in favor of purchasing one. I use a battery charger every time I ride my bike - it's called an alternator. It is custom designed to "maintain" an appropriate battery charge. For bikes that are taken on a good long ride -not just started and idled- at least monthly, the battery should be just fine and provide many years of service.

 

Jay

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I disagree completely! I have used maintainer chargers for several years. My proof is in the fact that I have gotten 5 yrs out of my RT battery with no problems whatsoever. Same thing goes for my other bikes too. Don't use them if you see no advantage, but IMO you are missing out on a good thing. Silly not to use them.

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I have worked for a major telecommunications firm for going on 30 years. In central offices the backup batteries are kept on a constant float charge fed by rectifiers 24/7. Granted they are also kept in a temp controlled enviroment, but they can last 20-25yrs. These are the old fashioned lead acid batteries pumping mucho amperage to power complete building loads during outages. My vote goes for a maint charger.

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Sorry, no dissent, I pretty much agree with you. It's not a good idea to let a battery sit in a discharged state but since you made an allowance for batteries that sit for months between use then I think you've got it covered... under normal circumstances there's no real need to float a battery in automotive service as long as the vehicle is used once in a while (and as long as you don't have any phantom loads drawing down the battery.) In fact, an even slightly misadjusted float charger can do more harm than good.

 

I agree!

 

There is a thread about this on ADVRider, and one a month!, and I still maintain that an improperly used charger, or one for the wrong battery, can significantly reduce the life of a battery!

 

Jim cool.gif

 

PS I have never used one, and never had an issue no matter how cold, or how long the bike sits.

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In central offices the backup batteries are kept on a constant float charge fed by rectifiers 24/7. Granted they are also kept in a temp controlled enviroment, but they can last 20-25yrs.
A large telecom battery plant installation and an automotive battery are both lead-acid cells, but that's about where the similarity ends... these are just two completely different services and operating environments. If $50 float chargers were the equivalent of the systems that maintain telecom battery plants then maybe things would be different, but the latter costs more than an entire new BMW motorcycle (or two) and is monitored by professional technicians.

 

Don't get me wrong, battery chargers do have their uses, but for automotive batteries that see regular use (i.e. not in long-term storage) floating on a charger just isn't necessary, and given that the regular use of a float charger just introduces a potential problem into the mix. If it's working right it will do no harm, but if it is more than a few tenths of a volt above the proper float charge voltage it will eventually do more harm to the battery than good. Since there's not much upside I don't see the point in messing with it (although not surprisingly the Battery Tender company does. wink.gif)

 

Just an opinion...

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ShovelStrokeEd

I'm with Jim, and neither of us is silly.

 

Given that motorcycle batteries are subjected to some pretty harsh conditions in terms of extremes of heat/cold and vibration, I remain surprised they last as well as they do.

 

I never bother with a maintenance charger. My daily driver certainly doesn't need one and my other bikes can sit for months sometimes and not get ridden. Starting is about 50-50 on those if I don't hook up the charger the night before.

 

Batteries have come a long way since I started riding about 50 years ago. Used to be, you just put in a new one every year. Now, even with the abuse I subject them to, 4 years is about the normal interval for me. I don't see 5 years as anything to brag about or proof of anything more than time passes.

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Batteries like to be fully charged - they last much longer. If a battery is left discharged, even partially; it will begn to sulphate. The environment where battery is stored has the biggest impact - heat is the killer. Discharge rates increase substantailly.

 

Riding the bike regularly keeps the battery fully charged - so no maintainer required. If the bike is going to sit long enough for the battery voltage to drop below 12.75V - it needs a maintainer.

 

Regards....Pat

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I agree and I disagree grin.gif

 

It depends on what you have on your bike. The worst possible thing you can do to a lead acid battery is place a low-current drain on it for a long period (Battery technical manual PDF) . This will lead to deep-discharge and kill the battery. So if you have an RT with clock, radio and an anti-theft alarm and just leave it parked up you could kill the battery in a month or two. Place a battery tender on it and the battery lives.

 

If however, you have no permanent draw farkles on the bike then you only have to contend with self-discharge and therefore the battery will last much longer before it becomes damaged. This situation is best handled with a periodic recharge. AGM batteries have much lower self-discharge rates than flooded cell batteries and so can be left longer before charging.

 

Of course, on the RT you could just disconnect the battery and live without the alarm to achieve the same ends.

 

Andy

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I've been using cheap Harbor Freight $7 chargers on a collection of boat, ATV, deep cycle, tractor and, motorcycle batteries for 7 years. I only hook them up when the batteries must sit 30+ days. Whereas before, these batteries would last about 3-4 yrs, I haven't replaced a single battery since I started using the float chargers. Many of the batteries are now 6-8 yrs old, youngest is 5.

 

I do keep a close eye on the fluid levels. Topping off with distilled water about once a year.

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Why do these threads start the day after I bought my Battery tender? dopeslap.gif My baterry is 3yrs and going strong, guess I felt the need to 'buy' something for the bike.

tongue.gif Anyway one thought comes to mind, if (and if) you had a weak battery, and it's been maintained by a tender? wouldn't the weak battery rear its ugly head the first night you spend out of town on a ride with no tender to keep it charged?

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I guess I'm one of the sheep that bought into the need for a charger. I leave the one I have plugged in all the time. Here is the BMW position on Gel Batteries:

 

In the event of an anticipated interruption in use, longer than one month, the Gel Battery

must be charged with a suitable charger. This ensures the Gel Battery goes into the

period of disuse fully charged and is not left in an undefined charge status.

When using a Gel Battery in the motorcycle, maintenance of the battery during longer

interruptions in use or while the bike is in storage must not be neglected. Please bring

this to the customers attention.

It is important to remember that only the BMW Charger, part number 72 60 7 679 040,

is approved for use when charging the battery through the vehicles power accessory

outlet.

 

So is the advice from BMW a bunch of BS?

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[quote

So is the advice from BMW a bunch of BS?

 

Good question. I am unclear as to what they mean by "undefined charge status". Maybe they are concerned about those who frequently take short trips that may not fully charge the battery before parking it for a while.

 

For those of us who ride long and often (and don't ever let the bike sit idle for more than a month), then even considering this warning from BMW, it seems fine to leave the charger at the BMW store.

 

Jay

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ShovelStrokeEd

Undefined charge status my lily white butt.

If your gonna put the bike away for a month or so, go for a ride first, 100 miles ought to do it. The battery will be fully charged. Park it and forget it.

 

I really think the point most folks forget is that there is a pretty good charging system built right into the bike. Even a 20 or 30 mile freeway ride is enough to keep the bike charged up. It may even need less than that.

 

My Blackbird's last week might just serve as an example. Rode to breakfast on Sunday, 3.3 miles round trip, 2 starts. Rode to work 5x, average 10 miles round trip, all city streets. Counting a trip to the bank at lunch time one day and stopping for dinner on the way home, 17 starts and no trip longer than 4 miles. 8 starts today and no trip longer than 2 miles and I haven't completed all my errands. All this on a $60.00 LAWN MOWER battery from O'Reilly Auto Parts. Never a hint of reluctance to crank, all city driving and my bike produces only a measly 12.2 volts at idle from the charging system.

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BluegrassPicker

I tend to agree with you, but have one for a few reasons:

I Bought my bike on Ebay - my brother picked it up for me and it sat for a couple of months before I could fly down and get it.

Also, I have a relatively short ride to work ~ 7 miles.

+ Winters in Minnesota

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While I can't phrase it quite as colorfully as Ed I also don't know what they might mean by the term 'undefined charge status.' Most automotive batteries spend their entire lives in that state.

 

I would like to note what Andy said though and emphasize it. The 'no charge' people are not talking about a battery that is sitting unused for six months in a bike with a significant parasitic drain. In that case the battery charge level should indeed be checked and maintained if necessary. However, in a more typical example (the bike is ridden a reasonable distance at least once a month or so) then auxiliary charging is not required and won't contribute much if anything to the service life of the battery, whereas improper constant charging will probably have a negative effect. In any event one does need to evaluate their own situation and judge accordingly.

 

For anyone who does want to leave their battery on a float charge at all times I'd suggest that you let the battery settle on the charger for about 24 hours and check the float voltage which should be no more than 13.2 - 13.6 volts. Also, ensure that the charger is temperature-compensated as a non-compensated float voltage can be both too low in cold temepratures and too high when hot. The latter case definitely won't be very good for the battery.

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skinny_tom (aka boney)

I refuse to comment based on Gleno's results with the flat tire thread. grin.gif

 

That comment alone should tell you to which camp I belong.

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I purchased a new Panasonic battery last spring. If I park the bike, and do not ride for a week or two, I will get the ABS flashing light fault on start. (r1100rt) If I ride a mile,then restart, the fault is gone. So, I keep my bike on the charger. Obviously I have a drain somewhere. Probably the clock, but I would not think that would be enough to drain that much in a week. I think the Panasonic is an AGS battery.

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I purchased a new Panasonic battery last spring. If I park the bike, and do not ride for a week or two, I will get the ABS flashing light fault on start. (r1100rt) If I ride a mile,then restart, the fault is gone. So, I keep my bike on the charger. Obviously I have a drain somewhere. Probably the clock, but I would not think that would be enough to drain that much in a week. I think the Panasonic is an AGS battery.
The ABS controller in the 1100 bikes is excessively sensitive to battery voltage during the start cycle. ABS faults on an 1100 are not uncommon even with a good battery in a proper state of charge.
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Jay,

I ride far and often.

I use a charger.

How about our new Tech Mod perform a test.

Measure battery charge before and after each ride, document ride/conditions.

Do this for 2 months.

Then duplicate test ride conditions but hook battery to smart charger every night.

See if there is a quantifiable difference in battery performance.

If not, thumbsup.gif.

If so, would that indicate a longevity issue?

lurker.gif

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These threads get to be pretty comical IMO. I have a BT, I have used it for many years, and I intend to keep using it regardless of all the point/counterpoints made here. If it works it works, which it has, and fi someone doesn't think the BT or comparable device is of no value, then good for them! Not everyone lives in warm climes as do some of the posters here. And, I still think it silly to not use a BT, it doesn't hurt anything and it does help. So, that's my story and I am sticking to it! thumbsup.giflmao.gif

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These threads get to be pretty comical IMO

 

I agree. I haven't heard anything from either side much better than "I do X and it works for me." Or "I do X and you do Y so you don't know what you're talking about." For some people, it's more important that they're right than it is that they're right.

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For some people, it's more important that they're right than it is that they're right.
I think that's a little harsh. Most of these threads consist of responses from people who, right or wrong, are making an honest effort to try to help.
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Count my vote for battery maintainers/chargers.

My boat would go through batteries every two years. After keeping them serviced with a BM, they have lasted for 9 years and counting. Same for my Camper. It sits for months at a time and the battery is now 6 years old and holds strong on by battery load tester. It is always plugged to a maintainer.

I keep the motorcyles on maintainers too after my experience with the boat and RV. The bikes sit (unfortunately) due to snow and ice conditions for too long. With the 1100 sensitive to ABS and low current, it's one less thing to worry about if it's plugged in.

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It would take a few years, but would not be difficult to do a definitive experiment that would shed some light on this:

1. Obtain a few dozen new identical batteries all with the same date of manufacture. The sample size would have to be large enough for the numerical results to have good statistical "power".

2. Subject all of them to the typical loads that they would experience on a motorcycle. The researchers could even vary the temperature and induce some vibrations that would simulate the changing seasons and stresses of real life. Some of the batteries would be left "unused" for weeks/months at a time.

3. Half of them would be hooked up to a battery maintainer when not in active "use"

4. Do a load test on every battery every 3 months and see if the "maintained" batteries outlast the others.

 

Maybe someone has already done this. Until then, I'll spend my money on another pair of gloves instead. thumbsup.gif

 

Jay

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I think it all comes down to how much you ride or drive, especially in the winter months. I have two vettes that are not regularly driven during the winter months and have had dead batteries before because that wern't maintained. I use a battery tender on both of them now when they are not driven regularly.

 

My wife's Burgman 400 wouldn't start yesterday because it hadn't been started in 2 months.

 

So far the winter here has been very mild and I have been able to ride the RT every weekend. But if we gets to the point this winter that I have to go several weeks without riding it it will also go on a battery tender.

 

So I guess you can count me in here as agreeing and disagreeing.

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Actually, you and I mostly agree. My original post stated that "for most people" maintainers are a waste of electricity and effort. I am referring primarily to those who hook their bikes up to a tender even if it is only going to sit for a week or 2 - heck, I have seen bikes advertised for sale that had the battery "always hooked to a tender" when not being ridden, as if that somehow makes it more valuable.

 

I agree that for vehicles like yours that sit idle for many months, battery maintainers may be useful, but I still suspect that many are used needlessly, and may in fact be shortening the battery's life.

 

Jay

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