Your motorcycle battery’s life span depends on many things, but a good average is 2 to 4 years of regular use or up to 8 years with careful maintenance and storage.
That’s quite a difference between two years and eight years!
How long a battery lasts is dependant on your usage and adequately maintaining and storing the battery according to its type.
Let’s dig deeper to get a realistic expectation.
Types of Battery
As you may know, there are four types of motorcycle batteries:
Lead Acid or Wet cell” batteries are the least expensive option for your motorcycle and most demanding for maintenance.
As the battery ages, you must refill it, and neglecting to do so will reduce the battery’s life. All else being equal, these should last at least 2-3 years.
AGM or Absorbed Glass Mat batteries are the next up the line in price and last a similar amount of time as the Wet Cells without manually adding water. They are the least expensive “dry-cell” or “maintenance-free” batteries.
Gel Batteries are suitable for high temperatures but take longer to charge than Lead Acid or AGM batteries, and this affects the trickle charge rate while storing during the off-season.
Lithium-Ion batteries have the most extended lifespan in terms of discharge/recharge cycle capacity of all listed battery types, and they also are less susceptible to temperature variations. These also require a special lithium charger not to overcharge and damage the battery.
The second major factor in a motorcycle battery’s lifespan is usage.
If you ride regularly and for a fair amount of time, your motorcycle will recharge the battery with the stator – which is essentially an alternator for a motorcycle.
You will not generate as much power if you ride with heated gear, seats, and grips running off the bike.
The important thing is not just to leave the bike sitting for an extended period or leave the headlight or radio on with the engine off.
Unfortunately for our snowbound brothers and sisters, just firing it up and idling is not enough to maintain a charge. The RPMs have to be at a higher level than an idle to produce the excess energy to charge the battery.
The other part of usage is the stress you put on the battery and electrical system in general.
If you typically take very short commuter rides with a heated vest, heated seat, heated grips, and your cell phone plugged in, your battery life will suffer.
I mentioned snowbound folks and unfortunately, being unable to ride is not the only downside of battery life.
Below freezing temperatures can also reduce the life span and performance of all batteries. If possible, store the bike in a climate-controlled garage if the weather gets freezing where you live.
Maintenance & Charging
If you have a wet-cell type battery, ensure the fluid levels stay at the recommended levels. Also, for all types, I strongly advise investing in a “trickle charger” or battery tender.
The best smart chargers have a user interface that allows you to switch between battery types, and this will keep a charge on your battery without overcharging it, even when you cannot ride for months.
While connecting and disconnecting your charger, take a moment to clean the battery terminals. Dirt or corrosion can build up on the terminals adding resistance and making it harder for the bike to start and harder to charge the battery.
You are likely never going to get more than five years out of a battery while using it. You CAN stretch out the usage if you bring it into a climate-controlled area for the winter or any time that you are not riding.
If you do not have a heated garage, you may want to pull the battery out and store it inside with a smart charger attached.
Tips for charging and longevity
- Just like leaving the lights on in your car, leaving the ignition switch in the “on” position will quickly drain your battery.
- If your bike has a security system, take that into account when determining if you need to attach a trickle charger.
- Try to manage the number of devices you plug in or turn on during shorter rides.
- Lastly – RIDE MORE!
The most important thing is NOT to use the same charger you would use for your car. You will permanently damage your motorcycle battery.
A quick look on Amazon or a visit to your local dealership will show that the Battery Tender brand makes a “Battery Tender Junior Charger and Maintainer.” It’s good value and will handle both acid batteries (wet, AGM, or gel) as well as Lithium batteries.
Of course, there are other options, but I recommend a charger that will still be useful even if you upgrade your battery to Lithium.
Batteries in cars, trucks, motorcycles, and flashlights wear out after a period of use. None of them will last forever, but proper maintenance will keep the battery from leaving you stranded or ruining a planned day’s ride.