Most motorcycle batteries are labeled as either 6V or 12V. Both types are made of 2V cells, with a 6V battery containing 3 and a 12V containing 6 cells.
However, these figures do not represent the voltage at which the battery runs or charges. In the case of a 12V battery fully charged, it should show around 12.5/12.6 volts; in the case of a 6V battery, it should show about 6.3 volts.
If your battery, when fully charged, shows less than 12.5 or 6.3 volts, then there could be a potential issue with your battery holding its charge, and it could, in the worst-case scenario, need replacing.
Why is it important to know the voltage of your battery?
Motorcycle battery maintenance is one of the essential fundamentals of caring for your motorcycle. It is also one of the most straightforward maintenance tasks you can do.
Knowing the voltage of your battery ensures you are charging using the right amount of power.
It also means you don’t overload your battery with electronics, like heated grips and USB charging ports.
Most importantly, it ensures you know how many volts your battery needs to function normally.
How to check whether your battery is 12V or 6V?
All motorcycle batteries will have their specification written on them, so you can simply pop the battery cover off and take a look.
If you don’t have a battery fitted to the bike, maybe because you have bought a restoration project, finding a copy of the bike owner’s manual will have the information you need.
Alternatively, contact the manufacturer directly, who can tell you what voltage battery you need.
You should also know the type of battery your bike uses
There are 4 fundamental types of motorcycle batteries: Lead Acid, AGM, Gel Cell, and Lithium batteries.
Once you know the voltage of your battery and the type of battery your motorcycle uses, you can figure out how to properly maintain and check your battery voltage.
How to measure battery voltage
An easy way to measure the voltage of your battery is to use a voltmeter like this one.
A digital voltmeter will give the most accurate and reliable readings; once you have your voltmeter follow these steps:
- Remove your battery cover and terminal covers.
- Attach the positive lead from the voltmeter to the positive terminal on the battery
- Attach the negative lead to the negative terminal
- Check the reading on the voltmeter
If your reading is slightly higher than it should be, try turning on your main headlights to drain the battery, as it is overcharged.
If the reading is lower than it should be, try charging the battery. A slow trickle charge is the best way to avoid excess heat and power surges through the cells.
Difference between 6V and a 12V battery
Nearly all modern motorcycles will be fitted with a 12V battery. You will only find 6V batteries on some smaller-capacity dirt bikes and older classic motorcycles.
Newer motorcycles have more technology and electronics that need powering, so manufacturers have switched to using 12V batteries to power their bikes.
You can not use a 6V battery instead of a 12V battery as it simply won’t have enough capacity to power the electronics and circuits of the motorcycle.
Your motorcycle battery will be either a 6V or a 12V battery (most likely a 12V); however, when you read the voltage using a voltmeter, it should read around 12.5 volts up to 12.8 volts.