Motorcycle Battery Safety

Decades ago, my father didn't need to be concerned about motorcycle batteries. His motorcycle had a magneto to fire the spark for the plug and a rudimentary generator to provide electricity for the lights and horn. My first motorcycle had a tiny lead acid battery to meet the road safety code for motor vehicles that said it was necessary to keep the lights working if the engine stalled.

I have vivid memories of the monthly battery maintenance ritual. Adding distilled water, which I often borrowed from my mother who used it to iron our clothing, to each cell before connecting the trickle charger was part of the routine. Leaving the filler caps off each cell to allow hydrogen gas to escape was important.

Periodically checking the state of charge in each cell with a hydrometer was almost ceremonial. That was a long time ago. Technological advances of the last 20 years have made the monthly maintenance ritual much simpler. Nowadays, I check the batteries with a digital multimeter and honestly I wouldn't even know where I could buy distilled water today.
Anyway, it's remarkable that from all motorcyclists I asked almost nobody knows or want to know the essentials of battery safety.

So I created a list of battery essentials, just to keep everybody safe...
  • Follow the battery manufacturer's recommendations regarding charge rate.
  • Never pry the top off a maintenance-free battery in an attempt to add water. You will void the battery's warranty and put yourself in possible danger.
  • Wear eye protection when working with batteries
  • Batteries contain lead and acid. Both are hazardous. Take dead batteries to a recycling center
  • Batteries release hydrogen gas during charging. Keep batteries that are being charged away from sparks and flames
  • Remove the filler caps on conventional batteries before charging to avoid pressure buildup in the battery.
  • Make sure the vent hose on a conventional battery isn't clogged, pinched, or kinked.
  • Conventional batteries should be removed from the motorcycle before charging to avoid any damage caused by spills or leaks
  • Disconnect the ground (negative) cable first when removing a battery from a motorcycle.
  • When installing a battery, connect the ground cable last.
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