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How to Charge a Motorcycle Battery & Motorcycle Battery FAQs

August 09, 2023

Nothing sucks the life out of a day faster than a dead motorcycle battery. If you’ve pushed the START button on your bike and get nothing but a faint clicking sound, a fully discharged battery is the likely problem. Here’s what to do next.

How to Charge a Motorcycle Battery Step by Step Process

1. Get the Right Motorcycle Charger

A motorcycle battery should never be charged with an automotive-type battery charger – it’s too powerful for a small battery. Instead, use a charger intended for powersports batteries with no more than 5-amp output.

A Harley-Davidson® Dual-Mode battery charger is an ideal choice for both charging a dead battery and daily maintenance of either an AGM or Harley-Davidson® Lithium LiFe  motorcycle battery. These are “smart” battery maintenance chargers that will fully charge, but not over-charge, the battery. They can also be switched – the dual-mode function – to charge either an AGM or a Harley-Davidson Lithium LiFe battery, and may be used to charge most ATV, lawn mower and other small batteries.

2. Remove the Battery

The battery can be charged through the battery charger leads if you are using a smart charger. If you don’t have a power outlet near the motorcycle, you can remove the battery and charge it off the bike.  See your operator's manual or service manual for instructions on removing the battery from your bike. This may require removing the motorcycle seat, fuel tank, side cover or other parts.

3. Charge the Battery

Follow the battery charger instructions and connect the charger to the battery. With the battery charger unplugged, connect the red charger clip to the positive battery post, and the black charger clip to the negative battery post. If you are using the battery charger connector with the battery in the motorcycle, it will plug right into the corresponding connector that comes with the charger. Now plug in the charger to a wall and select the correct battery type if not selected automatically. There will usually be a green light or other indicator that the charge is complete. When the battery is charged, unplug the charger from the wall before removing the charger leads from the battery.

4. Reinstall the Battery

If you’ve removed the battery from the motorcycle, reinstall following the operator or shop manual instructions. To prevent corrosion, Harley-Davidson recommends application of a light coat of petroleum jelly or electrical contact lubricant to both battery terminals. Now you can try starting the bike. If it still won’t crank over, the battery is too far gone to take a full charge and will need to be replaced, or there may be another problem with your motorcycle.

Other Motorcycle Battery FAQs

How Long Does a Motorcycle Battery Last?

A well-maintained motorcycle battery can last five to seven seasons, but there are a number of factors that can either shorten or extend battery life. 

What’s the Difference Between AGM vs Lithium Motorcycle Batteries?

Before charging, you need to determine what kind of motorcycle battery you have. The absorbed glass mat (AGM) battery found in late-model Harley-Davidson® motorcycles can be charged with a conventional charger. If you have installed a lithium-based battery, you’ll need a special charger and should consult with the battery manufacturer to find out which is the best charger to use. With the correct charger, the procedure is the same for an AGM or lithium battery.

Learn more about lithium motorcycle batteries and AGM motorcycle batteries.

How Can I Extend the Life of My Motorcycle’s Battery?

To extend battery life, Harley-Davidson recommends the use of a constant monitoring battery charger or tender to maintain a full charge between rides or when your motorcycle will not be ridden for more than two weeks. The best practice is installing the charger/tender any time the motorcycle is not in use. Late-model Harley-Davidson® motorcycles are equipped with a battery charging harness for this purpose.

How Can I Test My Motorcycle’s Battery?

An authorized Harley-Davidson® dealer can give your battery a load test, which will determine its health. You can also do some basic testing at home if you own a multimeter tool. If the meter shows more than 12.06 volts (up to 12.7 volts or higher) the battery will usually take a fresh charge. If the voltage is 11.75 volts to 12.06 volts, the battery might take a charge, but it’s not in good shape. If the voltage is less than 11.75 volts, your battery may be at end of life, and should be replaced.

How Can I Buy a New Motorcycle Battery?

If you know which motorcycle battery your bike needs, you can purchase a new motorcycle battery online at Harley-Davidson. An authorized Harley-Davidson® dealer can also help you find the right battery for your Harley® motorcycle. Especially with late-model motorcycles, it’s important to install the correct replacement battery, rather than a “good enough” powersports battery. The electrical system of modern motorcycles can be very sensitive to voltage provided by the battery, and the manufacturer has selected a battery that works with the bike.

Keep your Harley-Davidson® bike charged and ready to ride with Original Equipment batteries, Lithium LiFE batteries, battery chargers, and charging accessories from Harley-Davidson, available at your local Harley-Davidson® dealer or online.

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