How long does a motorcycle battery last?
Typically, a motorcycle battery is designed to last 3-5 years, but we see them go much longer and, sometimes, much shorter. This varies because of how much the battery is used, how much cranking the bike needs before it starts and how the battery is stored. These all play into the expected lifespan of the battery, making a simple one size fits all answer difficult and inaccurate.
Rather than stop at this non-answer answer, it seems more prudent to first ask and then answer a few relevant questions that will shed some light on this subject.
What is the average life of a bike battery?
Some of you may be old enough to remember the candy advertising campaign from the 1980s, where the question is posed, “How many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” (the answer, by the way…is no one knows).
A motorcycle battery is a bit like that. No, we aren’t telling you to lick your battery; we are simply saying that how long it lasts can be very subjective.
From a scientific point of view, you should get 1,000 or so starts from a lead-based battery (AGM, lead acid) and 2,000ish starts from lithium before your battery is chemically worn out. But even this varies considerably based on the tune of your engine and how many rotations it needs before your engine fires up.
Again, so many variables, but that works out to around 3-5 years for the average biker.
Winter Storage plays a role:
How long will the motorcycle battery last in winter/cold weather? We always recommend a storage regimen for your motorcycle batteries during the winter. For lead-based batteries such as an AGM, we recommend a quality tender or maintainer.
These will keep your battery in top condition, no matter the storage conditions. Lithium batteries are a bit different, and the best winter storage method is to disconnect the battery from the bike for long periods of no use. This will prevent over-discharge, and a disconnected lithium battery will not self-discharge much over six months.
Speaking of winter storage, how often should I start my motorcycle to keep the battery charged?
We don’t recommend starting the bike to charge the battery unless you can run it for a minimum of 15 minutes at a time above a high idle. Most motorcycle battery systems do not adequately charge the battery at idle, and the start will discharge the battery, leaving your battery with less charge than before you began.
When we speak to customers about battery care, the best advice we can give is to “ride as often as possible.” A well-exercised battery will generally last longer than a seldom-used one.
But how long does a motorcycle battery last without use?
We have seen that lead-based motorcycle batteries can go about six months on a shelf without charge, and a lithium LiFePo4 motorcycle battery can go upwards of a year.
We highly recommend that the AGM or flooded type get connected to a maintenance charger or charged at a minimum every two months when stored unconnected from the bike. While the lithium will happily sit without being charged, we recommend using your lithium maintainer every few months to ensure everything stays healthy.
How do you know when your motorcycle needs a new battery?
Well, this is going to seem like a simple answer: Replace it right before it goes bad. But how do I know when it’s about to fail? The good news here is that the answer is usually that simple.
Rather than worry about specific timeframes and dates, the best advice is to use battery performance to judge when your old battery is ready for the recyclers. If you are doing proper battery maintenance, the dead giveaways are ones you notice pretty quickly.
A slow engine response, or the starter does not spin as fast as it should means it is time to replace your motorcycle battery. Better to do this at home than wait for a failure out on the road or trail.
Well, you’ve made it to the end! You have what is hopefully a better understanding of battery lifespan, care, and maintenance. And now you are are ready to protect your battery from the elements of winter and the dread of a dead battery in the spring.
What to do?
The best, most straightforward thing is a simple charge maintainer that will keep your battery fresh and ready to take you to new places at the first sign of spring.
The chargers and maintainers in our motorcycle charger section are sized perfectly for your motorcycle batteries and are as simple as plug-and-play battery maintenance. They take the worry out of motorcycle battery lifespan and ensure you are good to go as soon as the frost melts!