Is your battery in tip top condition?

What could be better than riding a motorbike down some peaceful country lanes on rolling hills on a warm and sunny day? Not much I believe.

And it’s all that much sweeter if your Shadow turns over at the first attempt. But sometimes this is not the case and despite everything looking good when you turn the ignition on all you get is a series of clicks, lights dimmed and nothing else. You check your battery with a multimeter or plug it in to your trickle charger and you get… zero charge!

How do you check that the battery isn’t dead?

Well, the first thing we can do might seem obvious but it’s probably often overlooked: a visual inspection. If you are using a lead acid battery you want to check that the fluids are at the correct levels and that there is no corrosion or a lose contact that could cause problems. All the cells should be the same colour and if only one of them is darker it could mean that that cell is damaged and the whole battery useless as a consequence. Better change it to be on the safe side.

Other things to look out for are cracks, leaks, dodgy connections, bulges, signs of corrosion, signs of short circuiting. If all is good but the batter still doesn’t hold the charge it’s time to take a voltage reading. You can do so with a simple digital multimeter that you can buy for £10 or less. This is a good level of investment if you are not comfortable working with electrics or if it’s your first time checking the voltage on anything: if it goes BOOM you have only lost £10 but if you get it right you will have a handy little tool that will help you diagnose all sorts of electrical issues in the future for many years to come.

digital multimeter

To test the voltage simply put the meter on to the 20v dc range and with the ignition off measure the battery voltage. If you get a read of 12.6 – 13.2v dc you have a good battery but if you get a reading that’s lower than that then there is something causing it to become depleted and you have to investigate further. If you get a reading of 0 it means the battery experienced a short circuit, if it reads below 12.4v dc the battery is likely to be sulphated and therefore may not come back to life fully if recharged. This depends on how long the sulfation process has been going on for and whether the surface area of the plates inside the battery has been affected.

It is usually at this point that the best decision to make is to buy a new battery just to be on the safe side. Whether you go for a lead acid wet battery, a gel battery or a lithium battery is rather a matter of personal choice. What’s important is that you don’t skimp and buy the best battery you can afford. Your Shadow will thank you for it and give you plenty of great rideouts in the months to come.


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