The battery to a motorcycle is a small yet vital part of a motorcycle’s functionality. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to get your motorcycle started. They’ve come a long way with the technology implemented in them, but that doesn’t mean they’re problem-free.
Motorcycle batteries can be a bit finicky. Living in environments with extreme temperatures can also pose additional motorcycle battery issues, especially if you live in a place with very cold winters. This may leave you with some extra questions
So, will a motorcycle battery freeze? It is possible for a motorcycle battery to freeze. If the motorcycle is discharged, meaning any charge below 100%, it can freeze starting at 32° F, depending on how much charge is left. A fully charged battery is much more resilient to cold weather and will not freeze until it gets to about – 75° F or -76° F.
It’s important to take proper care of your motorcycle battery so it doesn’t cause you problems whether you keep riding in the winter or you wait until spring. There’s a lot more to consider about batteries than knowing their freezing temperatures.
When A Motorcycle Battery Freezes
Most motorcyclists who live in climates with harsh winters end up storing their motorcycle for the season until it gets warm enough to ride again. This is a perfectly fine practice if you store your motorcycle right. But people often don’t take the proper care of the battery during this time.
The motorcycle battery is used simply to get the motorcycle started. Once the motorcycle is on, the stator is what powers the motorcycle and charges the battery while in use. Because people use their motorcycles much less in the winter, the battery is not getting a regular charge from routine riding. To learn more about how a stator works, see my other article by clicking here.
There’s also a phenomenon called parasitic drain. A battery can slowly discharge over time caused by poorly grounded wires. This slow drain can cause the charge of a battery to become very low when the motorcycle is not getting used.
Most motorcycles require a 12 volt battery. To get a bit technical, the exact voltage is 12.6 which is considered a 100% charged battery, 12.4 volts is considered 75% charged, and 12.2 volts is considered 50% charged. In order to start a motorcycle, you need at least 12.2 volts, or a 50% charge on a new battery.
A 100% charged battery, or a battery maintaining 12.6 volts, will be resilient to freezing temperatures and won’t freeze until about -75° F or -76° F. Most places don’t get that cold, so if you keep your motorcycle battery charged, you’ll be covered in the cold temperatures.
If a battery has anything less than a 100% charge, or 12.6 volts, the battery will start freezing at higher temperatures. A completely discharged battery can freeze at 32° F, the same freezing temperature as water.
When a motorcycle batter is fully charged, the fluid inside the battery has a lot lower of a freezing point. This is because all of the electrons are stored in the sulfuric acid and water mixture which lowers the freezing temperature.
When the battery is discharged, the electrons are stored on the lead plates so it’s mostly a water concentration at the point. That is why the freezing temperature of a discharged battery is closer to the freezing temperature as water.
Most motorcycle batteries hold a sulfuric acid and water mixture inside of them, so this applies to almost all batteries found on a motorcycle.
How To Identify A Frozen Battery
If it’s a cold day outside and you’re wanting to check the status of your battery, there are a few signs you should look for if you suspect your battery may be frozen.
Your first sign will be that your motorcycle won’t start. Though there could be several other reasons your motorcycle isn’t starting in such cold weather, the battery is usually the first culprit.
There are also some physical signs that your battery is frozen. A frozen battery may swell on the sides. You may also notice some small cracks with close examination. If you see visible ice crystals any where on the battery, chances are the insides are frozen too.
If you suspect your battery is frozen, do not attempt to charge it or jump start your motorcycle. This can cause an unwanted reaction and possibly make your battery explode.
What To Do If The Battery Freezes
If you have checked the signs and confirmed that your motorcycle battery is frozen, there are some steps you need to take to ensure your safety. As it was stated before, you should never attempt to charge or jump start a motorcycle battery when it’s frozen.
You should also never bring a frozen battery into your home to warm it up. There may be some unforeseen cracks which can leak battery acid and fumes. The acid can eat away and destroy what ever it’s sitting on and the fumes can be harmful to those who reside in your home.
If there is any swelling or cracks on the battery, you’ll need to dispose of the battery and get a new one. You cannot revive a cracked or swelled battery nor should you try to.
There is a process to getting rid of a motorcycle battery and throwing it in the garbage can isn’t part of that process. Call around to local recycle plants and see if any of them accept batteries. You can also attempt to take it in to an auto store; most of them accept used batteries because they can often recycle them themselves.
If your battery does not have any swelling or cracks, you can attempt to reuse it. The first thing you need to do is simply wait until it gets warm enough outside to thaw it out. To be safe, wait until it gets above 32 degress fahrenheit. Once it gets warm enough, you may test the voltage and attempt to charge the battery.
It is not guaranteed that a previously frozen motorcycle battery will have the same capacity it had before it became frozen. Often times a battery that froze loses some of it’s ability to charge and will relinquish more often than before. It may be risky continuing using a previously frozen battery because it isn’t as reliable and may leave you stranded. It’s also more susceptible to become frozen again.
How To Keep A Motorcycle Battery From Freezing
Maintaining a motorcycle in the winter can seem a little daunting, but the little extra effort you take in properly storing it for the season will make it well worth your time later one. If you take good care of your motorcycle, it’ll take care of you.
While there are several steps you should take to properly store your motorcycle, you’ll want to especially focus on the battery to make sure it doesn’t freeze. There are several ways to prevent a motorcycle battery from freezing.
The first option you have is to simply disconnect the battery from the motorcycle and keep it stored in a temperature controlled environment. You can bring it in to your house, just make sure it is in some sort of sealed container and not near any open flames. Also make sure it is in and on something that you don’t mind getting ruined in the case some battery acid spills from it. Also keep it out of reach from kids and pets.
Keeping the battery charged will guarantee the battery won’t freeze. The second option you have is using a trickle charger. You simply hook it up to the battery and let it charge. You’ll need to monitor the charging because it’s possible to over charge the battery if it is left on for too long.
The third and best option you have is using a battery tender. This is my favorite option because it’s essentially worry free and does most of the work for you. You’ll need an outlet to plug it in, but once you have it connected to the battery it will monitor it’s charge and automatically start charging it when it senses the battery losing power. The best part is that it’ll also stop charging when it senses the battery has a full charge.
If you’re interested in knowing how to care for the rest of your motorcycle for long term or winter storage, see the helpful guide I have written by clicking here.
Can a motorcycle battery be mounted on it’s side? AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat), gel cell, and lithium ion motorcycle batteries can be mounted on their side because they are sealed and won’t leak. Traditional motorcycle lead acid batteries that are vented cannot be mounted on their side because they are not sealed and will leak acid. Click here to see my article for more info.
Can a car battery freeze? Car batteries can also freeze. If it discharged at all, the battery will freeze at a much higher temperature than a fully charged battery. The voltage of a battery doesn’t matter when it comes to freezing temperatures.