Keeping your powersports toys powered
Much as we love our motorcycles and other motorized playthings, we don't get to use them as often as we'd like. This plays hell with their batteries and can cause disaster when it's finally fun time. Sitting out that first perfect riding day of spring when your street bike won't start is a disappointment which can only be topped by having that same infuriating issue occur when you're at the racetrack and missing sessions for which you've paid to ride.
The solution to keeping sporadically used batteries fresh and ready to go is to let them slumber while attached to a maintenance charger. MotoBatt, a proud sponsor of AMA Pro Roadracing, has just the solution. Their Water Boy battery charger is so named because it is 100% waterproof. This is extremely beneficial if you're using it on a boat or personal watercraft that is floating dockside but also comes in handy when the car, truck or motorcycle that you're storing is sitting outside in the elements. Hey, sometimes it rains even when you're at the track.
So how waterproof is waterproof? Of course you wouldn't want to toss anything that's pumping 120 VAC electricity into a bucket of water but in the interest of science, that's just what we did! Having hooked the charging leads to a battery and the electrical cord to an extension, we submerged the charger and plugged it in. When the shop's circuit breaker didn't pop, we edged over to the pail and took a peak. The Water Boy's LED lights were cycling along, showing that the device was doing its job. So far so good but would it survive an overnight immersion? It did!
This is a very smart battery charger. Fortunately, you don't need a degree in charging technology to use it. Simply plug it into a 120v outlet, then connect the red clamp to positive and the black clamp to negative. There's even an anti-spark feature. Once attached, the Water Boy gets to work. Charging your battery and keeping it ready to go is a nine-stage process. The following explanation is straight from the MotoBatt website:
- Qualification Phase: Initially ensures that the battery is in good condition prior to launching.
- Battery Recovery Phase: MOTOBATT Battery Recovery starts if battery voltage has risen unusually high in the early portion of the re-charge cycle. Once the battery recovery phase has succeeded in getting the battery to accept power, normal battery charging will begin.
- Soft Start Phase: Soft Start is used when the charger has detected a battery is at a very low initial state of charge. Voltage and current are delivered at a specified rate to help the recovery prior to entering pulse charge mode.
- Pulse Mode Phase: MOTOBATT Pulse Mode provides a pulse charge to help the newly recovered battery to continue to accept charge as it enters Reconditioning Phase.
- Reconditioning Phase: The MOTOBATT Reconditioning Phase continues to work the battery at a slightly higher voltage and amperage to "re-activate" the battery plates, for improved depth of charge and charge acceptance.
- Bulk Charge Phase: With the battery now through Pulse and Reconditioning phase and well on its way to full recovery, the MOTOBATT Bulk Charge Phase gives the constant current, taking the battery up to 80% of its capacity.
- Absorption Phase: In the MOTOBATT Absorption Phase the battery is given constant voltage while the current is reduced, based on action taken from monitoring the battery's current state, until the battery is 100% charged.
- Check Phase: The battery will now be checked to be sure that it is holding a charge properly. The charger will make a determination and pass the battery for service, or not.
- Maintenance Phase: The Battery can be left on the charger indefinitely. The unit will monitor the battery and "turn-on" again as needed to maintain the battery at a full state of readiness.
Here at TrackdayMag.com, we have five motorcycles on our team that see full-time track duty. The batteries in these machines see zero use for six to seven months straight and then might be called upon to do their job for four to six days per month during the summer riding season. We pull our trailer with a diesel pickup truck that uses two giant batteries to turn over its huge, high compression engine. This truck is used only for motorcycle-related hauling, so it too can go months between uses. In years past, we'd need to replace a few of our batteries each spring and then perhaps lose at least one more as the summer progressed. Last winter, the truck batteries gave out. This was the last straw, as those two cost us $100 each! We decided that 2013 would be the winter of maintenance chargers and ordered six, mounting five to our shop wall and the other one to the inner fender of the pickup. This was done around Christmas, which meant that all of our bike batteries had already been sitting for two to three months and the truck hadn't been driven since we'd topped its fuel tanks off for winter storage on Thanksgiving weekend. By this point, all of the bike batteries tested low. Three of them came up to par in an afternoon, with the other two taking an entire weekend. A charger lacking the Water Boy's battery restoration technology likely wouldn't have been able to save the weaker ones.
The application where this Water Boy most impressed us was the truck. Six weeks of winter disuse had left its batteries barely able to start the vehicle. On a frigid, single-digit early January morning, we jumped in and checked the dashboard voltmeter. It showed 12 volts but not for long. When we turned the key, the cycling of the diesel's glow plugs dragged voltage down to where the starter motor would hardly turn. Had the engine not been being kept warm by a block heater, there's no chance we would have gotten it running. After a few minutes of idling, we shut the motor down and checked the dashboard voltmeter again. Following the cold start, it showed around ten volts. We attached the MotoBatt Charger and left it to sit overnight. By morning, the device was showing itself to be in maintenance mode, meaning that the truck's batteries were now fully charged. The dash gauge showed 14 volts. The truck cranked over even better than we're used to it doing in the height of summer and started immediately. We were impressed! This was a clear demonstration that even in warm weather, batteries which see only occasional use will not deliver peak performance unless they are maintained.
In the case of the truck, we're also protecting its alternator. Remember that this device is designed to keep the vehicle's battery charged and provide assistance with electrical needs, not to run the system entirely by itself. We've burned one out already, to the tune of nearly $300 in replacement cost. If you use the last vestige of charge in the batteries to get your rarely-used tow rig started, then head off to the track with the full compliment of truck and trailer lights blazing, the AC on, stereo blasting and everyone's cell phone and GoPro on charge, the alternator is being severely overtaxed. If this sort of abuse is standard operating procedure for your tow vehicle, the alternator will have a much shortened lifespan.
The waterproof body of MotoBatt's Water Boy charger is about the size of a small can of Red Bull. It will pack easily among your track gear. Its leads are generously long, which means that if you can park your bike near an electrical outlet, you probably won't need an extension cord. On the charging side of the device, there is a quick disconnect plug in the cord. This allows you to use either a set of post clamps, or a fused lead which bolts right to your battery cables and can be tucked discreetly out of sight when you ride. Both options are supplied with the charger. There are four mounting lugs on the Water Boy's case, which we used to screw our row of chargers to the wall. We then added an outlet strip and created a charging station in one corner of our shop. It's oddly comforting to enter the shop in darkness and see that row of green "Ready" lights glowing in the corner. Makes us feel like we could ride today, if there wasn't snow on the ground.
Batteries are expensive to replace and seem to fail exactly on schedule with Murphy's Law. The MotoBatt Water Boy costs $49.95. Using one will not only extend the life of those batteries in your life that see more storage than use, but can also prevent the angst that comes from having a toy which won't start. At the moment of ultimate frustration, when everyone else is riding and you're pushing a cold, dead motorcycle up and down the paddock road trying to bump-start it, you'd gladly burn fifty bucks in a heartbeat to have the problem magically solve itself. MotoBatt's Water Boy is that magic solution. If you get one now, you won't be that guy come riding season.