Powersports Batteries for Cold Weather
Did you know motorcycle and ATV batteries aren’t as powerful in cold weather?
A typical powersports battery may only be capable of producing half as much power at 0°F as it would at 60°F. That’s a considerable drop in performance, one that could be critical when you need to start your bike or quad. Here’s a quick guide to how cold weather affects powersports batteries.
The Biggest Draw on a Powersports Battery
Starting up a motorcycle, ATV or UTV puts the biggest demand on its battery. For example, running the lights may require 20 amps of power, whereas the starter motor may require 100 amps or more to give it enough power to crank over the engine.
Now factor in the drop in battery performance due to cold weather. If the battery is capable of delivering 120 amps at normal temperatures, but loses 30% of its capability when the temperature dips to freezing, that leaves it generating around 85 amps at best, robbing it of the full 100 amps needed by the starter motor.
Why Powersports Batteries Lose Performance in Cold Weather
When a battery gets cold, the chemical reaction that generates electrical power within it slows down. As the chemical reaction slows down, the battery doesn’t produce as much power. And as the motorcycle or ATV itself gets cold, the metal parts making up the engine contract slightly, reducing tolerances and making it harder for them to move.
The engine oil gets more viscous, which hinders movement within the engine. These factors combined place an added burden on the starter motor as it struggles to crank the engine, and thus requires more power from the battery to counteract them.
What to Look for When Buying Powersports Batteries
Apart from the physical size of the battery (useless to your bike or quad if it doesn’t fit), the most important thing to look for is the battery’s cold cranking amps rating.
The CCA rating is a measurement of how much power a battery can provide when it’s cold, or the amperage the battery delivers continuously for 30 seconds while maintaining at least 7.2 volts at a temperature of 0°F. In layman’s terms, the CCA rating is the amount of power the battery delivers even when the weather is below freezing.
Look for a battery with both a good CCA rating and amp-hour rating, which is a measurement of how long the battery can supply power. In other words, a battery with a higher AH rating lasts longer in cold weather than a battery with a lower rating.
One last thing to consider when buying a powersports battery is the type. The majority of bikes and quads use traditional absorbent glass mat batteries. However, lithium-ion batteries are growing in popularity.
AGM batteries are perfectly adequate for many riders, but lithium-ion batteries offer several advantages. They’re less susceptible to temperature changes and are very slow to discharge in cold weather, so they require little maintenance. Lithium-ion batteries are better at cold cranking, and have longer lifespans than AGM batteries. The downsides of lithium-ion batteries is that they cost more and require special chargers, which means you’ll have to invest in one of those too.
When shopping for powersports batteries, choose one with high CCA and AH ratings. However, keep in mind that a lithium battery may pay for itself due to its higher durability and lower maintenance when compared to an AGM battery.