Why Your Motorcycle Battery Won't Charge While Riding

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Key Takeaways

  • A dead battery or bad stator is often the cause of why motorcycle battery won’t charge while riding.  
  • Corroded battery terminals can cause a lack of power in a bike’s charging system.
  • Aftermarket modifications can create too much drain on battery life and create problems.
  • Motorcycle batteries can develop problems just like car batteries.
  • A problem with the ignition switch is a first sign of a battery charging system failure.

You’ve been riding your bike, but the battery keeps dying. Let's determine why a motorcycle battery might not charge while riding.

A battery system is integral to powering necessary functions for your motorcycles, like displays, fuel mixtures, powering lights, and even starting. There are several reasons that a battery won’t charge - loose connections, corroded terminals, a malfunctioning stator, or even a bad battery.

Nothing is more frustrating for a motorcyclist than discovering that the battery is not recharging. When bikers ride down the road, they depend on their motorcycle’s ability to charge essential systems. A bike won’t function without a charging battery, so it is crucial to know when this is happening and why. What are the symptoms of a non-charging battery system, and what causes this problem? As a bike owner, what can you do to diagnose and correct the problem? There are various reasons why your motorcycle battery might not be holding a charge, and not every one of them means that you have to make a trip to your local store to spend a lot of money.

In this article...


What Are The Symptoms Of A Bike Battery That Won’t Hold A Charge?

A few symptoms might indicate a motorcycle battery won’t charge while riding.

The Motorcycle Has A Hard Time Starting

One of the easiest ways to tell that your battery might be having trouble is that you have trouble starting your bike. If you have to turn the key several times before the bike’s engine engages, it might be a sign that there isn’t enough electricity to power the ignition.

You Have To Charge the Battery Every Day

A battery that has to be charged on a consistent basis is losing its charge somewhere. If you must hook your bike’s battery up to a trickle charger constantly, you have a problem, and your electrical system needs checking.

Faulty Working Electronics

Since the recharging system is also integral in keeping the instrument panel and displays or headlights working correctly, any deviation is not good. If you discover that your headlights are weaker than they should be or experience faulty readings from your electronic displays, your battery might be to blame.

Loose Battery Cables, Corroded Terminals, or Leaking Acid

If you notice that your battery terminals are corroded, or the battery is leaking acid, this could be a symptom of why your motorcycle battery isn’t holding its charge. You should clean the terminals or replace the battery (if leaking) immediately. Due to the bumps in the road, a battery cable vibrates loose at times which can cause the issue.

What Are The Reasons Your Motorcycle Battery Won’t Charge?

There are several reasons why your battery might not be holding a charge. Let’s consider some things that can affect a motorcycle’s battery system.

Faulty Stator

A stator is part of your motorcycle’s electrical system and responsible for recharging the battery while the bike is being used. If the stator goes bad, then a bike can only operate on the voltage left in the system at startup. Most batteries are only capable of handling that load for a short time. The solution to a lousy stator is to replace it with an OEM part.

Dead Battery

One apparent reason that your charging system is not doing what you want is that the bike needs a new battery. Many motorcycle owners find the bike has a battery sulfation problem (a buildup of sulfate crystals that occurs if the battery is deprived of a full charge). If your bike has been in the garage for a while, then there is a chance that the battery’s inner plates are having trouble with the chemical reaction that must occur for them to hold a charge.

If the battery is dead and incapable of holding a charge, you must replace it. Remember that batteries have expiration dates, and most companies will prorate the cost if the battery fails within that period. (The expiration date is printed on the battery).

If your battery is past the date, don’t fret. You can still get some money for it. Take it to the store where you plan to purchase a new battery, and the parts store will likely take off the core fee of $15 - 20 off the price of your new unit.

Damaged or Bad Alternator

An alternator has the job of converting the mechanical energy from your motorcycle’s engine into alternating current that your bike uses to power other electrical systems. The alternator is a critical component in keeping your battery charged. So, if the alternator is faulty or not functioning correctly, it won’t matter how many new batteries you install. There will always be battery issues.

If you can’t start your bike with the key, but it jumpstarts, then the alternator is likely bad. If the motorbike won’t start and jump starting doesn’t get it running, then likely the battery needs replacing.

Bad Regulator-Rectifier or Stator

Every motorcycle's electrical system has several components that are designed to help regulate the flow of electrical energy sent back to the battery. This situation is important to resolve because if the regulator isn’t working correctly, there’s nothing to keep your battery from overcharging (and exploding, which is not a good thing).

A technician will use a multimeter to determine if there is a bad regulator-rectifier in the changing system. There are plenty of videos online about how to do this repair yourself, but we recommend letting an experienced technician at your local repair shop handle it.

Blown Fuse

One of the reasons that a battery may be failing to hold a charge could be a blown fuse. A fuse helps absorb the excess energy from a power surge and can blow itself up rather than pass that excess energy through the system and fry your electrical components. If you suspect a blown fuse is to blame, remove the seat, open the fuse box cover, and begin to inspect the fuses. You should look for a break in the wiring inside the plastic fuse. Brown burnt edges or markings on the tongue of the fuse are also a sign. Replace the fuse with another of the same voltage.

Corroded Battery Terminals

If you are paying attention to your bike and notice that the terminals seem to be corroded, this could be the reason why your battery charges poorly. Simply remove the clamps, clean the terminals and inside of the battery connections, reattach them, and see if your battery charging improves. Battery caps can help keep some of the corrosion from building up.

Loose Connections

To charge correctly, a battery cable must firmly connect to both positive and negative terminals. If the terminals don’t seem corroded, a loose connection might need to be tightened to ensure that the battery cable is getting enough juice to power the charging system. This situation is an excellent time to perform battery maintenance.

Aftermarket Adds Are Taxing the System

Many motorcyclists love tricking out their bikes with many add-ons, from phone chargers to sound systems or heated seats. While these kinds of amenities are nice to have, they can overwhelm a motorcycle charging system.

What happens is that the extras pull more electrical current from the battery than the system can regenerate. The result is that the battery constantly gives out more energy than it is taking in, and eventually, systems fail.

Faulty Ground Connection

A bad ground connection can produce an electrical fault. This problem is sometimes a hard thing to diagnose because it doesn’t always manifest itself all the time. If your ground wire has a short or loose connection, the battery may have sporadic issues until it is replaced.