There are many types of battery tenders so it’s important that you know what to look for and can separate features you need from those that you don’t need when choosing a motorcycle battery tender. The difference can save you a lot of money and eliminate features which usually equates to extra size and weight you don’t want to have to carry around.
Motorcycles are in their own class when it comes to battery tenders because their batteries are small and you don’t need a lot of complicated features to do the job. On the other hand, you are definitely looking for a unit that will get you through the entire storage time and also maintain the battery in good health for the whole period.
It is also important to compare specifications because these will tell you if a particular motorcycle battery tender is up to the task you want it to perform.
It’s hard to compare if you don’t know what the specifications mean or why you would want any particular features. Below I have laid out the most common specifications with an explanation of each and then the most common features also with an explanation for each so you can compare apples to apples.
Common Motorcyle Battery Tender Specifications:
1. Battery Type:
Not all motorcycle battery tenders can charge all battery types. Common battery types include lead acid, flooded or sealed maintenance free (very common now), in either AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat separators) or Gel cel batteries. Pay attention to what type of motorcycle battery or batteries you will be maintaining and select the appropriate tender.
2. Peak Amperes:
Most motorcycle battery tenders come with this specification. Peak amperes is the measurement of the highest peak of current draw over one millisecond or over one thousandth of a second. The higher the peak amperes, the more current can be drawn by the tender without damaging it. So it is usually a measurement of the quality of the components rather than a measurement of charging capability. For a motorcycle you don’t need to be concerned about peak amperes or even charging amps as much because you will be storing your motorcycle and are more interested in maintaining the battery rather than trying to charge it initially.
3. Average Charge Time:
Motorcycle battery tenders can vary greatly in the average time it takes to charge your motorcycle’s battery although the most common tenders take anywhere from 2 to 10 hours to charge. The faster the charge capability usually the more expensive the tender. Again since you’re storing the motorcycle, it is not as important how fast the tender charges but that it is capable of maintaining a full charge and the health of the battery.
4. Motorcycle Battery Tender Portability:
Tender units tend to be smaller and lighter in weight. They are portable in a sense but, you still need AC power which limits their portability. Since you’re storing your motorcycle, portability is not as much of a factor.
5. Ease of use:
This is a very personal specification because one person’s “ease of use” is another person’s “difficult to use!” The good news is that most motorcycle battery tenders are very easy to use and fully automatic.
Some things you should look for:
Does it come with a good instruction manual that discusses both the proper use and safety considerations?
Does it have an automatic shut off or go into a safer trickle charge (or battery tender) mode after charging is complete?
Are the controls simple to understand?
Does it give the user enough information via a display or lights for the user to always know the status of the charging?
All motorcycle battery tenders have cables for you to hook to the positive and negative terminals of the battery. How long are the cables? Short cables will mean that you have to place the motorcycle battery tender very close to the battery or even remove the battery to use it safely. Longer cables will give you flexibility in where you locate the battery tender during the storage period.
Does the unit have motorcycle battery cable connections? Since you are going to be leaving the tender on autopilot for possibly months, motorcycle battery connections are much more reliable than alligator clips.
Common Motorcycle Battery Tender Features:
1. Reverse Polarity Warning:
Have you hooked up the cables correctly? A reverse polarity warning on a motorcycle battery tender will tell you if you have hooked the positive cable to the negative post on the battery incorrectly or vice versa.
2. Charger Compatibility:
As we discussed in the specifications, not all motorcycle battery tenders are compatible with all battery types. But there is also the consideration of vehicle type which can dictate a special battery which might not even be 12 volts. Is your motorcycle a classic? It may have a 6 volt battery. Make sure the tender can handle 6 volt batteries if your motorcycle has a 6 volt system. Motorcycle batteries are smaller with less capacity and so don’t need the same charger performance as the larger 12 volt battery in your car.
3. Fast and Slow Charge Rate:
Some tenders come with both a Slow Charge Rate and a Fast Charge Rate. When considering a tender for motorcycle storage, a slow maintenance charge is all that is needed.
4. Battery Conditioning:
Many tenders use a microprocessor controlled multi-step process for charging and maintaining the battery. The best tenders all have this feature.
5. Built-In Battery Tester:
Many tenders come with an indicator that can tell you what percentage of charge is left in the battery. In addition the charge percentage, it can tell you if there is a problem and whether it’s actually with the battery or not. It’s also possible to detect a bad battery in some cases when normal charging does not fully charge the battery.
6. Automatic Charging:
A motorcycle battery tender should be fully automatic.
7. Insulated Clamps:
Most all battery tenders now come with insulated clamps to prevent accidental shock. For safety reasons, you should always choose a charger with insulated clamps.
8. Spark Resistant Clamps:
Many motorcycle battery tenders now come equipped with spark resistant clamps. One way that this is handled is through a power shutoff that automatically shuts off power to the clamps if they are dislodged from the terminals. This can prevent spark between the clamp and the terminal. Another way that this can be handled is by using a spark resistant on/off switch on the battery charger that turns off power to the clamps until you’re ready to start charging or by automatically detecting the connection and starting the charging only after the connection is good.
Warranties vary greatly by manufacturer and the type of charger and are usually classified as “Limited Warranties.” Typical warranties run between 90 days up to 5 years. All other things being equal, a longer warranty may tip the balance in favor of one tender over another.
Motorcycle Battery Tender
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For a comparison of popular motorcycle battery tenders, please see our article Top 5 Motorcycle Battery Tenders For 2013.
I would love to get your opinion of this article or hear your motorcycle battery tender story. Please take a moment to leave a comment below.
I think you can see that there is a lot more to the selection than just price. I hope this article has been helpful in preparing you for comparing one motorcycle battery tender to another.