What Type of Battery to put in your ATV

Now that you have your ATV, you get to start the joyful process of maintaining and caring for your ATV. This process can seem overwhelming and a little daunting, but when armed with a little knowledge, taking care of your ATV can be a normal part of your recreational routine. One of the most common items you will need to maintain on your ATV is the battery. The first place to begin when you are caring for your ATV’s battery is deciding what type of battery to choose.  Fortunately, this choice is straight-forward and, with a little consideration, you can really maximize your ATV use and investment. When considering which battery to purchase for your ATV, there are three primary types to consider: Lead- Acid (also called conventional), maintenance free batteries (also called Absorbent Glass Mat or AGM for short), and lithium batteries.

Lead Acid or Conventional

Lead acid batteries are the most common type of batteries. They have been around for the longest period of time which is why they are commonly referred to as conventional batteries. Typically, these batteries are easy to identify because they are clear containers with a black top that has caps fastened to it.  These batteries have multiple cells separated by lead plates that are charged by battery acid to power your ATV. These batteries have been around for a long time and because of that they are also the most economical option.  If you are thinking that ATV batteries are the same as car batteries, you are very mistaken.  ATV conventional batteries, unlike most car batteries, take maintenance to make sure they are able to function and run properly.  The primary responsibility to you as an ATV owner is to make sure the acid levels stay within  the fill lines.  Without the proper amount of battery acid between the lead plates, there is a good chance your ATV will not work because your battery will fail.  This amount of maintenance may drive you away from choosing a conventional battery, but there is no reason it should.  The fill lines are clearly marked on the container and with proper care, these batteries can last a long, long time.   Since there is loose liquid within the battery, there is a chance that the battery can be a little less consistent on rocky terrain, but overall this is typically not noticed by most recreational users.

One thing to note about conventional batteries is that they do not come ready to install into the ATV. When you purchase a conventional ATV battery you will need to be prepared to fill the battery and then provide it an initial charge.  This process is not difficult, but it does deserve a mention. Before filling any new battery, it is important to read the instruction manual that comes with your specific battery, but most conventional batteries are filled very similarly.  Before you begin, you may want to consider filling your battery in an open space, such as outside or in an open garage, because the chemicals being used are corrosive and do have the ability to do damage.  If you do spill some of the chemicals, you can neutralize them by using baking soda and water.

Although every battery will come with specific directions, here is generally what you can expect when filling your new conventional ATV battery. When you purchase a conventional battery, you will notice it comes in several parts.  First, you will have the battery housing, which is the clear housing with black top and several caps on top. Second, you will have a container full of battery acid.  Third, you will have two sets of tubing: A longer tube, which is typically to be attached to the battery casing permanently and is designed to help the battery expel battery gases during use and the second, smaller tubing is a spout that will help fill the battery casing with the battery acid.  As a safety measure, please make sure to wear gloves during the filling process.  When you are ready to fill the battery, you will remove the caps from the top of black lid on the battery casing.  There are several caps because they allow access to the different sections of battery that lay between the lead plates of the battery.  On top of the battery acid container, there will be two spouts.  One with a large opening, which is used by manufacturers to fill the container with acid at the factory and a much smaller spout that is used to distribute a much more controlled amount into the battery.  Attach the small spout tubing to the smaller spout and begin to fill your battery. Make sure to fill each section to the top of the fill line located on the container. It is most beneficial to initially fill all the sections partially, then tap the side to dislodge any misleading air bubbles and then completely fill any sections lacking fluid. When each section of the battery is adequately filled, you will want to finger tighten the caps back onto the top of the battery casing and you are ready to initially charge your battery.

While in use, your battery will be recharged through use of the alternator, but initially it is up to you to make sure that you are setting a good standard for your battery’s life.  Providing a solid first charge allows the battery life to reach 100 percent, which will allow it to be the most effective while used on your ATV.  Charging your battery is as easy as it seems, but there are a few important considerations. Firstly, make sure you are using a charger that is appropriately rated for your battery. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE A CAR BATTERY CHARGER FOR THIS PROCESS.  ATV batteries are not as powerful as car batteries and they could easily be ruined by using a charger that is too powerful.  Instead, look at the amps that your battery is rated for.  Typically, this is located on the front of the battery and denoted by the letters AH. Then find a charger that is rated for 10% of the amps.  If you have a battery that is rated 14 AH you will want to find a charger rated for no more than 1.4 AH.  Hook up the battery to charge, but keep an eye on it.  If it becomes warm to the touch, unplug the battery and give it time to cool before completing the charge.  Many chargers have functions that will automatically turn of the charger when the battery is fully charged.  If yours is lacking this feature, unplug the charger as soon as the charge is complete to provide the best charge for your battery. Finally, you may notice that the acid levels in your battery decrease during its initial charge in one or more of the sections of your battery.  If this happens, carefully unscrew the lid for that section and use distilled water to replenish the liquid to the top fill line of the container.  Being a little involved in your initial charge is going to pay dividends in extending the life and health of your battery and investment.  Once the charge is complete, you are ready to install your battery into your ATV.

Maintenance free batteries

The second type of battery to consider is called a Maintenance Free battery or an Absorbent Glass Mat battery (AGM).  These batteries are called AGM’s because they have layers of glass fibers in-between the lead plates that help to absorb the electrolytes and hold the liquid in place.  This allows the battery to better control the vibration of the liquid, which provides a more consistent output of energy and better battery life, especially for vehicles that are meant for off roading.

Maintenance free batteries have several advantages compared to conventional lead acid batteries. Firstly, they are typically smaller than conventional batteries.  Due to the absorbent layer in between the plates, they also discharge at a slower rate, which is beneficial for vehicles that are more likely to sit for a long period of time.  If you are an occasional rider, it may be worth the investment to have a more likely chance of your battery working after sitting for a while.

Although these batteries are “maintenance free,” it does not necessarily mean they won’t require some work on the front end.  Many maintenance free batteries come prepackaged and ready to charge, but others will still need you to fill the battery casing with the acid.  This process in AGM’s is simplified in comparison to the conventional batteries.  In the packaging you will only find three items: the battery casing, an acid pack, and the caps for the top of the battery pack. These types of batteries usually come with acid packs that are pre-measured with foil tops.  The top of the battery casing will have corresponding points meant to puncture the foil so you simply have to turn the acid pack over, firmly puncture the foil and let the acid drain into the battery.  Once the battery is filling, there is a puncture stick that you can use to poke a hole in the top of the acid pack to allow air into the compartments, which will allow the fluid to drain more quickly. This process can take up to an hour to make sure the battery is completely filled. Once the battery is filled, place the battery cap on top.  Make sure to hand tighten these caps and not to use a any tools.  After the battery is filled, set the battery up to charge with all the same considerations of a conventional battery.

image by Koen Van Ginkel

Lithium Batteries

The final type of battery to consider for your ATV is a lithium battery.  This is the newest and most specialized type of battery and with that comes a more substantial price tag.  These batteries come pre-sealed and ready to charge and install. Unlike lead acid and AGM batteries, there is no liquid in a lithium battery  This makes them lighter, smaller and able to be mounted in any position. Lithium batteries are the latest in ATV battery technology, but that does not make them necessary for all ATVs.  A lithium battery is not a bad investment, but unless you are a vigilant rider, it may not be a necessary one.

Maintaining your ATV may initially seem daunting, and choosing a battery type is no exception.  Any battery you choose is going to be a great choice for your ATV as long as you understand the benefits and responsibilities associated with each battery type. When looking for a battery for your vehicle, take time to consider your specific needs as well as your commitment to maintenance.

Recent Posts