Many folks ride all terrain vehicles for fun or work. But it’s never fun (and it’s always means work) when the quad won’t start because of a dead battery.
Let’s look at what you need to know when buying the best ATV battery and provide a few tips to keep your 4-wheeler battery in service.
Check the old battery
The ATV won’t start, now what?
The first step that can be taken is to visually inspect the old battery. Are there sections that are bulging? Are the terminals damaged, or is there any sign of leaking?
Maybe the case is discolored, or even cracked? Is the electrolyte full?
Any bulging can indicate the battery was probably overcharged — not good.
If the terminals are damaged, then the battery is unsafe.
Discoloration or melting indicates a short circuit, and that means you need a new, good ATV battery.
Next, do a voltage-test on the old one. The voltage rating is a strong indicator as to battery charge and condition of the cells.
There are many tables online that can be referenced for charge level and voltage depending on 12V or 6V batteries.
If the old battery doesn’t check out, then it’s on to a new one.
Thankfully, buying one of these batteries doesn’t take a chemistry degree, but a bit of know-how and basic understanding.
Battery types explained
Batteries can be broken down into two groups: Starting, lighting, ignition (SLI) and deep-cycle.
SLI batteries are utilized in quick energy burst situations, specifically starting cars or ATVs.
Deep-cycle batteries are utilized in marine applications, never in ATVs.
Many batteries are lead acid batteries, which is the oldest type available, but new variants, such as Lithium Ion, or Lithium Iron Phosphate, and are capable of producing high CCAs.
What are CCAs, you ask?
Cold Cranking Amps, or CCA, is the measure of amps that can be produced at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds without a significant drop in voltage (no lower than 7.2 volts).
High CCAs mean more electricity will be going to the motor, and for larger motors with more power, this is necessary.
Also, for operating in lower temperatures this value is vital for starting the motor and not getting stranded.
Most ATVs, however, don’t need these super-charged powerhouses, and the typical lead-acid battery will suffice.
Lead acid batteries come in a few different flavors:
- Wet cell
- Gel cell
- Absorbable gas mat (AGM)
Wet Cells are filled with a sulfuric acid/water “electrolyte” solution, that can either be considered serviceable, or maintenance free.
The difference between the two is whether water needs to be added to the battery due to evaporation during use, with serviceable needing this.
Gel cell and AGM batteries are usually more expensive than wet cells but offer better storage and less degradation compared to the latter.
These battery types are ideal for those who store their ATVs for long periods of time in between uses.
AGM and gel cells can withstand neglect and harsher environments better than typical wet cells.
Selecting the correct unit
Now, which one of these batteries will work best?
That depends on several factors…
First, the model and brand of the ATV will restrict which battery will work.
Size limitations and connector type are very important, because some batteries just won’t fit in certain quads.
Likewise, direct-fit connector ensures safety and lack of cutting/replacing wires and connectors, which can be dangerous and lead to vehicle malfunction.
Also, make sure to buy the best ATV battery charger for your unit.
Battery age is important as well, as the longer a battery is unused the more sulfation will build on the plates, and this will wear the battery out.
Determining age is easy. There’s usually a date of manufacture on the casing. This is indicated by a letter, followed by a number.
Each letter corresponds to a month, A = January, B = February, etc. Each number represents the year, 6 = 2006, 10 = 2010. Pick the battery that that was most recently manufactured.
Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!
To ensure a long life, the battery will need some TLC.
First, keep the battery clean by using a baking soda and water solution, and ensure all the connections are tight and the battery is securely strapped in.
Next, if the battery is serviceable, then it’ll need regular fluid level checks. Using distilled water to increase the fluid level will be best since it’s impurity-free.
Placing a small amount of silicon sealer at the base of the terminal posts will help prevent corrosion. Follow that up with a felt battery washer as well.
Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, or high temperature grease can then be smeared on the washer.
Regular checks after riding are a good habit to start to ensure nothing has come loose or is damaged.
ATVs and other powersport vehicles can be a great hobby to get involved in, but like other hobbies, they require learning and some basic know-how to keep going.
The best ATV battery for cold weather, like other components in the frigid cold, can reach its end pretty quick, so ensuring it’s in proper working order, or buying another, is extremely important for optimal fun.