Motorcycle Battery Replacement Instructions in 10 Steps

Motorcycle battery installation and replacement is a simple process. The key requirements are ensuring safety, installing a properly compatible battery, and using the right tools. Always make sure your motorcycle is completely off before working with circuitry. Ensure that the new battery has the voltage and amp hours recommended by the motorcycle manufacturer. Finally, using the correct socket wrench to loosen and tighten the terminal bolts will prevent any damage, such as stripping the bolts.

We've composed a 10-step process to replace your old or failing motorcycle battery

The steps are as follows: You might be asking yourself, "Self, why are there 11 steps listed when this is supposed to be a 10 step process?" Well, we're not pulling a fast one. Step 0 is a list of what you'll need in order to perform the battery replacement and is technically not a step in the process. Hence, the reason it's labeled step 0 instead of step 1.

A bit about batteries

Mighty Max Battery Motorcycle Battery
Mighty Max Battery for Motorcycles
There are generally two types of batteries that can be used for motorcycles, sealed and non-sealed lead acid batteries. The sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries, as the name implies are sealed, which means they have their contents sealed within them and require no preparation. SLA batteries come in two forms, gel and absorbed glass mat (AGM), and are considered maintenance free. Non-sealed batteries require that a liquid electrolyte solution is poured into the battery chambers. While this is a relatively easy process, it is recommended that safety gloves and glasses are worn to prevent any contact of the solution with skin or eyes. Due to this extra step and typically better performance by SLA batteries, they are usually preferred by motorcycle enthusiasts.

Step 0: What you'll need

  • Safety gloves and glasses
  • A well-lit environment or proper lighting
  • The new battery
  • A small amount of Vaseline
  • The correct gauge socket wrench
  • A wire brush
  • A pencil and paper or two different colored electric tape strips

Step 1: Prepare your new motorcycle battery

If using a non-sealed lead acid battery, pour electrolyte solution into the battery chambers. For non-sealed and SLA batteries, it is recommended that a very small amount of Vaseline is applied to the terminals in order to prevent or mitigate corrosion. Finally, make sure the battery is fully charged before use.

Step 2: Locate your old battery

The motorcycle battery compartment is typically found under the seat, but some models might have their batteries located in other places. Consult your owner's manual if you are not sure where the battery is located on your motorcycle.

Step 3: Remove the ground (negative) cable

It is important to remove the ground cable first when uninstalling an old battery. Use a properly sized socket wrench to loosen and remove the bolt from the ground cable. The ground cable is typically the negative cable, but some models might have a positive ground and, in this case (only), this step would be to remove the positive cable. As you remove the ground cable, make sure to position it in a way where it will not come in contact with the positive cable, positive terminal, or any metal on the bike frame in order to prevent any electric sparks from occurring.

Step 4: Remove the positive cable

Assuming that the ground cable was the negative cable, it is now time to remove the positive cable. This is done the same way as in the previous step. Use the correct gauge socket wrench to loosen and remove the bolt and then position the cable in way to ensure it does not touch any other cables, terminals, or metal framing on the motorcycle.

Step 5: Prepare the motorcycle

Have a good way of identifying the positive and negative cables. You can use two different colors of electric tape and note which color is used for the positive and which is for the negative cable or simply draw a diagram on a piece of paper that you can use to identify the cable positioning. Check the cables for any frays, cuts in the sheathing, exposed wires, or other damage; replace those cables if damage is found. Remove any dirt, grit, or grease from the terminals and cable connectors using a wire brush. Finally apply a small layering of Vaseline to the cable connectors to lessen the chances for corrosion.

Step 6: Remove the old battery

The old battery can now be pulled out. The battery should come out easily. If you do feel resistance when pulling the battery out, check the battery compartment to ensure there is no dirt, corrosion, or other foreign objects along the battery compartment floor or walls. Also check to make sure that the battery compartment walls haven't warped. Any warping within the battery compartment should be properly fixed before inserting the new battery to prevent damage or malfunction. You might a flashlight to get a good look into the batteyr compartment. The old SLA battery should be properly disposed. The components of the battery are potentially dangerous to people, animals, and the environment. This means that they should not be dumped along with regular garbage. As a matter of fact, most SLA batteries can be recycled into new batteries. eHow.com has a great little write-up offering three ways to recycle your SLA batteries.

Step 7: Insert the new battery

If your new SLA battery came with a set of nuts, insert them into the battery terminals now. Hold the battery above the battery compartment and make sure it is oriented with the positive battery terminal aligned with the positive cable and the negative battery terminal aligned with the negative cable. Making sure that is true, gently insert the new battery into the battery compartment without dragging any cables under the battery as you insert it.
Mighty Max Gel Battery
Mighty Max GEL Motorcycle Battery

Step 8: Attach the positive cable

Using the same socket wrench from step 4, secure the positive cable to the battery's positive terminal by tightening the bolt until it is very firmly in place.

Step 9: Attach the negative cable

Using the same socket wrench from step 3, secure the negative cable to the battery's negative terminal by tightening the bolt until it is very firmly in place. There is a chance that you may see a spark when you place the negative cable to the battery's negative terminal. This is normal and should not be cause for alarm.

Step 10: Close the battery compartment

If the battery compartment is located under the motorcycles seat, re-affix the seat (or panel covering the battery compartment) securely. You have successfully completed the motorcycle battery replacement!