It’s a biking rite of passage; you’re ready for your day out on the bike, you’ve got your kit on, said goodbye to your partner, wheeled the bike out of the garage and…. nothing. The bloody battery’s dead. BUGGER!
The vast majority of us never think about our battery until the bike won’t start, by which time it’s too late.
Most bikers also have a car, so in this guide we’ve factored that in, with an additional section on high-power battery chargers that can charge both a car and a motorcycle.
Dedicated motorcycle battery chargers won’t have a high enough output to work on larger car batteries but then battery chargers that can charge motorcycle, as well as car batteries, cost more.
So we’ve focused on motorcycle-only chargers as our best-rated products but we’ve also added a section that focuses on battery chargers that charge cars as well as bikes.
Table of Contents
Battery Charger vs Battery Tender
One of the most common questions we get asked is: what’s the difference between a battery charger, optimiser, trickle charger and a battery tender?
Essentially they’re pretty much all the same – they’re designed to charge a battery and when it reaches the required voltage, they switch to a float mode and trickle in charge when the voltage drops. Some people think a battery tender will only perform the trickle charge function but they will also bulk charge then step the voltage down once the battery is nearly fully charged.
Only very basic chargers will need disconnecting once the battery is charged, to prevent overcharging. Most (and certainly every one listed in this review) will switch to a trickle mode once they’ve recharged your battery.
Motorcycle Battery Size Chart
If you’re not sure what size battery you’ve got in your motorcycle, you can use our handy motorcycle battery size finder. Just click the link, find your make and model and you’ll see the correct battery model number.
You can also use the conversion chart to see the lithium equivalent if you want to switch to a lightweight battery and save a few kilograms.
How to Check Your Motorcycle Battery
If your bike won’t start and you suspect it’s the battery, this guide will help you diagnose the issue.
1 . First verify that you do have a mechanical problem. Is your sidestand properly up? Do you need to dip your clutch before thumbing the starter?
There are electrical switches on modern bikes that won’t allow a bike to start if those two conditions aren’t met. Have you got an alarm immobiliser? Has it been deactivated? These are not problems with the batteries, but they can imitate the problems that a bad battery shows.
2. Now check that it’s a battery problem. Turn the ignition on and make sure the headlights are on. A weak headlight or a dim flickering one is a good sign that your battery won’t be up to the challenge of turning your engine over. Note some modern bikes will only fire up the headlight once the engine is running, so watch out for that.
3. This test holds true for regular batteries made from lead-acid and AGM (absorbed glass mat). Batteries of a different form of construction can possess different test procedures and specifications. (Lithium batteries automatically come to mind as a battery with a particular use and test scenario. If you have one, adhere to the advice of your battery manufacturer.)
Measuring voltage is simple — all you need is a multimeter. Switch on the multimeter to scale 20V DC. With the bike switched off completely, contact the black lead to the battery’s negative post, and the red leads to the positive post. Record the voltage and refer to the chart below.
Battery Voltage Health Chart
The following chart gives you a good indication of how to interpret the voltage you get from your multimeter.
State of charge
12.70 volts or better
100 percent charged
Get your helmet on and go ride!
A good ride should charge it up but if you stick it on a battery charger for 20 minutes it will probably get it to 100%
Stick it on a charger for 30 minutes, check your tyre pressures, clean your visor and then get out there!
Stick it on a charger for 45 minutes, grab a cuppa, check your tyre pressures, clean your visor and get out there!
Stick it on a charger for a couple of hours. Go and earn some brownies points with your other half and then get out there!
Leave it to charge overnight and it should be up to 100% in the morning.
She’s gone! There’s no saving her, captain.
You always wanted a doorstop and now, you have one.
No meaningful charge.
You’d probably get a higher reading if you stick your multimeter prongs in an orange..
Our Best Motorcycle Battery Chargers
There are lots of good options to keep your battery fully charged and extend its useable life. We’ve picked the two options below, as both can recondition your battery as well as charge it, meaning you can bring a battery back from the dead as well as keep it maintained.
State of the art motorcycle battery charger
The CTEK XS 0.8 is a small fully automatic 6-stage charger that delivers 0.8A and charges 12V batteries from 1.2 to 32Ah and maintenance charging up to 100Ah. It desulphates and maintains a battery and comes with crocodile clips and a weatherproof quick charge harness.
Latest generation Optimate
Optimate are well established in motorcycling and the Optimiate 3 is their latest 7-stage motorcycle battery charger. It’ll recover, charge and maintain batteries from 2.5 to 50Ah. Supplied with crocodile clips and a waterproof quick-connect lead.
Battery Sulphation – and how to reverse it
Sulphation has caused many a motorcycle battery to die a premature death but it doesn’t need to be this way – a simple charge every now and then will ensure your battery remains fighting fit and it won’t let you down.
It’s a myth that using your bike on a regular basis means the battery will be in tip-top condition. Even a well-used motorcycle won’t desulphate the battery like a dedicated charger, meaning that even if you regularly use your motorcycle, the battery might decide – just when you need it – that it hasn’t got the strength to go on.
If you’re lucky, a 45-minute charge should coax it back into life but if you’re unlucky, it will have gone past the point of return and even a battery charger with a reconditioning function won’t rescue it.
A good battery charger costs little more than your typical motorcycle battery. Without regular charging, you’ll be lucky to get two years from your battery but with regular charging, you should see five years from your battery. Not bad, eh?
The cheapest motorcycle battery charger
Google is packed with choices when it comes to cheap motorcycle battery chargers. We sifted through the contenders and picked this Motopower 800ma motorcycle battery charger, which retails for just under £20.
It gets good reviews and comes with most of the features of the chargers we’ve picked above. Sure, you can find some chargers around the £10 mark but the majority of these have poor ratings or they are only trickle chargers, meaning they will maintain a healthy battery but not recover or condition it.
Solar powered motorcycle battery chargers
Not everyone has access to a mains power supply but never fear – you can still keep your battery charged by using a solar panel.
Oxford Products make a solar-powered battery charger called the Solariser and they even sell a motorcycle cover that has a built in solar-panel pocket.
Or you could go for this solar panel and charger combo which is designed to be fully weatherproof, specifically for bikes that are left outside.
If you want a more heavyweight charger with a higher output, you could buy this solar panel use this extension lead and then rig it up to a pre-made connector like this Oxford charger lead. You only need a tiny bit of DIY skills to sort it. It’s an ideal solution if your garage or shed doesn’t have mains power.
Motorcycle Battery Charger Buyer's Checklist
The chargers that we've rated in this review have all of these features. However, if you don't want to buy one of them, then make sure you buy a motorcycle battery charger that has the following.
- Multi-stage charging: Old school battery chargers gave you two options if you were lucky: 6V or 12V, then some offered fast charge or normal charge but these days you'll benefit from a charger with a bit more brains than brawn. A quality charger will assess the battery's condition before either desulfating it or taking it through a normal charge cycle.
- Quick charge harness: As well as crocodile clips, it helps if your charger comes with a quick charging harness (or at least has one you can buy), so you can wire it into your bike's battery, meaning you can connect to the quick-charge connector rather than having to remove your bike's seat (or bodywork) to get to the battery.
- Car mode: If you don't have a car, this isn't an issue but if you do, then a charge that can change its amp output is useful. For any motorcycle battery 0.8A is fine and some are 1.2A but for a larger car battery, a 3A (or even 5A) charging ability will come in useful.
- AGM mode: Absorbed Glass Matt (or AGM) batteries are different to a normal 'wet' lead-acid battery and benefit from a different charging program. A quality charger like CTEK's MXS 5.0 has an AGM mode.
- Reconditioning: This mode is used to recover deep discharged flooded batteries where you could expect a stratified acid (high acid weight in the bottom, low on top). Check with battery manufacturer when in doubt. Use this mode with care, because the high voltage will cause some water loss.
Lithium motorcycle battery chargers
We have an in-depth guide on the best lithium motorcycle battery chargers.
Some modern bikes are supplied with lithium batteries and as the prices of these batteries reduce, they will become more common. Two years ago they were almost twice the price of a regular lead acid battery but now you can expect to pay just 25% more than a regular battery.
The advantage of a lithium-ion battery is that they are much lighter and they also hold on to their charge for longer. However, if you allow a lithium battery to lose voltage they cannot be recovered.
It is not advisable to use a regular battery charger on a lithium battery as even though they will charge the lithium battery there are many risks involved as the charger switches cycles, from causing a fire to rendering the lithium cells useless, so unless you like taking risks or you’re prepared to sit with a voltmeter and check the battery throughout the charging process, you’re better off buying a dedicated lithium-ion motorcycle battery charger.
Car and motorcycle battery chargers
If, like me, you’ve got a few cars and bikes, you don’t need more than one charger if you buy the right one. What you will need is multiple quick-charge cables but they’re only a few quid each.
You can choose any brand of charger you want but the one I’ve been using for years and really rate is the CTEK MXS 5.0 charger.
There are loads of reasons that this is a top-notch charger. Firstly, it has an individual bike and car mode, so you won’t be overcharging a bike battery or taking forever to charge a car battery. It has a max output of 5 amps – a regular motorcycle battery charger is usually 0.8 amps.
It covers gel and lead-acid batteries and has a dedicated AGM mode. It features an automatic 8-stage charging process which tests the battery then starts charging at whatever stage is necessary from a complete desulphation (high-amperage) to a float mode (trickle charging).
The icing on the cake is that the MXS 5.0 also has a reconditioning mode where it will pulse and cycle an old battery to break down any sulphation and ensure that it is ready to accept a full charge.
All you need to do is grab one of these CTEK quick charge cables for each one of your vehicles and rig it up to the battery. Then you just connect up your charger to each vehicle and let it run through its cycle and when finished, move it over to whichever vehicle might need a boost.
If you have a few old chargers lying around the garage, flog ’em all on Gumtree and treat yourself to one decent charger and some quick-charge cables and you’re set. Proper job!
Jump-Starting a Motorcycle
You can jump or bump-start a motorcycle, depending on the condition of the battery and the type of motorcycle. The main issue that the old fella in the picture above has got is that it looks like they’re trying to push him uphill. That’s never going to work.
How To Bump-Start A Motorcycle
If you have a motorcycle with a more modern digital dash, if it doesn’t fire up and display properly when you switch on the ignition, then this is a good indicator that your battery is probably too dead to be able to bump start the motorcycle but you should be able to jump it.
If it displays but the bike won’t turn over, you may be able to bump it.
- Turn the ignition off while you prepare.
- Make sure you have a clear area in front of you (around 20 metres)
- Stand to the side of the bike you normally get on it from, get the bike into 1st gear
- Turn the ignition on, pull the clutch in and push the bike along for 10 metres to get up to your maximum pushing speed.
- Jump on the bike and if you can, let out the clutch the moment your bum hits the seat. Alternatively, jump on the bike, get ready then lift your bum up and let the clutch out as it hits the seat.
- The bike should splutter and then kick into life.
- If it doesn’t, try again.
Be careful you don’t drop the bike. It always helps to have a mate push the bike from the rear. It also helps if you can face it down a slope.
If it’s a scooter, you won’t be able to bump it, but you will be able to jump it.
How To Jump-Start A Motorcycle
You can jump-start a motorcycle form a car or another motorcycle. If it’s another motorcycle, it will help if the other motorcycle’s engine is running. If it’s a car, you won’t need to have the car’s engine running unless the car has a small engine and the bike a large one.
Connect the jump leads. Positive (+ve) from the car into +ve on the bike and Negative (-ve) to -ve on the bike. Turn on the bike’s ignition and fire it up as usual.
If your bike won’t start, then start up the donor car or bike’s engine but there’s no need to hold that engine at revs, just let it idle. If the bike still won’t start, then the chances are it’s not the battery that’s the issue.
There is a risk that the car battery could damage the bike’s electrical system, so jumping a motorcycle from a car is really only a last resort.
Far better to connect up a battery charger to the dead battery for 30 minutes which should add enough charge for you to be able to fire up the bike from its own battery.
Final word of warning: don’t try and start the motorcycle with the charger still attached to the battery. The charger won’t help you and all you’ll end up doing is knackering the charger.
Motorcycle battery chargers: Ben's top tips
If you have a car and a motorcycle, then you only need one charger, like CTEK's MXS 5.0 which will charge cars and bikes and recondition batteries too.
Fit quick-charge connectors which can be tucked inside the fairing or stashed under your seat meaning you don't need to get the tools out to remove bodywork when you want to charge your bike's battery.
If you buy a bulk charger without a trickle charge it will kill your battery as it will keep sending current even when the battery nears full, which starts to boil the electrolyte and warp the lead plates.
If your charger looks like it is charging your battery but after a while, the charger says the battery is full but the battery doesn't start the bike, it's likely your battery is dead or nearly dead. If you have a smart charger, it can sometimes recover a battery that is on the verge of being ready for the bin.
Other recommended battery chargers
Oxford Oximiser 900 – Cheap but effective motorcycle battery charger that charges up to 20Ah batteries.
Battery Tender Junior Wallplug Charger – Neat little wall-plug-based charger from well-known American brand Battery Tender. It’ll charge Lithium batteries too making it a sound investment for your future charging needs.
Optimate 4 CANbus charger – If you have a BMW with CANbus then you’ll know that normal chargers won’t cut it but this CANbus-ready Optimate will do the job.
Motopower 800mA – At under twenty quid, this is a decent charger for the money. Featuring multi-stage charging. For just a few quid more you can upgrade from 0.8A model to the 2A model which will easily cover car batteries too.
Voche 6V & 12V charger – This charger is cheap but it packs a punch. It has a maximum output of 8A which would probably charge the batteries on a warship. If you’ve got a classic bike, it’ll handle the 6v electrics too.
Motorcycle Garage Guide
Here at BikerRated, we think that every biker’s garage should be a sacred place. Not just a place to securely store your motorcycle but space where you can work on it in comfort and enjoy not just riding, but owning and maintaining your motorcycle.
See our motorcycle garage guide for more tips on how to turn your garage or shed into motorcycling nirvana.
Motorcycle Battery Charger FAQs
Can you charge a lithium motorcycle battery with a normal battery charger?
Lithium batteries are not like lead acid ones and so a regular battery charger. A Li-ion battery cannot accept overcharge and so a regular charger will knacker it. While a regular charger will charge a Lithium ion battery, you are risking destroying the battery if the charger has an equalisation mode which will overcharge the battery and render the cells beyond repair.
How long does it take to charge a motorcycle battery
This depends on many factors; the capacity of the battery, the current state of charge, the output of the charger and the efficiency of the battery (i.e. how sulphated the cells are). Most quality motorcycle battery chargers will need two hours to have charged the battery to a level where it can turn over your bike.
Is there a charger that will charge lithium and normal motorcycle batteries?
Yes, this Optimate charger will charge both.
Do I need to disconnect the battery before charging it?
If you disconnect the battery you isolate it, meaning that you avoid any losses which may be in the bike’s wiring system and you’ll get a more efficient charge. However this isn’t practical for most bikers, as it can be fiddly to disconnect the battery.
If you have a smart charger, you’re protecting against shorting (should you connect the lead to the wrong battery terminal). However, if you aren’t using a smart charger, make sure you connect the leads up the right way!
Do Halfords sell motorcycle battery chargers?
Halfords sell a range of motorcycle-specific and also generic battery chargers, which will charge everything from lawnmower batteries to truck batteries. You can order online or click and collect from a store near you. You can see their range here.
Does Argos sell motorcycle battery chargers?
Yes Argos have a decent range of chargers, starting from under £20. Like with Halfords, you can click and collect or order online. See their range here.
Do Screwfix sell motorcycle battery chargers?
Screwfix sell quite a few different battery chargers. Their cheapest one is around £15 right up to £100+ for trade-quality chargers. See their range here.
How do I know what size lithium battery my motorcycle needs?
You can convert from a normal lead-acid to a lithium battery using the conversion chart in this link.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this motorcycle battery guide: