Do you find yourself buying a new battery every year? Sometimes it can feel like a constant battle with your ATV or Side by Side on whether or not it will start for the season.
You start looking and asking around to see what is the best battery you can get for your ATV because you’re tired of dealing with it.
You see everyone talking about the AGM batteries, or Sealed Batteries is what they go by too. But the cost is a bit more compared to the simple Walmart or budget battery. Is it worth it to pay the extra for these batteries?
Are AGM Batteries Worth It?
Yes, AGM batteries are worth the extra cost.
To combat the cost of these batteries I like to check to see how much they go for online before going to a local battery store. Sometimes you can find better deals on them and get them shipped to your house.
Why Your Battery Goes Dead All The Time
AGM maybe the best battery you can get right now, but that is not enough if you want the battery to last. What I see all the time is that people will put their machine up for the season or not ride it for months and then come out and try to ride it but the battery is dead.
But I have an AGM Battery in it, why does it go dead?
It doesn’t matter what battery you have on your ATV – if you don’t use it the battery will go flat. Lead-acid batteries like to be used, and if not used they will get lazy and not work anymore.
So what you got to do is place a battery charger* or even a solar charger* on it when you’re not using the machine. This keeps the battery active and alive and if you live in cold areas it keeps the battery from freezing as quickly as the molecules in the battery keep moving.
All your modern battery chargers will turn on and off as they are needed, so no extra work on your part. They also come with quick connectors to make charging your battery as easy as plugging something in.
If you don’t have a wall outlet where you keep your ATV, then a solar charger is your only option. Solar chargers are even easier, they don’t have to be in direct sunlight but have to be outside. Most of the solar chargers will come with quick connections like the battery charger. The best part is that most of the solar chargers you buy will be rain-proof, so you don’t have to worry about them.
The only thing you need to worry about is that you only buy solar chargers that are 5-watts or below. Too much wattage and you’ll cook the battery from the inside and kill it.
Different Types Of Lead Acid Batteries
You have several different types of batteries used for ATVs. The most popular are the Lead-Acid. The Lead-Acid comes in various styles for various needs.
You have deep-cycle lead-acid and starting lead-acid. The starting battery is what is used in ATV or any machine that requires starting an engine. A deep cycle is used for powering small electronics or lower currents over a longer time.
The starter battery has 3 different styles to it with each having its own benefit.
Liquid Lead Acid Battery: This is your most common and often the most affordable battery. Manufacturers will put the Liquid Lead Acid batteries in new ATVs or Side by Sides because they’re cheaper and hold up better for long-term dry storage. These batteries are shipped dry, which means no battery acid is added to them. This allows these batteries to stay stored for a good period of time.
These batteries will need to be filled and charged with using them. Sometimes they come with acid packs to fill them, but there are some that don’t come with acid packs so you will need to get them filled. (The acid in batteries is sulphuric acid and it is super DANGEROUS! use caution!)
These batteries also have the shortest lifespan out of all the other ones. Be careful when shopping for batteries as these liquid batteries might come already filled and charged and this might lead people to think it’s a better battery when it’s really just a cheap one. The best way to tell if it’s the cheaper battery is that you can hear liquid swooshing around inside.
AGM (absorbed glass mat): AGM batteries are very similar to their liquid brother, but the biggest difference is how it deals with its electrolyte or battery acid. AGM uses a special glass matt (pad) that wicks the battery acid into it. AGM only contains enough liquid to saturate the pad between the plates.
AGM is non-spillable, so you don’t have to worry about leaks if the case of the battery is broken. Also, you don’t need to add any distilled water or electrolyte to maintain it. AGM is maintenance-free.
AGM also can handle the abuse of rougher terrain that an ATV would be put through. They also do better for high draining loads that you may have on your ATV. If you plan on adding a bunch of accessories like radio and LED lights, then the AGM is the way to go.
GEL Batteries: GEL Lead Acid batteries are like AGM where they are not spillable, but don’t hold up like the AGM. GEL’s don’t like high current loads and must be charged slower compared to AGM.
GEL’s use a gel-like material for the electrolyte (battery acid).
The GEL does better in conditions where you need slow discharge, like powering a small LED sign. GEL also does better in warmer conditions than AGM. If you live where it gets below freezing in winter the AGM is the only option for you.
Why Are The Walmart Batteries Cheaper?
The reason why Walmart or budget batteries are cheaper is that you’re getting less. These batteries use very thin lead metal electrodes. If you open up a budget battery you’ll see the plates they use are much thinner than the more expensive models.
Thinner plates mean cheaper costs, but they don’t last as long. Once the thinner plates become sulfated from not being used they usually never recover because they’ll break apart. Thicker plates take longer to sulfate and hold up better to shock and moving around that you experience on an ATV.
How Can You Tell You Need A New Battery?
The easiest way you can tell if you need a new battery for your ATV is when you go out to it and turn the key and nothing happens. No lights, no nothing. If this happens then it’s time for a new battery.
If you do get lights and everything seems fine, but you go to press the start button and it clicks multiple times then it’s time for a new battery.
If you’re out and the lights come on and you press the start button and all you get is one solid click then the starter relay* is bad.
If the ATV still does not start, then you need to take it in for repair.
How To Tell The Age Of Your Battery
If your battery is above 4 years old then it would be wise to go ahead and get a new one. Every battery manufacturer will have a sticker somewhere on the battery to show the age of it. The format they use will be different for every battery. Some will use a letter and a number to show the month and year, while others will use the number for the month and the number for the year.
We really only care about the year. Looking at the picture below you can see the white battery has a black round sticker at the bottom showing us “E0”. The zero means that it was made in 2010. If it was “E6” then it would be a 2016 battery.
If the battery is more than 4 years old, then it is time for a new battery.
I go a step further and carry a portable jump pack* with me. Even if my battery is good I still carry one in case I leave my lights on by mistake and need to jump it off. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of nowhere and having a dead battery.