How To Charge An ATV Battery With A Smart Charger

Before Can-Am transitioned to their new body style, placing the battery under the seat, they had some inconvenient locations. The worst was the Renegade, with the battery situated in the back, under the seat, and surrounded by aluminum. I still have scars on my fingers from welding them to that plate due to the poor design.

I mention this because at some point, you’ll need to charge your ATV battery. While some batteries are easily accessible, there are still ATVs on the market that are troublesome. Additionally, there is a proper procedure to follow, and I suspect many of you are doing it incorrectly.

Enough of my complaints, let’s focus on the topic at hand. Let’s discuss it.

The Signs Of A Dead Or Dying Battery?

  1. Common signs of a dead battery include the display not turning on when you turn the key and flip the kill switch. You should also hear the fuel pump running for fuel-injected 4-wheelers when it’s turned on.
  2. Another way to tell is when you press the start button, the machine gives multiple clicks, distinct from one click, indicating a bad starter relay.
  3. The best way to know is by doing a load test. It’s different from looking at voltage; voltage can lie. You must measure amps! A load tester will determine how many cranking amps your battery has and is the only true way to assess its condition. Many auto parts stores offer free load tests, but you can also purchase your own load tester.

What Do I Recommend?

To see what you should use, I have a post that covers that here.

Ideally, remove it beforehand to avoid potential hazards. Recharging batteries can release hydrogen, which can explode with a spark.

Some may be aggressive, causing damage to computers or blowing fuses, though this is rare.

If removing is difficult, at least disconnect the terminals beforehand within the unit.

The Charging Steps For ATV Batteries

Recharging your ATV or side-by-side battery is a standardized process. Here are the correct steps:

  1. Park and turn off the quad.
  2. Remove panels or the seat to access the batt.
  3. Ideally, remove the batt using a 10mm or 13mm socket set, starting with the negative terminal.
  4. Connect a smart charger: the positive lead first, then the negative lead.
  5. Plug the thing into the wall to test it.
  6. If it’s fine, it will start Recharging (this can take hours).
  7. After Recharging, disconnect it from the wall first.
  8. With it unplugged, remove the negative cable, then the positive.
  9. Reinstall the batt in the machine, connecting the positive terminal first.

I Suggest Going Smart!

4-wheelers use a 12-volt system, and you can find various types of chargers.

Stick to smart chargers because they will turn on and off as needed. Some will also test and attempt to desulfate the battery.

You should only use a 2-amp smart battery-charger (ad) to avoid overcharging your batt. The quad batteries are small and can’t handle larger amps; doing so will shorten their lifespan.

Try Solar If You Have No Outlets Near You!

If you don’t have a wall outlet for a smart-chargers, you can use a solar-charger, as covered in this post.

Solar is great as it works when the sun is out and doesn’t need any power plug.

The one drawback is that they are slower, but if you keep one on when you’re not riding, your battery will always be ready to go. Solar chargers won’t make your battery last forever, but you’ll get multiple years out of it, which is not always the case when using no chargers.

What Amps Do You Use?

For a quick boost, use a higher-amp smart-charger, but be aware it may reduce batteries lifespan.

Recharging lead-acid batteries slowly is optimal.

In a rush, jump-start your quad, either with jump packs or another quad (ensure the other one is off). Avoid jump-starting with a running ATV or car, as it can be problematic due to the stator’s limited recharging ability.

It’s A Good Idea To Boost New Batteries, Even If They Look Fine.

Wondering if a new battery needs recharging? Many sealed batteries arrive ready. However, if fluid needs adding, charge it.

Even if pre-charged, topping up with a smart-charger prolongs its longevity. Factory-sealed and charged batteries remain good for several months, with date codes indicating their age on round stickers.

What Are The Biggest Reasons For Batteries To Die?

The primary cause of failure is inactivity.

Lead-acid batteries drain when not in use, so using a solar or smart maintainer helps maintain battery health, extending its lifespan to over 5 years.

For prolonged inactivity, always keep a maintainer connected the night before use. After a year of disuse, batteries can become sulfated and require replacement. Regular recharging or a maintenance charger can prevent yearly replacements.

Are Lithium Batteries Worth It?

When people have problems with their lead-acid ATV batteries, they tend to look for better options. One of those options is new: 12-volt lithium batteries.

There are several perks to going with lithium. They save on weight and tend to endure more than lead-acid ones that come with your ATV.

But are they worth it? I personally don’t use them. Lithium batteries cost more, need a special maintainer or controller built in, and I don’t trust them. They go in rough areas, often in water. I worry about damaging the plastic battery case and water getting in and touching the lithium of the battery. When lithium touches water, it ignites and can’t be put out with water; it only makes it worse.

The regular lead-acid batteries work fine if you know how to take care of them. Also, I’m waiting for super capacitors to become more mainstream and hit the market for ATV batteries. They already have jump starters using them, and I carry one with me.

When Should You Get A New One?

Sometimes a smart charger won’t recover a battery, and you’ll need to get a new one. Sometimes, it’s not worth trying.

If it has been sitting for years, just buy a new one. The old one is going to be dried out and so far sulfated that it’s not worth it.

Another way to tell is if you take off and put it on a load and it goes right to zero, just get a new one. Batteries like to lie and will show a surface charge, but any real load and it goes flat. Something is not right with the internals of the battery, and it’s not worth fighting.

Your Batteries Can Be Recharged Many Times

All gas-powered ATVs with batteries can have their batteries recharged using a 12-volt smart charger.

ATVs use a lead acid similar to a car, the difference is that the batteries are smaller.

How Long Do Batteries Take To Recharge?

They can take anywhere from an hour to 12 hours.

Often, I tell people to let it go overnight and do it the night before the ride. Due to the size of batteries, you don’t want to overcharge them, you want to go slow, and overnight is the best.

If you do it overnight, make sure to use a smart-charger, as it will turn off when it’s done.