Ever heard of Quiescent current or Phantom Load?
Not the most common terms you would hear day to day but if you own a motorcycle they are worth knowing.
Another term would be Standby Power. These terms are often used in electronics more loosely for any device that continuously uses a small amount of power even when not active; for example a telephone answering machine or an automatic garage door must be available or ‘on’ at all times. Switching off to save power is not an option. Timers, powered thermostats, are other examples.
In the case of motorcycles they pretty much all come these days with an ECU to control your engines start procedure, performance and fuel delivery, and that partial or fully digital instrument cluster.
Even though you turn the key to ‘off’ and toggle the EFI pump switch to ‘off’, your bike/ECU STILL draws a little current from the battery. And so do other electronic gizmos you have installed such as 12v power outlet standby light.
Motorcycle batteries don’t need to be too big to crank the engine, not like your car or truck battery anyway. Because they are small they then run the risk of being drained pretty quickly if you leave the ignition or lights on. This is obvious as we have all done it…many times!
What is not obvious is the quiescent current or phantom load that is slowly being sucked from your battery. How many times have you not been riding for several weeks and gone to start your bike and your battery has been dead? You can probably blame phantom load.
OK, how do you solve this?
It’s simple. Ride more often as it charges your battery!
But if that is not possible ensure you maintain your batteries charge by using either a trickle charger aka fully manual charger, maintenance aka float charger, or smart charger to keep you battery optimally charged. Ready for your next ride.
- Trickle Charger: Pumps charge into your battery until it is turned off…by you. Hence this type of charger must be monitored throughout the charging process. And you will forget!
- Maintenance Charger: Switches off once automatically to keep the battery’s charge rate at the optimal charge level.
- Smart Charger: Is smart and monitors the battery’s charge progress. Normally, it will charge at different rates in order to minimise the damage done to the battery.
Not sure what charger to purchase? Give us a call for some pointers.
Also when preparing to store a battery for a period of time for example if you are going overseas it’s best to make sure that the battery is charged fully at the time of storage and that it receives periodic charging during its time in storage. That’s when you need a maintenance charger.
Should I take the battery out of the bike when charging?
Quick and safe answer…yes.
However we know this is not practically possible in many cases. Just be aware that any load spike say from an electricity brown out or lightening strike nearby can easily travel through your charger and spike your battery in turn zapping your on board ECU! And not always easy to detect. You probably went and bought a new battery thinking it was only that which was stuffed. Costly right?
To trickle charge your battery whilst in the bike invest in a charger adapter that fits directly to your battery and tucks in to a fairing on your bike for easy quick access.
They don’t cost very much and may come with your smart charger – see image below.
In summary our advice is:
- Invest in a Smart charger* or Battery Tender. Mostly they are a fraction of the cost of a new battery
- Fit a charger adapter that fits directly to your battery
- Use a good quality surge protection power board to connect your battery to as it will have a trip switch in the event of an electrical spike which may just save your battery and charger
- Ride more!
* Please note if you have a Lithium battery be sure to choose the correct lithium specific charger.