Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Tale Of Two Batteries

A Tale of Two Batteries

Mistress, my ’03 V-Star was whispering in my ear. Not literally of course, but she had been getting a little slower to crank in the morning. Being in the automotive industry I recognized the symptoms. The battery was getting weak. Being the professional procrastinator that I am, I ignored her. I did start plugging her into the Battery Tender Jr. on the weekends to make sure she would start for Monday morning commutes.

Then finally it happened one day after work. It went down on a day a cold front had blown in. I went out, hopped on her and hit the start button. Nothing happened. She whispered, “I told you...” I pondered my predicament a few minutes and called my wife to send one of the boys to come pick me up in our ’98 Ford Explorer. That was embarrassing. All leathered up and my bike just wouldn’t budge. I could have jumped her off but it was just much easier to call for a ride.

The next morning I grabbed an extension cord and my Battery Tender and had my wife drop me off. Fortunately, my workplace was on her way anyway. I connected her up to let the battery be tended to and came back on lunch break to see if she would start. She did. I left the tender on until I got off work. After work the mighty 100 V-Twin roared to life and I was headed home.

OK, here is the dumb part. Any smart individual would have checked the electrical system out and/or replaced the battery then. I have never claimed to be smart. I just left it on the Battery Tender all the time at home now. I milked that old battery along like that for another month to a month and a half. I had no idea how old that battery was or how long it had been in my V-Star.

Then it happened again. It was my night to work late and a cold one at that. I got bundled up to go home and, “Click”, nothing. Another phone call and another ride home in a cage.
The next morning I repeated the battery tender procedure and rode her home. I was determined to get another battery this time.

The first place I referenced about V-Star 1100 batteries was the V-Star 1100 Riders Knowledge Base. The Knowledge Base has a wealth of information and answers to just about any question V-Star related, including some questions that haven’t even been asked yet. It had a whole section on batteries. I read you could get a larger size battery that would fit. The stock battery on a V-Star is the YT14-B4 rated at 12 Amp Hours and 135 Cold Cranking Amps. A good replacement for it is the YT14-BS rated at 12 Amp Hours and 200 Cold Cranking Amps and is only 11/16” wider. That sounded like what I wanted, so I started searching for one. Somehow I overlooked the, “Batteries Plus (local source) - $49.99 -Charlottesville, Va on 2/6/06”, Partly because I had never heard of them.

I found what I was looking for at CBXMAN Motorcycles. It was a Binetto YTX14-BS High Performance AGM ATV/Motorcycle Battery. I ordered it and a balaclava and waited patiently. CBXMAN shipped my order right out and I was able to watch the shipping progress online at the shipping companies web site.
The order arrived a week later and I opened the package and removed the instructions for the battery. The Binetto battery came with very vague and sparse directions. What’s a guy to do with out pictures? They ship the battery dry and you have to install the acid and charge the battery before use. I decided to wait until Saturday afternoon to install the battery. I was scheduled to work a half day and would do it after lunch.

Saturday afternoon came around and I figured out how to open all the battery acid vials and pour them simultaneously into the six separate openings. When all the acid was in I hooked it up to my Battery Tender Jr. After it had charged for a while I topped it off with a little water. This turned out to be a mistake later on. I know, I know, you are supposed to use distilled water anyway. When the Battery Tender’s light turned green I knew it was time to install it on the bike.

Battery replacement on a V-Star is fairly simple. Remove the battery cover by unscrewing it’s hex bolt, unfasten the rubber strap that holds the battery in from the bottom, disconnect the negative battery cable and any other grounding cables attached to the negative post, then remove the positive cable and any other power cables attached to the positive post.

Installation is the exact reverse. I noticed that the Binetto battery posts were not that great of quality. The posts set too low in the battery. This made it hard to install round terminals on the front side of the post without distorting or bending the eyelets. The battery did fit fine into the battery opening space on the bike. However, the battery on a V-Star does not fit level; it sets at an angle with the right side, the negative side, higher than the left. This is where the topping off of the battery became a problem. All the excess acid when the battery was tilted came out he vent hole. I had to keep hosing it off the bike with the garden hose to keep the acid off the bike.

I got the motorcycle all put back together and tested the battery by starting the bike and it started up with no squabbles. I gave her a quick bath and ran her down to the gas station for a quick feeding. It started and ran fine for one week and then the dreaded no crank happened once again, this time in the morning before my ride to work. On top of that one of my garage door hinges had broken and I had to leave her outside until I could repair the garage door.

A few days later I went back the V-Star 1100 Riders Knowledge Base and printed out the PDF files on how to check the rectifier-regulator and stator in the charging system. I did al the checks and everything on the motorcycle passed the tests. I came to the conclusion that my new Binetto battery was defective. A coworker and fellow rider, Danny heard of my predicament and suggested a store near his home called Batteries Plus.

I called a local Interstate battery store and they had one but it was another one that you had to add the acid too, or “acis” as the typo on there website says. The Interstate battery was pretty pricey also and I believe it only came with a six month warranty.

Next I called Batteries Plus on Davis Boulevard in North Richland Hills Texas. I spoke with Robert, a helpful and knowledgeable counter person, who checked to see if they had an Xtreme battery in stock the size I needed. They did not have one but they would have a stock order of them in a couple of days. I asked if they were a sealed battery and he said they were. Then Robert checked to see if they had an X2-14 Xtreme battery the size I wanted in stock. They did have one. However, they did cost a little more. He explained that the X2 battery comes with a two year warranty instead of just one. I told him I would be by after work to pick one up. Browsing around their website I found a ten percent off coupon.

I also fired off an email inquiry to Yamaha Suzuki of Texas in Hurst from their website about the cost and availability of a battery, which they have not responded to, to this day.

After work I headed straight to Batteries Plus and met Robert. He grabbed the battery off the shelf for me, it was on display, put it back in its box making sure all of the hardware was there. It came with two height adapters and two spacers and bolts for side mount cable installations. I presented my 10% off coupon and Robert said they have a 20% off coupon that comes out in the paper and he would give that to me. I was not just pleasantly surprised; I was shocked at the offer and his dedication to customer service. Trust me; I will refer anyone looking for a battery for anything to check out Batteries Plus. If you live in the D/FW area, see Robert at the North Richland Hills location.

Here is the X2-14 Xtreme Battery description from the Batteries Plus website:

Choose an X2 battery to keep you powered. Designed for the vibration in an ATV and the endurance of a touring bike. X2 batteries offer the best features; fully sealed - maintenance free, pure calcium-lead plate design for increased power, easy to install with front mount threaded terminals and extended reserve power for more accessories. Backed by a full 24 month warranty, the X2 is the perfomance battery you have been seeking. The X2-14 has specific dimensions of 5.88" x 3.44" x 5.75".

I went home and installed it that evening. (The Binetto battery would not even crank the V-Star over after being on the Battery Tender for nearly a week now.) The installation of the X2 was much easier. The whole battery had a more professional fit and finish. The posts had plenty of clearance for the terminals and the height adapters, spacers and bolts were not needed on the V-Star installation. I did not even have to charge the battery to start the bike, it came fully charged.

The failure of the Binetto battery may have been caused by me and its lack of clear directions, I do not know. It was an expensive lesson to learn. There are some things that it is just better to purchase locally rather than online. And, you get what you pay for; some things are inexpensive for a reason. My Mistress has not been complaining to me since the X2 Xtreme Battery was put in several weeks ago and she has been starting every time I ask. On a scale of 1-10, Torch gives the X2 a M.M.M. Rating of 9.5.

Ride on,
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