Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Hard Way to Swap Batteries in a Vespa GTS

Most of the time, changing batteries is one of the easier maintenance tasks to perform. Unbolt a couple cables, lift a heavy plastic box, put a different heavy plastic box back in, bolt the cables back on to the correct posts and you're off and running again.

Most of the time.

But I think that Vespa deliberately set out to make changing the battery in the GTS as difficult as they possibly could. The battery lives in this little compartment between the floorboards, and it's crammed in there pretty tightly. Just getting the battery cables off is a tedious chore, and that's assuming you have a stool to sit on as your turn the bolts bit by bit until they're finally free.

I didn't have a stool. Last Friday, as I was looking forward going home for a weekend full of new motorcycle chains and hoping for some pizza, I tried to start the Vespa and discovered the battery was dead.

What I should have done was pulled the battery then, to bring it home and test it. Sadly, I wasn't thinking clearly due to frustration, heat and hunger. Oh well.

Lady Luck gave me a lift home from work, and the next day I set about finding a new battery. That was a nightmare in and of itself. Eventually, we went to the Vespa dealer, who claimed to have two of the batteries I needed in stock. We bought the outrageously expensive battery ($70!), and went home to charge it.

After a few other errands, Saturday was over. So, on Sunday, we went to put the new battery in the Vespa. Piece of cake, right?

We were about halfway to my office when I realized I'd left my access badge at home. Whoops. And, of course, the freeway heading towards our house was clogged up from construction, so we had to take surface streets. By the time we got my badge, we were starving, so we stopped for lunch at Ted's Hot Dogs. Incidentally, if you're in the area, I recommend them.

Fed and badged, we tried again. We arrived at my parking garage and I set about pulling the old battery. After about fifteen minutes of fighting with the battery cables, I discovered that the guys at the parts counter had given me the wrong battery altogether. My bad for not noticing when I picked it up, but they are the parts guys. They've got a computer to look this stuff up in... Oh well.

I brought both batteries home, and stuck the old one on the charger. To my surprise, it seemed to take a charge just fine. So on Monday I brought the old battery back to work, mildly concerned about what had caused the battery to go dead.

Turns out the battery was bad.

So, Lady Luck and I went back to the Vespa dealer, exchanged the battery for the right one, and this morning I brought it in to the office with me. Again. Over lunch I went to the garage and set about the chore of putting the battery in again. It's about 103 degrees in the garage, and there's nothing like sweating over a dirty motorcycle in business clothes to put a fella in a great mood.

The good news is, the Vespa lives once more.