How long should an ATV battery last, and how long do they actually last in real-world conditions?

To find out I looked up the battery life expectancy rating from some of the major battery manufacturers. Then I scavenged the forums to find out if these numbers hold true in real life riding conditions. 

So How long do ATV batteries last? ATV batteries last 3 to 5 years on average. Factors such as climate, the use of power-hungry accessories and proper charging play a big role in how long the battery lasts. Sealed batteries such as AGM batteries typically last about twice as long as a conventional lead-acid battery.

Which factors affect the life of an ATV battery?

Many ATV owners wonder why their batteries do not last as long as they’d expect. 

The actual life expectancy of your ATV battery is affected by a wide range of factors. Some of which you can affect, while others are external factors you just have to live with. 

Most of these factors will have a bigger effect on conventional flooded lead-acid batteries than sealed batteries like an AGM battery.

Climate – warm and cold temperatures

All types of batteries work best in room temperatures ( 20°C (68°F) or slightly below). Both warmer and colder climates will negatively affect battery life. 

Some types of batteries handle high or low temperatures better than others. Conventional lead-acid batteries like extreme temperatures the worst.  

Inside a conventional lead-acid battery, there are lead plates and electrolyte fluid that produce a charge through an electrochemical reaction. High temperatures make this reaction go faster while low temperatures slow it down. Both which may negatively affect the life expectancy of the battery.

Cold temperatures:

Moderate sub-zero temperatures will not cause damage to a fully charged battery that is not being used. But when you use a battery when it is cold it will indirectly cause excessive stress that will reduce your battery’s life expectancy. 

  • A battery’s ability to provide power at cold temperatures is rated in CCA (Cold-Cranking Amperage). CCA is the amount of current the battery can deliver at -18°C (0°F) for 30 seconds while maintaining a cut-off voltage of at least 7,2V. Cold temperatures lower the battery’s capacity due to the reduced speed of the internal chemical reaction. A lead-acid battery that offers 100% capacity at room temperature will only provide about 50% capacity at -18°C. This means that a cold battery will discharge faster, dropping the voltage down to harmful levels. When the voltage drops, internal sulfation causes damage to the battery.
  • A cold ATV engine requires more power to start, mostly due to the oil being less fluid when cold. This extra draw ad to the time where the battery sits at a less than ideal state of charge. 
  • Many people put their ATV away for the cold season. Failing to fully charge the battery before storage or having a parasitic draw that is slowly draining the battery while it’s sitting, may permanently reduce the life of the battery.
  • The electrolytes in a lead-acid battery may freeze, potentially causing irreversible damage to the cells and may cause the enclosure to crack. A fully charged battery can withstand temperatures down to -50 °C, while a battery that is at a low state of charge may freeze already at -1°C. 

Warm temperatures:

  • Heat accelerates the chemical reaction inside the battery. This makes the battery discharge quicker.
  • Heat dries out a battery quicker by increasing evaporation.
  • Heat speeds up the internal corrosion of the cells which reduces overall service life.
  • People that ride in hot climates such as Texas report that no ATV battery lasts more than 3 years under these conditions. 

How often is the battery being used?

Batteries have a better chance of lasting if they are being used frequently. Each time you ride, the ATVs own charging system will top off the battery with a fresh charge, making the state of charge stays within healthy levels.

If you only use the ATV now and then, chances are the battery will be neglected when the bike is sitting. Maintaining a periodic charging routine even when the ATV is not being used is the best way to ensure optimal battery life. 

The quality of the ATVs charging system

All ATVs have a built-in charging system that charges the battery each time you ride. They are however not all equally efficient. 

Older ATVs typically have a lower output charging system than newer models. Accessories like EPS (electric power steering), heated grips and electric winches draw a lot of power from the battery. 

If the provided charge is too low, or if the system for some reason is not working properly, it may not be able to keep the battery fully charged, thus reducing its service life. 

Water Loss – low electrolyte levels

Overcharging a lead-acid battery will cause the battery acid (electrolyte water) to evaporate. The electrolyte may gradually evaporate over time as well. 

When levels drop too low, the lead plates get exposed to air, making them corrode quickly. Corrosion may cause an internal short, leaving the battery useless.  

Serviceable lead-acid batteries have removable caps that allow you to add distilled water if needed. Make sure electrolyte levels stay within the required range at all times. The lead plates should be fully covered, but do not overfill. 

Sealed AGM or GEL batteries do not have a problem with evaporation, as long as you use a quality smart charger (link to Amazon).

If the battery gets completely drained (below 11,5V)

If you leave the lights on, or if something else is draining your battery overnight, you need to charge the battery as soon as you can. If you charge the battery the next day, you should be able to recover the battery to a full charge with minimal damage. 

Make sure you don’t let the battery drain completely too often as this will shorten its overall service life.                    

Internal sulfation – from not charging the battery properly

Sulfation is a build-up of crystals on the lead plates inside a lead-acid battery. The battery’s ability to take and hold a charge gets reduced as more and more sulfation builds up until the battery goes dead.

You cannot prevent sulfation entirely, but you can keep it at a minimum by charging the battery properly. 

Sulfation builds up faster when:

  • The ATVs charging system is not able to maintain a proper charge.
  • Electrolyte levels are too low, exposing the lead plates to air. 
  • The battery is being stored at a low state of charge. 
  • The battery is left drained/discharged (below 11,5 V), even only for a few days.

How long do different types of ATV batteries last?

Some types of ATV batteries do not last as long as others. 

How long do conventional flooded lead-acid ATV batteries last?

Conventional flooded lead-acid ATV batteries typically last 2 to 3 years on average. They may last as long as 4 to 5 years if properly maintained and used under optimal conditions. 

The reason why they do not last as long as a sealed battery is because they do not cope as well with factors such as those listed above. 

Flooded lead-acid batteries have a relatively high discharge rate. In one month, it will lose about 13% of its charge.

How long do AGM ATV batteries last: 

AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries are the most common type of batteries used in ATVs today. Longer battery life is one of the reasons why they are preferred over conventional flooded lead-acid batteries. 

An AGM ATV battery will typically last 3 to 5 years on average. They may last as long as 6 to 8 years when properly maintained.

AGM batteries do usually not go completely dead all of a sudden. Instead, they will gradually lose capacity and require more charging. When this happens it is time to get a new battery.  

AGM batteries have a low discharge rate. In one month, it will lose only 1-3% of its charge. 

How long do lithium-ion batteries ATV batteries last?

Lithium-ion batteries are not as common in ATVs as AGM and lead-acid batteries. Mostly due to a high cost and less than optimal performance in cold weather. 

Lithium-Ion ATV batteries will typically last 2 – 5 times as long as a conventional lead-acid ATV battery. Where a lead-acid battery can last 500-1000 charge cycles in optimal conditions (typically a lot less in real-life conditions) a Lithium-Ion can last from 2000 to 5000 charge cycles. 

Lithium-Ion batteries have a really low discharge of about 1% a month which adds to their longevity. 

9 tips to make your ATV battery last longer

  • Never let your battery drain completely (below 11,5V).
  • Top off your battery with a battery tender once a month.
  • Higher CCA is generally better if you live in a colder climate. 
  • Gel batteries will typically last longer in warmer climates.
  • Always keep the battery fully charged when the ATV is not being used for longer periods.
  • Choose a good quality AGM battery over conventional flooded lead-acid batteries. 
  • OEM batteries are not always the best quality. A good aftermarket battery may last longer than your stock battery did. 
  • Stay away from the cheapest aftermarket batteries, as they tend not to last as long. We recommend brands such as Yuasa or Deka.
  • Consider getting a deep cycle battery if you regularly use power-hungry accessories that cause the battery’s state of charge to drop more than 3 to 5%. Deep cycle batteries are designed to be discharged down to 20% of their maximum capacity without taking any damage. A flooded lead-acid deep cycle battery will typically last as long as a sealed AGM battery. 

Sources: 

https://www.yuasabatteries.com/resources/faqs/

https://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/discharging_at_high_and_low_temperatures

https://www.eastpennmanufacturing.com/resources-downloads/faqs/