ATV batteries are considered consumables that need to be replaced when they can no longer hold a sufficient charge. But how many years of service life should you expect from your new battery? I did some research to find out.
So How long does an ATV battery last? ATV batteries last 3-5 years on average but can last longer if properly maintained. A battery left sitting for long periods without maintenance will not last as long. Sealed batteries, such as AGM batteries, typically last about twice as long as conventional lead-acid batteries.
Continue reading to learn how to make your ATV battery last longer and what the issue may be if your battery fails prematurely.
What Factors Affect ATV Battery Life Expectancy?
Many ATV owners wonder why their batteries do not last as long as expected.
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 must live with.
Most of these factors will affect conventional flooded lead-acid batteries more than sealed ones like AGM batteries.
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, are the worst.
Inside a conventional lead-acid battery, lead plates and electrolyte fluid produce a charge through an electrochemical reaction. High temperatures make this reaction faster, while low temperatures slow it down. Both may negatively affect the life expectancy of the battery.
Moderate sub-zero temperatures will not cause damage to a fully charged battery that is not being used. But using a battery when it is cold will indirectly cause excessive stress, reducing 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. A cold battery will discharge faster, dropping the voltage to harmful levels. When the voltage drops, internal sulfation causes damage to the battery.
- A cold ATV engine requires more power to start, primarily due to the oil being less fluid when cold. This extra power draw adds to the time when the battery sits at a less-than-ideal state of charge.
- Many people put their ATVs away for the cold season. Failing to fully charge the battery before storage or having a parasitic draw slowly draining it while it’s sitting may permanently reduce the battery’s life.
- 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 at a low charge state may freeze at -1°C.
- 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 who ride in warmer climates, such as Texas, report that no ATV battery lasts more than three years under these conditions.
How Frequently the Battery Is Used
Batteries have a better chance of lasting if they are being used frequently. Each time you ride, the ATVs built-in charging system tops off the battery with a fresh charge, keeping the charge’s state 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 used is the best way to ensure optimal battery life.
The Quality of the ATV’s 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 much power from the battery.
If the provided charge is too low, or if the system, for some reason, is not working correctly, it may not be able to keep the battery fully charged, thus reducing its service life.
Evaporation – 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 don’t overfill.
Sealed AGM or GEL batteries do not have a problem with evaporation if you use a quality smart charger (link to Amazon).
Low Battery State of Charge When Not in Use
If you leave the lights on, or if something else drains your battery overnight, you need to charge the battery as soon as you can. If you charge the battery the next day, you should recover the battery to a full charge with minimal damage.
However, keeping the battery discharged (below 11.5V ) over an extended period will negatively impact its life expectancy.
Ensure you don’t let the battery drain entirely too often, which 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 dies.
You cannot prevent sulfation entirely, but you can keep it to a minimum by charging the battery correctly.
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.
They don’t last as long as sealed batteries because they aren’t as good at dealing with the abovementioned conditions and challenges.
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 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. It will lose only 1-3% of its charge in one month.
How Long Do Lithium-Ion Batteries ATV Batteries Last?
Lithium-ion batteries are not as common in ATVs as AGM and lead-acid batteries, primarily due to a high cost and less than optimal performance in cold weather.
Lithium-Ion ATV batteries typically last 2 – 5 times as long as a conventional lead-acid ATV battery.
- A lead-acid battery can last 500-1000 charge cycles in optimal conditions (typically much less in real-life conditions).
- A Lithium-Ion can last from 2000 to 5000 charge cycles. Lithium-Ion batteries discharge only 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 used for extended 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.
- Please avoid 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.
What are some common reasons for a shortened ATV battery life?
Factors include climate extremes, infrequent use, inefficient ATV charging system, low electrolyte levels, and improper charging leading to sulfation.
What is the average lifespan of different types of ATV batteries?
Flooded lead-acid batteries last 2-3 years, AGM batteries 3-5 years, and lithium-ion batteries can last 2-5 times longer than lead-acid ones.
What steps can I take to extend my ATV battery life?
Regular charging, using a battery tender, selecting higher CCA in cold climates, opting for quality AGM batteries, and getting deep cycle batteries for high-accessory usage can prolong battery life.
Maintaining and getting the most out of your ATV battery comes down to understanding the many factors affecting its life and acting accordingly.
Remember that temperature extremes, infrequent use, and improper charging can drastically cut your battery life short.
Keep in mind that choosing the right type of battery for your use case and keeping it properly charged and maintained can significantly extend its lifespan. Happy trails!