Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gel vs Acid

For the second straight year in a row, the first week in November is proving detrimental to Jade’s gel battery. In the future I will stick with good old fashioned acid batteries. Gel cells are touted for maintenance free operation. They are sealed so as not to leak, and can be used upright or sideways. The industry also claims they are less susceptible to freezing. OK, so the gel does not freeze, but as soon as it’s cold, it looses its charge. If not noticed soon enough, the gel battery cannot be recharged. I have discovered this first hand. I can see how they are better for the environment. First they don’t leak acid. Second, you can’t start your bike in cold weather, so you are not polluting the atmosphere, wasting fossil fuels, or leaving tire residue along roadways. You are also not having a lot of fun. Lead/acid batteries have more power are much heavier and can leak. Leaking acid is not a good thing. Not having your bike start on a cold day isn’t good either.

Today felt like Groundhog Day as once again, we rolled Jade out of the shed during the first week in November only to find the battery not holding its amperage. We hooked up the charger and thankfully the engine turned over. There I stood, scratching my head, as last weekend there was no trouble whatsoever. On top of that, it has not been all that cold this week. With the bike running we headed out. Twenty five miles later, we stop for coffee. Back at the bikes, helmets and gloves on, I turn the key, hit the starter and click click click….nothing! With Andy pushing, I jump start the bike and off we go again.

You would think that after 25 miles the battery would by now have a good charge. It is déjà vu. As long as the engine is running, things are fine, but I need gas. You need to take the key out of the ignition to open the gas cap. Crap! Oh, I have the spare key with me. Problem solved. We leave the bike running while we fuel. (I don't recommend this.) However, now we are hungry and want to stop and eat. We park the bikes strategically. I disconnect every non-essential electrical item, even the light bar. We enjoy our subs and back at the bike I turn the key, hit the ignition and click, click, click. Crap again! This time Andy has help from a patron and as they push I jump start the bike again.

Back home, I roll Jade into the shed. I take off the seat and side panel to remove the battery for winter. We notice that one of the terminal screws is a bit loose. Our eyebrows go up. Maybe there is hope after all. We carry Jade’s life giving heart into the house and put it on life support. Last year, while attempting this same operation, we experienced nothing but red lights on the trickle charger. That battery was indeed dead at only two months old. We connect the terminals, adjust the settings, and hold our breath. The amber lights come on! One by one, the amber lights are showing the battery is taking a charge. We will sit vigil and monitor with care, hopeful that this gel battery, just barely one year old, will be able to attain the green zone one more time.

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