Bad ATV Battery Symptoms (including maintenance tips)


The battery is one of the main parts to check when you are having trouble starting up your quad. Today I’ll share with you the typical bad ATV battery symptoms to look out for, as well as some tips on maintaining your accumulator in top shape.

The top bad ATV battery symptoms to look out for are the inability to start the quad, as well as power loss and eventual engine death. These are often signs of other ATV problems as well, which is why it can be difficult to pinpoint the battery as the unequivocal culprit. However, since this is quite a common issue for four-wheelers, mechanics and experienced off-roaders will often check the battery first to rule out a charging problem. This process usually consists of a visual examination and a load test to check the voltage. A clear sign of a bad battery is the low voltage when fully charged, as well as physical damage like a corroded terminal, a bump in the case, or leaking.

Understanding the cause behind your battery issues is equally as important as knowing what bad ATV battery symptoms to look for. Keep on reading to learn the most common causes of battery defects, as well as some tips on maintaining a longer battery life.

How Do I Know If My ATV Battery is Bad?

man testing battery charge

The easiest way to determine that your ATV battery is bad is by performing a voltage test. If an ATV has been losing power on the trail, then you can safely assume that you have a problem with your battery or charging system. Since batteries are known to deteriorate over time, this should be your first checkpoint in determining the root of your problem.

Start out by looking at your battery. Examine the exterior searching for corroded terminals, changes in the shape of your battery, and even potential leaking. If you notice corroded terminals or leaking then there is still hope for an easy fix. Yet, if you have a bump from overcharging, the battery needs to be changed.

Next up, you can do a simple load test to evaluate the voltage of your battery. All you will need is your battery charger and a multimeter. Here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Charge your battery completely, and let it sit for 6 to 12 hours to get rid of any residual charge.
  2. Set your multimeter to measure voltage (usually represented by a “V”).
  3. Connect the leads of the multimeter to the corresponding terminals on the battery: red lead to positive terminal and black lead to negative (or ground).
  4. Check the voltage reading. A healthy ATV battery should read between 12.6 and 13.1 volts. If the multimeter shows anything under 11.8V, then your battery is completely discharged. If your reading is between 11.8 and 12.6, then your battery is not holding up a proper charge.

If you don’t have a battery multimeter, you should consider getting one because it’s super useful to have around the house. These gadgets are quite cheap and if you go with an Amazon’s Choice product like the AstroAI Multimeter 2000, you will spend less than $15.

Sidenote: I wrote a full guide on a battery voltage that will help you determine the correct values for your ATV battery. You can read more by clicking here.

Why Does My Four Wheeler Battery Keep Dying?

The most common causes of a four-wheeler battery that keeps dying are sulfation, low fluid levels, a damaged voltage regulator, or a faulty stator. Some less likely scenarios are that your wiring is not done correctly, or that the ground cable is corroded.

If you have had your ATV battery for a while, then it’s likely that you have a sulfation issue. This process is unavoidable, as it happens naturally with each time your battery discharges on the road. Lead sulfate crystals build-up inside your battery over time, which is why your battery life is limited.

Owners of lead-acid batteries need to check fluid levels in the cell-ports as well. If your battery has a removable cover, then you can look to see if your battery has been leaking and top it off with distilled water to get your battery running smoothly again.

In case none of the previous scenarios fit your situation, then your ATV might be killing your battery through a bad charging system. The voltage regulator is the part that ensures your battery receives the right voltage from the stator to work. When this element of the charging system is broken, it damages the battery as well. Conversely, the stator can be at fault for a dying battery too.

Diagnosing a bad stator is quite difficult, which is why I recommend you read this in-depth guide I recently wrote about ATV stators.

Will a Bad Battery Cause ATV to Run Poorly?

A bad battery often causes an ATV to lose power on the road and will eventually induce a complete shut-off. Therefore, if you notice these bad ATV battery symptoms, the best course of actions is to determine the cause and eventually change the accumulator to continue riding without stress.

If the battery leaves you stranded, you will be happy to know that carb-powered four-wheelers will be able to perform an emergency start on the trail. However, if you ride an EFI (electronic fuel injection) quad, then you will probably need to jump start it with the help of a friend. Just make sure that if you are getting juice from a car, to do it while the vehicle is off. Otherwise, the difference in voltage will fry your ATV battery.

How Long Do ATV Batteries Usually Last?

As a general rule, ATV batteries usually last between 3 to 5 years, depending on the model, maintenance, and usage of the quad. If you are the type of person that likes to ride every single day, then the sulfation process will happen much more quickly for you. At the same time, if you almost never ride and leave your battery discharged for long periods of time, this can cause even more damage.

The key to prolonging your battery’s life is to take some easy maintenance steps. For example, ATV accumulators don’t appreciate extreme weather conditions. Whether you live in a very cold or very hot climate, keeping your ATV in a storage space is the best option to not ruin your battery. On top of that, when you know you won’t use your four-wheeler for some time, you can use a trickle charger to maintain a full charge without overpowering your battery.

Final Words

With these maintenance tips, you will be able to enjoy your battery to the fullest. Nevertheless, all batteries have an expiration date, which is why you shouldn’t be too conflicted about changing it when the situation requires it. If you feel some frustration about how quickly your battery gets overly sulfated, then you can look into higher-priced AGM batteries, which are known to last longer than regular ATV accumulators.

Bob Kelly

Hey there, my name is Bob and I've been riding ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs for most of my life. Going on outdoor adventures has always been my passion. I love sharing tips and tricks with beginners who are getting ready to join the world of outdoor enthusiasts.

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