Thursday, April 24, 2008

Maintaining the Battery in Motofino and Chinese made Motor Scooters

As we become acquainted with Chinese Motors Scooters, including the Motofino brand in several models, the maintenance of their storage batteries becomes an issue. If we owners do not understand completely about them it will cost us money replacing them too frequently! To avoid this unpleasant situation of buying a new battery prematurely, every owner should understand what follows here.

Motofino Motor Scooters, and almost every other Chinese and Taiwan Manufactured Scooters use what is called a VLRA sealed lead-acid battery, or VLRA. ( Valve Regulated Lead Acid) This is a good battery construction type because it offers low maintenance and high current loads for starting scooters. Plus they are light in weight and never need re-filling, or leak acid in your Scooter. They also hold a full charge a lot longer then other construction types when stored in the fully charged state.

All that is good, but they have a couple things about them an owner cannot ignore and refuse to do to get them to last a long, long time, which they will with just a little maintenance attention. To get long life and performance you must:

1. Charge them fully when first placed in service.
2. Take the battery out and read the open terminal voltage every 90 days minimum, and then re-charge the battery to a full charge state if necessary.
3. When placing in storage for the winter, remove the battery, fully charge it, and put it away to re-install in the Spring.
4. NEVER jumper the Scooter battery with an Auto Battery to start it! Do a manual kick start instead! If you make this mistake you will damage the VLRA scooter battery permanently, even if you were successful with the jumper start.
5. NEVER charge a VLRA Sealed Lead-Acid battery with an automotive battery charger of any kind! That includes the ones with a 2.0AMP trickle charge setting. If you do, you will permanently damage your scooter battery! You might think you got a way with it, but while you may have partially charged it enough to work a few days, you have ruined the battery. Next time you try that your battery will fail!

You might wonder why these things/rules are true? It all backs up to the VLRA construction method to make light-weight and small battery. To make this tiny high current delivery battery using VLRA construction it has to have many more electrode plates than conventional lead-acid types do internally. Not only that, but these plates must be spaced very close together physically. VLRA batteries also also constructed with advanced lead calcium technology, and include sulfphation retardants.

While all that does make for a powerful little battery, it also greatly restricts the amount of charging current you can use to charge it! It does means it will take a long time to fully charge a battery of this type at the low charge current rate allowed. VLRA batteries must only be charged with a battery charger capable of delivering from just .3 to .5 DC AMPS, or 300 to 500 Milliampers. NO MORE, or you will melt or warp the internal plates, thus shorting them and destroying the ability of the battery to deliver current. That is why so many are destroyed by automotive battery chargers which can deliver anywhere from 2.o to 60 AMPS!

If you are a scooter owner you really should acquire a cheap volt-ohm meter so you can read the open battery terminal voltage of your battery. That voltage reading tells you the charge state of your battery. You also need a low-current battery charger. Typically they can be found a most serious scooter shops, and online.
They are the wall transformer plug in type, with battery clip-on leads. Always check the specification of any charger you are considering acquiring to be sure it is truly a low current type. It needs to only be capable of a charge rate of .5 DC AMPS at 12.8 volts. A .3 AMP charge rate is just fine, but more than .5 AMP is not!

Here is some charging information based on your open terminal DC Voltage readings:

State of Charge
100% - Reads 12.8 to 13.0 Volts - No action needed.
75% to 100% - Reads 12.5 to 12.8 Volts - May need slight charge - 3 to 6 hours.
50% to 75% - Reads 12.0 to 12.5 Volts - Needs Charge -5 to 11 hours.
25% to 50% - Reads 11.5 to 12.0 Volts - Needs Charge - At least for 10 to 13 hours.
0% to 25% - Reads 11.5 Volts or less - Needs Charge - 20 hours - completely depleted.

A peculiar thing about reading battery charge voltage state after removing the charger is that
you will only get a true reading after you have removed the charger for 10 minutes. There is a time lag as the voltage stabilizes in a VLRA.

Whenever a new battery is filled with acid sealed it will need charging. The very act of adding the acid only brings the battery to a 75% charge state.

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