Patience is a virtue, but it might not make things any easier
I’m not afraid to admit that I’m one of those back-yard mechanics for whom the expression “all thumbs” may have been coined.
That said, I’ve always believed that most routine maintenance and repair on any of my old motorcycles should still be within my depth. I feel strongly that putting in a new battery should be one of those tasks. After all, it’s a motorcycle; how tough can it be?
Over the years, the vast majority of bikes I’ve owned are no more difficult to change the battery in than the simple, “lift seat, disconnect leads, lift out old, drop-in new, reconnect leads, close seat and ride.”
During one of my occasional mid-winter outings to the garage, I discovered that the battery in my new-to-me 2002 Carbon Fiber Yamaha V-Max had shivered to death, despite being on one of my battery tenders during the winter.
I didn’t rush to get at the project of replacing the battery during the winter—I figured, if it’s cold enough to freeze my fingers to a wrench, there’s probably no rush to get the battery put in. The urge to get at the project really took a hit when I read the Clymer service manual about how to do it.
The process requires going to multiple chapters in the book for various steps and quite a bit of reading of fine print. Still, it would have to be done, so I did get a battery about a month ago, just to have on hand for when the weather got nice.
This past weekend, the weather got nice—temps over 60° sunny, warm. I went for a ride on a different bike, took some pictures. It was a stall. I was putting off installing the new battery in my V-Max, dreading how much frustration what should be a fairly simple project could cause.
But finally, I realized it had to be done, so before the snow came back again in our annual spring cold snap, I decided to force myself to get on it. Even having mentally prepared myself for the job by reviewing the manual, it still looked like a high hassle project.
For example, the first step is to remove the rider (not passenger) seat as described in Chapter 15, which then directs you to Chapter 9, which provides detailed instructions on how to remove the electrical bracket. Wait-what? Remove the electrical bracket? What the heck is an electrical bracket and why is it in my way when all I want to do is replace the battery?
Ok-how hard can that be? Or better yet, maybe that step really isn’t necessary—lots of those kinds of things are put in shop manuals just to scare owner-mechanics into taking the thing to the dealer for the work, right?
Nope. The battery is jammed into a really tight spot under the electrical bracket. Seriously. Tight. And there’s no way that battery comes out without dealing with that electrical bracket. Well, it can’t be that hard, right?
But even before you get to that, there’s the little matter of taking off the rider seat. The manual shows an image with a total of four bolts that need to come out to free up the seat. Two are large Phillips-head machine screws—those are no particular problem as long as you don’t mangle the slots in the head. The other two are where there’s a little trick.
There’s a 10 mm hex head on the outside of the attachment point and a 12 mm nut on what appears to be the other end of the bolt. But, it’s not the other end of the bolt. Turns out, the thing is a duplex bolt where the outside (10 mm) bolt threads into the other bolt, so it’s not necessary to do anything with the 12 mm nut. Just back the 10 mm hex bolt out on each side. Of course, this is not explained in the service manual, so I did waste some time before I figured it out.
Removing the electrical bracket includes disconnecting spark plugs one and three (which requires visiting another chapter to confirm which ones those are), then disconnecting the battery terminal leads, the single-pin starter relay connection, the twin-pin starter relay connector (depending on model year of bike), the twin-pin main fuse connector, each ignition coil’s twin-pin connector, then remove the two bracket bolts, pull a bunch of stuff through the bracket cut-out (carefully noting how it all was stuffed in there because you’ll have to re-stuff it all back exactly as it came out later upon reassembly), then pull the whole bracket back and get it out of the way.
All the while hoping that you don’t miss any of the connections when you are supposed to re-connect. On the bright side, for those of us who aren’t all that bright, the connectors are color-coded.
Then it should be simple, right? Just lift out the wide, thin battery, drop in the new one and reverse each step, right? Not a chance.
That battery was jammed in there so tight I finally had to lock a vice grip on each terminal and pull like hell to get the thing to move. Then, when I finally dislodged it from the V-Max, one of the vice grips slipped off and down it went back into the hole. Times three more times. And, of course, things have to get in the way of lifting it out, the in-line fuel filter for one.
After about an hour since starting the project, I finally had the old battery out. Then, the challenge became putting the new one in. No problem, just drop it in the slot, right? Not a chance. Even though not working against the force of gravity, getting the battery to clear all the obstacles and drop-in was a major hassle. Then, reconnecting everything had to be done.
To my credit, I did remember to put a little dielectric grease on each connector, including the battery terminals. I even remembered to include reconnecting the battery tender pigtail and to give each of the bolts involved a dab of thread locker on the way.
Before reinstalling the seat, I decided to do a test run and fired the thing up to make sure there would be juice in the circuits and no flames coming from under the seat. Lights came on, circuits sprung to life, the neutral light came on, the starter spun that big V-Max V4 and those stainless-steel UFO megaphones rumbled. I let it run for a while, just to be sure – it’s been out of action about half the winter with that dead battery.
Much to my surprise, reinstalling the seat went pretty smoothly despite two of the four bolts being a little awkward to get at and prone to being dropped down into the frame (my advice: have a magnetic retriever rod handy for this).
After about two hours, I finally had the thing all back together and ready for the road. I had a sort of stunted sense of satisfaction at having taken up the challenge and gotten it done. I say “stunted” because satisfaction or not, I kind of hope the next time my battery dies on the V-Max, it happens in the parking lot of Vetesnik’s Power Sports and I can just push it into the service bay.