Playing with the battery

Ah, Saturday has arrived finally.  Funny, the work weeks gets longer, but the weekends seem to get shorter as we age.  Been looking forward to today, as the motorcycle has sat in the frigid garage all alone for the last couple of weeks due to the outrageous winter weather we are experiencing.  Every trip to the car, to the trash can, or out to the mailbox requires passing the midnight blue Ultra whose front still appears as it if had been ripped away by some evil scientist.  It has been too cold for the menial garage electric heaters to make the work area comfortable, so dust has continued to collect on the Harley’s exposed paint.  Regardless of temperatures today, it was my desire to enjoy some relaxation wrenching this morning.

First order of business was to install a new battery.  I had replaced the stock battery on the 2008 Ultra back in 2011 with a Deka/Big Crank ETX30L 400 CCA battery.  It has served me well, and probably has a couple more years of good life left in it.  But, as I will be taking a journey to the wilderness of Alaska in just 118 days, it made sense to ensure that the charging system was the best that it could be.  Amazon had it on sale for $99, and I ordered it last weekend from the comfort of my recliner.  It had arrived a couple of days ago, and was just waiting for me to swap it out.

Harley’s OEM battery, the Deka, and the name of BigCrank is all made by the same manufacturer…East Penn.  While the OEM battery is about 330 CCA (cold cranking amps), the Deka and Big Crank modified ones are 400 or higher CCA, a increase of battery power around 30% over the stock one.

The battery compartment of an Ultra is underneath the seat and the ECM (electronic control module, like the computer of the motorcycle) in a very narrow channel.  So narrow and deep in fact, that one has to use their fingernails and finger tips to try to pull out the 26 pound battery.  Ever try this type of movement?  It’s near impossible.  Ok…it’s impossible to get it out with your fingernails.  One learns to hold a flashlight in their mouth, move the battery out from under the steel frame lips of the compartment, keep pushing back the half dozen wires that were connected to the battery posts, and use a screwdriver on each side to try “walking the battery up the deep well” that holds it.  Of course, the person will drop it half dozen times back down, scraping their knuckles badly and cussing up a storm.  Eventually, the battery comes out enough you can quickly drop your screwdrivers and grab the battery with both hands and heave it out from the bike.  15 minutes of this makes you sweat profusely in a cold garage, your hands bloodied from the scrapes.  But the feel of satisfaction does make one happy with the accomplishment when it is over.

New on the left, old on the right
I had load tested the “old” battery last weekend, and it still is a good battery. You load test it by connecting a voltmeter to the positive and negative leads, disconnect the spark plug wires and ground them to the engine casing with alligator clips, and crank the bike for about 5 seconds.  The bike will not start, but it places a load on the battery, allowing for a successful measurement to be taken.  A 12V motorcycle battery should register at least 10.5 volts during this test.  If you want to learn more about doing this type of testing, check out the three one-minute videos located on this website.  A friend of mine reported having a dead battery yesterday on his own Harley, so I’m going to gift this to him.  He’s the same friend (Mitch) who helped me with the tire/brakes/suspension work late last year.
The deep well of the battery compartment

Putting a new battery back in is just reversing all the previous steps.  Hardest part is balancing it in one hand while trying to keep all the wires out of the way so it will fit back into the well.  It is a tight fit, but eventually you can slide it back down unimpeded by anything.  One thing of note:  Harley’s have a battery pull strap that should make it easier to pull a battery out.  My pull strap was located under my original battery, so when I swapped that out, I put the strap in place.  However, when I had a electrical system breakdown a year after that, the dealer I went to had removed the battery and didn’t put the strap back in place when they re-installed the battery.  That makes it a fingernail job trying to get it out.

Battery installed, and pull strap put in proper place

As shown in the photo above, a large strap is seen in the middle of the battery.  It actually ties into the frame, goes under the battery, and runs up the side and lays over the top.This idea is you pull on the end of the strap, and it helps pull the battery out of the channel.  Anyways, the ECM tray and device was reconnected over the battery.  Checked to make sure everything worked by starting up the Mistress with the garage door open, thus losing all the precious heat that took three hours for the electric heaters to generate.  So, that was the end of the work today.

Weather reports are that next weekend, temperatures will be in the forties or low fifties.  If so, I am looking forward to finishing up some of the piddly stuff like the grip swap-out.

I had mentioned a few months ago that several people had expressed interest in going, but had slowly pulled out when they realized exactly how intensive this trip would end up being.  Between the long days of riding, the 23 days to get up there and back, and the potential for damages or riding miles of gravel roads, these were enough to take the romance out of the dream for them.  I was then left with one person that assured me he was in, and would go.  Unfortunately he suffered an injury while on vacation last month that requires surgery and extensive rehab; we are hoping that he will be ready to go in June.  I am not able to postpone the trip any amount of days due to work arrangements, so we will keep our fingers crossed that he still can go.  If not, I am totally prepared to go by myself.

I have already set up two small trips, one in April and another in May, to test out my gear.  I guess I should start packing it all up and figuring out what goes on the bike and what stays home.  I’ll throw up some gear pictures as I have time here on this blog.

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