Are gel filled motorcycle batteries the best thing since sliced bread?

Gel battery equals sliced bread?

Are motorcycle gel filled batteries any good?

There’s alot of information on the internet about Gel Batteries being ‘better’ and more reliable/powerful than maintenance free motorcycle batteries or the older style lead acid motorbike batteries.

1) Are Gel batteries more powerful than their sealed or conventional equivalents?
This is partly true, gel filled batteries used to be slightly more powerful for their size than sealed or conventional batteries.

This is mainly due to very limited space in many modern bikes (especially sports bikes) which need a high powered battery but don’t have alot of room to fit one in!

However, many OEM battery manufacturers (including Yuasa and Unibat) have recently produced high powered maintenance free batteries which provide the same power output as their gel filled counterparts…………..

2) Gel filled batteries can be used on their sides or at an angle….
Gel batteries were also used in bikes (like the early Yamaha YZF-R1) where the battery had to lie on it’s side in the bike.
Because the Gel batteries use a gel state battery acid, it doesn’t move around in the battery so won’t leak and the gel acid covers the lead plates in the battery.

Modern, good quality maintenance free batteries are fine when used on their side or at an angle as the better quality lead plates soak up all the acid, so don’t leak and can be used on their sides.
The only thing to remember is to initially charge the maintenance free battery with the sealing cap/strip placed lightly over the holes in the top of the battery.
The battery will give off gases when initially charged and these gases can force the cap back out of the holes (if the battery is charged with the cap loose, the gases escape and the pressure doesn’t build up during charging!).

The battery manufacturer Unibat have tested some of their maintenance free batteries after they have been used whilst fitted upside down in a bike and have said they performed fine with no loss of performance or power!

Please note: Cheaper/no name batteries may not be suitable for use where the battery lies on it’s side or at an angle (poorer quality components that aren’t up to the job)!

3) Dealers like selling Gel filled batteries……
Again, this is partly true, many dealers (especially mail order shops) like selling Gel batteries as there’s no battery acid to send out separately. They are also easier to prepare for the customer as they don’t need filling with battery acid.

And now the bad news…………………….

The reliability and failure rate on Gel filled motorcycle batteries is horrendous, which is the main reason many major and OEM battery manufacturers have been developing maintenance free replacements for them!

The problem lies in the fact that Gel batteries are filled with acid when they are made at the factory, which means the degrading process in the battery starts much earlier than in other kinds of batteries that are only filled when they are sold or needed!

Although the internet is rife with ‘upgrade to gel filled’ tales, they are not anywhere near as reliable as there maintenance free and conventional battery counterparts.

Just something to bear in mind before you ‘upgrade’ to a gel filled battery………………

Source: Our year’s of experience of selling Motorcycle Batteries!

4 thoughts on “Are gel filled motorcycle batteries the best thing since sliced bread?”

  1. Per Kviler says:

    In the spring of 2007 I bought a gel battery for my Kawasaki H1E. I have now finished my 6th riding season on this battery and still no signs of weakening. I ride and average of 5000 miles per season.
    In the winter the temperature often go as low as -15° F and my H1 is stored in an un-insulated garage. The battery has not been out of the battery box after installing it back in 2007 and it has never seen a charger, not even at installation in 2007.

    Just buy a good gel battery and be done with it.

    1. They don’t all fail, but the failure rate is much higher then maintenance free or lead acid batteries (this comes from our experience dealing with thousands of batteries, including gel, over the years from most makes on the market including Yuasa and OEM Honda!).

      At the end of the day, if they were any good we’d still sell them :-)

      I’d be interested to know the brand of battery you have though?

      1. Per Kviler says:

        It was bought in a Scandinavian store chain called “Biltema”. They started out in the eighties selling mainly car accessories, pattern parts and tools. They have grown and now they sell just about anything imaginable. They used to have a reputation for dubious quality stuff, but over the years they have improved.

        Anyway, the gel battery is branded with the store name, i.e. BILTEMA. Obviously Biltema does not manufacture batteries so I would say it is an unknown manufacturer. The battery cost $66 which is considered cheap here in Norway. I didn’t have very high expectations when I bought it back in 2007 so I’m quite surprised it has lasted this long, and I’m curious to see how many more years it will last.

        The battery is 12V – 9Ah.

        My bike (1974 Kawasaki H1E) is kickstart only, and the shop manual for the bike calls out Yuasa 12N9-3B

        1. To be honest, if your bike is kick start only any type of battery should have a long life as there’s little to drain the battery (there’s not likely to be much electrical load placed on the battery by the bike).
          This is especially true with older bikes as they don’t normally have all electronics, sensors, relays and such to drain the batteries that the modern counterpart bikes have.

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