Even though your ATV’s engine charges the battery while you are riding (via the stator), it’s usually not enough to keep the battery topped up.
You may even find that starting the engine, using headlights, and operating equipment such as a winch use more power from the battery than the engine puts in.
Unless you often go on long rides, you could easily end up with a dead battery. Or your battery may stay in a perpetually low charge condition, which reduces its lifespan.
It’s also essential to keep the battery charged if you are not going to use the ATV for a long time. So one of the things you’ll need to figure out, if you own an ATV, is how to charge the battery from an external power source.
In this guide, we explain all the options you have from manual chargers and car chargers to smart automatic chargers.
What You'll Learn Today
- What’s the Best Charger for an ATV Battery?
- Can I Charge My ATV Battery With a Car Charger?
- How to Start a Dead ATV Battery?
- Can I Use a Car Battery In My ATV?
What’s the Best Charger for an ATV Battery?
The right charger for your ATV battery depends on what kind of battery you have.
The first step is identifying which battery is in your ATV. It should be labelled clearly on the side.
If you can’t read the label or there isn’t one, here’s how to tell which battery you have.
If it has liquid inside, and has removable caps on top, that’s a flooded lead acid battery. It’ll also have a partially clear housing, allowing you to monitor the level of the liquid inside.
If it has liquid inside, but has a flat top with no caps, that’s a sealed lead acid battery. It can also be a VRLA battery.
If the battery looks like a lead acid battery, but has a flat top and you can hear any liquid inside, that’s a GEL-cell battery or an AGM battery.
If the battery is small and very light, that’s a lithium ion battery.
All ATV batteries, regardless of the type, need a 12V charger that delivers a low current of between 1 and 3 amps.
Flooded lead acid, sealed lead acid, VRLA and AGM batteries can be charged with a manual charger. However, you need to monitor battery charge using a voltmeter to ensure you do not overcharge it.
This is especially important for sealed lead acid and VRLA batteries, as there’s no way to top them up after overcharging and they could get permanently damaged.
For Gel batteries, you need a charger specifically for this type of battery. The same goes for lithium ion; look for a lithium ion-compatible charger.
If you want to avoid all this hassle, we recommend getting an automatic battery charger. Unlike a manual charger that needs to be turned off or the current setting changed when the battery gets to a certain level, you can connect an automatic charger and walk away.
It automatically recognizes the battery voltage, and delivers the right voltage and current. It’ll automatically stop charging, or go into trickle mode when the battery is full. So you never have to worry about damaging your ATV battery.
How to Charge an ATV Battery With a Manual Charger
You can charge the ATV battery while it’s still in the vehicle, or you can take it out. Just make sure you charge it in a well ventilated area. The charging process produces flammable gasses.
If you are using a manual charger, check the voltage of the battery using a voltmeter. This will tell you how low the battery is, and how much time it’ll take to recharge it.
Next, connect the red lead of the charger to the positive terminal of the batter, and the negative lead to the negative terminal or a piece of metal around the engine area.
Set the manual charger to the right charging current. To be safe, select a current that’s no more than a tenth of the battery’s Ah. For a 30Ah battery, set the current on the charger to no more than 3A.
Plug in the charger and start the charging process. Keep monitoring the battery charge level. When it gets to 80%, turn down current to half what it is. This allows the battery to fully charge.
When it’s fully charged, switch off the charger immediately. If you’ll be leaving the battery sitting for a long time, you can turn on maintenance mode, if the charger has one or buy a battery tender to keep it charged.
If you have a traditional flooded lead acid battery, here’s a detailed video on how to fill and charge it.
How to Charge an ATV Battery With an Automatic Charger
An automatic charger is much easier to use. You don’t need to check battery voltage or monitor the battery.
All you need to do is select the type of battery and voltage. Most automatic/intelligent chargers come with dedicated charging modes for AGM, lithium ion, Gel, and other types of batteries.
Connect the charger to the battery and leave it to charge. It’ll safely charge the battery and keep it topped off without overcharging it.
Can I Charge My ATV Battery With a Car Charger?
Car battery chargers typically output 10 amps of current, which is too much for an ATV battery. It can overheat and permanently damage the battery.
Unless the charger has a setting to limit current to less than 3 amps, do not use a car charger.
If you can reduce current to under 3 amps, use the same procedure as a manual charger.
Can I Charge My ATV Battery With My Car?
Yes, you can charge your ATV battery with your car, but only to jumpstart it. This is useful if your ATV won’t start because the battery is dead.
Use jumper cables to connect the car battery to the ATV battery. Do not start the car. That might deliver too much power and damage the small ATV battery.
The car battery has enough charge to revive a dead ATV battery. Disconnect the jumper cables after a few minutes and try starting the ATV again.
To emphasise, this method is just for jumpstarting. Do not use it to charge the ATV battery to capacity since you cannot control how much current and voltage it’s receiving.
How to Start a Dead ATV Battery?
A dead battery can be impossible to charge with most smart chargers. That’s because the battery voltage is too low to be detected by the charger. So you need to either jumpstart the battery (as we’ve described above) or trick the charger to charge the dead battery.
To trick the charger, you’ll need a healthy charged battery. Use jumper cables to connect the two batteries. Then connect the battery charger to the dead battery.
Once it starts charging, you can disconnect the healthy battery.
Note: Some advanced smart chargers nowadays can detect very low voltages, allowing them to charge dead batteries.
How Long Does It Take to Charge an ATV Battery
To estimate how long it’ll take to charge a fully discharged battery, divide its Ah rating with the current you are charging at.
A 30Ah battery being charged at 3A will take about 10 hours to get to full charge.
However, the actual charging time will vary depending on temperature, the health of the battery, and the quality of the charger.
For empty batteries, charging time could be anywhere between 10 and 20 hours. A half full battery will take between 6 and 10 hours to recharge.
Can You Overcharge an ATV Battery?
Yes, you can overcharge an ATV battery. This happens if you use a charger that delivers too much current or voltage. Leaving a manual charger plugged in even after the battery is full can also overcharge it.
Overcharging can damage a battery, often permanently. This is especially so for sealed batteries, where you can’t open caps and replenish the electrolyte.
Can I Use a Car Battery In My ATV?
Yes, you can use a car battery in your ATV, as long as it is a 12V battery. Any 12V battery will be compatible with your ATV’s 12V system.
In fact, many ATV owners say they’ve fitted bigger batteries in their ATVs to operate winches, ploughs, heaters, and other power-hungry ATV accessories and equipment.
That said, there are two things to keep in mind before you use a car battery in your ATV.
The first one is weight.
ATV batteries are smaller and lighter than big car batteries. Before you switch to a heavy car battery, make sure the added weight is not going to be an issue. Also, check to make sure you have the space for a larger battery.
Two, you’ll need to charge the battery regularly.
The stator on ATVs struggles to keep the small ATV battery charged. It’ll be ineffective when connected to a high-capacity car battery.
So you’ll need to charge the battery often to keep it topped up. This means investing in a good quality battery charger.
In this case you can get a 10A battery charger to safely charge the car battery.