Author Topic: My own personal story of shame and comedy...  (Read 6603 times)

BlueMR2

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My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« on: November 04, 2013, 05:57:51 PM »
Enjoy this fine story of how I got to pay the idiot tax a couple times recently...  So, I pick up this Katana 600 (motorcycle) for $1.  Needs a little work, but I figure I can ride it enough to at least pay for it's keep in gas savings over the car.  Possibly even save money if we have nice enough Summers.

Starts off well enough, got all the body repairs done (busted mirror, missing screws/washers/etc) for less than $100.  This is the good part of the story.  That was it, that one sentence.  It now goes terribly wrong.  :-)

On the trip over being delivered to me it had a caliper seize up.  Rather than just fork over the $200+ for a new one like all the "normal" people around me said I should, I decided to rebuild it myself.  I was very proud of myself, ordering the seals and doing all this work for only $36 in parts, plus $4 in fluid.  Well, then I find out you can buy a rebuild *kit* instead of buying those seals individually.  That's only $17.  Doh.  $19 idiot tax.

Now, I thought I'd like to start it for the first time since it arrived.  Apparently 10 volts is NOT enough juice to even flicker a light on this thing.  Battery was old, not unexpected for it to need replacement (it looked horrible, rust on the terminals, and one of the terminals was even twisted out of shape, and the previous owner had to charge it before he could ride it over).  I felt really good about myself as I walked up to the local auto parts store, battery in hand, and got a replacement ($50 - my $8 core charge.  Note at this point that stock replacement motorcycle batteries are typically old-skool "have to pour in electrolyte and water").  Given the Winter and the possible limited riding I decided to protect that investment by getting a $60 maintenance charger.  So, I toddle back home all proud of myself.  I'm not afraid of filling my own batteries (done it several times for club airplanes).  Well, I hadn't realized how small motorcycle batteries are.  It's nuts trying to get electrolyte in them without slopping it all over the place.  Plus it's nigh impossible to actually see the level and get it right.  1 frustrating hour later and I start googling for help.  Turns out I was an idiot for buying that battery.  These bikes tend to overcharge them and blow them up every couple of years (plus they don't hold charge well at all and need to make frequent visits to the charger if not ridden all the time).  I bought into a false economy.  The real battery to get is the $150 Li-Fe, which can last a decade in normal use and only needs charged if sitting for a year.  Ugh.  Well, I decided to bite the bullet *now* and just get the Li-Fe rather than waste more of my life on this terrible battery I bought first.  My new lead-acid one is headed directly back as a core already.  Kind of sad to recycle something that's brand new, but nobody wants it.  Now, to make it worse, I originally bought that nice maintenance charger.  Nice, if you have lead acid batteries.  Not compatible with anything else (auto desulfication circuit is for lead-acid only, big no-no on other batteries).  It's an electrical part, so it's non-returnable.  So now I also get to buy the proper charger ($80) for this other new battery.  $130 more than I should have spent if I'd done it right the first time. 

My only consolation from the above story of shame and comedy is that I probably saved at least a couple hours of $85/hr shop labor...

lentilman

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2013, 07:04:27 PM »
But think about how much you are learning in the process.  That's the stuff that's priceless.

Daleth

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2013, 07:10:29 PM »
Right! And soon you will learn about selling on eBay, when you list that charger. :)

Russ

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2013, 07:24:11 PM »
But think about how much you are learning in the process.  That's the stuff that's priceless.

+1 tuition to the school of hard knocks, or something like that

kendallf

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2013, 08:52:18 PM »
Did you already buy the expensive battery?  I vote keep the cheap one, sell the charger, and just ride the thing frequently.  Most of the expensive motorcycle battery related toys are for people whose motorcycles sit in the garage 99% of the time while they drive their clown cars.  :-)

ArcticaMT6

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2013, 12:12:12 PM »
Keep the lead acid battery. Those lightweight $150 batteries do not like the cold at all. For a street bike, stick with the tried and true lead acid ones that won't give you any issues, and don't require special charging (your $150 one does require special charging).

acroy

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2013, 01:25:42 PM »
Thanks for sharing - good story. Afraid I do the same kind of thing from time to time. Learn a lot, and won't repeat that mistake again... but chances are very slim I'll ever be in that exact situation again ! So lesson learned, and no opportunity to apply it ! ah well :)

BlueMR2

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2013, 04:08:16 PM »
Did you already buy the expensive battery?  I vote keep the cheap one, sell the charger, and just ride the thing frequently.  Most of the expensive motorcycle battery related toys are for people whose motorcycles sit in the garage 99% of the time while they drive their clown cars.  :-)

Well, there's about 4 months of the year (which we're now entering) when it's not wise to ride a motorcycle...  :-)  I'm a newb and have enough trouble on dry pavement, I don't think I'll go in snow, plus that awful brine they use now gets into and rusts everything that moves on the road.  I won't be riding until after a really good rainstorm (which should happen next in about March)!

After some discussion with other owners of the same bike, I went ahead with my plan to scrap the lead acid battery.  I couldn't find anyone that would even take it for free.  I felt lucky to be able to not have to pay to recycle it!  I'm told they're a nightmare on these bikes and *nobody* uses them anymore.  The Katana tends to burn them up by overcharging and boiling out the electrolyte rapidly.  The Li-Fe batteries are a LOT more tolerant of the charge cycle on this particular bike and I should see a decade of use out of it.  I asked about the cold storage issue, and that does seem to be a problem with the AGM, but not the Li-Fe.

Anyways, finally got my first ride in recently.  Might have been my last for the year too!  :-)

Posthumane

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 09:00:50 AM »
The overcharging issue is not unique to the Katana, a lot of motorcycles do it. The reason for it is that most bikes use a permanent magnet alternator. The only way to regulate the current on a PM alternator is to dump the excess current through the voltage regulator. In a car alternator the voltage reg simply lowers the field current, but with a PM alternator you can't do that. Anyway, it's true that lead acid batteries don't last very long on a lot of bikes, but I think scrapping that battery immediately and getting the LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) was a bad idea. Since you already paid for it you may as well have used it until it died and THEN recycled it.

While lithium batteries can be tolerant of a variety of charge/discharge cycles they do need to have a built in charge controller to keep them from getting destroyed by an overcharge. Motorcycle (and car) electrical systems are made for Lead Acid batteries which means they just put out a (relatively) constant voltage and trickle charge the battery all the time. If you do that for a long period with a Li battery you will reduce it's capacity over time.

One thing to keep in mind with Li battery sizing when replacing a lead acid is that, while Li has much better energy density, the power density of LiFe batteries isn't great. They can only put out 3-5C (3 to 5 times their nominal capacity) without significant voltage drop. This isn't usually an issue in a bike, but can be in a larger vehicle with a high starting load.

aglassman

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2013, 12:58:28 PM »
You got a working motorcycle for roughly $200 when all was said and done. That's pretty far from a fail in my book.

wtjbatman

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Re: My own personal story of shame and comedy...
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2013, 02:48:49 AM »
Motorcycles are such a pain in the ass to run/maintain, everything is finicky and fragile. And you have to double check everything because to do otherwise is risking a part failure while you're cruising down the highway or leaning into a tight turn and then you're in a world of hurt. But hitting the open road, just you and the bike... it's the best ride in the world.

Well. Maybe second best ride.