Attending to Battery and Soul

When Little Red had her post-purchase checkup two months ago, she received a fuel stabilizer to keep her gas from getting gummy over the winter. So I thought she was essentially all set for her long nap. Although I had heard that owners regularly wake their sleeping beauties during the winter and during periods of not riding by starting their engines, I thought that was mostly just an alternative to adding fuel stabilizer. This past holiday week I had time to read about it and learned that there is more to it.

Winterization seems to be kind of a big deal. Cold temperatures and not riding cause a lead acid battery to lose its charge, moisture causes rust and damages the tires, and water spots and squashed bugs cause corosion. There is also the occurence of flat spots on the tires–a bit like bed sores, from the weight staying on the same area for too long.

Predictably, yesterday morning when I tried to start her, I had a Little Engine that Could Not. After listening to several reluctant I-think-I-can’s, I turned off the ignition. I further consulted the Honda Shadow forum I’ve been visiting, watched several YouTube videos, and downloaded my bike’s service manual. (I should have researched publishers! The picture by the reference to the negative battery cable cover showed a red cover, and the picture by the reference to the positive battery cable cover showed a black one.)

By the afternoon, along with my new knowledge, I proudly owned a big, fat motorcycle tool kit and a cute little battery tender (in addition to the air compressor that Santa Claus had already brought to encourage proper tire inflation during the riding months). A battery tender is wise and gentle. It monitors a battery’s charge and gives the battery some juice whenever the charge drops a bit. And you can keep the battery tender hooked up to the battery indefinitely–it’s safe, they say.

The intimidating part was accessing the battery. For my bike at least, it involves an undoing of things and a handling of dismembered parts. The mental image of that made my stomach feel funny. I couldn’t, and still can’t, even remember the last time I removed a dip stick from a car. At the same time, that mental image was awesome. And yesterday was not cold for a New Year’s Day in Indiana. I was comfortable in my garage and was singing along to Darius Rucker when I pulled off Little Red’s side covers.

While sitting on the same low stool I use for meditation, at her right side, I pulled back a rubber cover, tried but failed to remove the fuse box stubbornly attached to the battery cover (while noticing that the fuse box was lacking the screw for holding its own cover in place), wrestled with and removed the battery cover itself (also missing its screws), and found the positive terminal. No tools necessary, not yesterday.

On the left side, there was nothing to remove. With the help of a flashlight, I found the negative terminal deep, deep inside. I attached the negative clamp to the negative terminal. Then on the right side, I attached the positive clamp to the positive terminal–after passing the clamp wires through Little Red’s middle.

I plugged the battery tender box into a plugged-in extension cord, considered pulling my still-new car out of the garage, noted my own escape route, eyed a couple of leftover fireworks on a shelf, cringed, and then plugged the connector at the end of the clamp wires into the connector at the end of the battery tender box’s wire.

Nothing bad happened!

The light on the battery tender blinked green, indicating that the battery did have at least an 80% charge. So maybe Little Red would have started yesterday morning if I had tried more. (Later yesterday the green light shone solid, indicating a full charge.) I realized how basic the task was. Still, I couldn’t help but dance to “Only Wanna Be with You” out there in my woman cave, one wall of which will soon display a male firefighter calendar.

For my next impressive trick, I will replace the missing screws. I will also get some carpet scraps to put under Little Red’s tires, buy a good, breathable cover, give Little Red a nice bath and blow dry (leaf blower), and make a point of regularly moving her around a little to attend to her tires. Maybe I’ll get a little beer frig for out there too.

I’m not even sure if all this is truly necessary, but my next bike will be more expensive. So now is the time to jump in the deep end and learn–and start thinking of a name more sexy than Medium Blue. My new year’s resolution is to perform all of Little Red’s basic maintenance myself–and to identify nearly all her parts. With the right tools, music, and firemen, I think I can.


4 thoughts on “Attending to Battery and Soul

  1. Reminds me of the annual work to put my lawn tractor to bed for the winter. All the same stuff has to be done — except I skip the fuel stabilizer and just run mine until it’s out of gas. 19 seasons strong. I wish my cars were as reliable. I’ve owned five in that time.

    It does feel good, doesn’t it, to accomplish these things? Like you have just that much more mastery over this chaotic universe?


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