Installing a Maintenance-Free Battery on a Triumph Thunderbird Sport
My luck with motorcycle and car batteries has been awful.
If the warranty expires in 36 months, I can guarantee that on or about the 1st day of the 37th month, my battery will fail.
It’s happened to me so many times, with cars and bikes, that I now replace batteries on a regular preventative maintenance schedule before their warranty expires.
So when I bought my ’99 Thunderbird Sport, I figured one of the first things I better do is replace the battery.
After all, the bike could have been manufactured as far back as 1998, which would mean that the battery could be as much as 4 years old.
Some people have great luck with batteries and claim that they last for years, but with my luck, I didn’t want to take the chance.
Besides, I hate worrying about the water levels in lead/acid batteries. And the thought of that stuff leaking out all over my new ride gives me the creeps. They give you a vent hose on those things for a reason!
I wanted to replace it with a sealed battery; I’ve had good luck (knock wood!) with the sealed types and have installed them on all of my bikes.
I heard good things about the WestCo batteries, and I’ve used them before, so that’s what I bought. You can get them for various prices at local or online dealers, but I ordered mine directly from WestCo, figuring that they would have the freshest stock on hand. Besides, the shipping was free!
The first thing I did was to look up the correct part number on the WestCo website. They have an easy-to-use drop-down menu system that helps you quickly identify the correct battery for your bike.
(Top): WestCo sealed battery.
(Bottom): Yuasa lead/acid battery.
I recommend that you double-check the dimensions of the WestCo with your current battery.
They are occasionally different enough in crucial dimensions that they might not fit, or you may run into problems installing them.
This happened to me on the last one I bought for my 1986 BMW R65.
The battery was a touch wider and a significant amount taller than the lead/acid battery that was in the bike, and I had to make some modifications to get it to fit correctly.
I checked the WestCo model number 12V14L-B, which is their recommended battery for the T-Bird.
This showed that the dimensions were identical to the lead/acid Yuasa battery that was in the bike, and which I assume was the original equipment.
It’s easy to place the order on the WestCo site; they sent me an email with the UPS tracking number, and the battery arrived about 4 days later, right on schedule. It’s packed in a nice, heavy-duty box with a total weight of about 11.5 pounds.
Replacing the battery on the T-Bird is really easy. Much easier than the last couple of BMW’s I’ve owned, and probably the easiest battery I’ve ever installed on a motorcycle. You CAN do this, even if you don’t do much of your own maintenance!
I followed the Haynes manual and here are the steps, with photos:
Remove the seat and the right hand side cover. To remove the side cover, unscrew the 5mm Allen bolt at the bottom and carefully lift the side cover off of the two pegs located at the top of the cover.
This photo shows the seat off and the side cover removed. I’ve also removed the rubber battery strap; it’s hooked over the top of the battery to keep it secure in the battery box.
First disconnect the battery cables at the battery terminals. Disconnect the ground (black) lead first, then the power lead. Be careful not to short anything out or create any sparks. Don’t smoke near the battery either!
Make sure you read your owner’s manual and review all of the cautions about working with batteries before you start!
Pull out this pin, or if you have the version with the screw, unscrew the retainer. The whole side panel with the fuse box will need to come out.
Be careful with this pin; it’s an automotive interior panel pin, and they can break very easily. The pin slips into a split expanding collet.
Unhook the side panel by lifting up and moving towards the left; then move the panel out of the way.
Slide out the old battery and slide in the new one. This is the new WestCo, as you can see, it’s a perfect fit.
The dimensions of the battery I received are exactly the same as the original. Even the terminals are identical, which is not always the case when switching battery brands or types.
Button everything back up in reverse order. Make sure you reinstall the battery cables; install the power (red) cable first, then the ground (the reverse order from how you removed them).
Slide the cover that holds the fuse box back on, and be careful when pushing in the plastic pin that secures the panel — it’s very easy to break these devices.
First pull the pin out, then slide the collet into the hole, then push in the pin, which expands the split collet and secures the cover.
I have 3 Battery Tenders (the Plus models) for both of my bikes and my riding lawnmower. I always leave the machines plugged in to the Battery Tender Plus when not in use. This helps maximize battery life.
The Battery Tender Plus is made to work with any type of motorcycle battery, sealed, GRT (Gas Recombinant Technology), AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) or lead/acid.
The original Battery Tender will also work, but takes longer to charge an AGM battery like the WestCo.
The Battery Tender comes with a fused (8 amp automotive style) 24″ adapter cable that attaches to the battery terminals on one end and has the special Battery Tender connector on the other end.
Slip the black (non-fused) end over the negative terminal before you lock things down with the terminal bolt; attach the positive (fused) side to the positive battery terminal.
The yellow arrow (photo left) points to the Battery Tender connection on the negative terminal.
The white arrow points to the fuse on the Battery Tender’s cable; it’s the same type of fuses that are used in the Thunderbird; and the green arrow points to the Battery Tender cable.
I used black cable ties to secure the Battery Tender cable to the bike’s frame and down the side towards the bottom of the side cover.
After the Battery Tender cable is securely fastened with cable ties, it’s well hidden but accessible. You simply slide off the protective cap and plug in the Battery Tender.
You can also get optional cables for the Battery Tender; there’s even a cable with a European-style cigarette lighter end that you can plug into the Triumph accessory power outlet.
I use one of those on my other bike (a BMW); it’s very handy to plug in the Battery Tender as soon as your done riding.
More Battery Tender Information
The Battery Tender FAQ page and the Battery Tender technical page have some good general information on batteries and charging.
Other Brands of Maintenance-Free Batteries: See the wBWMotorcycle Batteries and Charger Reviewsfor more information on motorcycle batteries. Yuasa makes a “high performance” maintenance-free battery, model number YTX14AHL-BS.
It isn’t clear what Yuasa means by the “high performance” designation; however, the YTX14AHL-BS is listed at 210 cold cranking amps, vs. the 190 CCA of the WestCo 12V14L-B. Yuasa doesn’t list the CCA number for their YB14L-A2. Also, it doesn’t appear that you can purchase a Yuasa battery directly from their site.
From “A.D.” (12/09): “A while ago I read … about buying a Westco battery for a Triumph Thunderbird. On the strength of your review, I bought the same 12V14L-B battery for my Daytona 900, and very good it has proved too. So thanks for the recommendation!
At the end of your review, you state: Product Comments: Apparently made by Panasonic in the U.S.A. but there’s no mention of it on the battery or anywhere else I can find.
My Westco battery, in the small white print on the side, clearly states (among other things) “Made in Vietnam”. Maybe this info is deliberately omitted on US-bound batteries?
Great site, I have used it to guide me on many decisions.”