Sound Bar Impact on the Battery and Charging System of UTVs
Automotive batteries will often last 5 to 6 years before they need to be replaced. While we see that level of longevity on some Utility Vehicles (UTVs), most Polaris RZRs and Rangers, Kawasaki Teryx and Mules, and Can-Am Mavericks and Defenders that are heavily accessorized often need new batteries every year or two. Why is that?
Powersports batteries and charging systems are considerably smaller than those found on your average car or truck. How they are used differs greatly as well. Typically, cars and trucks driven daily, and usually for long enough periods to recharge the discharge that occurs both naturally and each time the vehicle is started. UTVs, on the other hand, can sit for long periods of time and they endure many more stop and restart cycles. Long durations without use will allow a battery to discharge naturally (all batteries do this). The longer a battery sits, the more voltage/energy it will lose prior to the next charging cycle. Smaller batteries also tend to discharge faster than some of the larger automotive batteries. Stop and start driving for short trips just doesn’t provide enough time or current to recharge the average UTV battery. Add in sound bars, light bars, winches, and other accessories, and without some additional care, the battery won’t survive for long.
Now, let’s discuss audio accessories. Most of these modern systems now have many more features than just speakers and an auxiliary input jack. They are remote controlled with flashing lights and the majority include Bluetooth functionality. Those features make it so easy to swipe a screen and let the tunes play, but all that ease and convenience comes at a cost. Many sound bars are always at the ready, but to do this they need voltage to keep the RF receiver ready for the signal from the remote to power up. Without this, you would have to manually flip a switch or turn on the key and power up the rest of the vehicle. This tiny amount of voltage that is continually required (what’s referred to as a parasitic draw) can, over time, discharge a battery. If the battery is discharged below a certain level, no amount of recharging may be able to bring the battery back from this point of no return. Here at Woods Cycle Country, rarely a week passes where we don’t see this scenario playing out. The factory warranty only covers manufacturer defects, and since a depleted and damaged battery isn’t a defect, these repairs are at the owner’s expense.
- If the vehicle sits way more often than it is started and driven, we find it important to disconnect or have an inline switch (like many boats use) to completely power off all accessory components while the vehicle is parked or stored.
- If the vehicle is parked or stored for longer than a month, it is best to recharge the battery at least once a month. Newer electronic trickle chargers are designed to monitor the battery, and will only provide a charge when it’s needed. Older style chargers can also be used, but it’s best to place them on a timer as overcharging can also damage the battery. No matter what charger you use, low amp settings are the best (we recommend no more .5-1.5 amps).
- If the vehicle is used for work or play and and your accessories are always in use (tunes cranking, lights making the ranch look like a football stadium, winch extracting you from the river), at a minimum, it’s best to drive the vehicle around for at least 10-15 minutes to help recharge the battery. Once you are finished, best practice would be to put the battery back on the charger to recharge it completely.
Many of our Woods Cycle Country Customs (WC3) builds now utilize dual battery kits, usually with one battery isolated and only used to start the vehicle (no one wants to be stranded out in the sticks with a dead battery) and the second battery configured to provide power for the vehicle’s accessories. Configured correctly, once the vehicle has been started, the charging system will provide voltage to both batteries. It’s important to note that the charging systems on many of the current utility vehicles may not produce as much power as a heavily accessorized vehicle can use, so these vehicles may still require being hooked up to a trickle charger when they are not in use, otherwise the batteries may never have the ability to make it back to 100% charge).
With time, all batteries will degrade. After 2 years, the average battery might only be able to hold 80% of the charge that it held when it was new. Deeply discharging batteries, and storing them for long periods of time in this discharged state, can dramatically reduce the lifespan of these critical components. With a little TLC, battery life can be improved. If you’ve got unlimited cash, then just buy a new battery every time your old one dies, but for the rest of us, a little care can save a lot of money.
Have fun safe and enjoy the ride!
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