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The length of time that a lead-acid battery will last before it is in
need of replacement is dependent on many things. Repeated deep-cycling
of the battery will reduce life, as will improper electrolyte servicing.
It is interesting to note that BMW includes an electronically controlled
trickle charger with their motorcycles. I regularly use the charger on
the bike as well as the cars (the max charging current of 3A is low enough
to use the cigarette lighter, and the charger turns itself off when the
battery is charged. Since I bought the bike 2 years ago I have not even
needed to add water to the battery, and I haven't had problems with
batteries in the cars (2+ years on the '88 5000, and 2 years on the
'83 TQC). I don't know how old the battery in the 5K is, it was in the
car when I bought it. I have also noticed that the charging systems in
the '83 TQC and '78 Fox do not keep the battery as fully topped up during
the winter time because the headlights are on a greater percentage of the
time and other electrical accessories like windshield wipers are used more
often. The '88 5K does not seem to suffer from this though.
I would recommend using an electronically controlled trickle charger to
make those batteries last longer.
'92 BMW K1 (still with original battery)
'88 5000CSQ Avant (I haven't replaced the battery yet)
'83 ur-Q (2 years since last replacement & looking good)
'78 Fox (no battery problems ... no battery!)