I have two updates. The first is about multimeters. I love watching the videos of this guy called AvE, and he published this video just yesterday
, in which he compared a really cheap fork meter (by Ames) from Harbor Freight with his Fluke meter (which he loves). The end result was not what you would expect. Yes, you get what you pay for, and he certainly made no claims that the Ames would last as long or be as good as the Fluke. But depending on who you are and what you need, he was reasonably impressed with the accuracy of the Ames, and certain features of it. And the price, at $59, is incredible.
So I took myself out to Harbor Freight this afternoon, and they had a ton of Ames models on the shelf, with the little tickets that you can take to the cashier, so the meters don't get stolen. My cashier looked and looked, and eventually told me they were out of that model (never mind the number of tickets they had on the shelf).
But I had a backup plan. Yesterday I searched Craigslist for Fluke meters (because why not), and there was a guy selling a new one, still in the box, for $80. That model runs about $120 and up. Yes, of course I could have bought a super cheap multimeter, but something about watching this guy's videos has steered me in the general direction of quality, and "you get what you pay for." Obviously I have more uses of a multimeter than just the motorcycle. I keep 4 cars operational for my family, and do various things around the house. So I needed a new one anyway, and getting a quality instrument for at least 30% off... I'm in.
OK, so now to the battery adventure. I went to Batteries Plus (seems like a reasonable choice). It turned out they didn't have the AGM battery that fits the VN750. But before he told me that, he did test my old battery, and told me it had a "dead cell" and needed to be replaced (that's important. We'll come back to that). So I left there, having gotten a free battery test, and knowing that I was lucky my battery was working at all. Right? We'll see.
Next step: Walmart. Mostly because I had been wanting to check their prices and availability anyway (I have not found a way to filter out online-only products on walmart.com, so if I really want to know what they have in the store, I have to go to the store). This lady in the Auto department looked at my battery, I told her I wanted the AGM replacement, and she went and picked it right off the shelf. I left her my old battery (to save the core charge) in a shopping cart that was collecting them for the day, paid for it, and left.
Got home, and immediately saw the problem: It was the right size, but the positive and negative terminals were reversed.
So, back to Walmart. First, I used their battery finder online, to make sure it found the right battery for the VN750. They pointed only to a conventional battery. At this point, I was almost
willing to settle for conventional, if that was all I could find, just to solve my immediate problem and get rolling again (yeah, that's a dumb way of looking at the world, but there I was anyway). There happened to be another motorcyclist at the counter this time, who also works at Walmart, and he reminded me that an AGM battery is "plug and play," while a conventional battery has to be charged before use. So he got me out of my conventional trance, and I decided to go elsewhere to find the battery.
I finally found one at AutoZone. It was $81 plus the $10 core fee, plus tax. I decided to pay the core fee, and keep the old battery, because I wanted to see the problem for myself. Now that I had spent the $80 on the multimeter, I wanted to see the cranking volts lower than they need to be. If not on the first start, then on subsequent starts.
So, once home, with the multimeter and the two batteries, I did a little testing. And I was unable to see a difference between the voltage of the two batteries. I started the bike numerous times with the old
battery, and it never gave me any trouble.
So... what's up with this "dead cell" nonsense? Was that guy just taking me for a ride? He knew I didn't know any better, so he decided to sell me a battery instead of sending me on my way with my old one?
One Google search later, and I was armed with the knowledge of how to test each cell. There are six cells, and each one needs to show 2 volts. I watched a very short, very simple video that demonstrates how to test each cell. I have now done so, and of course, every cell checks out (why would they not, since the whole battery was reporting a full charge (over 13, actually). That burns me up that the guy would tell me it has a dead cell when it doesn't.
I know that putting an AGM battery into the bike is the right thing to do, long term, and I hate this backfiring problem that I've been having so much that I'm happy to do it, if it will really solve the problem. But at the moment, I'm not entirely sure I didn't buy a new battery that I don't really need quite yet.
I guess the proof will be in the pudding, so I need to ride the bike. What I really ought to do is ride with the old battery, see if I have the restarting problem, and then ride with the new battery, to see if that fixes it, but I don't really want to put myself through the restarting problem and backfiring and all that if I don't have to. So what I'll probably do is go for my ride with the new battery, and then just make sure the problem is fixed -- though I'm not completely confident it will be.
I did just run it for a couple of minutes. Is there something about an actual ride that is hard on a battery, particularly if it's near the end of its life? I would think that riding the bike would bring the battery back up to its full charge (the reported VN750 problems with the electrical system notwithstanding).
The truth is... if this problem goes away, then I don't care if I needed a new battery or not. But if the thing starts giving me trouble in the same way, then I'll be annoyed, even though I obviously have a better battery than I had before.