Author Topic: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?  (Read 2776 times)

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Offline magner

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'76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« on: December 01, 2018, 08:33:09 pm »
Hi All; still a bit new around here so thanks for all the help so far! I took my bike out for a nice short ride today, and it was riding really well up until it suddenly died on me coming out of a stop. It definitely wasn't a stall, as the battery was totally dead when I tried to restart. The bike is fairly stripped down due to some cafe mods the PO did (no turn signals, just Headlight and Brakelight), and it has a smaller battery installed in order to be hidden from sight. I installed a brand new battery (https://www.autozone.com/miscellaneous-non-automotive/motorcycle-and-power-sport-battery/duralast-gold-powersport-battery/324202_0_0) just last week. I only rode about 4 miles in stop and go traffic, getting up in the 30s inbetween lights. I am needing this bike to be reliable enough for my 4 mile commute to work in LA traffic, so what can I do to make sure I won't die like this on my way to work?? Thanks!

Offline calj737

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2018, 08:47:50 pm »
Well for starters, you bought a battery with only 4 ampHours. The stock battery had 12. You have 1/3 the reserve capacity now, so it’s no wonder the batter dies while riding in the city.

A couple of things: the charging system on your bike works above 2,500RPMs. So ride the bike in higher rev ranges, even idling at lights, keep the RPMs up. You need to maintenance the charging system if you haven’t. That means cleaning every ground, every connector, all the corrosion off the fuse block (front and back) an make sure the battery NEG cable is connected where it’s supposed to be, against clean bare metal.

Grab a multimeter and perform some assessments of the voltage of your battery with engine OFF, at IDLE, at 3,000 and 5,000 RPMs. You should see above 13v by 3k, and up to 14.5v at 5k. Less and you have work to do to get the charging system working properly.

And buy a correct battery.
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Online bryanj

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2018, 01:08:09 am »
+1 on all that
Semi Geriatric ex-Honda mechanic and MOT tester (UK version of annual inspection). Garage full of "projects" mostly 500/4 from pre 73 (no road tax in UK).

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Offline flatlander

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2018, 01:45:51 am »
+ 100 to what cal said.

I am needing this bike to be reliable enough for my 4 mile commute to work in LA traffic, so what can I do to make sure I won't die like this on my way to work?? Thanks!

what you really need is a different bike (or something like an electric scooter?). both the charging system, and the aircooling of these CBs are not suited for stop and go traffic, especially not in hot temperatures. as cal explained, the charging works when you have the rpms up for some time. and the cooling only works if there is actual airflow around the cylinders which you don't get when the bike is stationary or at very low speeds.

Offline TwoTired

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2018, 11:01:39 am »
Cal's advice is very good.  Please do heed.
What the PO made for you was a track bike, not a commuter.
Do report what ignition system is installed.  And, what wattage headlight was installed.

The stock bike drew about 10 AMPS when lighting and key switch turned on.  You should find out what your bike now draws, as some ignition systems and 3 ohm coils will double that systems current draw, as can a "brighter" headlight.

The stock alternator can produce 150 Watts when revved up.  That's about 12 amps.  At idle speed, the alternator output falls to about 4 amps.  So, your operating load needs to be known in order to determine how long the battery can last at your usual engine RPM, and how long it will take to restore the battery when the engine is revved. If your bike is still drawing 10 amps, it will deplete the battery at a 6 amp rate during idle.  The charging system when revved will take 3 times longer then the idle duration to restore the battery to full since it only has a surplus of 2 amps for the battery restore after supplying the electrical system.  A 3 minute idle, would need 9 minutes in cruise RPM to restore it.

This all assumes your charging system is working as best it can, including connector, switch, and fuse block connection voltage losses.  All of which can be measured.
If you are using the e start, that's a bonus 25 amp drain when you push the start button.

The battery is an energy bucket.  If you try sucking a gallon out of a cup sized container, without an incoming supply of water greater than what's being drawn, the cup goes dry.

Your ignition system needs power to make spark.  No power, no spark, no engine run.  That part is pretty predictable.

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Online bryanj

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2018, 11:04:33 am »
You need a standard battery to even HOPE to cope with a 4 mile commute in traffic and then, personaly; i think you are still on a looser.
Semi Geriatric ex-Honda mechanic and MOT tester (UK version of annual inspection). Garage full of "projects" mostly 500/4 from pre 73 (no road tax in UK).

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Offline Deltarider

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2018, 01:20:03 pm »
I wonder why so many in this forum have issues with 'the shortcoming' of the CB500/550 charging system. It seems to spread like a disease. So far I've never read about this on the German nor the French forum. Some time ago I connected, out of curiosity, an ammeter between the kill switch and the coils. I measured around 3A at idle and just a little over 2A when revved. My coils are 3Ω in combination with - at the time - breakerpoints. Measured duty cycle at the time was around 53%. Right now my transistor ignition is functional again which draws a little extra. When measured it was in fact so little that I didn't even bother to write it down. My bike has always had a 55/60Watts halogen. I really don't know how some manage. I never ever had a problem and frankly, I find it quite absurd to assume Honda did not know how to make a sufficient charging system*. It is true the battery will deplete at idle eventually, but this short will be balanced by using the bike what it was intended for. Just my 2 cents.
* Not benificial (and certainly not Honda's idea) was the later required 'always headlight on' arrangement (before it is even started!) and the silly running lights in the blinkers wasting an extra 16 Watts.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 02:21:39 pm by Deltarider »
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Offline calj737

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2018, 02:07:44 pm »
I wonder why so many in this forum have issues with 'the shortcoming' of the CB500/550 charging system. It seems to spread like a disease. So far I've never read about this on the German nor the French forum. Some time ago, out of curiosity, I connected an ammeter between the kill switch and the coils. I measured around 3A at idle and around 2A when revved. My coils are 3Ω in combination with - at the time - breakerpoints. Measured dwell at the time was a 190o. Right now my transistor ignition is functional again which draws a little extra. It was so little in fact that I didn't even bother to write it down. My bike has always had a 55/60Watts halogen. I really don't know how some manage. I never ever had a problem and I find it quite absurd to assume Honda did not know how to make a sufficient charging system*. It is true the battery will deplete at idle eventually but this short will be balanced by using the bike what it was intended for. Just my 2 cents'.
* Not benificial (and certainly not Honda's idea) was the later required 'always headlight on' (even before it is even started!) arrangement and the silly running lights in the blinkers wasting an extra 16 Watts.
You never seem to comprehend the difference in US traffic now versus 40 years ago. These bikes have an obvious charging profile, even as you yourself point out. Traffic here in any urban, suburban area exceeds on a daily basis almost all of Germany and Netherlands combined. These bikes were never designed for these traffic conditions, so modern riders need to adapt to modern conditions. Simple as that.  ::) Spend your two pence on something worthwhile...
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Offline RAF122S

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2018, 02:31:01 pm »
Someone needs to pull up a traffic camera for city streets and freeways in LA to understand how long a 4 mile commute can last in LA during rush hour. It is Not a 10 minute ride!

David _who last drove in LA rush hour in 2011....and it is worse now!
David stuck in the curvy back roads of "Upper East" TN

Online bryanj

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2018, 02:31:38 pm »
Delta, under 1970's traffic when we used to drive father to work and used standard kit the 500 was more than adequate but this poster with a tiny battery and only going 4 miles in heavy traffic has no chance of keeping the bike going.
Semi Geriatric ex-Honda mechanic and MOT tester (UK version of annual inspection). Garage full of "projects" mostly 500/4 from pre 73 (no road tax in UK).

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Offline BomberMann650

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2018, 03:36:28 pm »
Quote
You have to go fast enough to keep the battery charged
- Mario Andretti

Adding to what was suggested.

Check that you have a proper reg/rec for the bike.  It doesn't matter if its new or "performance" if the PO got the wrong unit and things aren't working right at all.
Went through this with the 750/3 project.  Since "oem fit" parts didn't ground the field coil properly.  They'd produce just enough voltage to run the bike.  I'd ride around, half hour here, half hour there.  But eventually the rectifiers would short, then it was dead in the water.
That said,
Would be worth testing your rectifier diodes, and checking the vreg output. 

Now both my vintage bikes run Oregon Motorcycle Parts regulators and rectifiers.  Producing plenty of voltage and things are good.

Same goes for investing in a good battery.  The cheap ones don't last.  (Inspite of their name) and the expensive ones are the last you'll ever buy.
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Offline scottly

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2018, 08:04:59 pm »

Grab a multimeter and perform some assessments of the voltage of your battery with engine OFF, at IDLE, at 3,000 and 5,000 RPMs. You should see above 13v by 3k, and up to 14.5v at 5k. Less and you have work to do to get the charging system working properly.

^Start here. Sounds like your charging system isn't working. Even with a larger battery, it will still die; just take longer to do so. ;) I've used even smaller batteries and never had a problem.
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Offline Deltarider

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2018, 12:15:55 am »

Grab a multimeter and perform some assessments of the voltage of your battery with engine OFF, at IDLE, at 3,000 and 5,000 RPMs. You should see above 13v by 3k, and up to 14.5v at 5k. Less and you have work to do to get the charging system working properly.

^Start here. Sounds like your charging system isn't working. Even with a larger battery, it will still die; just take longer to do so. ;) I've used even smaller batteries and never had a problem.
I once rode practically with no battery and made it home nonetheless. For those suffering in heavy traffic: maybe you should adapt and look for other means of transportation. What I've read above, can't be good for engine temperatures and particularly CB500/550 plugs and combustion chambers will foul no end. One doesn't need a 4 cyl. 500 cc bike for these rides, nor does one need a 8 cyl. 6 litre truck to go to the supermarket.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 07:23:10 am by Deltarider »
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Offline TwoTired

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2018, 09:14:14 am »
One doesn't need a 4 cyl. 500 cc bike for these rides, nor does one need a 8 cyl. 6 litre truck to go to the supermarket.

In a needs based society, would a bureaucrat even allow you to possess a Cb500, comrade?  (You know, the collective good and all that, as decided by an appointed individual.)  Can YOU justify personal need within your flagrant disregard for all humanity?

So far, the US isn't that close to this brand of socialism.  ...except maybe California.

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Offline Deltarider

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2018, 10:12:27 am »
This morning I couldn't believe the BBC News that at the present Climate Conference in Katowice (Poland) there is an official US mission to draw attention for the blessings of... coal. After reading the post above, I can.
And as far as California, they're still looking for volunteers to rake mother nature.  ;D
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« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 12:10:36 pm by Deltarider »
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Offline magner

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2018, 05:25:20 pm »
Someone needs to pull up a traffic camera for city streets and freeways in LA to understand how long a 4 mile commute can last in LA during rush hour. It is Not a 10 minute ride!

David _who last drove in LA rush hour in 2011....and it is worse now!

I will point out that I am commuting from Glendale to Silverlake, and it is around 10 minutes; moving most of the time without too many lights to wait at, and I get off at 8pm so I definitely do not have the typical LA rush hour commute.

I really appreciate all of the incredibly in depth feedback! I am getting a multimeter and testing out what everyone has recommended. I want to make sure that my charging system is working as it should. I find it incredibly hard to believe that even in the 70s, Honda engineered a bike that shouldn't be ridden in traffic, and that I should sell my new bike that I love for a scooter. I see several people in my part of town who ride by on Honda CBs every day, and I also have a friend with a stock CB350 who commutes every day in much worse traffic than me.

Obviously I do not plan on keeping the bike stock, so is there anything I can do such as install a modern reg/rec to give my self a more reliable ride? I don't even mind having to charge my bike weekly, but I feel like I should be able to make it to work a few times with this smaller battery; if not I will get a bigger one and weld up a new mount. Thanks again all!

Offline scottly

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2018, 05:45:19 pm »
Get a multi-meter and make the measurements. I suspect your charging system isn't working at all. We can zero in on the problem one step at a time. ;) 
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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2018, 04:31:00 am »
Keep the bike, sort the charging and fit the bigger battery, a new reg rec will not alter ther amount of power the generator puts out at specified revs.
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Offline flatlander

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2018, 05:29:44 am »
I find it incredibly hard to believe that even in the 70s, Honda engineered a bike that shouldn't be ridden in traffic, and that I should sell my new bike that I love for a scooter. I see several people in my part of town who ride by on Honda CBs every day, and I also have a friend with a stock CB350 who commutes every day in much worse traffic than me.

of course it can be ridden in traffic but there are limitations. some due to the charging system and battery capacity, some due to the aircooling.
the other thing to consider is that over short distances, it won't get fully up to temp. then you get condensation that can't burn off and more crud. it's your bike and your choice but short distances are not doing it any favours.
giving the reason that "other people do it" sounds like the logic of a blind lemming. there are a lot of people on this forum who have a lot of knowledge of engines in general, and these old CBs in particular. i would trust them more than some random guys on the street. make your own informed choice and live with it. and that's what we do here, give you information - the rest is up to you.

i have the same bike as you, a 550F1. when i start from cold i ride about 10km up to 5k rpm only, then another 10km up to about 6.5k before i use the full rpm range. consequently, i hardly ever use it within the city. i have other things for that. i don't have one myself but an electric bike could be great for that sort of riding. full torque right from the start and no issues with warming up and such.

Offline BobbyR

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2018, 07:36:46 am »
One other thing. When these bikes were designed there was "no headlight on all the time" law. They expected you to only use the headlight after sundown. For some reason they never updated the charging system to compensate for the change in in the operating environment.
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Offline Deltarider

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2018, 07:40:57 am »
the logic of a blind lemming
  :)
Quote
i don't have one myself but an electric bike could be great for that sort of riding. full torque right from the start and no issues with warming up and such.
Yeah, right now I own four bicycles for various purposes, but I must have one of them speed pedelecs.
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Offline calj737

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2018, 07:56:03 am »
the logic of a blind lemming
  :)
Interesting. Always the hypocrite. The OP uses others riding more fuel efficient vehicles and you characterize him as a lemming for following a good example? How entitled you must feel to assail the practices and preferences of others less-informed than Thou.

I see his logic of “other’s examples “a reasonable assumption that his choice is valid, and perhaps financially and ecologically advantageous for he and the environment. Shame you can never see the wisdom of other people’s choices.

His issue is not his choice of transportation, it’s the modifications made by the PO he needs to sort out for a reliable and beneficial ride.
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Offline Stev-o

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #22 on: December 04, 2018, 08:18:51 am »

I suspect your charging system isn't working at all.

I would bet a little bit of money on this.
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Offline flatlander

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #23 on: December 04, 2018, 08:49:38 am »
the logic of a blind lemming
  :)
Interesting. Always the hypocrite. The OP uses others riding more fuel efficient vehicles and you characterize him as a lemming for following a good example? How entitled you must feel to assail the practices and preferences of others less-informed than Thou.

huh? the OP mentioned seeing other CBs on the street - so that's the same as he and we all have, nothing more fuel efficient. and i didn't talk about fuel efficiency at all.
the lemming was meant to say: don't just follow other examples, make your own decisions. it was not meant as an assault.

Offline BomberMann650

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Re: '76 Honda CB550F: Suggestions for Better Battery Life?
« Reply #24 on: December 04, 2018, 12:24:44 pm »

I suspect your charging system isn't working at all.

I would bet a little bit of money on this.

Considering he just swapped the PO's battery soon after acquisition.  Then drained the new one.  I'd hedge 3:1 odds.
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