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The battery’s down

November 1, 2011
GTS, light off

The GTS' battery finally gave up the ghost (Orin O'Neill photos)

Squeezed the brake lever and pressed the ‘Start’ button, single-handed as usual. But instead of the usual whoosh-whoosh-whoosh from the starter, there came only *bleap!* Hmmm. Another hit, not even that much… the instrument display blinked alternately with the check engine light.

I’d been told the GTS would need a new battery, soon. Guess it needs one NOW.

Well, the battery was the one it rolled out the door with at Pontedera in July, 2006, so five years is not an unreasonable life span.

The GTS and I were at the Sehome Village Starbucks, stop number one on a day of errand-running. Okay, think, think… what to do?

Home was not far away, so the first thought was to push it. But I discovered that I can’t push the 326-lb GTS very far, especially uphill. So I rolled it back into a marked parking space, making sure to leave room for another scooter. It would be fine for quite a while, so I walked home to fetch the Fourth Estate.

There’s a store in Bellingham that sells batteries for everything. Cell phones to bulldozers, if it’s got a battery, they’ll have it. I went over and asked for a battery for a 2007 Vespa GTS.

Trevor, the fellow behind the counter, looked at a catalog, but wanted to make sure what it showed was the right battery, so he looked in another. And another. And a couple places online. Each said something different. Terrific.

I should’ve just pulled the GTS’ battery in the first place. I went back and did that, then went back to the battery store, where Trevor found the exact replacement (which in the case of my GTS is a YB10L-B… yours may vary, but the type is printed on the side of the battery). Filled with acid and fully charged, the price came to a bit less than $49, including sales tax.

Swapping out a battery in a Vespa GTS is quite easy, and you’ll only need a size 1 or 2 Phillips screwdriver.

GTS floorboard insert

First, remove the matte black plastic insert in the floorboard by removing the four screws.

Battery yoke

Next, remove the yoke that holds the battery down.

Battery

Finally, pull the battery up so you can get at the terminal connections with your screwdriver, and disconnect them from the battery (you can hold the nuts with a finger, if necessary). While it was drummed into my head quite soundly that you disconnect the ground (black/negative/-) first, you can see the hot cable (red/positive/+) is in the way, so that one must come off first. Luckily, the battery is surrounded by plastic, so there’s no chance of shorting something.

Battery and tray

The battery rests in a little tray that holds the overflow tube in place. Disconnect the tube, and the old battery is free. Cliché though it may be, installation is the reverse of removal. Make sure the cable connections are nice and tight before you drop the battery into position, and that everything else goes back together easily and tightly. Make sure the overflow tube is sticking straight down from the bottom of the frame. If yes to all, you’re golden.

The nice thing about modern automotive stuff is there’s only one way to put everything together. The overflow tube passes through a large hole in the frame, closest to the glovebox. The tray has a tab that goes through a much smaller hole about six inches downstream from the big one.

Some batteries have color-coded terminals, but all have a big ‘+’ and ‘-‘. And in this case, the overflow spout should should be facing forward. If you’re seeing a whole bunch of sparks, you’ve got it BACKWARDS! And for gosh sakes, whatever you do, DON’T RUB YOUR EYES—automotive batteries are filled with acid, and a few drops may come out through the overflow spout. Unless you have a sealed battery, which the store didn’t have in the correct size. Wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done.

GTS, light on

Everything buttoned up, the moment of truth was at hand: turned the key to the ‘on’ position, all the lights came on; squeezed the brake lever and hit the ‘Start’ button, whoosh-whoosh-whoosh, the engine fires up. A short road test reveals no cutting out, no hesitation, no flickering lights. It’s all good.

Well, disconnecting the battery zeros out the clock. You’ll need to reset it.

Other scooters’ batteries may be in different locations (e.g., an LX’s battery is under the seat; a P/PX/Stella’s battery is under the spare-tire-side cowl), but they’re just as easy to replace. Favicon

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4 Comments
  1. November 2, 2011 9:06 am

    So, just out of curiosity, was there any other “bleeps” uttered besides the one the scooter issued? 🙂

    Glad it worked out. Isn’t it interesting that some things could be done much faster but we draw them out by taking photos?

  2. November 2, 2011 6:14 pm

    No. But that was “BLEAP,” not “bleep.” Like a starter trying in vain to turn the engine over. Jason said a while ago that I should replace the battery, and I figure I’ve been running on borrowed time ever since. So, no cursing.

    Taking the pix added, maybe, a minute to the process. I used to photograph race cars at speed, so I learned to be quick… 😉

  3. Ken permalink
    November 3, 2011 7:46 pm

    Orin,
    My PX battery, a YB9-B, started to lose capacity in June and I soon had to resort to kick-starting [! but an advantage of the classics] even after an overnight trickle charge. Lasted about 2.5 years, which is a bit under what I expected. But then, I don’t know how long the battery sat in the new scooter or even if it was shipped dry. I thought of getting another Yuasa replacement until I read glowing praise of both LiFePhos and AGM batteries. The former are double the price, so I got one of the latter, a Motobatt MB9U which for the same size has another 2 ah of power and less voltage drop under load. Further, it is entirely sealed so the risk of acid spill is gone and it has 4 terminals in case I decide to add an accessory feed. Really cranks the heavy 2T over, regardless of how often I start-up in a day. Cost: about $US65. I hope it lasts as well as it performs.

  4. Jack Riepe permalink
    November 4, 2011 10:51 am

    Dear Orin:

    I thought I had a battery problem with the K75 last week. After sitting for 8 weeks without having been started, the battery failed to restart the engine after an unintentional stall. Researching the maintenance records revealed the battery was only two years old. Now the BMW K75 battery ruins a clock and a computer 24/7 and it has been the subject of contention that this can wear the battery down.

    But my bike spends a good deal of time of an older, but highly reputable battery tender. Yet a careful test of tender revealed it had failed at the final point of output… Despite LED indictor lights indicating the battery was fully refreshed. Switching tendors got a reading of 12.9 volts after just a few hours.

    I saved myself $99 for the BMW battery, but the battery tender I want is $89. Still, ten bucks is ten bucks.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack/reep

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