Electrical Shenanigans With The ATV

The last dump of snow was another fairly big one.  I was here though, and ready to get things moved with the ATV.

It was early in the morning when I began, before the sun had come up, so I opted to use a combination of the ATV lights and my headlamp to “get it done”.
I managed to plough out the front driveway but it seemed to me that the winch was getting slower and slower as I went along, and the lights were dimming significantly as I utilized it.  Eventually, by the time I got to the cabin, the whole display board of the ATV was lighting up whenever I tried to raise or lower the snow blade.
Annoyingly, I stalled the ATV at this point, and the battery no longer had power to restart it.
I managed to restart the ATV using my battery booster box, but it couldn’t raise the blade, so I dragged it back to the garage and let it idle there for ten or more minutes, hoping that the alternator would recharge the battery.  It’s annoying – that’s a very new battery, as I had replaced it during the summer after burning out the old one while using the winch.  It’s an AGM battery, which I still believe is a superior battery technology, although my neighbour J! seems to have a rather poor opinion of them.
When I returned to the ATV, it could raise the blade but struggled mightily to do so.  I parked it, and then hooked it up to the solar batteries in the garage and let it charge up that way.  This isn’t how they are suppose to work though!
Charging the battery via my solar power system.
And at the other end of the jumper cables – my “garage” battery.  I really need to get it into a box and looking more professional.  Another project for the summer.
A few days later, J! was gracious enough to look at it with me, and his opinion was that I had simply overwhelmed it with the use of lights AND winch.  I accepted his explanation, although in the back of my head, I did remember in the past using both without any problems, and that was with a very old, stock battery to boot!
One thing we agreed on as a good idea, was a way to monitor the battery situation of the ATV while it was in use, so that if I was beginning to draw it down in a problematic way, I could at least park it before the battery went too flat.  I ordered up a small, digital voltmeter and only had to wait a few days before it arrived.
It was a very easy install – I removed a few bolts and plugs to pull off the plastic cover between my legs, and was able to unscrew and remove the rusted out remains of a 12V cigarette plug.  The wires to it were simply blade type connections that matched the voltmeter exactly, so it was only a second to connect the voltmeter in place, and its barrel tube matched the cigarette plug exactly so it looks like it was meant to be there!
Looks stock!  12.1V is not really that high for a 12V battery though.  12.7V is supposedly resting voltage.
Con: the plug is live at all times, it isn’t keyed.  So the LED display is always on, even when the ATV is not in use.  I don’t think this is a major issue; that battery should be able to power an LED display for weeks without a bit of worry.  It also means I can see if the ATV is having an issue without having to turn the key – I can just glance at it!
My next project is to install a NEW 12V plug near the rear of the ATV to make it easier to plug it into my solar system to charge up the battery or keep it on a “trickle” charge system.  I’ve already ordered the parts, so I’ll outline that experiment when it warms up enough for me to fiddle with more electrical work there.  It will also mean that I have a plug on the ATV that I can use “in the field” for running 12V accessories.  Not sure what they will be, but the possibilities are interesting…
I did take the ATV for a test plough with the new voltmeter, and can see that the battery is not really charging much between winching – I’m back to suspecting that it isn’t getting a charge from the ATV after all.  I’ve also learned that ATVs don’t have alternators, they have voltage regulators – so I’ve ordered one from Amazon ($35) instead of our local Can-Am dealer ($215) to see if it makes a difference.  Even if that Amazon one is a cheap knockoff and fails within a year, it lets me know where the problem exists, and I can buy an expensive one that is still a fraction of the local price.  And don’t get me wrong – I want to support the local guy, but those markups are just punishing.

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