Do Motorcycles Have Alternators?

Do Motorcycles Have Alternators?

This is a very common question and the answer is pretty straight forward too. The answer is maybe.

All modern road motorcycles will have one of two different systems in place in order to charge the battery. If a motorcycle did not have the ability to charge the battery then you would find yourself being required to change the battery over almost every time that you went for a ride, this would get very expensive and tiresome very quickly.

The motorcycle will either have a generator/magneto or an alternator, both of which will perform the same function of charging the motorcycle battery while the engine is running. This will ensure that you have battery power the next time that you need to start your motorcycle engine.


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motorcycle alternator -

Motorcycle Alternator

How To Check If Your Generator / Magneto Or Alternator Is Working

One way to see if you are gaining a charge from your alternator or generator is to use a multimeter. What you will need to do is to test the voltage of the battery while the engine is not running. Now that you have taken this measurement start the engine and test the voltage once again. You should notice that when the engine is running the voltage should be slightly higher as the generator is now providing an extra charge to the battery, which will result in the higher reading. Expect this new reading to be up to around 14v if your alternator or generator is working as expected.

Possibly one it even easier way is to turn on your motorcycle headlights and give the throttle a bit of a twist. If you notice that the headlight has now become brighter since you increased the throttle, then this means that the alternator or generator is providing an additional charge to the battery. This test should have only taken you 10 seconds at the most and requires no skill at all, it is an easy way of quickly indicating if there may not be something quite right, especially if you don’t have a multimeter to do any further testing by yourself.


Motorcycle Magneto -

Motorcycle Magneto

What Is The Difference Between An Alternator And A Generator / Magneto?

T he generator or magneto is most common in older motorcycles, whereas most modern motorcycles will have an alternator. This is due to the alternator being a more advanced technology. Having said this, both types have been around for several decades.

The main difference between the two is the type of power that is delivered. An alternator will produce AC current, in comparison to a generator or magneto where the end result will be a DC current.


Does It Matter Which One I Have?

Not really. These are just different types of technology and at the end of the day should perform the necessary functions in order to ensure that your motorcycle has a battery that is fully charged and ready to start the next time you are ready to go for a motorcycle ride.



Now you should be well equipped with all of the information that you need for the next time someone asks you “Do motorcycles have alternators?”. You will also be able to provide them information on how to check if they generator / magneto or alternator is working, as well as note the key differences between an alternator and a generator / magneto.


Do you have any questions about this article or would you like to share your experiences with alternators, magnetos and generators? We would love to hear from you so please leave a comment in the section below and we’ll be sure to respond to you as soon as possible.


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{ 1 comment }

Kolby Harville April 19, 2012 at 6:47 am

Very neat post.Really thank you! Awesome.

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