My Power Wheels Battery is Not Holding a Charging
Question: The battery in my Power Wheels toy is no longer holding a charge, is the battery bad or could there be something else wrong with the toy?
So you have pulled out your kids Power Wheels toy, charged up the battery, and let the kids play only to find out that the battery only lasts a few minutes and then dies out. This is the typical situation described to us by parents or grand parents calling into the shop looking for conformation that it is in fact the actual Power Wheels battery that has gone bad, and not another component of the toy. Fortunately there is a pretty simple way to tell if it is in fact the battery that is the issue, or if there is a faulty charger to blame for your toddlers displeased state.
What you will need to pull off the test:
The only tool that you will need to perform this quick test is a volt meter. The best type of meter to use for testing any Power Wheels unit would be a digital meter, however the traditional needle style will also be able to get the job done as well.
What You Will Be Testing:
In order to narrow down the source of your problem you will need to test (get the voltage reading) of both the Power Wheels battery and the accompanying Power Wheels charger.
Prior to Performing the Test:
Prior to performing the test we always recommend that you put the battery on charge for a good 8 hours. This is a good amount of time to fully recover a discharged Power Wheels battery, and will provide insight into the crux of the problem that we will go into more detail on in the next step
Performing the Test:
Okay, assuming that you have already put your Power Wheels battery on charge for the recommended 8 hours, its time to get a voltage reading on the unit to determine where the battery stands in terms of its level of charge. To do this you need to locate the positive and negative prongs of the Power Wheels battery in which you would be able to pull the voltage reading from. I have included three pictures below showing where these prongs are located using the three most common Power Wheels batteries out on the market today.
Once you have located your positive and negative, you will then take your digital volt meter and turn the dial to the voltage dc section which should have symbol similar to the one shown below. The setting that we are going to be using is the 20 mark - this will allow the meter to display two decimal places which will give us the most accurate reading for any 12 volt application. After you have set your volt meter to the correct setting its time to touch the positive probe (red cable on your volt meter) to the positive prong of the battery plug, and the negative probe (black cable on your volt meter) to the negative prong of your Power Wheels battery. With firm contact of both prongs your voltage meter will then display a reading - write this reading down.
Next, you will be testing the voltage output of your charger following the same steps as above. You will first need to plug the charger into a functioning AC outlet in order for the unit to put out any voltage. Touch the positive probe to the positive side and the negative probe to the negative side, once your voltage meter displays a reading write it down. Now please note that it may not be a steady reading, you will probably find that it fluctuates up and down slightly - this is okay, and should be expected from any Power Wheels charger .
Analyzing the Power Wheels Battery and Charger Test Results:
First we will take a look at the output of the charger and make sure its up to par. Your Power Wheels charger should have a voltage output of around 13.5 to 14.5 volts. If your charger far exceeds this number, or is putting out less or zero volts then its time to replace your Power Wheels charger. Replacing this defective unit may take care of the battery issue as well, depending on if any damage was done to the battery from the faulty charger - which is not extremely common, but we do see it from time to time.
If your Power Wheels charger has tested good, then we need to see what voltage your battery is currently sitting at.
If the battery is 12.6 volts or above:
If the battery is at 12.6 volts or above then it has taken a full charge, however the capacity of the battery may have diminished so low that it is unable to sustain enough power to move the Power Wheels toy for any extended amount of time. This is typically the case with batteries that are 3 years or older, or batteries that have been neglected during a winter storage period for a season or more.
If the battery is below 12.6 volts but above 11.8 volts:
If this is the case, then there is a good chance that the Power Wheels battery is on the decline. Over a period of time sulfating is a big issue with lead based batteries - this is the process of crystals forming on the negative plates of the battery a restricting the amount of active material that can function in the battery, causing a loss in capacity and a resistance to accepting a full charge. This type of battery does have a chance to recover some of its capacity by using one of the newer style smart chargers on it, however if you did not already have this charging unit you may find that it costs as much as getting a new Power Wheels battery.
If the battery is 11.8 volts or below:
The battery may have “dropped a cell” - a common cause of failure of any lead acid based battery in which there is a broken weld in the battery causing a dead short or extreme loss of power. The Power Wheels battery would need to be replaced.