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If your child has a Power Wheels car, then you're probably familiar with a dead battery and your child's disappointment that they can't go outside to drive it. You have a 12-volt battery in the garage that used to sit in your motorcycle, so you think that if you use that, you won't need to buy a new battery. But is it even possible to put a motorcycle battery into a Power Wheels car?
You could put a motorcycle battery in a Power Wheels, but you need to be careful, as they are not made the same. A Power Wheels uses a 12-volt rechargeable battery, while a motorcycle uses a 12-volt lead-acid battery that stays charged from an alternator, which must not run down to lower than 8 volts.
Power Wheel cars run on battery power only and do not have an alternator to keep the battery charged while in use. Dig in to find out how to use a motorcycle battery in a Power Wheels without damaging the battery or your child. I recommend you don't do this. It's not the upgrade you're looking for.
What Type of Battery Does a Power Wheels Use?
A Power Wheels vehicle uses a 12-volt rechargeable battery, and it comes with a specialty charger. If the battery is completely dead, it may or may not recharge, depending on the battery's age or condition. As the rechargeable batteries age, they can develop a memory, or an inability to recharge fully, which reduces their duty cycle if they go completely dead.
Name brand batteries tend to have a longer life than generic brands because they are built with higher quality components. They are more resistant to developing a memory or internal micro-shorts over time, which can dramatically shorten battery life.
When your upset child comes to you crying that their Power Wheels car doesn't go, It might be due to a completely dead battery. However, most batteries found in these toy vehicles will only discharge to around 10 or 11 volts before they stop moving the toy car.
Suppose you recharge the battery before it goes down any further. In that case, you can prevent the “memory” of being completely discharged and save your battery for several uses before it stops working altogether.
As long as you don't kill the battery completely or overcharge it, the battery can last for a few years.
What Type of Battery Does a Motorcycle Use?
A motorcycle uses a 12-volt lead-acid battery that provides power to start the cycle and run extra systems on the bike. When the motorcycle is running, the alternator keeps the battery charged. Most motorcycle batteries today are completely sealed to prevent leakages.
When a lead-acid battery discharges to nine or ten volts, it develops the same memory a rechargeable battery has, which is hard on its positive and negative plates. The plates can warp when it discharges this much. If this happens, it can wear out the plates' insulation and shorten the battery. It can also drain the battery when it sits there.
As I will discuss later, putting a motorcycle battery in a Power Wheels car can work, but it will drain the battery to a critical level that much faster. Think of a motorcycle battery as a water dam. When you start your motorcycle, it takes some of the “water,” or power, to get it running. But it doesn't take all of it. As you use your cycle, the alternator fills up the dam with power, and it is recharged.
A Power Wheels car does not have an alternator, so it doesn't recharge the battery.
How Are the Batteries Different, and Why Does It Matter?
Motorcycle batteries and Power Wheel batteries, as you have seen already, are not the same, even though a motorcycle battery can work in a Power Wheels car temporarily. However, since the toy cars don't have an alternator, you can only use a motorcycle battery in a pinch before getting a new, rechargeable battery.
Let's take a closer look at the differences and why it matters.
Power Wheels Batteries Are Individual Cell Batteries
Individual cell batteries are made up of multiple, individual 1.2-1.5 volt cells, and they are wired in as a series circuit. These individual cell batteries can either be rechargeable or standard disposable batteries. For Power Wheels cars, a 12-volt rechargeable battery has eight cells in a parallel circuit.
Motorcycle batteries are lead acid-based and have separate cells in a wet, acidic, common package. All eight cells are wired together in a parallel circuit.
Motorcycle Batteries Start the Bike and Charges With the Alternator
Batteries meant for motorcycles start the bike, then are charged by the alternator. As mentioned before, the alternator acts in the same way a dam works. When the bike runs, it fills up the battery and recharges it after you start your motorcycle.
Batteries meant for Power Wheels cars are meant to run continuously, like in laptops or flashlights. After your child rides their car, you might want to charge the battery so that it doesn't develop a “memory” of being completely discharged.
Power Wheels Batteries Are Closed-Cell Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are dry cell batteries that are individually wrapped and wired in a parallel sequence. For the most part, they are closed-cell, but they have a vent that allows for overheating or shorting out.
Motorcycle batteries a wet-cell battery that contains sulfuric acid and leads plates. More often than not, they are completely sealed. However, some battery versions are not sealed, so you must make sure the battery is sealed before putting it in a Power Wheels.
Power Wheels Cars Don’t Have an Alternator
All of this matters because Power Wheels cars don't have alternators or charging circuits that keep the batteries charged while running. If you use a motorcycle battery in a Power Wheels car, eventually, it will run down, and it will be difficult to charge it back up.
What Would Happen if a Motorcycle Battery Was Used in a Power Wheels?
If you put a motorcycle battery in a Power Wheels car, you will probably have about an hour and a half of run time before the battery dies down enough not to power the toy car. The motorcycle battery will have a reduced capacity for recharging when it gets down past eight or nine volts.
While you can recharge it to an extent, it needs to be charged in a trickle to come back up slowly. When a motorcycle battery is completely discharged, it will develop a “memory” and will only be charged up to a certain point. After a few times of this, it will not recharge properly.
Another thing that can happen is that if you use a battery that is not completely sealed, it could leak acid if your child were to tip the car over, which is a dangerous situation and could lead to your child being seriously injured.
Several people have tried putting an alternative battery in Power Wheels cars, then let their children run down the battery, and it becomes difficult to recharge. A more efficient option might be to take care of the battery that came with the toy car by recharging it after every use and not letting it get down too low.
Rechargeable batteries can discharge too much and won't recharge as quickly as they used to in the past. A dead motorcycle battery can short out if the plates are warped.
Take care of your battery to avoid all this.