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How many volts can a power wheels handle?

Power Wheels are battery-powered ride-on vehicles for kids that come in a number of different colors and styles for kids as young as 12-18 months. If you're looking to upgrade your Power Wheels battery voltage, you will want to be sure that it can safely handle the voltage. 

Power Wheels can handle between 12V to 24V depending on the model, and everything from the motor to the gears will affect this number. Power Wheels do not recommend upgrading the existing battery’s voltage. However, if you do, consider upgrading the whole vehicle to account for the added power. 

In the rest of the article, we'll discuss the Power Wheels' maximum voltage, what overvolting is and why people do it, and the consequences of overvolting your Power Wheels.

Power Wheels’ Maximum Voltage

I'm guessing you read through the owner's manual of your Power Wheels when you got it. If you didn't, consider doing that now. When you do, you’ll probably find a clear warning stating that you shouldn't exceed the stipulated battery voltage. 

One of the significant determinants of your Power Wheel's maximum capacity is the motors. The motors use the batteries' power to drive the gears and effectively cause the wheels to roll. The battery capacity the manufacturers recommend is usually in line with the motor's maximum. For instance, if your Power Wheels come with a 24V motor but 12V batteries, you could get away with upgrading it to a 24V battery. 

However, the motors aren't the only vehicle parts that determine the maximum voltage your Power Wheels can handle. Other vehicle parts like the gears, tires, and other components also contribute to the vehicle’s ability to withstand battery voltage upgrades. 

That means you should probably stick to a 12V battery if that’s what it came with. Despite the warnings from manufacturers, some users still upgrade their Power Wheels battery to a higher voltage in a process called overvolting.

What Is Overvolting?

As stated above, it is recommended to stick with the voltage provided by the manufacturer. However, sometimes, people install higher capacity batteries on their Power Wheels in an attempt to make them go faster. If you install an 18V or 24V battery in your 12V Power Wheels, you're effectively overvolting. 

To achieve these high voltages, people use one of the two techniques:

  • Install a high voltage battery in place of the existing battery from the manufacturer.
  • Instead of discarding your 12V battery, pair it off with a 6V battery to achieve an adequate 18V energy supply.  

Why People Overvolt Their Power Wheels

Overvolting is a pretty common occurrence in the Power Wheels community, and a simple search will lead to countless online tutorials on how to upgrade your Power Wheels to run on higher-capacity batteries. Here are some of the popular reasons why people overvolt their Power Wheels:

Increase Speed

Give a three-year-old a new Power Wheels and watch their excited reaction as they speed along your driveway. However, expect to watch the excitement fade away as they get older. By the time they turn five, your kids are probably on your back for something faster. 

Given their high price, many people look to simply upping the current battery capabilities rather than purchasing a new one. This will allow your kids to use the older machine for longer. 

If your Power Wheels batteries have been around for a long time, you might observe that it doesn't last as long as it used to. Increasing the battery run time is also an added benefit of a battery upgrade. 

Increase Force

If your Power Wheels are having trouble climbing over small bumps in your driveway, it might need some extra driving force. 

A quick online search will bring up a few popular overvolting hacks. Many parents have tried this with positive results. You would find several online reports from happy parents as they show off their kids gliding smoothly over bumps in their path. 

What Happens When You Overvolt Power Wheels?

Bumping up your Power Wheels' battery voltage comes with numerous benefits such as more force and speed. However, it's not all rainbows and sunshine. Overvolting can have some negative implications for your Power Wheels, such as:

Burn Out Motors

If you're increasing the power of the battery, you'll have to prepare for the possibility of your motors blowing out. If your Power Wheels motor has a maximum capacity of 12V and you install an 18V battery, they're likely to burn out sooner than later.  

The higher up you go from the motor's maximum capacity, the more frequently your motors will become damaged. Regular motor replacement is prevalent among users of upgraded Power Wheels. Despite providing more force for your Power Wheels, climbing hills and stumps could also cause the motors to give up due to the excessive pressure. 

How To Avoid Motor Burn Out

You can find your way around this problem by changing your Power Wheels motor during the battery upgrade. If possible, match the motor's capacity to the battery voltage for the best results. 

Another possible solution to fried motors from high-powered batteries is a speed controller. Speed controllers will allow your Power Wheels to increase speed slowly instead of merely jumping to maximum speed once it's turned on. Choose a speed controller that matches your new Power Wheel battery. 

For example, if you've installed a 24V battery, a 24V 250 Watt speed controller might be sufficient. There's no need to install controllers with higher wattage, such as a 500-watt speed controller, because it can cause the motors to overheat and possibly burn out. 

Damaged Gears

Power Wheel batteries provide the energy for the motor, which causes the gears to move. The gears are then responsible for the tires' motion. In essence, increasing the battery power also affects the gear motion.

Power Wheel gearboxes typically consist of several plastic gears, each with its teeth locked in the other. The force that your battery upgrade produces can force the gears to grind, and eventually, the teeth wear away. 

How To Avoid Damaged Gears

You might find that you'll have to replace the gears or gearbox with time if you decide to overvolt your Power Wheels. Sometimes, users change the gears to metal or a sturdier version than the stock parts when carrying out a battery upgrade. The new gears are better at bearing the latest battery power's tension. 

Loss of Tire Traction

The increased speed from your new batteries might be too much for your Power Wheels' tires to handle. Such upgrades usually require some tire modification to restore traction. You'll need the additional friction between the tires and the floor to counteract the torque from the motion and ensure your child's safety.

Adding traction is one of the easier upgrades that follows a battery upgrade. It typically involves running an old battery tire around the existing tires.

Voided Warranty

In addition to potentially damaging your Power Wheels with a battery upgrade, chances are, you’ll also be voiding the warranty of the vehicle. By making after-manufacturing modifications, the company is under no obligation to refund you should something go wrong – even if it had nothing to do with the battery upgrade.  

Final Thoughts

You’ll find the maximum battery voltage your Power Wheels can handle in the owner's manual. Keep in mind that most of the vehicle’s parts, such as the motors, gears, and even the tires, all contribute to this figure. 

If you decide to upgrade your Power Wheels’ battery above the specified voltage, you might have to deal with regular replacement of these parts. To avoid this, consider making further upgrades to help your Power Wheels handle the new energy surge.