Follow these five tips and your batteries will love you for it. Illustration by Mark Weber.
A power wheelchair is nothing without its batteries, as we know all too well. Most power chairs have two large batteries that require nightly charging while we’re sleeping, which by the way is the most practical way to go about getting our charge in for all of you noobs out there. There are a lot of other tips, too. Check them out and get educated beyond your wildest wheelchair dreams.
1. New batteries must always be fully charged
There’s is nothing worse than not being able to go where you want to go because of a dead battery. So when you get a brand new wheelchair, always ask if the batteries are fully charged. They likely are, but ask anyway because it is absolutely critical you make sure your new batteries are fully charged before you use them. We are talking deep-cycle batteries here, the kind most wheelchairs have.
If you fail to fully charge them, they will never be able to maximize their full charging range, leaving you unable to enjoy things like mile-long hikes or any other activity that has your wheelchair motoring all day long.
2. Only drain new batteries by 30 percent the first 10 days
Another strange but helpful tip to ensure your batteries will be able to take a full charge when you charge them at night is to only deplete the batteries by up to 30 percent during the first 10 days of use (again, this is for deep-cycle batteries). If you do this, it will allow your batteries to achieve fully-charged status.
3. Charge nightly, even if they’ve been barely used
It may seem over-the-top, but you should always charge your batteries every night, even if you don’t leave the house and barely drive around. Batteries love it when you do this, it’s like battery TLC-time whenever they get charged. If you rarely drain them below 50 percent and charge them fully each night, you can nearly double the lifespan of your batteries. Pretty cool, huh?
4. Avoid depleting them over 80 percent
While you’re at it, avoid draining your batteries over 80 percent if you can. This will destroy your batteries quickly, as they hate being so empty they could echo. While this might be impossible for those of you drive your wheelchairs to get around town (we don’t always have vehicles), you might want to think about increasing your budget for new wheelchair batteries, as they’ll need replacing in about a year.
5. Always use your own charger
Never use a different wheelchair charger other than the one that came with your wheelchair. While it may be tempting in a pinch, it can destroy your battery.
I know, we’ve all been there: You’re stuck somewhere with a dead battery, with your charger far, far away, and your friend offers to let you use their wheelchair charger. But don’t do it. If you attempt to use a different charger not only will it not work, the battery charger will likely break. This happens because the wiring pattern on the plugs doesn’t match. If you have no other option, and are almost positive it’s compatible, at least call the manufacturer of your wheelchair first.
All of the information for this blog entry came from A Wheelchair Junkie’s Battery FAQs, by Mark Smith. Some of our readers have noted that Tip 5 is too basic and not true for today’s powerchairs. They recommend Wheelchairdriver for more advanced information. Click on “Power Wheelchair Info” and scroll down to find entries dealing with chargers. This site is a worldwide favorite among people with SCI who have engineering backgrounds.