A Battery Checklist for Consumers

Power Chairs

Regardless of drivetrain, suspension, seating and positioning differences, power chairs have an energy source in common: batteries. And where there are batteries, there will be facts that consumers need to know about battery jargon, maintenance, lifespan, etc. Here's a "battery" of topics to discuss with new power chair owners — and with repeat owners who could use a refresher course.

  • Will a car battery work in my power chair? Using a cheaper car battery can be a temptation. But explain that unlike a car battery, a wheelchair battery is designed to provide a slow, constant, deep discharge. The designs of the two types of batteries are different — so a car battery should never be used in a power chair (or POV).
  • Do batteries need maintenance? Sealed batteries have made battery maintenance almost obsolete, save for keeping the terminals clean on vehicles that have quick-release battery boxes. Battery cables in the battery boxes should also be checked to make sure they're tight. But due to the tremendous current that power chair batteries release, recommend that consumers leave battery servicing to professionals.
  • How should batteries be stored? Since batteries lose about 5 percent of their charge per month when they're not in use — more if they're connected to a power chair at the time — it's worth talking to consumers about charging batteries, then removing them and storing them in a cool (not cold) place if the chairs won't be used for a period of time.
  • How long should batteries last? If batteries are charged every day, you can expect them to last about a year. If they're charged once a week, they may last two or more years. But since each consumer uses his or her power chair for different time periods and different tasks, don't give a stock answer. Ask about personal habits and usage, so you can give a more accurate answer.
  • Do batteries have warranties? Consumers may be accustomed to years-long warranties for car batteries, so explain about design and functional differences between automotive and wheelchair batteries — and the warranty differences. But like car batteries, wheelchair batteries contain hazardous materials and must be disposed of properly — another reason to visit a mobility dealer!

Our thanks to technical guru Wayne Gullett for his assistance on this topic.

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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