If you want to get the most out of your mobility scooter you need to get the best battery you can afford, and then take steps to get the most out of the battery. It starts with knowing what types of batteries there are, as well as how to take care of them.
Mobility scooter battery types
There are four types of mobility scooter batteries:
- SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) battery
- GEL battery
- AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) battery
- Lithium battery (Li-ion)
Regardless of type, all mobility scooter batteries are 12Volt. As a rule, your scooter needs two 12V batteries for a 24Volt output. It’s best practice to replace both batteries at the same time, even if only one of them is currently giving you grief (they’ve experienced exactly the same conditions so it’s reasonable to assume that the other battery is living on borrowed time anyway).
Stick to the same manufacturer and same battery type (don’t mix ‘n match because one brand is on special).
Another reason to replace batteries in pairs is to ensure they are from the same batch (same date codes).
Advantages and disadvantages
SLA: If money is an issue, then SLA batteries are a great option. Not only are they affordable, they are also robust enough to handle large all-terrain mobility scooter models. They’re rather weighty, which means they’re not altogether suitable for light, foldable models.
One of the best things about them is that you don’t have to carry out any maintenance. And they’re safe enough for air travel.
They are the cheapest of the batteries and are best for occasional use.
Gel: Gel batteries have a lifespan somewhere between SLA and Lithium batteries. As with SLA batteries, you don’t have to worry about mobility scooter battery maintenance. They are also safe to transport on airplanes.
Unlike SLA batteries, they’re ideal for people who use their scooters every day.
A quirk of Gel batteries is that they don’t come full tilt out of the box. Typically, they operate at around 60% power when they’re new. They usually hit their stride after about 20 to 25 full discharges and charges.
AGM: Mobility scooter AGM batteries are lead batteries, like the SLA types. Also, like SLA batteries, they are cost-effective and best for occasional use.
Lithium Ion: If price is of no consequence for mobility scooter batteries, lithium batteries are the way to go. They’re more expensive than SLA, AGM, and Gel batteries, but they can last up to 10 times as long. As an estimate, you can also get about 40% more range on a single charge with a lithium battery.
If you consider the cost of replacing other batteries over the same period of time, you’ll find that lithium batteries are more cost-effective in the long-run. Think of it as buy now, don’t pay later.
Lithium batteries are also safe for air travel. You can get an IATA Certificate to prove it.
They’re nice and light but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also fill the role of heavy-duty mobility scooter batteries for large all-terrain models.
As far as mobility scooter battery disposal is concerned, lithium batteries are the most eco-friendly as they can be recycled.
Charging mobility scooter batteries
Individual instructions may differ but as a rule, the following charging guidelines apply:
- Use the mobility scooter battery charger designed for your make and model. Do not attempt charging your mobility scooter batteries with a car charger.
- Charge the battery every day, ideally overnight. These days ‘smart chargers’ shut off automatically when fully charged so there is no danger of overcharging.
- Avoid fully draining the batteries as this will decrease battery life and performance.
- Charge a battery low on juice as soon as possible
- Charge your batteries before you store them long-term. Set a reminder to recharge them at least once a month. Disconnect your batteries from the charger before you store them, otherwise there is a residual drain of power.
- Whether you use your scooter every day or occasionally bring it out of storage, always fully charge it before each use.
Storing mobility scooter batteries
- Always store in cool, dry place
- Store in a mobility scooter battery bag or box to protect against dust and other household detritus
Given reasonable use and reasonable care, SLA, AGM, and Gel mobility scooter battery life is 12 – 18 months.
Given reasonable use and reasonable care, lithium mobility scooter battery life is 13 years.
The way you use your scooter affects your battery’s performance. For example, lots of stop-start driving drains batteries faster than smooth and steady driving. A heavy load with full front and back baskets and seat bags will drain the battery faster than if you keep loads light. Rough terrain, especially going up hills, will drain the battery faster than even ground.
Weather can also affect performance, so don’t be surprised if your battery takes it easy in winter. If you can’t help but use your scooter in ice-cold weather, let your battery get up to room temperature before you charge it.
Very hot days will also take their toll on your battery’s performance, so if you’re tootling along a little slower than usual in a heat wave, rest assured that it is normal.
You can extend your battery’s life by reconditioning it. According to Care and Mobility, you fill your battery with distilled water and let it charge for about an hour. This, essentially, restores it to brand new. You can recondition your battery up to four times before you have to buy a replacement pair. You can buy reconditioned mobility scooter batteries, but make sure they come from a reputable source.
Common mobility scooter battery problems
Do you find that your mobility scooter batteries won’t charge or perhaps your mobility scooter battery won’t hold a charge?
These are fairly common problems with a few possible causes.
- The batteries could have reached the end of their natural life. Wear and tear have taken its toll over the last year or year and a half and it is simply time to replace the pair.
- The batteries could be damaged. This is a likely cause if you do a lot of all-terrain driving, or if you’re prone to driving with a degree of recklessness. Check the wires because it could be as simple as one of the wires being disconnected. Wires can also burn out so check for a burnt smell. You should also check to see if your mobility scooter battery is overheating. This is a good indication that you need to replace your batteries.
- The battery charger could be damaged or you could be using the wrong charger. Check your owner’s manual to see if you are using a recommended charger. You can check the charger by connecting it to a different scooter or you can use a multimeter, which tests mobility scooter battery output voltage.
The best tip to get the most out of your mobility scooter battery is to follow the instructions in the owners’ guide or manual. It’s also the best way to avoid negating the warranty.