KEEP YOUR SEGWAY BATTERIES HEALTHY
THU, 05/02/2013 3:21PM
The Segway PT’s batteries are the most expensive part to replace on your machine and generally the only component that requires maintenance on the machine outside tires. Over the years we have seen some extreme examples of early battery failure and consistent patterns of conditions that lead to run of the mill replacement situations. In this short article we will try to go over how your Segway batteries can be better maintained and also point out some conditions that may lead to a shorter battery lifespan.
First and foremost let’s remember one thing about your Segway’s batteries and that is they are batteries. They have a long pedigree of impressive specs ranging from number of cycles to extreme operating temperatures but let’s remember that at the end of the day they are still batteries. With this in mind you will see a lifespan determined in the vast majority of cases by the age of the battery, not the “number of miles” or charges they have incurred. All things constant (proper storage and charging conditions) miles don’t really start mattering until you approach the 8,000-10,000 mark. Age on the other hand knows no boundaries and is an inevitable battery killer around the five year mark. There are several things we can do though to make sure we reach this five year point and perhaps even go further.
First off Segway batteries like to be cycled. For those who don’t use your PT that often please listen up! I have had many customers who bring in a machine with battery issues, relatively new (2-3 years old) and PT condition is brand new. The story normally goes that it was either left unplugged for an extended period of time (6 months to years) or that it has been plugged in its whole life, but never used. Both of these are bad news for Segway Batteries. The first is obvious as any battery not charged will eventually deeply discharge and damage itself. The second is a little more unique but makes sense if we look at what is going on with the built in charger and batteries.
Your Segway PT’s charging mechanism does one thing and it does it very well; Charges batteries and keeps them at their peak voltage. This is good but can be problematic if the machine is never used. Reason being is that having a battery sit at its maximum charged level for sometimes years on end eventually causes the cells to wear out prematurely. For the motor heads out there just think of it as running your engine at redline constantly. Your Segway batteries need to be cycled/discharged, allowed to run down and relax periodically. I have seen people who use their PT’s as a primary mobility device and contrary to what common sense would tell us the batteries actually lasted longer, in some cases over 7 years! As a way around this I tell people if they are not using their Segway PT for long periods simply pull it out of the closet, start it, and lean it against a wall for a day and let the batteries run down about halfway. Wash rinse and repeat as needed, at least once a month!
Another forehead slapper we encounter every year is the “it was left unplugged all winter in the garage/shed”. Believe it or not your Segway batteries, all $1,800 + of them, will most likely be worthless if you do this. For your own sake please keep your Segway PT inside and plug it in if you will be storing it for any extended periods of time and avoid temperature extremes. Your Segway batteries will probably be able to handle a cold garage through their first few winters but this is hard on them (increasing chances of early failure) and becomes a gamble in their later years (4+ years old). Just because your batteries can handle it when they’re new doesn’t mean you won’t have to answer for it later in their life cycle.
Speaking of the later stages of battery life lets pay attention to some tips on how to keep your Segway’s Batteries from going bad in their golden years. After 4-5 years you are getting close to being on borrowed time. Some things to avoid altogether at this point (should be avoided at any point) would include running batteries down too low. As a rule of thumb we don’t let people run our units below two bars, and running them completely dead is a huge no-no. It is more of a danger in the older Segway batteries (4-5 years) as they run the risk of falling below the voltage threshold at which the machine will recognize them and you can kiss them and about $900 goodbye. Steep price to pay because you didn’t want to walk that extra ¼ mile! Also avoid running your batteries low and then not plugging the unit in immediately afterwards.
The final Segway battery tip I would like to point out is one that I made up myself. I will tell you how I reached the conclusion it was good advice and you can make your own decision. I always tell people to periodically (once a year or so) switch batteries from front to back. The reason being is that the back battery almost always goes bad first because it acts as the radio board’s power supply. Your PT’s radio board (which talks to your key to access machine functions) is constantly sending out a signal like a submarine sonar, looking and looking for that key. It runs solely on the back battery and has a “parasitic draw” that isn’t much but over time adds up. This extra stress on the back battery is why almost every time the first Segway battery goes bad it’s the back one. By swapping the batteries every year or so we are effectively distributing that extra stress to both batteries, extending the pairs life and hopefully getting their points of failure to be as close as possible.
So there you have it, all you wanted to know about Segway batteries and more. If you are looking for information on boosting and rebuilding please check out our article here. As for what you should take away from this article I would say it’s simply that there are a number of factors that affect your PT’s Battery life and they are all cumulative. If you can avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned in this article and practice some of the maintenance tips hopefully you can avoid any premature battery failures and maybe even extend the life by a few years!
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