Burn Some Plastic – 18v Gator Upgrade

Every kid loves a ride-on toy, right?  I would argue that most kids would also love a ride-on toy that smokes the tires without breaking a sweat.  My kids certainly have gotten a kick out of my latest project.

The stock Peg Perego John Deere Gator ride-on toy comes with a crummy 12v battery that lasts for about an hour and pretty much sucks all around.  I chose to replace it with two batteries.  One is a 12v 12ah and the other a 6v 12ah from Gruber Power.   They are wired in series (see photos below) to achieve 18v 12ah.   For those interested, my series wiring consists of:

Positive of 12v to positive terminal block
Negative of 12v to positive of 6v
Negative of 6v to negative terminal block

18v Wiring Diagram

The system is charged using a MiniMoto 18v charger from Monster Scooter.   I then wired a panel mount charger port to the dash of the Gator.   I bought the port at Radio Shack for about $3. If you do go with the Radio Shack and Monster Scooter charger parts, make sure you wire them correctly! The positive is the outer barrel, negative on the inside.  The wiring to the port will need to be soldered.  I also recommend throwing some heat shrink tubing around everything to make sure it’s protected and stays dry.

Going from 12v to 18v is a pretty dramatic step.   I don’t have a good way to measure, but I think the top speed is nearly doubled.   I’d guess somewhere around eight mph?

There is one drawback to this setup, however.  The stock gearboxes, at least in my experience, are not able to take the added power on tough terrain.  If your kids are scooting around on pavement, that’s fine, but if they are going up and down steep hills or deep grass… prepare to shred a few gearboxes.

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48 Responses

  1. Bill O'Brien says:

    Awesome work!! How did you wire in the charger? I am used to having to disconnect the battery from the harness to charge. Can it just be hooked up in the loop?

    Thank you!!

    • Bryan says:

      Thanks! I’ve attached a photo of the charger port on the Gator dashboard. The charger port is hooked in directly to the terminal strip. When I want to charge 18v, I simply connect the charger to the port and both batteries charge at the same time. If I want to charge each battery individually, which is recommended every so often, I can connect my Schumacher SC-1200A directly to the 12v or 6v battery.

  2. Bill O 'Brien says:

    “The charger port is hooked in directly to the terminal strip. ”

    Pardon my multitude of questions but what is a. ‘Terminal strip’ ??? I know I wire 12v to 6v and the 6v back to the beginning but where in the loop does the charging port get wired in??? Thank you!!!!

    • Bryan says:

      I’ll do my best to explain as I don’t have the means to post a picture at the moment. First, the terminal block (or strip) is available at most big box stores. HD has one:


      The block serves as a common junction for all your positive and negative leads. You run all your positives to the positive side of the block, and all the negatives to the negative side of the block. The leads from the charger port tie in to the block just like anything else. When you connect the charger to the port, 18v flows back to the block, then heads to the batteries.

      Using a terminal block makes it really easy to add additional accessories. Example, if you wanted to add some LEDs, you just run your leads to the block (after running positive or negative through a switch, or course).

      Does that help? Hope so! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Bryan says:

    I will get a diagram posted today, stay tuned. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Bill O'Brien says:

    Well the charger, charger ports, batteries and terminal blocks have been ordered. I am going to do the upgrade on a Peg P ATV and a PowerWheels F150. The kids are excited!!!

    The wiring diagram will be a big help!! Really nice of you to help me! Thank you!!

  5. Mike says:

    Nice work! Your design is the best I have seen. Have you found an upgraded gearbox? It looks like my only option now is to purchase extra ones to have as spares for *when* the 18v shreds them

    • Bryan says:

      I would LOVE to find a more robust gearbox, but I’ve had no success so far. As you said, the best option I’ve found is to have a few OEM ones on stand-by.

  6. stephen c watkins says:

    Do you have the part number for the charging port, the link is not working.

  7. Bill says:

    My biggest issue was the charger interface. I bought a charger from Powerstream that had alligator clips. I cut those off and hard wired it. The charger has a detachable cord so that gets removed and the actual charger then gets tucked into the vehichile when they are ready to ride. It works great!!!

    • Bryan says:

      Awesome! Post back after a few weeks and let me know how your gear boxes are doing. I’m interested to hear if other have the same issues as I did. Thanks!

  8. Tyler says:

    Did this setup work reliably? Does the 18v charger do a good enough job of charging?

  9. Brian dennie says:

    What gauge wire did you use to connect everything? Really well done!!!!!

    • Bryan says:

      Hi Brian! I used 12 gauge wire for all my connections. I didn’t replace any of the original wiring, other than cutting off the stock harness/battery connector to tie that to the terminal block.

      • Brian dennie says:

        Any risk of fire with upgrading to the 18v?

        • Brian dennie says:

          Just worried about burning up the motor

          • Bryan says:

            The motors don’t seem to have an issue with 18v. They’ll get warmer than 12v, but nothing serious. You could add cooling fins/heatsinks if that worries you. IMO – The gear boxes will break long before the motors spontaneously combust.

            If you went to 24v, you might have an issue. I’ve heard of the pedal welding itself in the ON position at that voltage.

  10. Brian dennie says:

    Trying to figure out the setup for the charging port. I bought the same charger you recommended. I don’t have solder skills or equipment. Any other way you can think of making this work.

    • Bryan says:

      Unfortunately, soldering is required if using the Radio Shack charger port. I will update my post to include this information.

      Do you know anyone who has a soldering iron? Or maybe put a gig on Craig’s List for the job? It should only take 5-10 minutes for someone with the tools and experience. Heck, mail it to me and I’ll do it for you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Brian dennie says:

    Is there a way to wire up a direct lead from the charger to the terminal port in the meantime?

  12. Brian dennie says:

    Or email me your contact info and I’ll send ou a premeasured amount of wire and the charging port. The rest of this was great but the soldering is past my pay grade. ?

  13. Brian dennie says:

    That’s what I was thinking of but that would require me to take the batteries out all the time.

  14. Krys says:

    Just curious if your Gator has the High/Low/Reverse shifter, want to make sure that the High/Low is compatible with the 18v upgrade.

    • Bryan says:

      Hi Krys! The shifter functionality is not affected. You’ll still be able to shift between low, high, and reverse. They’ll all be a little faster, of course.

  15. John says:

    Bryan, I am not sure you will see this since it has been over a year but I have a few questions about the wiring diagram/terminal block. I see you have a looped connection on the positive side but I can’t see the other side of the terminal block. I have all the parts needed to do this upgrade, but want to make sure the wiring is done correctly. Can you post an additional picture of the wiring? One side of the terminal block is all positive correct? The screw directly across would be the negative side? Thanks, John

    • Bryan says:

      Hi John. Of course I’ll see your comment! ๐Ÿ™‚ First… it’s important to point out that the diagram is simplified compared to the actual images of the install. The looped connection is actually negative and exists only to jump the negative connection between the two sets of terminals. I didn’t want to cram all those wires in to one set of terminals.

      Does that help at all? I can draw a revised diagram if you’d like. I’ll shoot you my email as well in case you want to email me directly.

      Thanks for writing!

  16. Perry says:

    Hi, just wondering how long this setup lasts running in high speed and also how long it takes to charge?

  17. Perry says:

    Thanks Bryan!

  18. Perry says:

    Oh, one other thought. Could you wire two battery packs in parallel to increase run time to 2 hrs?

    • Bryan says:

      I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. If using the same type of batteries, you would end up at 18v 24ah.

      I’m not sure where you’d fit the extra 12v and 6v though. It’s kind of tight in there. ๐Ÿ™‚

      FWIW, my kids do a lot of driving in the grass and that eats up a lot of juice.

  19. Perry says:

    Mine do too- lots of grass aand lots of hills. I would like to get 2 solid hours of runtime on high speed before needing a charge. I am wondering if there is space between the gear boxes in the back axle box for the second set?

    • Bryan says:

      I remember having the same idea about putting the batteries in the rear end. I’m not 100%, but I seem to recall there not being enough height in that compartment to fit the batteries. I think heat might be an issue in there as well given the motors put out a decent amount of heat.

  20. Vince says:

    Bryan – Stumbled upon your post. You did a really clean install. I want to do the same with my son’s Peg Pregp RZR. Can you go into more detail with the terminal strip? I’ve looked at your picture and the wire diagram. I see you jumped two terminals, but I’m not sure why. It doesn’t seem the terminals that you jumped are energized. I know I’m missing a key concept, so your help would be great.

    • Bryan says:

      Hey,Vince! I should really re-do my diagram. I realize now it’s insufficiently detailed.

      In my case, each pair of terminals on the strip was isolated from the others. I had to jump the positives together, for example, to ensure they were all joined. There might be a block out there that does a better job at providing connectivity options, but the local store only had this type.

  21. Steve says:

    Great job – really neat install. I consider myself pretty good with wiring but when I ran a 12 volt and 6 volt battery in series I could not get the wheels to spin at all when I pushed on the pedal. Do you know of any reason my Gator XUV wouldn’t run on 18 volts? Could there be a thermal switch or something you know of that I need to remove to allow 18 volts to work?

    • Bryan says:

      Hi, Steve! Did you test the batteries to make sure the pair was outputting 18v? If you swap it back to 12v do the motors turn?

  22. Steve says:

    Thanks Bryan – I went back out to test again and found one of my wire taps wasn’t making contact. I’m going to order those parts you listed above and get this project moving! Thanks for the tip on the charger part being “reversed” from what seems to be the norm. Will update as the project gets moving along!

  23. Daniel says:

    Has anyone found an upgrade to the gear box? I wired in a DEWALT usb battery adapter. It runs on 20v now. I have a ton of those batteries and chargers, she can go all day. With breaks for cool down. But the gear box is shot!! Looking for an upgrade.

    • Bryan says:

      Thatโ€™s awesome! I havenโ€™t checked in a while, but last time I did I didnโ€™t find much for gear upgrades. Some guys were using RC car motors with cooling fins.

    • Brad says:

      I was thinking about doing this exact thing. I have a bunch of dewalt 20v batteries. Where did you get the adapter to wire it in?

      • Bryan says:

        Hi, Brad. Sooner or later, every Dad with a kids’ Gator has the idea “gee, this thing can probably go faster!” Be careful with power over 18v. I’ve heard reports of overheating wires, “gas” pedal sticking, etc.

        There is no adapter required to upgrade a Gator to 18v, though maybe I’m misunderstanding your question? The tricky part is getting charging working so that it’s easy for you to do (since your kid(s) will be draining the battery on the daily).

  24. David Dunn says:

    Awesome information-thanks for taking the time to share

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