Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Dead Battery Saga

Man, has it been 11 days all ready since I have posted? So much has happened since then.

This past weekend the family and I met up with the Discount Man at Fire Mountain for some grubbin'. Fire Mountain is a buffet style steak joint. Al you can eat steak, chicken, etc. Fun, fun, fun. DM brought with him the batteries I had ordered. They arrived in the mail! Yay! And here is what they looked like before I ripped them apart. As you can see, they are cellular phone batteries. But inside is the cells that I wanted.

That evening I got right to work at ripping them apart. Inside each pack was what I was looking for. Lithium Ion 18650 battery cells. And each one has some juice to it. About 3 volts each. Not bad. It was some work removing all the little clips to the batteries which were lightly soldered on.

It took about an hour to gut them all, destroying the crappy plastic cases in the process.

The next step was a bit tricky. When I gutted the original battery, I tore the very thin leads going to several of the battery cells. Woops. Which wasn't so bad really, because I knew I couldn't use the original guts anyway. They had been soldered on somehow, and I had decided that I would NOT be applying heat to the batteries. This makes them VERY dangerous. So I followed my own advice, and used a thin metal, with a "puched" divit. The material? A sliced up coffee can. Worked NICE! Very thin metal, and excellent conductor, and extremely easy to solder onto.

In the end, I squeezed all the batteries into place, and found that they were all applying pressure to each other, and forcing the metal strips to make good contact. It couldn't have gone better really. I was pleased. I did find it dificult to put the batteries lid back on, but that didn't really bother me yet. I strapped some electrical tape over everything to hold it in place for testing purposes.

Once into the laptop ... it was a waiting game. Immediately after inserting the battery it was "picked up" and detected by the iBook. That's good! And here we were at 0 percent. Waiting now ...

The picture sucks. But what we are looking at here is a battery monitor. Showing a long charge of nothing, and then "battery removed". But I didnt remove it. It was still in there ... and dead. Conclusion? Failure.

Where did I go wrong?
After a lot of testing with the multi-meter I came to the conlusion that it was nothing I did. In fact, my work was extremely clean. It didn't stop me from tearing it all apart, and rebuilding it again which had no effect.

So I started reading again. I came across something interesting. Someone had posted that he watched an Apple technician "spark" a battery. He pushed some pins into the first and last pin connectors on the battery and crossed them for a second. POP! This would "reset" the circuitry inside the battery which may have given up on the cells. Sounded interesting. So I tried it. I got no spark. Hrm. Not cool? But then, my battery was holding less than 1 percent of a charge.

After about the third disassembly I crossed something, causing a small electrical fire and some smoke to pour out. I blew a voltage regulator. Woops. It seemed to still be functioning, but that can't be good on the circuits.

I also found a post that said "if your battery only charges while in sleep mode, or when shut off, you have a bad circuit board in your battery". So I tried it. Several times. Popping the lid open and shut. About the time I gave up ... BANG! The battery meter jumped to 10, 13 and then 18 percent. So I unlplugged the cable, and the laptop shit right off. Low and behold, it was a fluke. I was lied to. It hadn't charged at all. It would be the only time the meter ever moved off of zero.

In the end, the project has been a waste of time, patience, and $37.00. I figure I will keep the cells around. Buy another battery that works. And if the next one ever fails, I will try this experiment again.

Bottom line? Don't try this at home. :-)

Current mood: Defeated

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