Introduction: Garden Lights

Picture of Garden Lights

Garden Lights are easy to care for and last for years, put them out in the spring, bring them in in the fall, this is a good time to wash them, store them over the winter with the batteries out, and replace the batteries every two years, beyond that you can forget about them. However my neighbors just buy them put them out and forget about them until they don’t work and then throw them out, this is where I come in.

I love my neighbors garbage this box of garden lights was about to end up in the landfill until I came along, 25 solar garden lights, and new replacement batteries. Now to begin with batteries are not supposed to go to the land fill we have a special collection for them where I live, let alone plastics are recyclable and so are the electronics.

It didn’t take me long to find out why they were thrown out most of them were beyond repair.

Step 1: Sorting the Good From the Bad

Picture of Sorting the Good From the Bad

I started by separating and tested the batteries from the box the ones that did not have a charge I will put in a charger later and see if they will hold a charge.

Normally when I get a box like this I sort them visually into two groups smashed beyond repair and not smashed, then I go through the not smashed and sort them by working, repairable, and not repairable. To do this I take them apart, inspect them, and test them.

These lights are easy to dissemble they just clip together there is only 1 screw to hold the circuit board in place and a little calking to hold the solar panel in place, most of the solar panels were loose because the calking degraded from exposure.

Step 2: Testing the Lights

Picture of Testing the Lights

To test the lights I removed the lenses from the top, then I removed the battery and replaced it with a good one. When the light came on I exposed the solar cell to the sun to see if the light went out. If the light did not come on I opened the head and examined the insides.

Oxide on the solar cell is easy to repair and most of the time won’t interfere with testing. To repair this see my Instructable “Making a 1 Watt Solar Array”.

On the ones that did not work I found that the wires circuit boards and switches were oxidized beyond repair.

Step 3: Washing the Lights

Picture of Washing the Lights

Now that I have sorted the good from the bad I give the lights a good wash and dry, any good detergent will do, then I fix any repairs, and assemble the lights.

Step 4: The Last Test

Picture of The Last Test

I take the assembled lights outside and find a place where the lights will receive the best daylight and wait for nightfall. And that night I go out and see if they are working.


victlai (author)2015-03-13

Hi i would like to know where do I can get replace garden recharge batteries aa. those normal recharge batteries not suitable out door sun light .

Thank you for inform

Josehf Murchison (author)victlai2015-03-22

Try your local hardware.

DarrenO2 (author)2015-01-30

What if the lights stay on when exposed to sunlight?

That can be short, a defective component, not enough light, or a broken wire.

ok thank you. I will check it out sometime soon.

Draftmen888 (author)2014-08-20

This lights iare amazing.

Thanks for post!

Your welcome


SpringRobin (author)2014-01-16

Great instructible... I have a pile of old garden lights in the garage.

If you have troubles fixing them get back to me.

Will do - thanks

MorganGardiner (author)2014-01-15

Awesome execution here.


ninja baby (author)2013-09-25

sir tnx 4 allowng me to ask some i dnt knw,i built a 3 garden lights to convert usb charger.wired in series gvng me 8volts i put a diode and capacitor16v 1000uf. and 6 battries frm mobile rated each 3,7volts in parallel 750mah each one.i dvide ths 6 batt to 2 bank.each rated 3.7v 3x750mah.the banks charged well but i cant charged my android phone rated 3.7v, 1200mah. is it safe sir to use in parallel the banks 3.7volts at max of 4500 system works in radio,led lights and speaker box only.but not on my android device.pls help sir. i posted in my fb gavrel de fiesta.

3 garden lights in series giving 8 volts with a diode and a capacitor OK.

The capacitor is fine.

Is the diode a 1N5817 or equivalent?

It may only be putting out 100 ma, did you check the charging current?

Batteries not in use charge more easily than devices, because the device sucks part of the charging current.

Depending on your charging current you may need two or more sets of three solar cells in parallel like this pic to charge a device.

And last did you check the voltage with the circuit loaded?

See my Instructable Circuit Testing.


ninja baby (author)2013-09-19

im learning with ur guide sir tnx a lot

Any way I can help if you have a question just ask.

ninja baby (author)2013-09-19

im learning with ur guide sir tnx a lot

cccrover (author)2013-08-08

step 2, 'replace with new battery and expose to sun and see if light went out'... what to do if the light does not go out??... thanks...

I get so many of them I just strip it for parts however if that isn’t your case.

Open it up and clean the dirt off the circuit board and make sure all the wires are connected.

If it is just a photo cell make sure it is connected to the circuit and generating electricity.

If it is a photo cell and a photoresistor make sure the photo resistor is connected to the circuit and the resistance changes with light.

If you do all of these things and the light doesn’t go out replace the circuit board.



davelane24 (author)2013-06-18

Great stuff. Voted for you


foobear (author)2013-06-09

I love these things, but they always expire after a year or so. Now I know how to repair them, thank you!

Kevanf1 (author)2013-06-08

Brilliant (no pun intended). This has inspired me to go and check out the solar powered lights on the two bird tables in our garden.

Josehf Murchison (author)Kevanf12013-06-08

Take credit for the pun.

Kevanf1 (author)Josehf Murchison2013-06-08

He, he :) The best ones always come unbidden.

Josehf Murchison (author)Kevanf12013-06-08


l8nite (author)2013-06-01

solar lights are one of my favorite finds when curb mining, I use a rag dampened with vinegar to clean the solar collectors and let the plastic "globes" soak in a 5 gallon bucket half full of water and a cup of vinegar. Vinegar also helps clean up corrosion from the battery connectors. Thank you for sharing your project

Josehf Murchison (author)l8nite2013-06-02

Turned out to be a rich vain that day from my curb mine.

I do the same thing vinegar works really well, and it doesn’t bother the electronics.

Unfortunately three feet of snow is normal here, it buries the lights and rusts everything made of steel and vinegar just won’t fix that I wish it did.

I’m not worried I still got 8 good lights out of the deal and a whole bunch of good batteries.

rimar2000 (author)2013-05-31

I envy your fortune, my neighbors don't throw anything to the waste, even a broke lid.

Oh well then this will make you very envious I am collecting as many as I can, I plan to make a solar array large enough to power my house with no cost other than my time.

HavocRC (author)2013-05-31

You would probably get more view if you named the i'ble "Fixing Garden Lights" or "Restoring Garden Lights" rather than just "Garden Lights".

Josehf Murchison (author)HavocRC2013-05-31

It is in the tags you just can’t see them all.

arkangel1975 (author)2013-05-31

one thought, they make some really good rechargers that include some great restoration features, full load testing, ma/hr drain testing. I bought one a few years back and never regretted it, a little costly, about 70 USD, but worth it.

I have one and yea they are expensive but there worth it.

About This Instructable




Bio: I am a photographer, a tinker, an electronics technology engineer, and author; I write short stories and poetry for the love of writing. I started ... More »
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