DIY: Squeeze Extra Capacity From Old NiCd Batteries

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This time I’ll show you how to squeeze some extra capacity from old NiCd batteries.

How I did it - you can check by looking DIY video or you can follow up instructions bellow.

For this project you will need:

Materials:

NiCd Batteries

Tools:

Soldering iron

Screw driver

Knife

ImaxB6AC V2 or other smart charger

Step 1: Preparation

I got 3 18V batteries from old Ryobi cordless power tools. All I known - that those batteries are faulty or not holding charge. I want to check, does it possible to make 2 reasonably good batteries from 3 faulty.
First is need to take them apart and take a look, how everything looks inside. Sometimes it’s clearly visible bad cells.

Looks like someone already was fixing two battery packs before me. I forgot to show batteries voltages, but I remember that one pack was at 12V and two others at 8V.

Step 2: Charging...

The main tool for this process is Imax B6AC V2 charger.

First I charged all batteries fully up. They all nicely took charge and there was no need to make zapping process.

After full charge, I discharge each pack to 12V. Why 12V? This pack is made from 15 cells connected in series and safe limit to discharge each Ni-Cd cell is to 0,8V. 15 x 0,8 = 12V.
I repeat this process few times to eliminate any possible NiCd memory effect. Used cycle discharge/charge function.

Step 3: Discharging and Looking for Bad Cells

After that I take one by one cell and discharge them at 2A of load to 0,8V cut of voltage. Like I said 0,8V per cell is totally acceptable for NiCd cells. All results wrote on each cell.
And now I can see how good or bad are all three batteries.

Here is connected 15 NiCd cells in series. So battery is good, as good is worst cell connected in series. The idea is to take a look and find worst cells and replace them with betters.

Step 4: Testing Results

Here is some testing results. It’s clearly visible, that first and second batteries are better than third.
It’s definitely need to change 2 cells from first pack and three cells from second. Last battery will be a donor.

After some calculation I decided to replace some more cells in first battery, by using second battery pack best cells. Idea is to make one strong battery where cells capacity will be 1200mah or better.

In same method I’ll upgrade battery number two, that all cells will have 1000mah of capacity or more. Last battery pack will be a donor…

Step 5: Separating Good Cells

It’s time to disassemble battery and separate good from bad cells.
Because I’ll use same cell tabs, I’ll disconnected them very carefully. I used a knife and twisted under a tab. By applying tension, spot welds will pop out. It’s quite ‘tricky, so don’t rush and save your self. And of course - don’t short cells.

Step 6: Soldering...

Arranged cells in final battery shape and started soldering.

Step 7: Final Assembly

Time for re-assemble to battery housing.
If everything was done properly it should gives us around 18V.

Step 8: Conclusion

I checked battery capacity before disassembling and now I could compare it with battery capacity after cells regrouping. There was 1200mAh in beginning and after regrouping cells I got 1400mAh of capacity. It’s about 17% increase. Not bad at all.


So, if you’re working on NiCd batteries powered cordless power tools and have some issues with battery capacity - you could squeeze some extra of capacity like I did. Especially, when this fix cost almost nothing, just your time.

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    30 Discussions

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    FlyinngDolphin

    2 years ago

    Thank You. This is a great project if you just casually use your tools. Batteries are way too $$$$.

    I have a dozen old Ryobi 18 volt batteries that I was someday going to rebuild.

    But I am too busy with my tools and found the new Lithium Ion Batteries are well worth the price especially if you can wait for a holiday sale.

    Now they will go to the yearly hazmat collection or back to HD for recycling.

    I might even consider rebuilding them using 18650 Lithium Ion Batteries If I knew a way to charge them without causing an explosion. Also finding quality 18650 batteries that do not have fake capacities at a reasonable price would be a challenge.

    1 reply
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    TonyC41FlyinngDolphin

    Reply 2 years ago

    Get a laptop battery and pull it apart for your 18650 batteries. You can get `new` old stock dead cheap on eBay. I got one with 12 batteries for £6 ($10) and they were Panasonic 2200mAh!! Absloute Bargain!!

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    SA007

    2 years ago

    Soldering directly on batteries is a bad idea, you have to heat the end of the battery to more than 200 degrees celcius to solder them.

    A better idea is to cut the tab in half, bend them a bit away from the battery and solder a bit of wire between the tabs.

    That way you have a lot less thermal stress on the batteries which is really bad for them, batteries can explode if you heat them too much.

    5 replies
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    Yonatan24SA007

    Reply 2 years ago

    Better than nothing...

    If you solder the wire really quickly, and cool the battery off really quickly, I doubt anything would happen... If one of them catches of fire, make sure to leave a window open! ;)

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    ac-dcYonatan24

    Reply 2 years ago

    Wrong chemistry, NiMH and NiCd don't catch fire, instead venting gas and electrolyte, reducing the already low capacity of an old cell.

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    harvschac-dc

    Reply 2 years ago

    But they can ignite their packaging materials. Ask me how I know.
    I managed to get it outside before black smoke started to pour out of the battery and hot plastic dripped from where the heat from a shorted cell melted through the case.

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    TCSC47SA007

    Reply 2 years ago

    You also assist yourself to get a better solder joint because you can heat up the thin metal connection to the required temperature more easily. Particularly a good idea if you have a small iron.

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    leon.t.gibsonSA007

    Reply 2 years ago

    Glad you pointed this out SA007. NiCd and NMh cells actually have vents that can be compromised if you are not careful when soldering to them. Safety first!

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    RaymondR6

    2 years ago

    I have revived bad NiCad cells from the "shorted" malady or ailment by striking (hitting) the electrodes with the contacts of a car battery charger (uses rectified and unfiltered 12 volts) for a few times. Sparks fly because of the internal short, but that fuses open the short and revives the cell.

    3 replies
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    JPcreoRaymondR6

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi thanks for the tip. I'm not clear on the connection. You quickly touch the battery positive with the charger positive? and so on with the negative to negative? Thanks again for your time.

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    Nwerd714RaymondR6

    Reply 2 years ago

    bon jour,

    I'm not sure if this applies to these types of batteries as well, but for lead acid batteries, I've seen a video that explains how some batteries build up small sulphate crystals, but long gaps between charges make the amorphous lead crystal become a stable crystalline deposit from negative side to the positive (reducing active material) and that's why they lose performance. However, by "zapping" the terminals with a short burst of high current (like a car battery charger), it breaks the crystal and is allowed to be reused until it builds up again from one side to another (which is what I do too & is kinda bad, mm k). I've heard to overcharge it at about 200mA-ish per cell (15v or 16v on a 12v) for up to a day and get the battery warm to help dissolve crystals again works better. Haven't tried it, but there's a scientist somewhere who has & id believe him before myself

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    jimvandammeRaymondR6

    Reply 2 years ago

    I've zapped many a NiCd this way and got most of them to work. For a while.

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    rcada

    2 years ago

    I have found Black&Decker & Ryobi batteries were the worst to hold charges. I just scraped them and invested in lithium ion cells and Makita equipment. No problems how and they work every time I go to use them and I do use them a lot

    Good work to make one good battery out of three.

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    e5frog

    2 years ago

    Seems nice, might be cheaper to buy new cells than to get one of those chargers though.

    2 replies
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    TCSC47e5frog

    Reply 2 years ago

    You will find that the B6AC battery charger is extremely useful and versatile. Mine cost only £20 from China. It might be a copy but it works fine. Difficult to understand how to use it though because the instructions are in Chinglish.

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    e5frogTCSC47

    Reply 2 years ago

    Wonderful Chinglish, if you feel down, grab one of those manuals and have a good laugh. ;-)
    It's a nice instructable, very useful if you have more time than money on your hands. I was worried about the heat problem but I see it was addressed already in the comments with a good tip how to better mount those batteries together again.
    I put a PSU and a cord on mine, rarely use the tool so the batteries are always either discharged or need to be in the charger. If sizes match you can put the PSU inside the battery compartment.

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    TCSC47

    2 years ago

    Good one.

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    SiemensWindPower

    2 years ago

    Done the same work a lot of times during the last couple of years.

    I discovered that mostly it's just a single cell which collapsed.

    Just by-pass the faulty cell with a heavy insulated wire. The battery pack then drops from 18 volt to 16.8 volt which is ok for the most machines for common diy work

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    LloydEwing

    2 years ago

    My experience from trying to make solder connections on ni-cad AA
    batteries is that after soldering the batteries will only last a short
    time. They seem to be OK for a little while, but even it you are trying
    to rebuild a battery pack with new cells soldering damages them so
    badly that they don't last. I like the suggestion from przemek if you
    are trying to reuse old cells. Otherwise you need a small spot welder
    like one from the Instructables I have seen in the past.