Battery Care

Battery Care Tips
Rechargeable Battery Tips
Battery Power

Battery Care Tips

Rub 'em the right way: Lightly rub both ends of batteries with a clean pencil eraser before putting them in your equipment. This removes any thin corrosion film and improves the flow of current. Even better: Get a Battery Saver, Power Pen, or a similar contact cleaner pen from your photo dealer. These little gadgets combine a glass-fiber brush and a corrosion-inhibiting fluid that keeps your batteries working to their max.

Use cloth gloves: Wear thin cloth gloves or use a clean handkerchief to grasp button cells when installing them. Sweat from your fingers can corrode battery surfaces or camera contacts during the time the cells will be used. Wipe suspected fingerprints with a cotton swab or a napkin lightly dampened with Isopropyl or Denatured alcohol.

Inspect the compartment: Examine the battery compartments in all of your equipment every few months to be sure that the batteries are not leaking. A timely inspection can save a lot of grief and expense. If the contacts have been exposed to leaky batteries, they may be corroded beyond help. If they're OK, you can keep the contacts clean with a Power Pen.

Take 'em out: If you're not going to use certain photo gear for a few months, remove the batteries. That way, they can't leak in your equipment and cause serious damage. No mixing: using more than one brand of rechargeable batteries in the same camera is a major-league no-no.

Replace the whole set: Always replace alkaline cells as a set. You will not get good performance from three half-used cells and one new one. Recycle partially rundown cells into a flashlight or radio.

Start anew with fresh batteries- Check the freshness date on the package when buying batteries. Sometimes the date is imprinted directly on the individual cells and is a bit difficult to find. If there is no freshness date, the batteries are really old! Don't accept batteries that are displayed in a store window or are hanging on a rack in a general-purpose store where no one may buy fresh batteries for months or years. They probably have been exposed to excessive heat and could be dried out.

Keep them cool: Seal spare alkaline or other non-rechargeable batteries in a plastic bag and keep them in a cool place. A basement or refrigerator is OK, but it's not necessary to freeze batteries. Let the batteries warm up and be sure they are completely free of condensation before you unwrap and use them.

Rechargeables need TLC: Rechargeable batteries require a bit more attention than alkalines and other nonrechargeables. Their higher purchase price justifies the extra attention. As soon as you get them, mark each set of four rechargeable cells with a marking pen. As with non-rechargeable batteries, always keep rechargeable batteries together as a set. If your flash or motordrive uses four cells, replace all four at the same time, even though only one is defective. Cells lose capacity as they age. 

Rechargeable Battery Tips

Don't ever attempt to use a new set of nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal hydride batteries without giving them a full charge. At best, a new set is likely to be completely run down and won't work. At worst, each cell will have a different amount of charge left. If so, trying to use them without a fresh charge will reverse charge one of your new cells and wreck it right out of the box! This is particularly important when using multicell battery packs such as video batteries. Do not try to repair busted rechargeables! New cells' storage capacities will improve a bit after two or three thorough rundowns and recharges. If your recharger does not have a run-down feature, just keep your camera on until the batteries are out of juice. Alternatively, put the batteries in a penlight and keep the light on until the bulb starts to dim. Do not keep it on overnight though, because that could damage the cells.

Do not put regular nickel-cadmium cells into a one-hour charger. While some chargers have special safety features to prevent fast charging of slow charge cells, theirs do not. Slow charge cells can leak or burst if subjected to high charging currents. Even if the cells don't burst, charging cells too fast is likely to shorten their life.

Do not use rechargeable batteries in devices where instructions say not to. This applies to recently introduced products as well as vintage gear. Rechargeable batteries could overheat and damage the device. (A compelling reason to actually read directions!)

Do not mix different brands of rechargeable cells. Most brands have their energy storage capacity in milliamperehours (MAH) or ampere-hours printed clearly on each cell. Some don't, so you may not always know exactly what you have. The capacity of a nickel-cadmium AA cell can be anywhere from 450 to 850, depending on the brand, model, and how long ago it was made. Nickel-metal hydride AA cells can have from 1,000 to 1,600 MAH capacities. Here, again, mixing cells of different capacities can cause permanent damage.

Do not leave your batteries in the charger for weeks on end. This, too, can cause them to lose water. Charge the batteries when you're through using them and put them away.

Do not charge your batteries if they are still warm from previous use. Fast chargers, in particular, usually rely on temperature as one factor in controlling the charging process. If the batteries are already quite warm when you start charging them, the charge could be stopped too soon or too late.

Do not discharge a nickel-cadmium or metal-hydride battery by shorting it with a wire. The battery will overheat, lose water, and be permanently damaged! You could also be burned by the wire. It gets hot!

Do not carry spare batteries rattling around loose in your pocket or camera bag. They can short out against each other or against other metal objects and cause a fire. Bundle cylindrical cells like AAs with a rubber band and put them in plastic bag.

Do not discard any battery in a fire. They will most likely burst and injure someone.

Do not mix different battery types in your equipment. Use either all alkaline, all nickel-cadmium, or all nickel-metal hydride cells. Mixing different types is likely to permanently damage the rechargeable cells by reverse charging or it may cause alkaline cells to leak or burst!

Do not charge alkaline or other nonchargeable cells. They are likely to leak, burst, or explode. Exceptions? Ray-O-Vac makes a line of rechargeable alkalines.

Do not drop batteries. The impact can cause unseen, but insidious damage and greatly shorten their life. This is especially important with rechargeable cells because of their long life expectancy and greater cost.

Finally, do not go on a vacation trip without spare batteries. 

Battery Power

To obtain accurate readings from a meter, be sure the batteries that power it are in good condition. Cameras that have other automatic features, such as autofocus, auto-wind and rewind, and built-in flash depend even more on battery power. Many cameras have a battery-check indicator to tell you when batteries are okay; it's a good practice to check this indicator frequently, especially before an important shooting event such as a party or vacation.

If your camera doesn't have a battery checking device and the exposure meter behaves erratically or the camera doesn't operate normally, it's probably time to replace the batteries. Clean contacts are important too; if batteries seem weak, clean the contacts in your camera and on the batteries with a rough cloth or pencil eraser. Most batteries will last about a year in normal use, although lithium batteries usually last longer. Actual battery life will depend on the number of battery-dependent features your camera has and how many rolls of film you shoot. When AA batteries are required, use alkaline batteries.

Remember, too, that batteries weaken quickly in cold weather. It's a good idea to carry a set of spare batteries. In the winter, put them in an inside pocket to keep them warm, and then switch them when the batteries in your camera become weak. Battery strength returns when cold batteries warm up.

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