How to Tell if a Rechargeable Drill Battery is Bad?

Testing Drill Battery

Rechargeable drill batteries are expensive. It’s a shame to throw them away! However, sometimes a battery has lived its life, and it’s time to get something new. 

Rechargeable batteries have an expected lifespan given by the manufacturer. If your drill battery is losing power and in line with the expected lifespan, it’s probably time for a new battery. 

There are ways to extend your battery’s charge, and there are also more specific ways to examine your battery’s effective life. 

We will go over ways to assess your battery’s life, what types of batteries last the longest, and how you can optimize your drill’s battery life. 

Ways to Test the Battery Life of Your Cordless Drill 

Before you throw away your cordless drill battery, you want to make sure the battery is actually dead. Now, for those who are mechanically inclined, there may be more advanced techniques you can use to revive or replace a rechargeable battery pack. 

However, working with batteries can be dangerous, so for our purposes, we will stick with handling the batteries in a simple, straightforward fashion. 

So, here are several ways to tell if your cordless drill battery has gone bad: 

  1. Do the charge test 
  2. Use a multimeter 
  3. Battery smoking
  4. Prolonged improper storage 

Alight, let’s go over these in more detail. 

Charge Test for Drill Batteries 

The charge test for your batteries is very straightforward. First, you determine the appropriate amount of time required to charge the battery based on the manufacturers’ recommendations. You then make sure you have a working charger. 

Place the battery on the charger and allow it to charge for the designated period. If, after allowing the battery ample time to charge, your drill still isn’t operating properly, then it’s time to invest in a new battery. 

Note: though rare, there are times when the drill itself could fail. It would be a shame to throw away perfectly useable batteries just because you assumed they were the problem. Be sure to check the drill’s usability with a working battery to ensure you don’t make this mistake. 

Use a Multimeter to Test Your Cordless Drill Battery 

There is more than one way to climb a mountain. And, there is more than one way to test a drill battery. A multimeter is a very useful tool around the house and in the garage. 

Basically, a multimeter will measure your battery’s function and give you a numerical value associated with the function of that battery. 

How do you use a multimeter to test your cordless drill battery?

First, make sure the multimeter is properly functioning. After this, take your battery and charge it according to the manufacturer’s recommended charge time. 

Then, you will apply the probes to the positive and negative terminals of the battery. 

After this, you will get a voltage reading on your multimeter. If you have an 18-volt battery, you should read 19 volts on the multimeter. This ensures you have a properly functioning battery. 

However, if you get a reading below the listed battery voltage, your battery is likely in need of replacement.  

Why is My Cordless Drill Battery Smoking? 

If you have a smoking drill battery, be very careful. A battery that has overheated or shorted out is a fire hazard. You should move the drill and the battery away from anything flammable. 

It’s not very common for new batteries to short out and begin to smoke; however, it can still happen – especially if the batteries have been stored improperly or exposed to moisture. 

If you ever run into a battery with a strange smell or a battery that is overheating, it’s best to properly dispose or recycle the battery and move on to something new. 

Batteries That Have Been Improperly Stored 

Another clear indicator your battery has gone bad (and is likely past reviving) is if it’s been improperly stored. 

Every manufacturer will have a slightly different recommendation for how their batteries should be stored. Some tools have a more robust battery. Others do not. 

Regardless, most batteries have been made to function and store best around room temperature. 

If you found some old battery out in your uninsulated shed, and you know the battery went through below-freezing temperatures, then the battery probably isn’t coming back to life. 

Similarly, if the battery was left in the back of a hot car all summer and baked in the scorching heat, then the battery will have trouble functioning effectively. 

In the next section, we will go over the different types of batteries used in cordless drills. This will help you line your battery up with similar models on the market and determine if your battery is at the end of its life. 

Best Cordless Drill Batteries 

This section will go over some of the characteristics of the different types of batteries used in cordless drills. There are three main battery types. Each has advantages and disadvantages. 

While lithium-ion batteries are generally considered the best batteries for modern cordless drills, it can still help to know about the other battery types and how they react to different environments. 

Here are the three main battery types: 

  1. Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)
  2. Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)
  3. Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)

There they are, now let’s look at how they perform. 

Nickel Cadmium Batteries 

NiCd batteries are the oldest battery technology on this list. There are a few things to like about this battery type; however, there are also some serious disadvantages. 

Pros: NiCd batteries have a pretty long lifespan, and they are resistant to temperature changes. They are durable batteries. These batteries can withstand many recharges and are relatively inexpensive.

Cons: Unfortunately, these batteries have downsides. These batteries are usually slow to charge and tend to have a memory. This means they need to be kept charged consistently; otherwise, they will begin to lose charge. Also, they will passively leak charge faster than the others on this list. 

Finally, these batteries are pretty heavy, making them somewhat awkward to carry around a worksite. 

Nickel Metal Hydride 

NiMH batteries are sort of a mix of some of the pros and cons of NiCd and Li-Ion. NiMH reduces some of the weight of the NiCd; however, it still struggles with some problems. Let’s go over some pros and cons. 

Pros: these are cheaper batteries than lithium-ion, but they still offer more power than NiCd. They are relatively light, and they aren’t as harmful to the environment. 

They will also last longer than NiCd batteries. 

Cons: These batteries will rapidly deteriorate if they are stored in improper temperatures. They don’t do well with deep discharge (running the battery completely dry); however, they may require discharging once per month. 

Finally, they will discharge relatively quickly, even when not in use. 

Lithium-Ion Batteries 

Lithium-ion batteries are the new thing in rechargeable battery technology. Indeed, they have many advantages over the previous two battery types we have discussed. 

Li-Ion batteries aren’t just new. They’re getting newer. In the days ahead, we could see continuing advancement in their efficiency. 

Pros: Much more efficient battery. They leak very little power when sitting. They can be charged quickly. These batteries are extremely light, making it easy to work on the job site. 

Li-ion batteries have very little maintenance needs. You won’t need to discharge and recharge them constantly. Also, the battery packs can be built into almost any shape, further cutting down on bulk. 

These batteries don’t slowly die like other batteries. Almost like gasoline engines, when the battery is done, it’s done. There is no extended period of whining down to nothing. 

Cons: Of course, being the best and brightest, li-ion batteries are expensive. If you need to buy a replacement battery, you may find that the battery is more expensive than the actual tool. 

The net number of charges a li-ion battery can take is less than the other batteries listed. Finally, li-ion batteries are sensitive to heat. If you leave them exposed to direct heat for too long, you could end up with a debilitated battery. 

How to Maintain Your Cordless Drill Battery Life

With all this talk about expensive batteries, naturally, you’re wondering how to make your cordless drill battery last as long as possible. 

It’s important to remember that all battery-powered tools have a lifespan. You will never make batteries last forever, certainly not with the same effectiveness. So, to save yourself frustration, just expect to have to change regularly used batteries every couple of years. 

Here are some ways to extend battery life: 

  1. Proper storage 
  2. Frequently changing the battery 
  3. For some, deep discharges

How to Store Your Drill Batteries 

Like so many things in this world, how you store them makes a difference. For drill batteries, avoid extremes of temperature. Keep the batteries stored in a dry place where they won’t freeze in the winter or cook in the summer. 

Also, keep your batteries away from all moisture. Water should never seep into your battery pack. 

Change Your Battery Frequently 

Don’t always run your battery down to nothing. Indeed, NiCd batteries do best when recharged at 70 percent discharge.

A fully charged battery will better take care of the job at hand. 

Some Batteries Need to be Discharged 

NiCD batteries have been known to have a memory. They get used to getting recharged before they are fully used, thus reducing their capacity in the long run. 

Not all batteries are the same; however, some may require you to completely discharge and recharge the battery once a month. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for this type of battery maintenance. 

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