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How to Tell If a Lithium-ion Battery is Bad?

2023-12-15
As lithium-ion battery technology has advanced, the likelihood of mishaps has significantly lessened. However, it's still crucial to recognize the signs of a faulty battery. Key indicators include diminished battery life, lower voltage levels, rapid self-discharge, excessive heat, and physical swelling. These symptoms are vital to identify for safe and efficient battery use.

In this blog, we'll discuss how to check for battery failure in lithium-ion devices.

 

Types of Lithium-Ion Batteries

 

  • Lithium Cobalt Oxide: Common in phones and computers, these batteries typically last 2-3 years.

 

  • Lithium Manganese Oxide: Used in medical devices, these have a longer life of 10-20 years.

 

  • Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP): Found in electric motorcycles, these can last over 12 years.

 

  • Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC): Mainly used in long-lasting electric vehicles, offering up to ten years of service.

 

  • Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide: Employed in electric vehicles, these batteries have a minimum five-year lifespan.

 

  • Lithium Titanate: Used in electric buses, solar energy systems, and military applications, boasting a lifespan of at least 30 years.

 

Causes of Lithium-Ion Battery Failure

 

Despite the resilience of lithium-ion batteries and the protection offered by Battery Management Systems (BMS), they remain susceptible to damage from both internal and external factors:

Internally, issues can arise from within the manufacturing process, including overpricing, the use of inferior materials, and careless production practices.

Externally, environmental elements like temperature fluctuations, humidity, varying air pressure, and physical stress or impact can also affect battery health and performance.

 

The Signs of a Bad Lithium Ion Battery

 

If you've ever used a gadget with a lithium-ion battery, like a smartphone or laptop, you know these batteries don't last indefinitely. They can start deteriorating just a few years after purchase. Here are seven signs that your lithium-ion battery might be failing:

 

Longer Charging Times: If charging takes longer than usual, it could mean your battery's capacity is decreasing. This is an early sign of battery failure.

 

Shorter Battery Life: When your device doesn't hold a charge as long as it used to, it's a clear sign of battery wear.

 

Overheating During Charging: If your device gets unusually hot while charging, it's a red flag that your battery might need replacing.

 

Inability to Charge: If your device won't charge at all, this often points to a dead battery.

 

Unexpected Power Offs: If your device shuts down unexpectedly, even with sufficient charge, it's likely a battery issue.

 

Inaccurate Battery Indicator: A battery indicator that misrepresents the remaining charge is a common symptom of a failing battery.

 

Sluggish Device Response: Slow performance can indicate a weak battery, although other factors like data overload or software issues can also contribute.

 

To check a lithium-ion battery, use a multimeter

 

To measure a battery's voltage using a multimeter, start by turning it on and setting it to the voltage measurement mode. Next, connect the red probe to the positive side of the battery, and then attach the black probe to the negative side. Once the probes are connected, observe the voltage reading on the multimeter. If the reading is negative, this indicates that the probes are connected inversely and you should switch them. To obtain a more precise measurement, you can adjust the multimeter using the knob to fine-tune the reading to the desired level. This process will give you an accurate assessment of the battery's voltage.

Remember, batteries naturally degrade over time. Watch for these signs and replace your battery appropriately to avoid issues like reduced performance or potential overheating.

 

Testing a Faulty Lithium-Ion Battery

 

To check the health of a battery cell using a multimeter, first connect the multimeter to the battery's terminals. Ensure the multimeter is powered on and set it to the "DC Voltage" mode. Then, place the probes on the battery's terminals to check the voltage level. If you observe a significant drop in voltage, such as below 3.5 volts for a battery that is rated at 3.7 volts, it suggests that the battery may be damaged. Additionally, to test the battery's capacity, you should fully discharge the battery and measure its voltage. A voltage reading lower than expected at full discharge indicates a reduced capacity, pointing towards potential issues with the battery's health.

 

Replace the battery promptly if it shows signs of damage to avoid potential hazards.

 

Extending Battery Life

 

Use Quality Chargers: Always charge with a high-quality charger specific to lithium-ion batteries.

 

Avoid Overcharging: Continuous overcharging diminishes battery life. Don't leave batteries charging overnight unless necessary.

 

Prevent Over-discharging: Keep the charge above 50% when possible and never completely drain the battery.

 

Store in Appropriate Conditions: Keep batteries in a cool, dry environment to avoid damage from extreme temperatures and moisture.

 

Choose Reputable Brands: Opt for trusted manufacturers over cheap imitations to ensure battery quality and safety.

 

Preventing Premature Death of Batteries

 

Avoid Extreme Temperatures: Protect batteries from excessive heat and cold.

 

Maintain Charge Levels: A fully charged battery tends to have a longer lifespan.

 

Regular Use: Batteries used regularly typically last longer than those seldom used.

 

Proper Storage: When not in use, store batteries in a cool, dry place.

 

Don’t Overcharge: Overcharging can lead to malfunction and reduced lifespan.

 

Conclusion

 

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in power tools, laptops, and cell phones due to their rechargeability and lightweight nature. However, they have a limited lifespan and can start degrading within a few years. Watch out for some warning signs to determine if your lithium-ion battery is failing. If you notice any issues, it's time to consider replacing the battery in your device.

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