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Thread: NiCads & temperature

  1. #1
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    Default NiCads & temperature

    Another request of the fount of knowledge.

    I have a 12 or so YO set of Dewalt cordless 18V tools with NiCad batteries. Been great & they've seen a lot of use. However, I brought them to do a winter cover frame on my brother's boat this weekend & the battery life was awful. Conditions were 25F, 20+MPH wind. The impact driver went dead after driving 15-20 2 1/2" sheetrock screws & the skilsaw died after 4 2x4 cuts.

    Last heavy usage was in August when I could drive 100 or so screws of similar length.

    2 batteries are 5-6 YO Dewalt brand (4 or 5AH?) & 2 are 1 YO eBay 6AH replacements. The replacements have not been as good as the Dewalt brand ones, but I was really surprised at how poorly all lasted. All 4 had been fully charged the day before & kept indoors the night before - though by the time we used 'em they were probably close to ambient temp.

    I do get that more modern batteries are more better - but is the drastic reduction in these temps to be expected?
    Last edited by Garret; 11-23-2022 at 07:10 AM. Reason: corrected battery age
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  2. #2
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Well... see... FIRST you move to somewhere civilized... <G>

    I'm no battery tech, but have been educated a smidge by my tool repair shop. My understanding of the potential issues follows ---

    Yes, NiCad's are inferior to LiIon, in most particulars. Esp. including efficiency lost to colder temps. Also, if you've ever completely discharged any of your batteries, you might have reversed some of the cells polarities. Which means the battery never again achieves a total recharge. The fix is to totally discharge the battery, 'balance' the individual cells (I think the shop has to do that) and start over. NiCads are also vulnerable to the 'memory effect' which can limit their capacity.

    Also - some tools have better 'smart electronics' for optimizing your batteries. Milwaukee, Bosch, and Makita, for example, have good reputations in that department. DeWalt, I'm not so sure. My impression is... they put that money into marketing.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    my experience also is/was nicads don't/didn't like extreme cold.. guess the electrons have trouble moving on out? anymore, I sure do! (-:

    and it's (fortunately!) been too long since for me to remember particulars..

  4. #4
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Thanks guys. Dewalt is pretty much the go-to brand for most contractors around here - though most have upgraded to lithium 20 volt versions. These tools have done me very, very well. In fact, I have corrected the OP as, the Dewalt brand batteries are not original, but replacements I got - 5-6 years ago.

    Guess I don't consider 25F to be extreme - though that wind (especially over the warmer water) made it pretty nasty to work in.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  5. #5
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Well - I guess I answered my own question - but why didn't I think of this sooner? Not so bright I guess...

    Overnight I charged up the battery that only made 4 2x4 cuts on Sunday. In the shop, which is currently @ 45F, I put it in the same skilsaw & made 25 cuts & ran out of 2x4 scrap I was willing to turn into kindling. The battery was not done at that point.

    So - I guess these NiCads really are temperature sensitive.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  6. #6
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Quote Originally Posted by Garret View Post
    Thanks guys. Dewalt is pretty much the go-to brand for most contractors around here - though most have upgraded to lithium 20 volt versions. These tools have done me very, very well. In fact, I have corrected the OP as, the Dewalt brand batteries are not original, but replacements I got - 5-6 years ago.

    Guess I don't consider 25F to be extreme - though that wind (especially over the warmer water) made it pretty nasty to work in.
    I have a full set of the Dewalt NiCad tools. When the sawzall died, it was going to be expensive to replace. A 6 tool LiIon set was only twice as much.

    Now I have both sets with a few doubles, but all the old batteries were dying with replacements pretty expensive. Instead of retiring the old tools, I found a couple of cheap battery adapters which allow the use of 2ah batteries on the older tools. This worked out very well, and I can recommend going that route.

    Keep the old tools, buy the new one's when needed, buy only new Li-Ion batteries. Don't worry about the temperature, the new batteries seem to hold a charge regardless.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    That may be the best answer. Amazon has 2 2.0Li batteries and the adapter & charger for $99. People seem to complain about how hard it is to remove the adapter from the tool - but I bet it's the same issue as aftermarket batteries - just file the tabs a bit & it'll be fine.

    One think I don't like is that it seems you can't leave the batteries in the tools.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  8. #8
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    For some reason I just imagined little two stroke engines on all these battery powered tools buzzing away like model airplanes idling at 2000 rpm with clouds of Castrol scented smoke flowing out of a workspace.

  9. #9
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    Default

    If you have decade old batteries, they are likely pretty far past their peak.

    BatteriesPlus can rebuild them, with new cells (most battery packs like that are just an array of standard C-cells or similar) , for pretty reasonable prices. And the new cells will likely be higher capacity.

    There's a store in Kenne, NH, and another in Ascutney, VT.

    https://www.batteriesplus.com/
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

  10. #10
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    I seem to recall, that nicad's that sit idle for longish periods need to be completely discharged( after being brought up to room temps), and then fully recharged. even then, they suffer, inherent to the type. replacement battery pacs are cheap on the big "A'..personally, I avoid the brand name battery pacs- they're not that much better that the "no-name" ones..recycle the old ones
    Last edited by the_gr8t_waldo; 11-23-2022 at 11:44 AM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    The tools don't smell like Castrol...

    I corrected my post - the oldest are 5 or 6 years old, newest are less than a year - though the newer ones are not Dewalt brand. Supposedly 6.0AH, but perform poorly compared to the brand name ones - even though 5 years newer. Poorly as in lasting less than half as long - so I'm leary of aftermarket batteries.

    All 4 batteries are in fairly regular usage & were all fully charged 2 days before I used them in the cold & kept indoors until Sunday morning when they performed so poorly. Then, as mentioned in my last post above, fully charged @ 45F compared to 25, the one I tested lasted much, much longer.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  12. #12
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post

    Also - some tools have better 'smart electronics' for optimizing your batteries. Milwaukee, Bosch, and Makita, for example, have good reputations in that department. DeWalt, I'm not so sure. My impression is... they put that money into marketing.
    Brutal.

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”― Mark Twain,


  13. #13
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Also - some tools have better 'smart electronics' for optimizing your batteries. Milwaukee, Bosch, and Makita, for example, have good reputations in that department. DeWalt, I'm not so sure. My impression is... they put that money into marketing.
    These days, DeWalt is owned by the same conglomerate that owns Porter-Cable, Stanley, Black+Decker,Craftsman, et al, and have run them all into the ground.

    They used to own Delta but unloaded it to a Taiwanese tool company that is one of their suppliers.

    Times is not what they used to be.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    On some of these tools there's a built in battery recharge life in the charging circuit. A friend bypasses the problem with a wire or two and the battery is fine as before.
    Don't ask me the trick but it works.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: NiCads & temperature

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    Well... see... FIRST you move to somewhere civilized... <G>

    I'm no battery tech, but have been educated a smidge by my tool repair shop. My understanding of the potential issues follows ---

    Yes, NiCad's are inferior to LiIon, in most particulars. Esp. including efficiency lost to colder temps. Also, if you've ever completely discharged any of your batteries, you might have reversed some of the cells polarities. Which means the battery never again achieves a total recharge. The fix is to totally discharge the battery, 'balance' the individual cells (I think the shop has to do that) and start over. NiCads are also vulnerable to the 'memory effect' which can limit their capacity.

    Also - some tools have better 'smart electronics' for optimizing your batteries. Milwaukee, Bosch, and Makita, for example, have good reputations in that department. DeWalt, I'm not so sure. My impression is... they put that money into marketing.
    Dewalt has come a LONG way from it's 18v platform.
    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

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