Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Batteries, Small NiMH Rechargeable

Humans are not designed to live without light at night, we must have it to survive in today’s world of crime and violence. A Preppers best friend for lighting and communications in an extended grid-down situation are rechargeable batteries to keep these needed devices going.

Some of us have small generators to run lights and refrigeration, even heat for the home during a short term grid down. But long term, when your gas is gone and gas stations are closed, the only thing left is your own solar system. A 200 watt system can run small portable 12v refrigerators (Dometic), and recharge all your batteries for lighting and communications. This size of system is inexpensive and easily be made portable.

All my critical battery powered flashlights lights and radios are powered with “AA” rechargeable batteries. I only choose “AA” size because it makes battery stocking easy as this one size powers all my critical devices.

Like all prepping items, they need periodic review and maintenance (such as recharging) even if not used. NiMH (nickel–metal hydride) type batteries will self-discharge when not in use. The self-discharge amount varies with new technologies, from 10% to 50% with most only 20%. So once a year, and for me that is the beginning of hurricane season. I recharge (top-off) all my NiMH batteries so they are ready to do their job with full power.

When purchasing new NiMH, try to buy the same manufacturer brand and the ones with the largest mA (milliamp hours) or stored power (amps). Today that’s generally the 2300mA or 2500mA size.

What is ‘mA’ (milliamp hour)?
It’s a unit of electric current equal to one thousandth (1000) of an ampere. The SI base unit for electric current is the ampere. One ampere, is equal to 1000 milliamps, or 1 amps.
A 2500 mA battery equals 2.5 amps of stored power.
A 1500 mA battery equals 1.5 amps of stored power.

I use two types of chargers, a fast recharger and the other is a smart recharger.

The fast recharger;
is just that, fast. It can recharge for “AA” batteries in as little as 15 minutes!

The smart recharger;
has a ‘conditioning’ charge. After a number of battery uses, the NiMH can develop a ‘memory’ or it thinks it is fully recharged but it’s not. The battery will tell the charger it’s full and the charger then stops the recharge cycle. The smart charger has a special conditioning charge function, user selected, will automatically discharge the battery completely, then recharge the battery to 100% of its’ rated (milliamps) capacity. Note that this conditioning charge is far slower than the fast recharger.

Below are the two chargers I use and recommend.

Important Note:
Every NiMH battery will have its’ mA capacity printed on the side. DO NOT MIX mA capacities either in the charger or in the device they’re used in. Why? Because the batteries have a chip (computer) in each one. This chip talks to the charger and lets the charger know when it is full and doesn’t need any more recharging. The typical charger has a four bay or battery capacity. If you put into the charger three, 2500 mA and one 1500 mA battery, the lower mA battery will be recharged first but, what happens is when the 1500 mA talks to the charger and says it’s full the charger will shut-off the cycle. What happens to the three 2500 mA batteries? They will only be charged to 1500 mA. Only charge the same mA batteries at the same time be it 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the same mA batteries.

Quick NiMH battery Facts:
Charge cycles: Up to 700 times
Charge retention: Lasts up to 12 months

The CCRANE Quick Charger (Smart Charger)

CCRANE showing charger compartment. Will charge one or up to four at a time of “AAA”, “AA”, “C” or “D” size batteries. Either NiMH or NiCad batteries.

Energizer Quick Charger (15 minute charge cycle)

Shown is a 2500 mA battery label. All rechargeable batteries will be labeled with their mA capacity. I also date each battery when purchased for overall age reference.

Both chargers, come with a 110v wall plug/cord and a 12v plug/cord for charging off your power port in your car or solar system if you have one. If 110v grid is down you can recharge your batteries from your car battery.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Update, Automobiles and Electronics

Yesterday, I went to my preferred mechanic shop to discuss the issues I was having with my van. He plugged my van into his code reader and it again showed nothing wrong. So then he logged onto his online data source program where all members can search for problems they can’t solve and when they do solve them they post what they did to correct the issue. The top ten fixes were moisture in the PCM (car computer) connection! He spent about 45 minutes with me and charged me nothing!

So, yesterday I took the cowl off to get to the PCM. A Pain in the butt job.

Here’s what I found:

This is the PCM module plug. Notice the rusty water marks! Water got up there at some time.

This is the receptacle of the plug. No noticeable moisture was seen.

This is the plug. Same thing, no moisture seen.

There was no obvious moisture in the connection but I blew it out anyway, then used a hair dryer to dry any moisture left, if any, then applied dielectric grease to all the pins and reassembled everything.

Look at all those pins, about 90 of them, each sends the different engine sensors data back and forth that keeps the engine running. For me, it’s unnecessarily complicated but I am old and like things simple.

Anyway, after assembly, I got in the car, started the engine and test drove it. For the last day and a half not one of the old issues showed up! Problem fixed and runs like new! I did drop off a box of cookies for him and his mechanics. He was happy we found the issue with the van, and so was I.

I wonder how many people get shafted into buying a new computer for a $1,000+ rather than cleaning the plug first?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Automobiles and Electronics

My personal vehicle is a 2004 Ford Freestar with 168,000 miles and still uses no oil. It’s my everyday transportation and my Bug Out Vehicle, camping/fishing van. I planned on keeping it for at least another 6 years. Overall it’s in excellent condition, handles very well, quiet, comfortable and roomy.

Just got back from a trip to Dallas, Texas, a 2,084 mile round trip. Ran like a top except on the way back. About 500 miles from home it without warning bucked hard twice in a row like the ignition completely shut-off for ½ a second. Never did that before. After about another 75 miles I stopped at a rest area for a break. When ready to continue the van started fine, I backed out of the parking space, put it in drive and it stalled! It started right up again and I was on my way. The remainder of the trip it bucked again three more times. Made it home without any further issues.

Once home I contacted my mobile mechanic. He came over and put his code reader on and it showed no errors or issues with anything. Hmmm? It continues to (sometimes, not all the time) stall when backing out of a parking space or when sitting at a red light. The mechanic said it sound like an ‘idle air control valve’ and changed it and the fuel filter, $150. Still stalls. Sooo, thinking I may have gotten a bad tank of gas with the possibility of water in it, I added ½ gallon of alcohol to mix with the water if any were in the tank. Drove the mix out and still stalls and an occasional buck.

I then drove the van to my preferred mechanic shop, explained what was happening it to him. He agreed with installing the control valve and fuel filter. But with the code reader showing no faults, he said all they could do is look at it and hope it stalled when analyzing it. Then said the feared words “we may have to start replacing parts like the injectors, ignition coil-pacs, fuel pump and most feared the computer”. Any of these replacements could cost more than the van is worth.

I went onto Google and searched for my vehicle with the issues I’m experiencing. Holy cow, I am not alone. There are tons of problems with Ford electrics. The most common appears to be water migrating into the main computer connection. Why doesn’t Ford put the computer under the dashboard where it’s easy to get to and in a better environment? I guess it’s one of Fords better ideas! Hopefully, it’s simple as moisture in the connector that can be dry out and be on my way. If not I will have to get rid of a really nice well-maintained van.

Closing Comment:
We are not now and not for a long time be ready for failsafe “Driverless Cars, Trucks, Trains and Planes” if designers can’t handle the simple electronics of today.

Today’s new cars and trucks, especially at the extreme cost of them, need to have at least a 15 year, 250,000 mile bumper to bumper, no cost warrantee.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rattlesnake in my next door neighbors yard!

This is the first rattler I’ve seen here, seen several 4-5 foot water moccasins before. I’m assuming where there’s one there’s more. This one is six feet and the diameter about the size of a league baseball. BBQ Time! :-) Neighbor killed it with a BB-Gun, three shots to the head.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


We all need them at one time or another because the power will inevitably go out. In the days prior to LED’s you could buy a basic incandescent flashlight using ‘C’ cells for $3-$4 and life was fine.

Today, you can’t find any of those old flashlights and are stuck with buying LED flashlights, but the cost of the new LED technology was painfully expensive and they were packed with multiple unneeded modes like low, medium, high and strobe. Well, all I want is just a basic flashlight that’s just ‘on’ and ‘off’. Full-featured LED lighting is what my headlamp is for.

A couple months ago, WalMart had just what I was looking for, an LED flashlight that’s simply ‘on’ or ‘off’ and best of all cost just $1.00 each including batteries! I have no idea how WalMart can buy, stock and sell these flashlights for just $1.

I bought 10 of them, they’re perfect for around the house, garage, kitchen drawers, nightstands, bathrooms, etc.

  • They have a push button tailstock ‘on’ ‘off’ switch
  • Use 3 caged ‘AAA’ batteries. The batteries as expected are not worth much and don’t last long. I replaced mine with DuraCell batteries and they’re still going strong.
  • Overall it’s a surprisingly well-made flashlight.
  • Remember to unscrew the tail cap and remove the insulating disc before use. The insulator is so people can’t turn them on in the store and leave them on.
  • Are they a replacement for a Tactical LED Light? Of course not.