How to Fix Dead Lithium-Ion Batteries That Won't Hold a Charge Anymore

"What is dead may never die." That's easily one of the best lines (and episode title) from HBO's Game of Thrones series. While the saying may ring true for the Ironborn, it's not quite as catchy when it comes to batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries power tons of consumer electronics and have even made their way into hybrid and electric vehicles. But unlike normal AA and AAA alkaline batteries, lithium-ion batteries for your electronics can be pretty expensive to replace.

Image via staticflickr.com

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are rechargeable, but even rechargeable batteries have a limited number of cycles before they start to degrade. Over time, they take longer to power up and lose their charge much more quickly.

Here's a look at how they work.

So, if the lithium-ion battery in your smartphone has seen better days, there are a few things you can try to bring it back to life before spending the cash to replace it.

Full Recharge

If your battery can't hold its charge anymore and drains extremely fast, you might be able to save it by doing a full recharge. You'll need to completely drain the battery for this to work, so once it reaches zero percent, keep turning it back on until it doesn't even have enough power to boot. Now, plug in the power cord (to a power outlet) and let the battery charge for at least 48 hours.

Image via staticflickr.com

If the battery you're trying to fix goes with a device you use on a daily basis, you'll want to do this over a weekend or find a backup you can use for a couple of days.

Jump-Start

Sometimes, all you need is a little push to really get going, and for electronics, that push is called a jump-start. Unless you have incredible driving luck, you've probably had to jump-start a car once or twice, and the process for a lithium-ion battery is pretty similar (but not quite as dangerous).

Image via staticflickr.com

WARNING: Dealing with wiring always poses a danger, so be cautious and make sure you fully understand the process before starting.

Remove the battery from the device, noting the negative and positive feeds. Find a USB cord you don't mind sacrificing and cut off the smaller end or B connector, exposing the positive (red) and negative (black) wires inside.

Plug the cable into your computer and touch the exposed wires to the corresponding feeds on the battery. After some time, the battery should be revived and able to charge. Check out the video for more details.

Here's another example using a laptop battery pack.

And if you're daring enough, you can try the next option...

Repair

If your battery is actually damaged, you can repair it yourself with a soldering iron (and a little confidence). Again, I must warn you that dealing with batteries and electronic devices carries some inherent risk, so proceed with caution.

The battery cell in the video below is a rechargeable lithium-ion cell from a laptop battery pack. Since the positive terminal on the cell was not making contact with the internal power source, the entire battery pack became useless. To repair the connection, Furu Levi soldered a ring shape on the positive end of the cell so that it made contact.

Check out his video guide below to see the process step by step.

And as a last resort...

Replace

If you want to err on the side of caution and guarantee your battery will work, go ahead and buy a new one. The price of lithium-ion batteries has dropped significantly as the demand has increased over the last few years due to the influx of small electronic devices. You can search online using your product number or visit a local retailer to find the exact battery your device needs.

Got any other tips for dealing with busted batteries? Let us know in the comments below.

Images via Andy Melton, DuEn.1, Alper Çugun

11 Comments

Going to try this on some Lithium batteries see if I can get it to work for me!

well i tried using the USB wire and inserting to my computer, in result it worked but after a few seconds, my phone went blank again. So, what does this explain?

I just tried it on. And still doesn't charge

What's that guy doing in the laptop battery pack video? I don't understand.

thx

About the deep discharge "fix" on Li-Ion batteries: It cannot work... deep discharge always degrades dielectric, which is the same mechanism that wears the battery...

Dielectric's resistance is also temporarily lowered by low charge level (approx. below 3V per cell) - The resistance is too low, so the battery discharges itself really quickly to zero (this causes fatal damage to long time discharged batteries)

If you try to charge such battery, do so at very low current, otherwise it might heat up a lot, not only causing further damage to the cell (heat kills battery - dielectric is liquid and it dries out) but the cell, in unfortunate situations, might heat up to critical temperature, which might ignite the dielectric, that will eventually ignite the cell itself and whole battery might burn or even explode... This is highly exotermic reaction and might cause serious burns and/or damage to stuff around it...

Generally don't try anything in this guide, it's better to buy a new cell which will serve... well... like new...

Thanks, worked for me!!! I was skeptical but decided to give it a try and it work great!

A lot of the time, these tricks will vary...but even if U get a glimpse of power doesn't mean its going hold a charge or work prop. like it kinda/sorta shows in 1 of the video's... Age of the BATT. is the true measure of whether or not U can get it 2 work again...Iv'e had success with putting a Bat. in the freezer 4 3 to 4 hours, then trying those methods above. Extreme cold is usually not good for a Bat., but in the case of non-charge holding or a dead cell bat., The cold shrinks all the molecules that make up the battery, including the terminals, squeezes whatever is left out of it....THEN try the USB trick...has worked foe me in the past , especially LAPTOP BATTS....I know it sounds a lil' nutz, but it works....

Like Jan Zelman said, it's not going to work, Li-ion batteries are extremely sensitive to discharges and doing a full discharge will only damage the battery further. Full discharge calibrations are still good for Ni-cad batteries, but not ALL batteries. I've seen a lot of laptops with damaged batteries from such bad advice. Now the exception of re-celling an old laptop battery which I've done. Still the results were mildly successful since I used another packs already worn cells. At present most laptop batteries have a cheap generic equivalent that is usually only a year or two into its shelf-life, these batteries can be purchased for $30-50 and are likely to give you much better results and potentially save you or your electronics from harm. One thing to note if you intend to go about re-celling a laptop battery, you MUST provide a continuous charge to the control board or it will shut itself down for safety reasons. The video showed a potential jump-start method but you can't be sure that will work for all batteries. Also make sure you don't melt the thermal fuses(the little wires glued to your batteries).

So much misinformation can be dangerous. First of all, lithium ion batteries shout NEVER EVER be discharged completely! This damages the battery and can cause them to explode in a blaze of fire. NEVER UNDERCHARGE A LITHIUM BATTERY! THIS IS THE MOST IDIOTIC THING I HAVE EVER SEEN! That is why circuit boards automatically shut down when the voltage gets low. "Kickstarting" a damaged cell is not advisable at all. Also, the whole thing about them losing charge because they have "memory" so you need to discharge them and recharge is obsolete with new batteries. That applied to nickel cadmium batteries which is one reason why we switched to lithium in the first place. Doing any of this is extremely dangerous and can lead to serious injury and property damage. If your lithium battery is dead, buy a new one. Don't risk your safety because lithium is a highly volatile substance which shouldn't be handled so recklessly.

Doing stupid things is well stupid. Its risky to solder wires to any battery, let alone rechargeable ones. Overheating it can result in internal shorting, and cause the cell to get very hot, or explode. At the factory they are spot welded quickly to avoid heating them up. If you must replace the cells because there is no miracle to reviving worn out batteries, then get cells with solder tabs on them to allow you to solder them together in either series or parallel. If soldering cells in parallel then be sure they are precharged first. Otherwise a dumping effect would maybe cause heating due to rapid charge and discharge between cells. And of course never short or touch plus minus of 2 cells together ever or short them. Use heavy (I suggest duck tape) and/or foam tape to insulate all work. Do not tape the cells together only the ends perhaps. Doing so creates a lot of heat which is bad. For what you might save in cost, its usually cheaper in time and frustration to just buy a new battery. Once added up the cost of the replacement cells isn't far off from just buying a new battery, and saves you much frustration and having to try to glue the pack back together not to mention risk of it shorting out while re-assembling.

I just tried using USB wire to activate the dead samsung lithium battery. well it's worked. since last 3 months my mobile was in switch off mode due to nonresponse battery. finally, my mobile works normally. Thanks to all who behind this website.

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