Saturday, September 10, 2016

DeWalt 20V Max 3.0Ah Battery Pack Teardown & Analysis

It's been a little bit since I've torn apart a new battery pack!  The last new-to-me pack I pulled apart was a 26v BionX battery (which, I'd add, I rebuilt to nearly twice the stock capacity by filling all the space with cells).  And I've got this cute little DeWalt 20V MAX battery pack (model DCB200, 3.0Ah)  that's just not behaving right.  It would charge, but then only show one LED on the status bar.  I got it for $6 at a pawn shop when I asked for defective batteries.

Well, I've got a dead battery on my bench - that means that it's time to tear it apart!


And you know you want to see what's inside!

Read on for an awful lot of photos inside this solidly built battery pack.

Specs & Warnings

On the back, I've got specs about my DCB200 Battery Pack (Made in Korea).  It's a 20V (Max) pack, 3.0Ah, and claims to be a 60Wh pack.  Type 2, whatever that means.

I'm going to grumble a bit here.  They call the pack a 20V pack, claim it as 3.0Ah, and then say "60Wh."  This is the math, but it's not a 20V pack by anyone else's standards.  This, in normal terms, is a 18.5V pack (5S pack, 3.7V/cell).  To call it a 20V pack requires a nominal voltage of 4V/cell, which is just weird (and not what they have).  Anyway, just my thoughts.  I'm clearly not a tool pack marketing guy.

Amusingly, the warnings here don't say anything about not disassembling the pack, so I'm good!

Except, I apparently did charge it while damaged.  Spoiler alert!


Pack Interface & Voltages

The pack has two significant interfaces: The power interface, and the "How charged is it?" interface.  

The "How charged is it?" interface is simple enough.  Press button, receive bacon LED status lights.  Zero, dead.  Three, fully charged.


The electrical interface is a bit more interesting - and, really, quite a bit of fun!

The leftmost slot is a double connector for the positive terminal.  This is a full height terminal (two contacts).  The rightmost slot is the same thing for the negative terminal.  These always appear to have the full pack voltage on them.

In the middle are some other terminals of interest.  From left to right, top to bottom: TH, ID, C1, C2, C3, C4.


A tiny bit of experimentation with packs demonstrates that C1-C4 are actually the individual cell bank voltages, conveniently brought out for my use!

If you look at the charger side, the pin that makes contact with the "ID" pin is longer by a tiny bit than the others (the top right of the center 6 pins).  This pin seems to be always at low potential, and there's a bit of a voltage floating on the charger pins when there's no battery.  I suspect pulling the ID pin low brings the charger circuitry online, but I don't care to actually mess about with my charger since I use it.


I grabbed some voltages from a good pack of mine (I've got 2 good 20V Max batteries).  Everything is measured relative to B-, with the relative voltages from the previous reading in parentheses.  My pack is fully charged (20.43V, 3 LEDs, solid charger light).

C1: 4.08V (4.08V)
C2: 8.17V (4.09V)
C3: 12.26V (4.09V)
C4: 16.34V (4.08V)
B+: 20.43V (4.09V)

This is a healthy pack.  The per-cell voltages are almost identical (within 0.01v), which means a well balanced pack in good condition.  Conveniently, this also means that the cell group voltages are externally accessible.  This is great news for testing a pack!

Also of note is that the cells are charged to 4.1V instead of the more typical 4.2V.  This is great news for longevity - sitting at 100% state of charge (which, for these cells, is 4.2V) is bad for calendar life.  Charging almost all the way (but not quite to 100%) means they'll last longer on the shelf when charged - and most people store tool batteries charged.

From this "dead" pack right off the charger?  Let's see!

C1: 4.08V (4.08V)
C2: 4.10V (0.02V) (uh oh)
C3: 8.19V (4.09V)
C4: 12.19V (4.00V)
B+: 16.37V (4.18V)

I did double check this, thinking I'd made a mistake in transcribing numbers.  The C1-C2 reading is 22.9mV.  This isn't good.  That's a stone dead cell bank, if it's accurate.  And the rest isn't very pretty either.  You'd expect to see a nicely balanced pack like mine, not a voltage horror show like this.  If the voltages are accurate, there's something seriously wrong with this pack.

Disassembling the Pack

Pulling the pack apart involves removing 4 Torx screws with center pins.  These, obviously, don't work with regular Torx head bits.  I hear a rumor that things like center pins mean they're a "Security Bit" intended to keep people out.


Fortunately, my shop has something called a "100 Piece Security Bit Set."  Any good electronics shop does.  So, bring your "security bits trying to keep me out."  Hint: I brought it.  It's a T10 size Torx security screw, if you're interested.  One of which is very much included in this 100 piece set.  It's not even very creative...


Pack Insides

With the "Security Screws" out, the top comes off cleanly, exposing the pack guts and a really neat little spring for the pack release button.  Sproing!


From this angle, the "double height" B+ and B- terminals are visible, as is the state-of-charge indicator.

Interestingly, it looks like the B+ and B- terminals are a different material than the cell-group contacts and the TH/ID contact.

The B+/B- terminals look like copper to me, with the rest being brass or something along those lines.

That makes sense, though.  The B+/B- terminals are the ones carrying the power, while the rest shouldn't ever be transmitting any significant amount of current.


Looking down from the top, there are wires running around to each side of the pack.  These are almost certainly the voltage sense/balance wires.  It's interesting that they're bare, but it's fine inside a sealed pack.  They're custom bent to fit, and fit in perfectly.

The red and black wire on the left are going to the LED indicator.  Based on the lack of any other wires, it's likely just a basic voltmeter that lights up the LEDs.

One thing of note here: The battery is always connected to the terminals.  There is no way that the BMS can cut off current if the pack voltage is low.  It's up to the tool to determine the cutoff point and refuse to work below that.

This also means that if you stick something in the terminals, you can get power out.  Don't leave it running and drain the pack, but this would be a really easy pack to repurpose should you care to do so.  There's literally nothing to do but jam metal blades into the B- and B+ terminals.


Removing the Battery Pack

There's no real trick to removing the battery pack from the bottom part of the case.  It just pulls out.  However, it's in there very tightly.  Start with one end, pry (carefully - don't short the pack out), and it comes out.

The wire between the battery pack and the output terminals is quite substantial, and is secured with an awful lot of solder.  This is very clearly designed as a high power pack!  Look at the size of the lug going into the positive terminal...


After a bit more prying, the pack is out.  There are 10 cells (2P5S pack), and they're held together with rather substantial interconnect strips.  The pack claims to be 3.0Ah, which means each cell should be 1500mAh.  Are they?  We'll soon find out!




The LED board is secured to the battery pack with some sort of goop.  It's not going anywhere.


Cells and Interconnects

One of the cells is very conveniently oriented so I can read the model number.

The model number is LGDAHB41865.  This works out to be a LG HB4 cell - which is a 1500mA cell rated for a 30A discharge!  The battery chemistry is NMC (Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide or LiNiMnCoO2).  This is one of the newer chemistries, which is nice to see.  They're in every way better than the early lithium ion chemistries.

This is a solid, solid choice for a power tool pack - and not a cheap choice either!  DeWalt didn't cheap out here with last year's discount cells.  People have tested this cell (it's popular for vaping as well), and it's a legitimate 30A cell.

With batteries, one can generally get a lot of energy (watt-hours) or power (watts), but not both.  These are hardcore power cells - a single cell at 30A is putting out over 100W!  The low capacity (1500mAh - below half of what a high energy cell can do) is the price you pay for a cell with that kind of power output.

The observant reader may note that the cell in the middle here, with the model clearly visible, looks a bit off.  And, you'd be right.  This cell is the 20mV group - even after charging.

The plastic wrapper on that cell is incredibly brittle compared to the other cells.  It seems like it shorted out and overheated, or overheated and shorted out.  I have no idea why, but it's quite dead.  Not knowing the pack history, I don't know if it was a cell defect, or if something happened to it.  But these two cells aren't even nailed to their perch.  They are dead as granite.  What likely happened is that one of the cells shorted internally, and the other one dumped its current through as well.  Exciting - and not in the good way.


The interconnects here are thick, massive, and well spot welded.  I'm not sure if this is a machine built pack or if it was built by humans, but I'm leaning towards "humans" - the placement of the "H" interconnects isn't identical between the left cluster and the center cluster, and the rightmost strip is somewhat off center.  I don't see why one would configure a machine to do that.


The shorted cell shows some corrosion and discoloration on the ends (the second pair down, left side and right side).  Perhaps it overheated enough to damage the coating on the case?  I'm not sure.  This is the negative end, and it doesn't look like it's burned through (I scraped the corrosion off and it looked normal), so... still no idea what happened.  Nothing good, that's for sure.  The top left cell also looks a bit off (the discoloration on the positive terminal doesn't exist on any other cells).


Skipping ahead slightly, I measured the thickness of the interconnect strip used.  It's a hair under 0.012" - so 0.30mm, or twice as thick as the common 0.15mm nickel strip used in ebike battery packs.  Again, a beefy, beefy pack.  For what it's worth, I can't spot weld this stuff - too thick.  It takes some serious amps to spot weld 0.30mm strip.


Getting to the BMS

Next, I want to get the BMS off - that lets me get deeper into the pack, and figure out what's going on with the BMS board (not that it's much of a management board).

The solder connections are substantial.  This pack really is designed to carry a lot of power.  Lots of solder, lots of thermal wicking from the nickel strip... I'm going to need a bigger iron than I normally use!


Fortunately, I have such a beast, warming up nicely in this picture.  This is a Portasol 125W butane iron, available for around $70 on eBay.  There are times for a precision temperature controlled iron, and times for a hot running beast of an iron.  With the butane flow turned up, this thing is the second.  Hot, massive, and will desolder almost anything I come across.


Also, a solder sucker for some of these solder globs.  Because why not?


This unit took more heat than is usual to desolder stuff.  Lots of solder, lots of thermal wicking, and lead free solder leads to needing a serious amount of heat.  Light the iron up, let it get good and hot, get some solder on the tip, and go.  There's no way I could have popped the main power wires free with my normal bench iron.


A bit of fiddling, and the BMS is clear!  The wire routing for the balance wires is really well done.  I'm very impressed with this pack so far.


The BMS, free and clear!


BMS Board

I refer to this board as a BMS, but I think it's probably better to call it a balancing board, or a balancer board.  And I'm not entirely sure I understand its point.

The back of the board is entirely passive components.  Some resistors, a few capacitors, and a diode.  Plus some hefty solder joints to hold the prongs in place.


Looking down into the gap between the prongs and the board, there's what appears to be a small IC in there, and a few more passive components.


The bottom of the board shows another small IC down to the left, and what looks an awful lot like a thermistor in the top right.  After removing the conformal coating, I measured 10.68kΩ at 21.6C - so probably a standard 10k/25C thermistor.  For those unfamiliar, a thermistor is just a resistor that changes resistance with temperature.  It's an easy way to monitor pack temperature.  Unfortunately, this one is really only monitoring pack temperature - not cell temperature.

It's hard to see in the photos, but this board has a nice conformal coating on everything.  A conformal coating helps keep water off the board, and generally improves reliability in rough environments - which tool packs will certainly see.  There's basically no excuse to not have one in 2016.


I played with it a bit, and it certainly seems to be a balancer, but I don't understand why it exists.  Whatever functionality it allows for can be done externally on the charger.  The charger has pins for all of the parallel groups, and an external balancing charger is more reusable than a single pack balancer.  On top of it, this BMS can't even protect the pack from an overdischarge or any sort of fault condition.  It might be able to alert the tool to an imbalance condition, but the charger could also refuse to charge the pack in that state.  So I'm a bit lost as to what, exactly, this board does.  Given what it can't do, I'm having a hard time figuring out why DeWalt even put it in.

LED Status Board

The LED status board has a sheet of plastic over the top - great for helping keep the environment out.

Beyond that, the switch, when pressed, applies pack voltage to a system that lights the proper LED based on the voltage.  That's all it is - a basic voltmeter.



So, of course, I set about testing it to find out what the voltages involved are.


Results from the testing:

1 LED: >15.3V (3.06V/cell)
2 LED: >18V (3.6V/cell)
3 LED: >19V (3.8V/cell)

Sane enough, though one LED means you really should be charging it now.  There's no reason to run a power cell below 3V, and 1 LED is almost there.

I did confirm that the BMS will balance cells.  With voltage on the positive and negative leads, the balance leads have proportional voltage across them as one would expect for a battery balancing system.  So, cool!  Weird, because the charger could do it just as easily, but still neat.

Rebuild or Keep Going?

At this point, I have a decision to make.  I can either stop pulling things apart at this point and rebuild the pack, or I can keep going.


I make the decision to rebuild or not based on two major factors: Rarity and cost.

Rarity

How rare is the pack I'm dealing with?  For some of the packs I've rebuilt, they're rare, and either very difficult or impossible to obtain a replacement for.  If that's the case, rebuilding it makes a ton of sense.

How hard is it to get a DeWalt 20V Max pack?  Well... there are are over 800 listings on eBay - so not rare at all.  You can buy them in nearly endless quantities at your local hardware store.

Cost

Cost is my other main consideration.  If I can rebuild the pack radically cheaper than I can buy a new one, I'm likely to rebuild it.  If I can't - then there's no real point in the labor to rebuild it.

For me to buy 10 of these cells, I'm spending basically as much as a new pack.  BatteryBro has LG HB4s for $4.57/ea - in quantities of 50.  eBay isn't any better, at around $5/cell.

I can buy the 3.0Ah battery packs for $40-$50 shipped, all day long.  You're better off buying these packs to extract the HB4s than you are rebuilding them!

The Decision

This pack is not rare.  And to obtain similar 30A rated batteries, I'll spend more on cells in small quantities as I will on a brand new pack.  Plus, I don't have a spot welder that can deal with the thick interconnects.  DeWalt sells these things in insane quantities, and it shows in the pricing.

So, there's no reason to rebuild it.  I keep going!

Oh, and if you are trying to rebuild one?  Make sure you put a high amperage cell in it.  Don't go "Hey, I can double the capacity with some 3200mAh cells!" - they won't like being subjected to the power demands of a tool pack.  And those 9000mAh cells on eBay?  Lies.  Total, complete, bald faced lies.  They're recycled junk wrapped in a meaningless number.

Pulling the BMS Apart

This means pulling the BMS apart to see what's on it - as much as I can.


The balance leads are easy enough.  They pull off with a bit of fiddling.


They're just standard header pin sizes, and they seat in a regular connector.  Slick!

That nice green thermistor is right there too.

The leads going to the LED panel are nicely secured - they're much more solidly connected than what I'm used to seeing in some of my teardowns.  Excellent!


Removing the connectors is a lot harder than I expected.  I tried to desolder them, and concluded that they're just too large and radiate too much heat.  I gave up after a minute or so of trying to free them with my big iron, and went to Plan B: Pliers and wire cutters.  Which work, though that approach pulls the pads up with the main contacts.  The heat bubbling in the lower right corner is me.


There's nothing much on the front either.  Only one IC (and I can't read the model through the conformal coating, so I have no idea what it does).


Is Your Pack Bad?

If you're here because you've got one that's acting up and you want to see if it's bad or not, I suggest doing what I did way up towards the top and measuring the voltages across the pins.  You'll need a thin wire to probe the contacts - though a pair of paperclips will work if you're careful.  Put the black lead of your voltmeter on the B- pin, and probe C1-C4 and B+ - you should see a steady increase in voltage as you go from terminal to terminal.  If one of them is significantly less (like my 0.02V jump), you've got a dead cell bank.

It's worth pointing out that this pack will happily spotweld any short circuit it sees.  So don't touch your paperclips to each other, or you will likely find them glowing within, oh, a second.  Probably less.

Keeping Your Packs Alive

Lithium batteries are easy enough to keep alive, but there are a few things to know if you want them to last as long as possible.

Don't charge them when they're below freezing.  You can use them in the winter - that's fine.  They'll be a bit sluggish on output, but you won't damage them.  Charging them when cold, especially with the fast chargers that are common for tool batteries, will permanently reduce their capacity.  Let them warm up before charging them.  You also don't want them to bake.  Sitting in the trunk of a black car in Phoenix in the summer will also kill them early.

Don't let them sit empty.  That's a great way to kill cells.  Always charge them after use.

And, if you're storing them for a long period of time, don't let them sit completely full.  It's less of a problem with this pack (as it never charges to "full" by the cell chemistry), but charge them, run a tool for a few minutes, then store them if it's going to be a few months.

Otherwise, just use them.  Lithium cells don't have a memory effect, so charge them when you get a chance, and have fun!

Final Thoughts

This is a solidly built pack that will do its job nicely.

The cells are solid 30A performers, which means this is a 60A pack (two cells in parallel add amperages).  The 0.3mm nickel strip will handle plenty of amps, especially over the short distances involved here.  The main wiring will handle lots of power as well.  This is a very nicely built pack, and it's entirely suited to being a power source for small tools.

Fully charged, at 20+V, that means it's an honest 1200W power source (for, oh, three minutes until drained).

The only real complaints I have are that the BMS is really just a balancing board, and the thermistor is more or less useless.  With the battery leads connected straight to the output terminals, there's no way for the pack to cut off output - it's up to the tool to not kill the battery pack.  This is probably fine, since it's unlikely that most people will use the pack for other purposes.  But, if you do, don't be stupid.

The thermistor hanging out on the BMS board also means that it's more or less useless for tracking issues.  All it will show you is a lagging reading of the temperature of the cells near it.  It'll provide a general idea, but nothing nearly so useful as a set of thermistors on the cells to find if one is running hot and suggest the user back off.


But from an end user perspective, this is an incredibly nice tool pack.  It's solidly built, is using great cells, and is capable of handling a ton of power.  Use it as intended, don't run it below 1 LED if you can help it, and it should keep you going for a long time!

57 comments:

  1. Excellent report! The information you provided was very useful... I'm pondering using banks of these for a homebrew mutant e-bike and your info helped me along quite a bit.

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    1. That was certainly one of the things I was thinking about with the teardown. I'd love to see what you end up with!

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  2. Hi Russell - you may be able to help me! I've built up an e-bike for my 9yo daughter - using XXS Yeti frame from 2007 and a 27v Bionx kit (Canbus) that used to power my wife's bike: I've removed the battery pack and control board from the casing and have been successfully been using (or rather my daughter) the set up; however the battery mounting is pretty crude.. and it's too big to fit inside the main frame triangle - I've now purchased a Milwaukee 28v drill/charger and battery set; my aim is to use the Milwaukee power packs for the bionx system: they are smaller, fit neatly inside the frame and assuming I can make this work, can be swapped out simply using the original tool fittings' quick release mount..(each pack is 3Ah, and extra packs are easily carried) - my question is whether I can tie up all the wiring from the original Bionx battery pack (given there are multiple wires heading to the circuit board - including I assume temp monitoring...) and substitute wiring from the tool mount - hope this makes sense... Is this feasible? thanks Carl - carlyleong@yahoo.com -great site BTW

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Carl -

      It will probably work, assuming the Milwaukee pack is a 7S lithium pack. You may run into early cutoff issues if the voltages don't match, but the early BionX BMSs are pretty tolerant.

      Depending on the space available, I could also build you a custom 7S pack of the same chemistry BionX uses.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. I Just picked up a drill (only the drill) with the intention of running it off of a rc lipo pack but I cant get the drill to chooch with just a 10k thermistor on the th pin as well as power to the two 20v in lines. Any advice?

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    1. Try hooking the 10K thermistor between the TH pin, and the Positive 20v.
      Most companies hooks it to Negative

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    2. Eric - if you wish to emulate the pack, assuming there's no special signaling going on, try running a 10k thermistor between TH and B+, and an 800Ω resistor between ID and B-. That should replicate the signaling for a Type 2 pack.

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    3. Hello Russell,
      I tried this (putting 800Ω resistor) between ID and B-, no luck. Any thoughts ?

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    4. No idea at this point, sorry. Let me know if you figure it out! I just run mine off the legit DeWalt packs, so I haven't been too interested in poking around at alternatives.

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    5. No worries mate, I have looking around for weeks now with no luck on how to crack the ID pin......, I will definitely share the info when I find something.
      Cheers

      Delete
  5. Excellent write up. The only thing I'd add is that individual cell group voltages are obtainable by using the terminals in series:

    - Group #1: B+ (pos) to C4 (neg; DW numbered them back asswards)
    - Group #2: C4 (pos) to C3 (neg)
    - Group #3: C3 (pos) to C2 (neg)
    - Group #4: C2 (pos) to C1 (neg)
    - Group #5: C1 (pos) to B- (neg)

    I'm sure you (Syonyk) get it, but for anyone who doesn't, polarity is relative to where you take the measurement from (e.g. C4 is negative relative to B+, but positive relative to C3). Path of least resistance, etc. Cheers.

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    1. So my question is.. when building a charger.. do I connect any voltages to any other pons besides B+and B-?

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  6. Thanks for this outstanding informative article, as the PCB from my battery pack is coated with white goop I was really glad to find these details about the PCB.

    I am about to build a 2.0 Slim pack from scratch and just have some 4.0Ah Packs as a reference. Now i need to find out more about de ID Pin, i guess there is a resistor between ID and B-. I measured it on my 4.0 Packs and got a value of 360Ohm. It would be from great help to find out how they vary between the different 18V models. If you still own the PCB I would be really thankful if time allows you a quick measurement of you ID to B- resistance on the 3.0 battery.

    Anyway thanks a lot for all you efforts,
    mk

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    1. FWIW, my two 4Ah packs measure 318 and 317 ohms between ID and B-. They're 2014 date coded (2014-18-47 4-3), made in Malaysia and have green Samsung 20R cells.

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    2. Oh, I just found out i hat a brain fart writing the first comment. I meant 316 Ohms. I further got to measure 2 14,4V DeWalt Packs with 1,5Ah capacity. They also measured 316 Ohms. Seems like they specify just the course generation or charging current handling ability with this ID Pin, I guess i try 316 Ohms then for the 2.0

      Thanks for taking the time,
      mk

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    3. No problem, buddy. If you can get back with what cells are in your pack, the date code and country of manufacture, that'd be great. Do yours also have the 20R cells? Cheers.

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    4. My DeWalt 18V 4.0 packs contain Sanyo cells, i suppose UR18650RX but i can't confirm that - they are sitting snug inside and i don't want to destroy the battery. Datecode is 2014 05-47 2-2 made in Japan.

      In the selfmade 2.0 I'll be using Samsung SDI 20R (if it works out :D).

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    5. It seems that the smaller packs are around 300-350Ω between ID and B-, and the higher capacity packs are 800Ω. This appears to correspond to the "Type 1/Type 2" pack description.

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    6. Thanks for the additional information and again for the detailed article. I eventually did build the 2.0 from ground up with no balancing (charger does take care, I measured it before making the pack ;) ) and 316 Ohm on the ID connector. Works perfectly fine, charger accepts the battery and takes care of the balancing.

      Delete
  7. Thank you for this uninformative post. I have a bunch of 20v max dewalt tools, but occasionally I dont need the portability and would like to have more run time. I have been planning on 3d printing a connector and making a board that can provide the 20V. Amperage was one thing I was not sure about, and apparantly my board will need to provide 30A max, which is not a trivial amount of current. Im sure most of my tools dont draw that all the time, but the peak of 30A still needs to be provided by the board I make if thats what those cells can provide. Your stuff on the ID pin are also going to be useful.

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    1. Informative** Sorry, I didn't try to be sarcastic or anything. I really enjoyed the post. Autocorrect changed that and I dont see how to edit on my phone...

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    2. Check out my 6.0Ah teardown and 1.3Ah teardowns for more info on ID and TH.

      https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2017/04/dewalt-20v-max-60ah-pack-teardown.html

      https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2017/05/dewalt-20v-max-13ah-and-18v-nano.html

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  8. Very nice job, much appreciated

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  9. Such a methodical teardown. Great job! The LED trigger voltages are helpful, since I'd like to rig these battery packs to provide power to some older 18V power tools that I only use sparingly. As long as I keep an eye on the indicator LEDs, I shouldn't ever run the cells into that undesirable undervoltage scenario that causes permanent damage to the cells. I think. Lol. Thanks again!

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    1. I'd generally agree - if you keep them at once LED or above, you'll be fine!

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    2. I know this is an old post, but Dewalt makes an adaptor for using 20v batteries on 18v tools

      Delete
  10. Are you aware of DeWalt's new 20/40/60/120(?)V FLEXVOLT line, where the batteries change configuration based on what they're plugged into? That's a teardown I'd like to see, but I don' t have the $$$ to subsidize a purchase. They'll supposedly work on the 20V tools like you already have.

    I sure would like to see a teardown of their adapter (DCA1820) to use the current 20V MAX packs with my 18V tools. They seem overpriced for what they might provide.

    On my 18V stuff, only the charger connects to the thermistor in the batteries. But at least in the XRP ones I've torn apart, it's taped to one of the cells instead of just in a random spot inside the pack case.

    PS - keep up the good work - you're helping me decide what direction to go as my 18V NiCd DeWalt tool packs die out. Thanks!

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    1. 1. Flexvolt won't do 40V, only 20V and 60V. Some Flexvolt-specific tools put two packs in series to yield 120V.
      2. The DCA1820 *is* overpriced, but still cheaper than buying new tools. Unless you have a 3D printer or machine shop, making your own may not be more cost-effective.
      3. A DCA1820 teardown will definitely involve some tearing, as the guts are potted in epoxy.
      4. At the risk of stating the obvious, the adapter has no thermistor terminal, just + and -.

      Delete
    2. I'm aware of the FlexVolt line, but haven't had anyone donate some batteries to pull apart yet (and I have enough 20V Max batteries to last me for many years at this point).

      If you'd like me to rip some of those things apart, the contact form is over there and I accept donations of battery packs! :)

      Delete
    3. I bricked at Flexvolt battery by trying to see how it works. Here's what I know...

      There's a bar on the battery that the Flexvolt tools depress that is part (not all) of what is needed to put it into series (60V).

      Flexvolt tools short C1 and C3 (no resistance using an ohm meter)

      When you depress the bar AND short C1 and C3 you get 60 volts vs. 20V. But, you also brick the battery so it won't work in any tool or the charger.

      The Flexvolt tools use the C4 connection for something as well as the thermistor connection. I didn't have either of those connected when I bricked my battery. It would still switch between 20 and 60V output but it would not work in any of the tools.

      Delete
    4. Also, the Flexvolt batteries charge in parallel mode (20V)

      Delete
    5. I bricked at Flexvolt battery by trying to see how it works.

      You are a motherfuckin' baller. My hat's off to you, sir.

      Delete
  11. Thank you so much for this write up! I was able to fix my brand new battery that has never worked. I know I should have taken it back but it was a gift. My battery was reading full charge but it would not work in the tool. I found out that I had no voltage in the c3 pin. It was a bad connection at the plug. I soldered a wire from the bank to the board. Works like a charm now. Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome! I'm really excited to hear that, because that's the sort of thing I've been hoping people will be able to do with the information I provide. Repair things and keep them out of the landfills. There's no way that the store would have tried to repair it - they would have just disposed of an otherwise perfectly functional pack because it needed a few minutes with a soldering iron.

      Delete
  12. Thanks for such an interesting article.
    Do you know how to measure the output voltage of the charger? I recently replaced a capacitor with one that supports 220v and I would like to verify that the output voltage on each pin is as expected. But since it does not work when the battery is not there, I do not know how to measure it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for this post but i need your help. I recently got a DCB205 20v 5ah and have issues with the fuel gauge. Upon initial charging, red light on charger does not stop blinking (fuel gauge 1 bar). Removed battery and checked voltage and it was full capacity (fuel gauge 1 bar). Used it on a drill and it works. What could be the issue? Is there a way to check fuel gauge if it is working properly? How to do this? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Merci trop frt
    Grace à vous j'ai sauvé une machine dont la batterie était morte et pour laquelle je n'avais pas de chargeur !!!!!!
    Saloperie de TH et C3
    Cyril

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just salvaged two packs thanks to this post. They have been in a discharged state for a long time- one since late 2014. The Dewalt charger wouldn't do anything so I put a 12V 3A charger on the +/- for about 15 minutes then transferred the packs over to the Dewalt charger and it worked. I will try to run them down once to see how much life they have and report back...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the teardown. I referenced it to possibly salvage two old packs that would not take a charge from the Dewalt charger. By connecting a 12v 3A charger for about 15 minutes to get some charge in them, both packs were charged by the Dewalt charger. Now to find out how long they will run... One has been discharged since 2014.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm considering using 3 of these packs in series to power a motor through a DC-DC converter. Is there anything in the BMS or elsewhere that would prevent wiring them in series to get 60V? We're hoping to discharge them as fully as possible in 25 minutes (>6A discharge rate) - it's a 25 minute race with 180WH maximum allowed battery capacity... Are these battery packs a good option or are you aware of better choices? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They'll work fine in that configuration. There's no BMS to speak of.

      That said, the 60Wh rating on these is a bit optimistic. They're really closer to 55Wh packs. You might be able to do a bit better if you find something else.

      Delete
  18. Hi Russell,
    Awesome writeup!
    Were you ever able to read what IC was used on the BMS / interface board (the one under conformal coating)?
    Thanks a bunch!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never did poke at it terribly hard, sorry.

      Delete
    2. No worries. Thanks for the quick response!

      Delete
  19. Strange about your state of charge indicator, all my packs will read about 17 volts at 1 bar, 18 at 2 bars, and 19 volts at 3 bars. All 3 of mine seem to drop down to 1 bar pretty quick and always have, and still run for hours like that before dying. I've never tested the point at which it actually goes to 0 bars since I don't let them get to that point if I can help it, it's definitely close to 15 volts at that point because if it works at all it will just be for a moment. Maybe they changed the cutoff points to make people charge them sooner instead of running them completely dead?? (they might sell more packs, who knows) Though I've got one pack that does act up, occasionally it will only light 2 of 3 bars when full, and if you press harder it will light up all 3, and has since stopped altogether (not sure if it was related, but same pack seemed to show a dead cell at the same time, and upon checking it again, seems to fixed itself (maybe the internal balancer takes a while if there is a big difference between cells??) reading 3.9 volts on every cell though the charge indicator still doesn't work at all, guess I won't take it apart just yet... I'm hoping it was due to being loose on the charger and only charging some of the cells, sometimes the pack doesn't get seated all the way in to the charger and won't charge it all the way, seems to be a common problem, and possibly why they don't rely on the charger to get the balancing right?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hi Russell, the pcb is coated with peters conformal coating material.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post, very informative. I have a question that hopefully Russell or one of the other experts on this blog can help me out with.

    I have a set of Yardwork tools (chainsaw, pole-saw, hedge trimmer, blower and weed eater) that use a proprietary 20v 9ah battery. The battery died and I can't find a replacement anywhere. I tried dissembling the battery pack to see if I could replace individual cells but unfortunately this thing has one large monolithic battery in it. The only number I could find on the internal battery didn't show up in any searches so I think I'm going to have to be creative if I want to keep using these tools.

    If I built a custom battery mount with the old Yardworks battery casing and an old 20V Dewalt tool (which I do have on hand) is there any reason why I couldn't tie the +/- 20V pins from the Dewalt tools battery mount to the +/- 20V Yardworks battery casing pins and supply the juice to the tools with my Dewalt batteries?

    I guess what I'm not 100% sure of is if there's any signaling passed from Dewalt tools to Dewalt battery packs for proper operation. From some of the other posts I've read it seems like this should work, but I'd really hate to fry a battery to find out the hard way it doesn't.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's no signaling to get the pack to power on. The tools may be picky about other packs, but you can absolutely use a DeWalt 20V pack on another device by jamming two spades in the positive and negative terminals. Low voltage cutoff is on you, of course.

      You can see this sort of setup in my egg frying post: https://syonyk.blogspot.com/2017/04/can-you-fry-egg-with-dewalt-20v-max.html

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the info Russell. Love the egg frying post.

      I was thinking I might try and rig up a low voltage cutoff circuit, but for the amount I use the garden tools, it's probably not worth the effort. I'll just make a conscious effort to keep and eye on the LED status indicators more frequently.

      It's a shame they didn't add this to the BMS in the first place.

      Delete
  22. I am looking to use my 20v/60v dewalt packs to power 12V LEDs by using a junk charger as a base for the battery. Do I need to worry about the ID pin doing something to the battery seeing as how it's on a charger base and not in a tool?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure how the 20V/60V packs work - I believe they default to the 20V mode, so you should be able to draw off them, but they rather substantially exceed the voltage on a 12V LED strip.

      Delete
  23. Hi Russell.
    I found your taredown very informative.
    I'm currently trying to put a gps tracker in one if my battery packs.This means removing a couple of cells to make room.
    The gps tracker I purchased runs off 12v. would it be possible to still use the pack at 18v and somehow run the tracker at 12v ?
    I would very much appreciate your help on this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'd have to strip out a full row of cells to keep the configuration sane. And then probably would need a buck converter. I'm not sure why you'd do this, really...

      Delete
    2. If you're committed to this idea, which Russell is being charitable in not outright calling stupid, you might consider swapping the guts from a smaller pack into one of your existing "premium" cases (so, 3, 4 or 5 Ah). This assumes you require the battery to appear untouched. Come to think of it, you'd have a bit more room if you put 5-cell guts into one of those newfangled 6 Ah packs with 10 fatty 21700 cells like Russell played with a while back.

      If you don't give a shit what it looks like, you could probably pay someone with a 3D printer to make you an extended battery case that will hold the full complement of ten cells AND your GPS fuckery. Of course, I presume this won't do for your spying if whoever you're spying on uses the tools. I assume you are because the unit you bought is obviously not giving you real-time updates via cell data, which means you're not doing this to prevent theft of your tools.

      Good luck...I guess. Ouf.

      Delete
  24. Anyone out there have any idea what cells are used in the newer 5Ah packs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope. Want to ship me one and I can find out?

      Delete

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